Grow cilantro at home


Tips For Growing Cilantro

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is used in a great many different dishes, particularly Mexican and Asian dishes, but despite the growing popularity for this dish in cooking, you don’t see cilantro growing in the home garden as much as you do other popular herbs. This may be due to the fact that many people think that growing cilantro is difficult. This is not the case at all. If you follow these few tips for growing cilantro, you will find that you will be successfully growing cilantro in no time at all.

Cilantro Seeds

In cooking, cilantro seeds are called coriander. The “seeds” are actually two cilantro seeds encased in a husk. The husk is hard, round and is light brown or grey in color. Before you plant them in the ground, you need to prepare the cilantro seeds to increase the chances that they will germinate. Gently crush the seed husk holding the two seeds together. Soak the cilantro seeds in water for 24 to 48 hours. Remove from the water and allow to dry.

How to Plant Cilantro

Once you have prepared the cilantro seeds, you need to plant the seeds. You can either start cilantro indoors or outdoors. If you’re starting the seeds indoors, you’ll be transplanting cilantro to the outdoors later on.

Put the seeds in the soil and then cover them with about a 1/4-inch layer of soil. Leave the cilantro growing until it is at least 2 inches tall. At this time, thin the cilantro to be about 3 to 4 inches apart. You want to grow cilantro in crowded conditions because the leaves will shade the roots and help to keep the plant from bolting in hot weather.

If you’re transplanting cilantro into your garden, dig holes 3 to 4 inches apart and place the plants in them. Water thoroughly after transplanting.

Cilantro Growing Conditions

The most important thing to remember when growing cilantro is that it doesn’t like hot weather. Cilantro growing in soil that reaches 75 F. (24 C.) will bolt and go to seed. This means that the ideal cilantro growing conditions are cool but sunny. You should be growing cilantro where it will get early morning or late afternoon sun, but be shaded during the hottest part of the day.

Additional Tips for Growing Cilantro

Even with ideal cilantro growing conditions, this is a short lived herb. Taking the time to prune cilantro frequently will help delay bolting and prolong your harvest time, but no matter how much you prune cilantro, it will still eventually bolt. Plant new seeds about every six weeks to keep a steady supply throughout the growing season.

Cilantro will also reseed in many zones. Once the cilantro plant bolts, let it go to seed and it will grow again for you next year, or collect the cilantro seeds and use them as coriander in your cooking.

So as you can see, with just a few tips for growing cilantro you can have a steady supply of this tasty herb growing in your garden.

Growing Cilantro (Coriander)

Coriandrum sativum

How to grow Cilantro from seeds

Photo by Jasmine & Roses

Growing cilantro – or coriander as it is also called – is not rocket science.

In fact, cilantro grows itself. At least in my garden it does.

But before we get to the cilantro growing tips, let’s sort out the confusion with the names:

Cilantro or Coriander? What is Cilantro?

Cilantro and coriander come of one and the same plant, a pretty annual herb with feathery leaves and large white umbrella flower heads. The name cilantro refers to the fresh leaf, also known as Chinese parsley. Coriander is the name for the seeds.

In some countries coriander is the only name used. “Coriander leaf” or “fresh coriander” is the same thing as cilantro. So is “Chinese parsley”, another popular name for cilantro.

How to grow cilantro

Cilantro needs a frost free period to grow but it doesn’t like extreme heat. So in milder climates you grow cilantro during summer, in tropical climates you grow it during the cooler dry season.

To grow cilantro you need reasonable soil and you need to keep the plants well watered.

Photo by Chrysaora

Always grow cilantro from seed, directly where you want it. Cilantro HATES being transplanted. The stress will likely cause it to go straight to seed and then it dies. And you never get any leaves at all!

Also, cilantro grows a big taproot, and those little seedling pots are not deep enough to accommodate it. Growing cilantro in a pot isn’t doing it any good.

Don’t bother buying cilantro from a nursery in a pot. Just get the seed.

Growing cilantro from seed

The standard directions are to sow cilantro about 1 cm deep, but there is no need to get scientific about it. Just cover the seeds and keep them moist.

You can plant cilantro in rows for easy harvesting or you can spread the seed over a wider area and rake it in. It depends how much seed you have available. (If you have lots of seed there is another way to grow cilantro and I’ll tell you about it below.)

Don’t go overboard with the amount of seed. Healthy cilantro plants grow fairly big, about 50 cm or 2 feet tall.

You want about 5 cm between plants if you grow cilantro for the leaf. They need more space if you grow them for seed, but you can always eat the extre plants and just leave a few to go to seed.

Cilantro seeds take about two to three weeks to germinate. If they come up too thickly, just pull up and eat the extras…

Yes, the best way to harvest surplus plants is to pull them up. (Provided you can do so without damaging the plants next to it.) Cilantro grows a taproot that is packed with flavour. You will often see Asian soup stock recipes call for cilantro or coriander root, just like Europeans use parsley root in stock.

Harvesting cilantro

After you have eaten all your thinnings, harvest individual cilantro leaves of the base of the remaining plants. Just make sure the plant is big enough to cope and leave some leaves on it so it can continue to grow.

Photo by Yoppy

Sooner or later your cilantro plants will flower. Once they start developing that flower stalk they stop making more leaves. Therefore it is a good idea to re-sow cilantro every few weeks during the growing season. That way you never run out.

Some people also chop out the flower stalk as soon as it shows and manage to keep the plants going a bit longer. Or they harvest the whole cilantro plant once it shows signs of wanting to flower.

I don’t do any of that and I suggest you also leave the flowers alone. (On the next page – growing coriander seed – I will tell you why.)

Problems when growing cilantro

The biggest problem when growing cilantro is that the plants are so sensitive to heat – and also to other stresses. Anything that stresses them will cause them to bolt (meaning they will grow a flower prematurely and set seed).

