Cilantro is one of the most commonly used herbs in various cuisines because of its nice flavors. You can often see it being used in Mexican, Asian, and Caribbean cuisines because of its ability to add a unique aroma and flavor to dishes. This is made possible by integrating the leaves of the famous cilantro plant into the dish.
One thing that cilantro can do is add not only fresh flavors to your dishes but also more nutrients. Freshly chopped, you can expect cilantro plants to be a low-calorie herb that is also rich in potassium while being useful in boosting your digestive system.
It can bring out its best flavors if you add its chopped leaves during the last minute of cooking. Expect cilantro to combine well with garlic, cumin, mint, marjoram, and chives. With its pleasant citrus and herbaceous notes, cilantro also blends well with various savory dishes.
You can also pair it up with almost everything, like seafood and tomatoes. It is also useful when used as a garnish on top of various recipes. In addition, you can stir it into guacamoles, sauces, dressings, chutneys, and salsas.
With its numerous uses in the kitchen, it is no longer surprising to see it being recognized as a very popular herb. Many even make it a point to grow it at home, so they will have easy access to this fresh and delicious herb.
Quick Facts About the Plant Cilantro
- Botanical name: Coriandrum sativum
- Common name: Chinese parsley, coriander, cilantro
- Type of plant: Annual herb
- Type of soil: Moist and loamy; well-drained soil
- pH level: 6.2 to 6.8 pH level
- Sunlight exposure: Partial sun, full sun
- Size: 1 to 2 feet tall; 1 to 1.5 feet wide
- Bloom time: Summer, spring, and fall
- Native area: Africa, Europe, Asia
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 2 to 11 (annual)
Choosing the Ideal Location and Time for Planting Cilantro
When planning to grow cilantro (coriander), you have to remember that it is a cool-season herb. This means that it is highly advisable to plant and sow cilantro seeds when the weather is cool. You can do the planting of cilantro during the early spring, specifically once the last frost date ends.
You may also plant cilantro during the early fall – after noticing that the temperatures consistently cooled down and reached around 50 to 80 degrees F. Note, though, that there are areas with climates that will only let you harvest cilantro leaves, not the seeds, prior to the light frost during the fall.
The following should also be taken into consideration when choosing the perfect location for growing cilantro plants:
What Soil to Use?
Cilantro needs to be in loose and well-drained soil with a pH level of around 6.2 to 6.8. The existing soil should be nutrient-rich, too. The good news is that this herb is also capable of tolerating soils of lesser quality.
You can amend garden soil with the help of well-decomposed compost and rich organic matter. After that, add a 1-inch mulch in the area surrounding the cilantro plants to optimize results.
Make sure that the cilantro or coriander seeds have proper spacing, too. They can grow well if there is a space of around one to two inches between them.
When growing cilantro plants, note that they need the right amount of sunlight. It tends to thrive well when exposed to partial and light shade or full sun but it also tends to favor afternoon shade when grown in areas with warm climates. When planting cilantro, it is crucial not to plant them very close to tall plants that may only shade them during the spring.
Depth and Support
Apart from ensuring that cilantro seeds have proper spacing, you also have to be aware of the appropriate depth. In general, the cilantro or coriander seeds need to be around one-fourth to one-half-inch deep.
It is also advisable to thin seedlings to around six to eight inches apart. Each row of cilantro needs to have a space of around one foot apart for proper airflow. In terms of support, you will be glad to know that this herb does not need any support structure.
Best Cilantro Growing Mediums and Locations
Cilantro is somewhat versatile in the sense that you can grow the herb successfully in various mediums and locations. Among your choices are the following:
There is a high chance for you to attain success if you grow cilantro plants in containers. Just make sure to use a large growing container or pot with plenty of enriching and premium potting mix. Make it a habit to water it regularly, too.
There is actually a big advantage if you use containers or pots when growing cilantro indoors and other plants that are prone to bolting. For one, you can easily move or transfer the plant to a place where it will be protected from extremely high temperatures or too much heat.
In addition, it lets you have easy access to fresh cilantro. You can just put the pot or container where you are growing cilantro out on your patio or porch. It is also an effective means of growing cilantro indoors, provided you exert some effort to fill containers with soil rich in nutrients.
You can also easily grow this herb in your backyard garden. The only thing that you have to make sure of is there is well-tilled soil that is amended using well-decomposed compost and organic material.
It is also crucial to do mulching as it aids in retaining moisture. Apart from moisture retention, mulching can also regulate or control soil temperature and lower the risk of soil erosion. In addition, it prevents unwanted weeds from penetrating and infesting your vegetable garden.
