Growing Cilantro: A Quick And Dirty Guide

Cilantro is a herb in the Apiaceae family and is used in dishes from Central and South America, as well as from the Middle East. Cilantro is somewhat resistant to pests and disease, making it an ideal starter plant for new gardeners. There are different ways to grow cilantro, including from seed or cuttings and by purchasing seedlings.

How to grow cilantro

Growing cilantro from seed

Grow cilantro from seed by crushing the hulls of the seeds and soaking them in water for about 48 hours. Remove them from the water and let them dry before planting.

Start outdoor cilantro inside in seed trays during early spring if you live in a colder part of the world. Later in spring, you can plant outdoor cilantro seeds about 1/4 inch deep in a location that will receive full sun a part of the day. If you live in a warm region, plant them in late autumn. Avoid overwatering since cilantro likes dry soil. Water regularly, but only when the surface of the soil feels dry. Regular watering will keep the plant from bolting too early in the growing season.

Growing cilantro from cuttings

Propagate cilantro by taking a cutting about four inches long from below a node. Remove all the leaves from the bottom two inches and place the cutting in a glass of water until it generates roots. When the roots are about two inches long, plant the cutting as you would a seedling.

Plant outdoor cilantro seedlings during the cooler parts of the year. The crop does best at temperatures in the 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.44 °C) range. It will start to bolt once temperatures get too warm but can tolerate moderately low temperatures.

Transplant cilantro seedlings at a distance of about six inches apart.

Stagger cilantro planting to have a longer harvest. Sow seeds every two or three weeks starting in late spring to have even more harvests. The plants have a short lifespan and will go to seed within seven weeks. Also, pinch off buds as they appear, unless you want the plant to go to seed. Getting rid of buds encourages the plant to redirect its energy into producing leaves rather than seed pods.

Growing cilantro in containers

When growing cilantro in containers, choose a container that is wide and on the shallow side. Shallow pots can fit more plants, which means that you get more per harvest. The container should have ample holes to allow excess water to escape. Choose a potting soil that drains quickly and add fertilizer to it. After sowing the seeds, gently moisten the soil. Until they germinate, use a misting bottle to water the seeds. Misting is a gentle enough watering method that won’t move the seeds around. Once seeds germinate, water only when the soil feels dry.

Fertilize indoor and outdoor cilantro plants with a nitrogen fertilizer after they grow to two inches tall.

Growing cilantro indoors

You can start indoor cilantro at any time of year. Position the container with your cilantro to ensure that it receives sunlight but not too much heat. You want to make sure that it stays cool, which may require you to keep it away from windows during the hottest part of the year.

How much sunlight does cilantro need?

Cilantro requires full sunlight to reach its potential (at least 6 hours per day.) That said, as the weather warms to higher temperatures (above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.44 °C)), partial sun and even partial shade may be preferable for the health of the plant.

How much water does cilantro need?

Cilantro plants thrive with moist soil. Aim for one inch of water per week for your plant, and check the plant often to monitor for dryness. Cilantro grown in containers (and/or positioned with a high amount of sunlight) will likely need more watering. Monitor them closely.

Harvesting cilantro

Harvest cilantro at any point after three weeks but avoid removing more than 1/3 of the plant as excessive harvesting can weaken it. Also, while cilantro is flavorful at every point in its lifespan, its flavors are at their most concentrated when the plant is about six inches tall. Cut the leaves with a pair of sharp, clean scissors. Start with the outer leaves because this encourages the inner ones to keep growing.