Select your site well. During the cooder times of the year (Or in cooler climates) choose a spot in full sun. If you expect hot weather, give your cilantro plants some shade.

Make sure your cilantro plants never dry out. (As always, mulch helps.)

Many people underestimate the amount of water cilantro needs, because most herbs we know are so hardy. So water it well, but of course, make sure the soil drains well. Few plants like growing in a bog hole…

Apart from that cilantro has no special soil requirements. Rich, dark soil always produces the biggest, healthiest plants, but any reasonable soil with average nutrient levels should be fine. If you want to feed your plants extra, some dilute liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion never goes astray.

One more thing: cilantro plants do not like humidity. In my climate they will bolt to seed from the heat before humidity becomes a problem, but your climate may be different. Always grow cilantro where the air can circulate freely.

Growing cilantro in the tropical permaculture garden

I said above that cilantro grows itself. That’s exactly what it does: it self seeds. I have cilantro growing everywhere in my permaculture garden.

When it warms up towards the wet season the cilantro goes to seed. Although I always go around and harvest the dry flower heads, there are still many seeds that fall on the ground.

The fabulous thing about the coriander seeds is that they don’t rot over the wet season like the seeds of many other annuals do. Coriander seeds just site there, through the heat, the torrential downpours, months of steamy soggy weather, and they wait.

They wait until the next dry season comes around. And as soon as you get the first crisp nights, new cilantro plants pop up all over your garden!

In the early days I was still growing cilantro in rows near the kitchen door. But these days I don’t bother. During the dry season there is a lot more cilantro growing in my garden than I could eat, and that’s although I LOVE fresh coriander leaf.

And for those readers who do not live in the tropics: as long as your winters are mild, this method will still work for you. Grow cilantro during summer. It will self seed, wait for the very cold weather to pass, and come back in spring.

Everybody else needs to harvest the coriander seeds and replant at the beginning of the next growing season.

Next: Growing Coriander – the importance of cilantro flowers in a permaculture garden and collecting the coriander seed.

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Return from Growing Cilantro to The Tropical Permaculture Garden

Learn how to grow cilantro in a pot. Growing cilantro in containers is not difficult all you need is to follow a few tips and fulfill a few growing requirements.

Cilantro is a highly aromatic herb that is used to enhance the flavor of many South-East Asian and Mexican cuisines and as a dressing to improve the appearance of meal served. Most of the people tend to think that cilantro is one of the most difficult herbs to grow but that’s not true. However, it is little but easy to grow if you follow the way of growing cilantro.

Choosing a Pot

Mostly people choose too shallow pots for growing cilantro but that’s a mistake. Similar to dill, cilantro needs a pot that is deep and wide. For growing cilantro in a pot, choose one that is 18 inches wide and at least 10-12 inches deep, this would be a perfect size.

Best Cilantro Planting Time

Start growing cilantro once all the dangers of frost are passed. You can grow cilantro successively from spring to fall. In warm temperates and much hotter regions (USDA Zone 8 and above) you can grow cilantro in winters too. Cilantro can tolerate light frost easily. Below the zone 8, in much cooler regions, you can grow cilantro in cold frames and overwinter it.

In hot tropical climate (USDA Zone 10 – 11), cilantro grows best in fall and winter. However, it can be grown year round in such climates as in many tropical countries fresh cilantro leaves are available throughout the year but you’ll need to cope with the bolting problem. You may need to harvest quickly and provide shade in spring and summer.

Growing Cilantro From Seeds

It is better if you sow the seeds directly in a pot in which you like to grow the plants later as cilantro has long taproot and it doesn’t transplant well, especially when the plant grows up slightly. Sow seeds 1/4 inches deep. Keep the soil moist until the seedlings germinate. If you have grown them in the seed tray, once the plants have formed 2-3 leaves, plant them to their final location in a pot.

If you’re planting grocery store seeds, gently crush the seed husk before sowing. As cilantro seeds are enclosed in a husk that you’ll need to crush to improve the germination rate.

Requirements For Growing Cilantro In Pot


It is a plant that grows best in the sun. But be careful, too much heat will make it go to seed quickly. In summer (or in hot climates) place it in a position that receives shade in the afternoon.


Cilantro likes evenly moist soil. When watering, make sure you never wet the foliage as cilantro is really susceptible to powdery mildew.


Neutral soil that is very rich in organic matter and crumbly in texture helps this plant to grow. Also, the addition of aged manure or compost provide a good steady supply of nitrogen and other trace elements, thus promotes the vegetative growth.


You can grow cilantro plants closely but for optimum growth space the plants 3 – 4 inches apart.

Cilantro Plant Care


Feed the cilantro bimonthly with any half strength nitrogen-rich fertilizer to promote the foliage growth. You don’t need to fertilize your cilantro plants much if you side dress them with compost or aged manure. Also, the application of fish emulsion is recommended.


Inspect your cilantro plants every day to see if the flowers are appearing, deadhead them regularly to promote the production of leaves. However, you can leave them if you want your plants to seed.

Problem With Coriander/Cilantro:

The recurring problem with cilantro is bolting.

The plant eventually goes to seed but a lot earlier in hot weather. Flowers start to appear quickly, then giving way to seed and after seeding the plant dies.

The best solution for this problem is to sow seeds successively, plant seeds every other week to get a regular harvest. Also, once the plant starts to bolt pinch the top of it to slow down the process.

Pests And Diseases

In pests, look out for aphids. Mildew is the most common disease that kills this herb, more consistently occurs in humid warm weather.

To prevent powdery mildew, keep distance between the plants, provide good air circulation and avoid overhead watering, wetting the leaves also promote the growth of many other fungal infections.


You can start to harvest young cilantro leaves too early, about 3-4 weeks after sowing seeds. Leaves can be picked from the plant when they have reached 3-6 inches in length.

