When growing cilantro, you get two appetizing herbs for the price of one: the plant itself is coriander (you may think of it as a spice or seed), and the green leaves and stems are considered cilantro. The leaves, also referred to as Chinese Parsley, are by far the most versatile part of the plant. Many dressings, soups, dips, sides, and meat dishes incorporate this green herb for an instant flavor lift. If you find yourself cooking recipes that call for cilantro or simply like to keep fresh herbs on hand, growing cilantro at home is a smart — not to mention, delicious — investment.
How to Grow Cilantro From Seed
Find a container measuring at least 8 inches deep, or a spare lot of land. Prepare the soil by working compost or organic matter at least 18 inches deep, and then rake smooth. In late spring or fall (before or after the extreme heat hits), plant cilantro seeds 1/4-inch deep and space plants 6 to 8 inches apart. Water the plants well and often, and feed them with a nitrogen fertilizer once they hit 2 inches in height.
Plants will bolt as soon as the days get longer and the temperatures rise, so make sure they’re in a spot with full sun or partial shade, if you live in a particularly hot climate. If there is any danger of frost, protect your cilantro plants with row covers. After about 50 to 55 days, the plant should be at least 6 inches tall and you can start picking the leaves. When harvesting, pick leaves one by one or cut 1/3 of the way down with kitchen or pruning shears, so that the remaining plant can continue to produce cilantro. Cilantro is a short-lived herb, so harvest the leaves once a week to avoid bolting a.k.a. developing seed. Once seeds develop, they’ll self-sow, causing little plants to pop up during the current or following season.
Caring for a cilantro plant – Basic tips
Now that you have learnt how to grow cilantro at home, it’s time to look at some basic tips for taking care of this herb. These are basics which will see to it that your cilantro plant grows and propagates to its ultimate best. Some of these include:
Cilantro likes bright indirect light but dislikes intense, direct sunlight. The best option for container gardens is morning sun in an east-facing window or a very bright sill that doesn’t get too much direct sun.
Cilantro does best in airy, light, fast-draining soil with plenty of perlite or sharp sand mixed in to increase drainage. If the cilantro is in a garden, add mulch around the plants as soon as they’ve grown enough to be visible. In a container, use a premium potting mix rather than a garden soil, which is too heavy.
Plant the cilantro seeds between 12 and 18 inches apart in the fall in zones 8 and higher or in the spring about a month before the last frost in the lower zones.
Keep the soil regularly moist, but not soaked. Good drainage is essential, as cilantro has deep roots. Aim for about 1 inch of water per week.
Temperature and Humidity
Cilantro bolts easily, especially in warm weather. Keep your plants around 70 degrees Fahrenheit to you’ll extend the harvest time. Once cilantro bolts, the flavor changes. Keeping the plant over 75 degrees will greatly hasten flowering, which means it’s done growing.
Use liquid fertilizer, or supplement the soil with controlled-release pellets. For organic cilantro, use organic fertilizer or fortify soil with compost. Feed the herb once a month.
Potting and Repotting
Cilantro is an annual that grows with a deep taproot. As a result, it dislikes repotting and will often bolt at the slightest provocation. It’s best to repot your garden-center cilantro only once after bringing it home, then keep the plant in that container for the rest of its life.
Seed-grown cilantro can transition from your seed-starting pot to its permanent home pot. Because cilantro is an annual, mature plants should never need repotting. A fully mature flowering cilantro plant can hit 24 inches tall, including flower stalks.
When cilantro stems reach 6 inches in length, its a signal for you to harvest them. It takes about 3 to 4 weeks for the cilantro plants to start producing young leaves after they are sown as seeds. However, in case you need to harvest the whole cilantro plant, you will have to wait for a long time ranging between 45 to 70 days.