You can also plant cilantro in a raised garden bed. The good thing about it is that it removes the hassle of having to provide well-draining and nutrient-rich soil for your cilantro plants.
By planting the herb this way, you will have an easier time controlling the quality of the soil. There is also a possibility for the seeds and plants to remain warmer early in the growing season compared to if you plant them in the ground.
How to Plant Cilantro Seeds?
To increase the chance of the herb growing successfully, it is advisable to sow seeds directly in the pot or ground where you intend to grow it. Sowing seeds directly is advisable since cilantro grows quickly, making it unnecessary to have a head-start when planting seeds indoors.
Also, note that cilantro is capable of developing a taproot, so it is not in favor of being transplanted or disturbing its roots. Despite that, you can still choose to start seeds in biodegradable pots, allowing you to plant them in the soil considered as their growing site eventually.
Basically, the steps in planting cilantro seeds include the following:
- Prepare the soil – You can do so by putting nutritious compost or any organic matter in the area where you intend to plant the seeds. Work these nutrients into the soil, following the minimum depth of 18 inches. Once done, rake this location until smooth.
- Sow seedlings directly, around one-fourth inch deep, in your vegetable or herb garden either during the early summer or late spring. Sow or thin them at around six to eight inches apart, too, and in rows that have a spacing of around one foot each.
- Water cilantro to add a lot of moisture then feed using a water-soluble fertilizer once you notice it reaching around two inches tall.
The fact that cilantro has quick and rapid growth means that you can also sow seeds again during the fall in areas and zones that are warmer. You can also enjoy a consistent supply of these herbs for the entire summer. All you have to do is to do successive sowing every two to three weeks starting in the early spring.
Growing Cilantro Plants in Containers or Pots
What if you do not have an appropriate garden area for the cilantro herb? You can use a pot or container. With its small size, you have an assurance that this herb will grow well in pots or containers.
Use a pot that has a width and depth of at least eight inches. It should have drainage holes, too. The most highly recommended choice is an unglazed clay container or pot as it lets excess moisture from the potting soil evaporate through the walls.
How to Propagate?
What’s great about cilantro is that it is capable of self-seeding in any garden, which means that it can propagate itself. It is also possible for you to harvest and then save the seeds for plantings in the future.
Do this during the summer, especially upon noticing the seed heads drying out. Here are the steps for cilantro propagation:
- Check the seed heads to find out if they are already dry and brown while on the plant – If they are, you should trim them right away. Avoid waiting for a long period; otherwise, the degrading plant’s stems will end up flopping over and then spilling the heads.
- Get the paper bag and put the seed heads upside-down inside – Wait for a few days then check whether they have already split open. This means that the seeds were already released.
- Let the seeds dry completely by putting them in a dry and cool spot – This area should be away from direct sunlight.
- Prepare an airtight container where you can place the seeds – Label the container with the date when you placed the seeds. You can expect them to be viable for planting for a couple of years.
Caring and Maintaining Cilantro
As you care for cilantro, your goal should be to improve and maximize foliage. This is possible by pinching back young plants or the newly grown cilantro around one inch or so, leading to bushier plants .
You should also snip off the primary stem’s topmost part once you see it forming seedpods or flower buds. Cut off the heads of the cilantro plant flowers to redirect the energy of the plant to the leaf, instead of the seed or flower production.
One more thing to do when it comes to caring for cilantro is to give it more attention once the scorching hot weather comes. It tends to have a short life cycle while having the ability to bolt quickly during hot weather. Upon seeing the cilantro setting seeds, there is a high chance for the plant to begin degrading quickly.
Here are other areas where you should focus on when caring for and maintaining cilantro:
Make sure that the potting soil retains even moisture without making it soggy. This is specifically important once the seeds germinate, and they begin developing seedlings. A wise tip is to give the seedlings around one inch of water every week.
Several mature plants do not need a lot of water while still favoring moist soil surface. The only thing you have to ensure is that the roots do not end up getting waterlogged, so these mature plants and even the young cilantro plants will continue growing well.
When it comes to fertilizer, be aware that cilantro can still grow successfully even without it. However, the herbs can still benefit from a monthly treatment with an organic blend of fertilizer.
You are also allowed to add compost or other nourishing organic matter to the soil. This should improve the ability of the cilantro to thrive and survive, especially the first time you plant seeds.
Humidity and Temperature
Expect cilantro to survive when grown in a cool environment as it is what it prefers. In general, this herb likes to grow in a place that has a temperature of around 60 to 70 degrees F. Avoid exposing it to an extremely hot environment; otherwise, it will easily bolt.