If you want to harvest the entire plant you should wait at least 45-70 days. Cutting the entire plant at soil level or 2 inches above the crown.

Grow Cilantro the Better Way—We Call It Mesclun-Style

Wouldn’t it be nice to have fresh cilantro growing right outside your kitchen door? Whenever you wanted to fix Mexican salsa or guacamole, or a Middle Eastern yogurt sauce for your lamb kabobs, there the lacy, sweetly pungent leaves would be, ready to harvest.

But if you’ve ever tried to grow it, you’ve probably noticed that cilantro yields a fast crop; plants are barely up before they try to flower and set seeds. So those tasty leaves aren’t around long, especially in warm weather.

More about cool-season crops

To keep leaves coming, you can sow seeds every two weeks for a continuous cilantro crop. Or, even better, try the method we perfected in Sunset’s test garden last year: Grow cilantro as you would mesclun.

Sow seeds thickly in a wide, shallow container; then, as soon as plants are 3 to 4 inches tall and sporting a couple of cuttable leaves, use scissors to cut off some foliage for cooking as shown.

Shear from a different section of the container every time, rotating the pot as you go and never letting plants in any area mature. By the time you get back to the first section harvested, new leaves will have appeared.

More: Get a plan for a cool-season garden

Cilantro growing tips

1. Select a bowl-shaped container at least 18 inches wide and 8 to 10 inches deep.

2. Fill the pot with a fast-draining potting soil; mix in an organic granular fertilizer.

3. Before seeding, moisten the soil using a fine spray from the hose. Because the seeds are fairly small, mix them in a bowl with sand (3 parts sand to 1 part seed) so they’ll disperse more evenly. Sow the seeds, then cover lightly with soil.

4. Gently mist the soil  so as not to displace the seeds.

5. Place containers in full sun or, if you live in a hot climate, light shade. Seeds should germinate in 7 to 10 days.

6. Harvest at least weekly to keep leaves coming. Using this method, it’s possible to harvest four crops of cilantro from a single pot.

  • Exposure: Part shade
  • When to plant: Early spring and late summer/early fall
  • Recommended varieties: Santo, Calypso
  • Pests and diseases to watch out for: Rarely, aphids, slugs

Cilantro (the leafy portion) and coriander (the seeds found in the dried-up flowers) are the same plant. It’s best to grow cilantro from seed. Sow seeds about ¼ inch deep directly in the ground about ½ inch apart. Because cilantro “bolts” (goes to flower) quickly, sprinkle seeds every few weeks during the cool months so that you have a steady supply of fresh leaves. Transplants are fine, if you prefer, but they sometimes don’t perform well, so you may end up with a skimpy harvest.

How to Care for Cilantro

Cilantro isn’t fussy, but it does prefer cool weather similar to what greens such as spinach and lettuce like. It’s one of the few herbs that doesn’t need full sun. Planting in part shade also helps slow down its tendency to bolt, especially if you live in a hot climate. Water if it’s been very dry, but you don’t need to feed it. It typically fades away during the summer heat but may pop up again in fall from seeds that dropped off mature plants.

Can you grow cilantro in a pot?

Sure thing! Cilantro grows well in any size pot and doesn’t mind being crowded together. Water when dry, and feed monthly with a liquid organic fertilizer.

Eddie Phan Can you grow cilantro indoors?

Yes. Give it bright, indirect light near a sunny window, but not too close so it overheats. Don’t drown it, but water when dry, and feed regularly as described above.

Is cilantro an annual or perennial?

Cilantro is an annual, though it may survive the winter in mild climates. However, if you allow a few of the seeds to drop from the mature plant once it flowers, new cilantro plants may sprout when temperatures cool down in the fall. And baby cilantro plants may pop up without help from you next spring!

Can you use cilantro after it flowers?

The flowers are edible in dishes such as salads or omelets. Or let them dry on the plant, then harvest the little round seeds as coriander.

Why does cilantro taste “soapy”?

Some people have a genetic predisposition to perceive a weird or unpleasant aftertaste when eating cilantro. If that sounds like your taste buds, experiment by substituting other milder herbs in recipes that call for cilantro.

“Use kitchen shears to snip off pieces of cilantro for use as soon as the plants are at least 3 inches tall, and harvest frequently,” says Tammi Hartung, author of Homegrown Herbs and co-owner of Desert Canyon Farm. “The more you harvest cilantro, the more it comes back.”

Arricca SanSone Arricca SanSone writes for,, Family Circle,, Cooking Light,, and many others.

How To Keep Herbs Alive Forever (Regrow Them!)

Keeping herbs alive can be a tricky business, especially with more fragile herbs like coriander (cilantro). But if your herbs wilt and seem to die, don’t fret. It’s not always necessary to go out and buy new ones. If you can catch the herbs before they’re totally gone, you can regrow a new plant from cuttings. Know that the success rate of cuttings isn’t 100% — somewhere between 50% and 75% of your cuttings are likely to make it. So start out with a handful of cuttings! That said, some herbs are easier to start than others. Here are some that you can recycle endlessly.


  1. Cut a healthy sprig about 3 inches long from your mint plant. Pluck off the large lower leaves, but keep the cluster of small leaves at the top.
  2. Place the sprig upright in a small glass of water and set it on a windowsill. Mint takes a few weeks to grow roots. If the water gets murky, replace it.
  3. When the roots have grown at least an inch long, you can repot the mint. Make sure to keep the soil lightly damp for the first few days while your mint adapts to its new conditions.


Use the same procedure of basil as for mint, but take a longer sprig, about 4 inches. Basil likes warmth, so give it a hot corner to sit in. Once it’s been potted, water lightly once or twice a day to keep the soil damp.

Tip: It’s good to take cuttings right above a leaf node (where the leaves are growing from the stem). The original plant will continue growing leaves from the node.

