Cilantro is the best herb to grow if you’re an aspiring green thumb without a backyard or garden. So without further ado, here’s how you can grow cilantro right inside your home.
Anyone with a greenish thumb and a taste for fresh herbs should try their hand at growing cilantro. The entire plant—from seed to sprout, leaf, and flower—is edible. This herb is tasty as a microgreen, or you can let it grow to maturity for a pungent harvest. And for many gardeners, the herb grows better indoors than out.
What You’ll Need
- A flower pot or container
- Soil or potting mix
- An area with plenty of sunlight or a grow light
- Scissors or shears for harvesting
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Cilantro is an herb from the fresh leaves of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum). This plant is a member of the parsley family, and the herb is also known as Chinese parsley and Mexican parsley. In the U.K. and some other places, you will see cilantro called fresh coriander leaves. The leaves look much like flat-leaf parsley, growing on long, tender stems. The seeds of the plant are used to make coriander spice, which has a completely different flavor from cilantro. The roots of the plant are also edible and used in some dishes.
Tips for Growing Cilantro Indoors
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.
Temperature and Humidity
Cilantro bolts easily, especially in warm weather. Once bolts, the flavor changes, often becoming bitter. With potted plants, you can extend the harvest season by keeping the plants around 70 degrees and bringing them indoors to an air-conditioned environment when outdoor temperatures get warm.
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.
Use a liquid fertilizer or supplement the soil with controlled-release pellets. For organic cilantro, use organic fertilizer or fortify the soil with compost. Feed the herb once a month.
Pruning and Maintenance
As the young plants grow, periodically pinch back them by about 1 inch to encourage fuller plants. To extend your cilantro harvest, regularly snip soft stems, rotating the plant as you harvest to encompass the whole plant.
How to Plant
Starting from seed:
- Fill the container with the pre-moistened growing media of your choice.
- Plant seeds ¼” deep and cover lightly with potting soil.
- Place container in an area where the ambient temperature is at least 70°F.
- Keep the soil moist but not saturated. Too much water pushed air out of the growing media in the root zone, causing oxygen deficiencies.
- Thin plants when cilantro seedlings are about two inches tall. Keep the single, best-looking plant for an 8-inch container. A 12-inch container is large enough to grow three seedlings if they are well spaced.
Starting from stem cuttings:
- Take a 4-inch stem cutting right below a node and remove all of the leaves from the bottom 2 inches of the stem.
- Place the cut end of the stem in a glass or jar of water, allowing it to grow until newly generated roots are a couple of inches long.
- Fill the container with pre-moistened growing media of your choice.
- Carefully plant newly rooted cuttings in the substrate, one cutting per 8-inch pot and 3 per 12-inch container
Cilantro can be used any time after germination, but is generally considered “ready to harvest” at 5 to 7 weeks of age. Lightly cut back a few outer leaves at a time when they reach 4 to 6 inches long, or harvest entire plants all at once. The nice thing about growing cilantro indoors is that it does not take up refrigerator space. You can pick exactly the amount needed at the moment and let the rest continue growing.
Getting started with growing your own food when you don’t have much outdoor space may seem like a daunting task, but starting with something easy like cilantro can ease you into filling your home with fresh food in no time.