Note, though, that despite being a cool-weather herb, cilantro is still known for being frost-sensitive. This makes it necessary to use row covers designed to keep your plants protected from the anticipated and unreasonable cool weather.
Also, note that cilantro does not like being in a place with high humidity. It does not also do well in climates that often receive plenty of rain.
Part of maintaining cilantro may also include pruning it upon harvesting leaves. Once you discover a flower stalk starting to grow, trim it off as it can help in prolonging the growth of the leaf.
However, if seeds are what you intend to harvest, it would be better for you to let the stalk grow. Wait for the season to end as much as possible then let the cilantro plant flower, making it possible for you to harvest cilantro seeds afterward.
Common Pests and Diseases
When growing cilantro, you also have to watch out for possible pests and diseases that may affect them. In most cases, you can prevent these issues from appearing if you provide the herbs with proper and enough space for good airflow and the correct amount of water, soil conditions, and nutrients.
The usual pests and diseases that may affect cilantro are the following:
This is a common issue affecting a lot of herbs and plants, including cilantro. It is possible to prevent powdery mildew from developing, spreading, and forming by ensuring that they are spaced properly. This should help improve the airflow in the area.
It is also advisable to get rid of diseased plants. Have them disposed of to ensure that it no longer spreads.
Leaf spot starts to look like small yellow spots that eventually become bigger brown spots. The usual causes of this problem are poor air circulation and moisture. You can prevent this problem from happening by growing cilantro in properly drained soil.
Avoid overwatering it. The plants should also be thinned enough, so there will be enough air circulation surrounding them.
Aphids and Whitefly
Both are among the common pests and insects affecting cilantro. If you see them infesting your plants, you can get rid of them by spraying them sharply with water from the hose. You can also give companion planting a try. Another solution is an insecticidal soap guaranteed to be safe for use on edible plants and fresh herbs, especially cilantro.
When and How to Harvest Fresh Cilantro?
Now, it’s time to learn the most exciting part of having your own cilantro plants at home – the harvesting process. You can actually readily harvest fresh leaves of cilantro in a month or less.
Start harvesting cilantro leaves once you notice the plants already approximately six inches tall. In most cases, this happens after three weeks to a month after sowing the seeds first. To harvest leaves, pinch back the parts of the upper stem. This technique can help encourage fuller plants and new growths.
Stick to the recommended amount of harvest at a time, specifically not more than a third of coriander or cilantro leaves. Avoid harvesting more than one-third to avoid managing the whole plant.
If you wish to harvest seeds, let the plant flower first. You should then leave the seed heads to dry out – after which, you can finally release the seeds by shaking the heads inside the paper bag.
You can also snip off the whole seed head before putting it inside the paper bag. You should then store the bag in the right place, specifically one that is cool, dark, and well-ventilated. Let the seeds dry completely inside the bag so you will have an easier time harvesting them.
How to Store Cilantro?
It is highly recommended to use and enjoy cilantro leaves while they are fresh. However, you are also allowed to store them in your fridge for several days. The best way to store cilantro is to put it inside your fridge.
What you have to do is to prepare a jar then fill it with some water. Put the harvested cilantro leaves inside, making sure that the stem that is freshly cut faces the bottom. You should then use a plastic bag or damp paper towel to cover the herbs loosely.
Secure the bag and cover it to prevent air from accessing your harvest inside, thereby speeding up the oxidation process. Once done, you can store the jar in your fridge until you notice the leaves withering or becoming discolored. Another important tip is to change the water inside the jar regularly, every three days preferably.
You should store coriander seeds or cilantro properly, too. You can do that by using damp paper towels as linings for a zip-lock bag or airtight container. Put the seeds inside the container then put one more damp paper towel over it. Seal it then store in your refrigerator, specifically in the crisper draw.
Through this article, you may have already discovered that it is actually possible to grow cilantro in the comforts of your own home. You have learned about the culinary uses of this plant and a few quick facts about it.
This article also shared with you the process of planting, growing, propagating, and caring for and maintaining cilantro. You have even learned how to harvest the herbs correctly and store them so you will be able to use them for longer.
Now that you learned how to grow cilantro at home, you should start growing this herb and making it part of your garden. You will not regret going through the cilantro growing process in your garden and caring for it as it is quick and easy to do so, plus you will enjoy a bountiful harvest.
Just don’t forget to give these herbs in your garden proper care and attention. Provide your cilantro plants with the kind of environment it needs and ensure that you nourish it. By doing that, it will flourish and grow while giving you a consistent supply of cilantro.