Coriander / Cilantro

Cilantro tends to come up fast and fall over quickly, making it one of the hardest plants to keep alive. If you have cilantro in a pot that’s become leafy and leggy, this is the time to harvest it. Cilantro clippings can grow in water, though not as well. To “reset” this plant, simply harvest the cilantro, leaving between a half inch and an inch of stem, and wait for it to grow again.

Rosemary & Thyme

Rosemary is a more difficult herb to grow from a cutting, unlike basil and mint. It will take much longer, up to 2 months, before you see roots. Don’t give up if you don’t see roots for a while. As long as the leaves remain green, your rosemary sprig is fine.

Rooting tip: To help the roots grow, use a natural rooting hormone and add nutrients into the water. Some rosemary cuttings will not survive without these, and they’re a good idea to use even on the other herbs! Don’t use fertilizer: the cuttings are too fragile and can be easily poisoned by fertilizer. Use rooting hormones only. Once roots are visible, you may consider adding a little fertilizer, but do research to make sure your plant needs fertilizer first. Most cuttings can develop on their own without it.

Many other herbs follow the same pattern: take a clipping, remove the lower leaves, add to a glass of water and set on a windowsill, change the water whenever it gets unclear or murky, and replant the clipping once it has a healthy growth of roots on the bottom (at least an inch). The key ingredient is fresh water: herb clippings in murky water won’t receive enough oxygen or nutrients, and will eventually die. So make sure to change the water and keep it clean.

How we do it: bottle gardens

Your rooted cutting can be easily transplanted into our garden. The nutrients provided means that it will be able to live a long life and produce a lot more herbs for you! Opposed to soil gardening, the hydroponic self-water design means that you don’t need to worry about watering every few days.

Once your cutting has rooted just place it in the top smart soil insert it and set up your garden as usual.

We also encourage people to use green or brown bottles for the kits. Why? Because these colors filter out harmful red and blue light rays, which helps to keep the water clean.

Keeping herbs alive is something anyone can do. It might take you a little practice, but keep at it and you’ll never have to buy herbs from the store again.

How to have Fresh Cilantro through the Summer

It’s sadly ironic that as soon as summer weather comes, just when your homegrown cilantro would work so perfectly for a nice fresh salsa or grilled skirt steak—it dies. This particular quirk of the leafy herb, to die as the days lengthen and grow hot, make it difficult to plan for platters of fish tacos, but there is a method to insure that you can have fresh cilantro all summer.

Cilantro is a true annual plant (annuals grow from a seed, flower, set seed, and die all in the same year) triggered to flower by the longer days and warmer temperatures of summer. The leaves are used in many cuisines. The seeds are the source of the spice coriander. Because the leaves are best used fresh (they lose aroma once frozen or dried) a reliable source of fresh cilantro through the summer is quite handy.

To ensure yourself fresh cilantro through the season, buy several packets of seeds. Fill a pot with good potting soil and sprinkle the seeds across the soil. A pot at least 8-10” will keep soil cooler than a small pot, so don’t go too small. Try to get the seeds a few inches apart, but don’t get too obsessive about it (you won’t use all of the seeds yet). Cover seeds with ¼-½” of soil and water well.

Place the pot in an area that gets about 6 hours of sun, preferably in the morning and late afternoon. You’re looking for some shade during the hottest part of the day to keep the plants as cool as possible. Don’t let the soil dry out completely.

As soon as the seeds sprout, get another container and sow another pot full of seeds. You can start harvesting from your first container when the cilantro plants are big enough to be cut. Cut from a different section of the pot each time you need some, eventually working around to the first area you harvested. Depending on how much cilantro you use it should regrow a few times before it gives up. By then, pot #2 should be ready to start cutting. Replant pot #1 and start again.

You may be such a cilantro fan that you need 3 or more pots going, or perhaps one will suffice if you’re just a garnisher (you can plant half of the container, then the other half instead of using two pots). But this method of succession sowing should keep you in cilantro during most of the summer months.

Bonus tip: This will work for dill (another annual herb) as well.

Coriandrum Sativum

Cilantro is one of those love-it or hate-it ingredients.

My aunt Karen, for example, thinks it’s the most vile-tasting herb on the planet. Interestingly, famed chef Julia Child disliked this plant’s flavor, as well.

Me, I can’t get enough of it. I sprinkle it on everything.

So if you’re like Karen and Julia, you might want to stop here and read about growing mint, instead.

If you’re in the category of those who love it, please enjoy this growing guide and reap the deliciousness of cilantro from your own garden.

What Are We Talking About Here?

Let’s tackle the matter of nomenclature first. The C. sativum plant is often referred to as coriander, which is also what its seeds are called.

In the United States, the culinarily used leaves are usually called cilantro, but also may be referred to as Chinese parsley, Mexican parsley, fresh coriander, or coriander leaves.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Cilantro leaves are cherished for their bright flavor in many dishes, and are particularly relied upon in Mexican and East Asian cooking.

The seeds of the plant, commonly called coriander, are used whole or ground in many cuisines, particularly those of Southeast Asia.

The mounding, compact plant generally grows to around 12 inches, but can get as tall as 24 inches.

A member of the Apiaceae family, the plant’s leaves resemble those of carrots. They can also look like flat-leafed parsley, another Apiaceae family member.

If allowed to bloom, the plant produces clusters of pinkish-white flowers that are favorites of pollinators. The flowers develop seeds that can be dried and used culinarily, or medicinally, as we will learn about next.

Medicinal Applications

Most herbs have a long history of use to address certain ailments, and some people use C. sativum medicinally today, for preventing and alleviating a myriad of health concerns.

Photo by Matt Suwak.

Natural-health adherents cite studies that show coriander may be useful as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory remedy.

Another study conducted in vitro and on mice (i.e. not on humans) showed that cilantro extracts may help to protect the skin against damage caused by ultraviolet-B radiation.

Bottom line: we’re not about to promise any miracle cure via this garden herb, and you should look with a critical eye towards any source that does make these claims. But it is high in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that can be beneficial to health as part of a balanced and varied diet.

Research exploring the potential health benefits of various forms of coriander is ongoing, but at the very least, adding fresh and dried herbs and spices to your food is a great way to cut down on your sodium intake. And what better way to do this than growing them in your own garden?

Cultivars and Where to Buy

Ready to get some plants growing?

Though you’ll often find seedlings and seed packets marked with a generic label, there are actually many different cultivars available today. These include:

  • Calypso
  • Confetti
  • Jantar
  • Long Standing
  • Leisure
  • Santo

While some are known for their ability to bolt more slowly, others are actually valued for their quickness to flower prolifically, a quality favored by those who hope to harvest the seed.

If you’re looking for heirloom seeds, consider these from Isla’s Garden Seeds, available via Amazon.

100+ Organic Heirloom C. Sativum Seeds

You’ll get 100 or more seeds that will produce edible leaves in three to four weeks.

The heirloom ‘Slow Bolt’ variety is slower to develop flowers than some types, and may do better than other cultivars in climates with warmer summers if you aim to harvest the leaves for salsas and other dishes. Find seeds for this type from Mountain Valley Seed Co., available via True Leaf Market.

‘Slow Bolt’ C. Sativum Seeds

Seeds are available in a variety of quantities.

A Cool Customer

Like a Texan eagerly anticipating October, coriander prefers cool weather. It does best at temperatures between 50 and 85°F. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F, but will quickly bolt as temperatures rise past the mid-80s.

Gardeners in the southern United States, for example, can transplant this short-lived annual herb in February for an April harvest, or in September for a November harvest.

Gardeners in other zones should adjust their planting times based on their local climate. Many gardeners plant weekly during their planting month to ensure a continuous harvest.

Cilantro likes full sun, but will also do well in light shade, particularly in warmer climates.

You may be able to source seedlings from your local garden center, or you can plant seeds directly outdoors.

Cilantro makes a fine indoor container plant, too. Sow seeds in a mixture of potting soil and sand.

If direct sowing outdoors, plant two inches apart in rows 12 to 15 inches apart if you are planning to harvest cilantro leaves. If you wish to let the plants bolt and harvest the coriander seeds, plant 8 inches apart in rows spaced at 15 inches. In either case, plant the seeds ¼- to ½-inch deep.

Coriander prefers rich soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8.

Goldilocks Nitrogen Requirements

Keep the planting area weed free by hand-pulling interlopers.

Young plants need plenty of water, but once established, cilantro needs little water. In fact, it does not do well in damp conditions.

Fertilize twice during the growing season by applying 1/2 teaspoon of a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, such as 21-0-0 or 34-0-0, per square foot of growing area. Take care not to over-fertilize, because too much nitrogen can make the plant less flavorful.

If you are growing in containers, fertilize more frequently.

Banish the Nasties

Cilantro can suffer from aster yellows, which is carried by leafhoppers. Get rid of leafhoppers by sprinkling diatomaceous earth around your plants.

Plants infected with aster yellows must be pulled up and destroyed.

You may also see bacterial leaf spot, which can be treated with neem oil, such as this one from Bonide, available via Amazon.

Bonide 024 Concentrate Neem Oil Insect Repellent, 16-Ounce, Pack Of 2

This concentrated product will yield about 32 gallons of spray per bottle.

Pick ‘Em When You Need ‘Em

Harvest cilantro leaves 45 to 70 days after planting, as you need them for use in your favorite recipes. Choose small, immature leaves from stems that have reached at least six inches long, and pinch them off cleanly. Wait a few days between harvests, to avoid stressing plants.

If you need to do a large harvest all at once – before the weather goes sour, for example – store cut stems upright in a cup of water, covered by a plastic produce bag.

The delicate leaves should be used fresh; they aren’t very flavorful when dried. In most recipes, they are sprinkled in at the end of cooking.

A Seedy Alternative

If you let your plants bolt, you can harvest the seeds at either of two stages.

When they are young and bright green, they have a sharper flavor. These can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, or you can freeze them.

If you prefer to harvest the mature seeds, wait until the majority of them turn brown – about three months after planting – then cut off the seed heads along with a few inches of stalk and hang upside down in a paper bag.

The seeds will eventually finish drying and fall out of the heads into the bottom of the bag. Store them in a lidded glass jar in a cool, dry location.

For maximum flavor, grind the seeds just as you need them.

International Delights

The culinary options for this plant are virtually limitless, but let’s get started with a deliciously simple savory breakfast, green uthappam dosas topped with scallions, green chilies, and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. You’ll find the recipe on The Magic Saucepan.

Next up: make some Asian-inspired spicy ground beef lettuce wraps with this recipe .

Also from Foodal, you might enjoy these shrimp tacos, which use a generous bundle of cilantro to add that classic Mexican flavor.

If you have a bumper crop on your hands and the leaves are plentiful, try this marinade recipe from Hunger Thirst Play. The lime juice and garlic add delicious flavor, and pineapple juice helps to tenderize proteins.

If it’s the ground coriander flavor you’re after, you might enjoy stuffed eggplant with lemon tahini dressing from our friends at Vintage Kitty. This inventive dish calls for a garnish of parsley, but I’d bet chopped cilantro would be a delicious substitute.

For a taste of the Land of Smiles, consider sweet potato Thai red curry, a vegetarian dish featuring a pantryful of delicious ingredients, including ground coriander seed. The recipe is courtesy of The Fitchen.

And to cool off in the warm weather with a delicious beverage, try this prickly pear hard cider cocktail with cilantro and pomelo, also from Vintage Kitty.

Will You Grow It For the Leaves or the Seeds?

Since you’ve made it this far, we’re guessing you don’t find cilantro’s flavor soapy, like so many famous (and not-so-famous) people do.

Or perhaps you’re just into C. sativum for the seeds.

Wherever you are on the cilantro issue, if you get it in the ground at the appropriate time for your area, you’ll likely enjoy the gifts of this multi-purpose, easy-to-grow herb.

Have you ever grown C. sativum? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below. Or if a cilantro look-alike is more your thing, read all about growing parsley here.


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Photos by Matt Suwak © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Isla’s Garden Seeds, Mountain Valley Seed Co., and Bonide. Uncredited photos: .

The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

Should I separate the cilantro plant stalks? I bought a plant from walmart

What you bought was not “a cilantro plant” but a whole cluster of seedlings. Herbs that are sold in the produce section of stores are often not produced for long-term planting, but for a somewhat extended storage – think of them as a bunch, but with roots attached to prevent immediate wilting.

For that, seeds are planted very densely, way more than you would in a regular gardening scenario. This makes for a “dense” bundle and the competition will encourage the individual plants to grow “as fast as they can” to outrun the others. Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable scenario. Over time, some will win that race and others will perish. Natural selection.

Now, what does that mean for your pot? That’s for you to decide. As it is, not all seedlings will reach maturity, even with diligent watering and fertilizing. You can accept that and, as time goes, by carefully pull out dead plants from the cluster (you don’t want them to rot in there). You can start thinning out the plants when you harvest for your kitchen. Or you can gently try to pry apart the root-bound cluster and plant small sections of a few plants a few inches apart. Even just opening up the square into a kind of “ribbon” will help to give the individual plants a better chance. Some loss is to be expected, but that’s inevitable in any scenario. Don’t plant deeper than the seedlings grow naturally, the “heart” should stay above the soil level.

If you want a little cilantro patch, consider growing it from seed next time. It’s quite easy to germinate and you have better control about planting distance.

How to Grow and Care for Cilantro in Containers

Intro: Cilantro, also called coriander, is a strong herb used fresh or dried for culinary purposes, especially in Asian and Mexican cuisines. Cilantro’s seeds (actually the plant’s tiny fruits) can be found in spice jars under the name coriander, while its fresh leaves are often referred to as cilantro (in the United States only – other English-speaking countries call the fresh leaves as coriander, as well). Cilantro grows to 20 inches tall and has tiny white flower clusters at the ends of stalks. Cilantro can be difficult to grow in kitchen gardens, especially in hotter areas. The trick is to plant cilantro in the balcony garden in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler.

Scientific Name: Coriandrum sativum

Plant Type: Annual herb

Light: Full sun

Water: When it comes to watering cilantro, keep the potting soil moist but not soggy. This plant benefits from mulch.

Zone: Keep cilantro in cooler weather. If temperatures rise over 75 degrees, the cilantro will “bolt,” meaning it will go to seed. Give it shade or bring it into an indoor garden on warm days to prevent bolting.

Fertilizer: Add a low-nitrogen water-soluble once a week or a slow-release fertilizer when first planted.

Pests and Diseases: Watch out for aphids, armyworms, cabbage looper caterpillars and powdery mildew, bacterial leaf spot and other fungus problems.

Propagation: Grow cilantro from seed. Harvest the cilantro plant’s seeds by cutting off the flowers after the seeds have begun to turn brown. Just like when harvesting parsley seeds, put the cilantro plant’s flower heads in a paper bag and shake the seeds free. Store seeds in a cool, dry place until needed for planting. To prepare the seeds for planting, crush the seed’s husk (each husk will have two seeds inside). Soak the seeds for one to two days, and then allow them to dry. Then the seeds are ready to plant about 0.25 inches deep (they will germinate in one to three weeks). Because cilantro doesn’t transplant well, sow seeds directly into the balcony garden. If you leave the cilantro in its plant container after it goes to seed, it will often reseed itself, and you won’t have to do anything. Because cilantro is such a short-lived plant (often only living three to six weeks before going to seed), you may want to plant a few new cilantro plants several weeks apart in order to get a longer harvesting time.

Misc. Info: You can harvest the cilantro leaves about three times before it starts going to seed. Young leaves are best, but wait until it has grown at least 6 inches all and harvest the outer leaves. To keep cilantro leaves fresh for several days, place them in a jar of water (just as you would place flowers in a vase) and put them in the fridge. All parts of this container plant, even the roots, are edible.


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For anyone who loves Asian, or Asian-inspired cooking, coriander is an absolute must have in your Yummy Yard! This fast growing annual, with a head a bit like Italian parsley, is an awesome backyard buddy. Its welcome in my kitchen anytime (unlike my dog, who isn’t!). So, lets plant out this beaut little herb!

Planting Schedule

Warm: Early March and again in early September
Temperate: Early March and again in early September
Cool: Early September

Position, Position, Position!

Like my real estate agent says, it’s all about position! Why am I bringing this up? Well, our good friend coriander has a bad habit. Ever heard of a plant “bolting”? I always thought this meant plants were being stolen faster than Cathy Freeman does the 400m! But no, it means the plant has a tendency to set seed prematurely which can greatly affect the flavour and yield of leafy vegetables and herbs.

So, to prevent this happening and encourage masses of tasty leaves, position your coriander where it will receive some shade in hot areas. This isn’t really necessary in temperate to cool areas unless you get scorching hot summers.

Talking Dirty

Like most herbs and a few other Yummy Yard favourites (just like our mates Tomato and Strawberry), coriander will do well in a container or in the vegie patch. These mean, green growing machines love nothing more than a rich, moist soil in a nice sunny spot (except of course in really warm areas… looking at you Queensland!).

If planting in pots choose an organic potting mix. These mixes are designed for container gardening and generally don’t have all the totally unnecessary synthetic fertilisers in them. If you’re planting in your patch, working in some lovely organic matter, like compost prior to planting is a top idea. Coriander will thank you for it!

Feed Me!

Feeding coriander was once rumoured to prevent it bolting, but I reckon this is totally unnecessary if your soil is full of tasty organic matter, like compost. If you feel the need for feed, a compost tea or liquid seaweed fertiliser is all I would recommend.

What about the Water?

Now, one thing that will make coriander bolt is an erratic watering schedule. A soil with heaps of organic matter and a nice mulch layer will keep moisture in the soil longer, but don’t be frightened to jab the old soil moisture tester (i.e. your finger) into the garden bed to see how damp it is. This applies especially to coriander grown in containers, as pots (especially terracotta) will dry out faster than a celebrity in re-hab! Coriander left to dry out thinks its days are numbered and bolts, so monitor the soil moisture and water when needed.

Are We There Yet?

Like a lot of the Yummy Yard herbs coriander can be eaten all the time. I generally wait until the foliage is about 20cm high as I reckon the flavour is best at this time. There are a couple of ways you can go about chowing down on your coriander. Either chop off the foliage as required or pull the whole plant out of the ground (a bit like you would a carrot) and use everything. The entire coriander plant can be used in cooking – leaves, stems and roots and they are dead easy to prepare.

Pests and the Rest

This has got to be one of the greatest Yummy Yard plants for a number of reasons. Least of all being that coriander, generally speaking, suffers from bugger all pests or diseases. In fact, coriander is often used as a good neighbour in companion planting. This is due to the smell of the plant being unappealing to insects and the rest. As we have learned, coriander bolting is probably the biggest issue. But even this can be prevented by following the instructions above or by choosing “slow bolt” varieties at your local SGA garden centre.

Hot Tip

My hot tip for coriander is don’t just use the foliage. The roots have an amazing and intense flavour as do the stems. And, after washing thoroughly, the roots will enhance your cooking enormously. Oh, and one other thing, if your plants do happen to bolt and set seed don’t despair. Just cut off the seed heads, take them inside and dry them out on a bit of baking paper. Once dry, the seeds can be stored and used for some entirely different kitchen flavours! Too easy!

Eat me!

Coriander pesto

1 bunch coriander
20 ml peanut oil or olive oil
Juice ½ lemon
1 clove garlic
50g peanuts or cashews dry roasted in a frying pan if raw.

Blend coriander, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor or mortar and pestle.

Add peanuts or cashews and blend to a lumpy puree.

Season with salt and pepper.

This pesto is oh so versatile. Use it in a stir-fry or with pasta. Smear it on fish before you bake or BBQ it. Layer it between slices of eggplant, capsicum and zucchini, then bake the stacks in the oven. Mash it with avocado for a new twist on guacamole.

You can learn how to grow cilantro, a popular herb used to season foods with its fresh or dried leaves. Cilantro also produces seeds that are used to create the spice known as coriander.

How to Grow Cilantro

Cilantro is an easy herb to grow. It can be grown in the USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10. It requires 14 to 21 days for the plants to emerge and in 60-75 days, the plants reach maturation. The deep green leaves are similar in shape to Italian flat leaf parsley, only smaller.

Soil Type

You need well-drained loam or sandy soil often enriched with farmyard manure. You can add compost and mulch around each plant to retain moisture.

  • You can use compost instead of manure.
  • After tilling, rake the bed to make a fine tilth (loosened soil) up to 12″ deep.
  • You can adjust the pH to around 6 for best results.

Water Requirements

Before planting, you need to water the grow bed the day before sowing. Using a slow flow so you don’t disturb the bed, soak the bed at least 4″ to 6″.

  1. Sow the seeds six inches apart in 1/4″ deep furrows and cover with soil.
  2. Water the bed after planting.
  3. Water once a day to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out.
  4. Too little water will result in a low germination rate.
  5. Once your cilantro is established, water once a week or whenever the ½” top layer of soil becomes dry.
  6. Always slow flow to saturate at least 5″to 6″ inches deep.
  7. Never spray the plants overhead to avoid powdery mildew and various plant diseases.

Sun Requirements

Plant cilantro in full sun for best results. Cilantro can survive with a minimum of six hours of sunlight, so you can plant it in partial sunlight if needed.

Planting Cilantro

Some gardeners soak the husked seeds for a quicker germination. Others crack the seed between their thumb and index fingers. Neither is necessary since the seeds will germinate just fine with a moist growing bed.

Start Indoors and Transplant in Garden

You can start cilantro inside between six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. You can transplant the seedlings once the first two sets of true leaves emerge.

Direct Sow Cilantro Seeds

You can direct sow cilantro starting after the last frost in the spring. You want to plant successive rounds of cilantro every two to three weeks to ensure you have an ongoing crop. Cilantro will continue to produce up to the first fall frost.

Row Plantings

Plant two seeds every six inches apart in hill rows since not all seeds germinate. You’ll discard the weaker of the two plant should both seeds emerge.

Square Foot Gardening Plantings

You want nine plants per square when using the square foot gardening method. Plant two seeds for each plant you want.

Potential Problems

Cilantro is rarely bothered by pests or disease, most likely due to its strong aroma, which makes it an excellent insect repellent. The plant can, however, be bothered by leaf spot and powdery mildew if there is too much moisture or poor air circulation. Make sure the soil is well-drained and thin the plants if they become overcrowded to ensure good air circulation.

Harvesting Cilantro Leaves

Like all seeds, the first set of leaves are seed leaves. The true leaves or plant leaves come after the seed leaves. Within six weeks, the plants will have many leaves and you can pinch back the center leaves to encourage the plant to branch out.

First Harvest

This method also slows down this short-lived plant’s irreversible journey towards flowering, seeding and death. You can start harvesting the bottom set of leaves by cutting the stem lengths. You will continue to harvest from the bottom up.

  1. Wash the plants immediately under cold running water.
  2. Remove any yellowing leaves.
  3. The whole plant can be cut up, root and all, or you can just use the leaves.

Thinning Out Plants

If you’ve planted a long row of cilantro and the plants continue to grow, you may decide it’s time to thin the rows. Pulling out plants ready for harvest is a great way to thin and harvest leaves. Thinning the bed this way promotes the growth of the remaining plants.

Hot Weather Causes Cilantro to Bolt

Cilantro is known to bolt as soon as temperatures begin to climb. If you live where the temperatures are high, cilantro will bolt. The good news is, you’ll end up with another culinary delight, coriander seeds.

Why Plants Bolt

Bolting occurs before it’s time to harvest the crop. The plant produces flowers prematurely in an effort to form seeds. In a desperate act of survival, the plant rushes to produce seeds so it can reproduce. Bolting can be triggered by a rise in temperature that is too hot for the plant to survive, temperatures too cold for the plant, and various stress factors, such as inadequate water that threaten the survival of the plant.

Tips to Delay Bolting

There are a few things you can do that may delay bolting when the temperatures start to rise. These methods will only slow down the process and can’t prevent the inevitable.

  • When the plants are 4″ to 5″ high, you can pinch back the leaves at the top of the plant to force it to grow out and remain compact.
  • You can continue to pinch back the top of the plant to slow down the bolting process.
  • You can regularly harvest the leaves to ensure the plant doesn’t overgrow and bolt.

Bolting Plants Produce Flowers and Seeds

White flowers will appear as soon as the temperatures grow too warm. A tall shoot will first appears and branches out sporting several umbels or flower heads carrying white to light pink flowers. There is no turning back once the flowers bloom. The cilantro leaves quickly lose their flavor as the plant trains its energy toward creating coriander seeds.

Steps for Harvesting Coriander Seeds

You will notice tiny greenish white berries soon appear once the flowers emerge. The berries quickly become harder and drier as they mature. You can then harvest the seeds and use them in various recipes.

  1. Watch the seed heads for signs of maturity. If you notice several seeds missing, it’s time to harvest the bunch.
  2. Take a large brown paper bag and cover each flower head.
  3. Gather the bottom of the bag around the stem and cut the stem below the bag.
  4. Carefully remove the bagged seed pod, turning it upside down long enough to secure the bag around the stem.
  5. Leave the stem head inside the bag and hang the bag upside down with stems up.
  6. When the stems are dried up, remove from hanger.
  7. Close the bag tightly and shake to dislodge the seeds.
  8. On a flat surface spread out several sheets of paper towel and carefully empty the bag onto them.
  9. Separate the seeds from the stem and flower pods.
  10. You can allow the seeds to air dry or better yet, place in a dehydrator for 10-minute intervals to avoid over drying. If the seeds become brittle, you’ve over dried them.
  11. Use the seeds for seasoning and save a few or two to ensure they are completely dry. Dry them further and store.
  12. You can save some seeds to plant next season as long as your cilantro plants were heirlooms and not hybrids.

How to Grow Cilantro Indoors

In areas where it is either too cold or too hot for coriander, you can grow cilantro indoors in pots with good results. You’ll need to either place in direct sunlight for at least six hours each day or use grow lights.

  • Direct sow the seeds by poking ¼” holes in the soil and covering with soil.
  • Keep the soil moist at all times.
  • Make sure the plants are in darkness at least eight hours of every 24 hours.

Smaller Pots for Growing Cilantro Herbs

Pots may limit the amount of coriander seeds you can harvest. For this reason, you may prefer to grow cilantro in smaller individual pots that are 5″ wide deep pots that are ideal for growing herbs.

Harvesting Potted Cilantro Plants

You can harvest cilantro leaves once a few sets of true leaves start to appear, Harvest the outer and lower leaves whenever you need the herb.

  1. Never harvest more than one-third of the leaves at a time.
  2. Pinch the top center leaves to promote a bushy growth and prevent bolting (setting seed).
  3. Partial harvesting can be repeated three to four times.
  4. You can harvest the whole plant once it begins to bolt or you can allow it to bloom and go to seed.
  5. You can start a new plant by changing the soil and reusing the same pot.

Using Leaves and Seeds

Coriander seeds are part of curry mixes, but the taste and flavor of the seeds and the leaves are worlds apart. The leaves are often described as peppery and lemony while the seeds as subtle and earthy.

Cilantro Leaves Often Called Coriander

If someone says ‘cilantro,’ there’s no ambiguity. But if any recipe calling for coriander asks you to chop it, the recipe means the plant’s leaves. A Thai dish recipe calling for coriander to be chopped means to use the roots of the plant, which are more pungent.

Coriander or Cilantro Misnomers

Lao coriander (Anethum graveolens/dill),Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) and French parsley (Anthriscus cerefolium/chervil) are not true corianders. However, each one belongs to the same family as cilantro/coriander.

Cilantro Leaves

Cilantro leaves are best used fresh and finely chopped as a garnish to salads, soups or curries. They may also be used in making salsa, guacamole or similar condiments. Heat robs some of its potent taste. Cooking almost completely destroys the flavor and even makes it have a bitter taste. Unlike other dried herbs, dried cilantro has a milder taste than its fresh version.


The sweet smell and flavor of coriander seeds go well with all kinds of meat dishes. The seeds are usually used in powder form a spice. Curries are never curries without coriander add to them. Some recipes call for freshly ground coriander seeds. Other recipes call for roasted or powdered coriander. Whole seeds are added to pickle recipes and crushed coriander seeds are often used in meat casseroles.

Cilantro Herb and Coriander Seeds

Whether you love the cilantro plant for its leaves, seeds, or both, it is extremely versatile and worth planting. Using cilantro in various recipes adds just the right amount of zest to any meal.

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