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Growing Cilantro at Home Ultimate Guide

Growing cilantro at home is a perfect way to pump up flavor in the kitchen. Homegrown cilantro has a thousand times more flavor than anything from the grocery store and is an easy way to start your own herb garden.

Many people love the fresh and zesty taste of cilantro, a versatile ingredient that can be used in salads, soups, salsas, dressings, pasta and sauces. In this article, we’re going to teach you exactly how to grow your own cilantro.

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What are Cilantro?

What are Cilantro?

A cilantro plant is a leafy, green herb that is widely used in Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Eastern European and African cooking. It’s one of the world’s oldest herbs and seeds from the cilantro plant were even found in Egyptian tombs! 

No one knows where it first appeared, but it grows over a wide region stretching through Eastern Europe into North Africa and Southwestern Asia.

It grows to about 20 inches tall, has soft, green leaves and comes from the herb family Apiaceae. While many people love the tart, lemony taste of these leaves, a small part of the population taste dish soap when they eat it!


This is due to a gene that detects aldehydes, which are often used in soaps and detergent.


Genus:

Coriandrum

Species:

sativum

Common Names:

Cilantro, Coriander

Location:

Indoor / outdoor

Type: 

Annual herb

Growth:

18” tall x 5” wide

Sun Requirements:

Full sun

Foliage Color:

Green

Flower Color:

White

Flowering:

Late summer

Fruits:

None, but edible seeds

Hardiness Zones::

Low

Poisonous for Pets:

No


Coriander vs Cilantro

Cilantro seed and leaves

They are the same plant! Cilantro is the Spanish word for the coriander plant, which derives from the Latin classification of the herb as Coriandrum sativum.

In the USA, we tend to use the name cilantro for the herb’s leaves because of its connection with Mexican food and only call the seeds coriander, while in the United Kingdom and other countries, coriander is used for both.

The coriander plant can also be called Chinese parsley.


Benefits of Cilantro

Both the leaves and the seeds of cilantro can be used in cooking. Cilantro leaves are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K, and provide a good amount of dietary fiber, selenium, calcium and other trace minerals our bodies need to function. 

It’s also well-known for its ability to help lower blood sugar, it’s immune-boosting antioxidants, and ability to promote a healthy gut. Some studies show that cilantro also helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, seizure severity, diabetes, and obesity.


How To Grow Cilantro at Home

Growing Cilantro Indoors

Growing Cilantro Indoors

Can you grow cilantro inside? Yes! It’s easy to start growing cilantro indoors! Here’s how:

1.Get cilantro seeds

This plant does not transplant well, so it’s best to start with seeds. You can use this cilantro starter pot which comes with a great kit.

2. Choose a pot 

A 4 or 5-inch pot with good drainage holes will be perfect. Many people recommend that you use an unglazed or terra cotta pot, as these help release excess moisture from the soil. 

3. Use well-draining soil  

Fill the pot up to cover your seeds with ¼ inch of good quality, well-draining potting mix with vermiculite or perlite from your local garden center. If you are worried that your soil is too heavy and clay-like, you can mix in sand, bark, vermiculite or perlite to help the water drain.

If you are a beginner in gardening, click here to know about difference between vermiculite vs perlite

4. Place your seeds  

Put a few seeds in the pot and cover with the last inch of soil. Don’t press the soil down.

5. Position your pot 

The cilantro plant loves sunshine, needing about 6 hours a day, and is happy in direct sunlight. When your seeds are growing, however, it is best to keep the pot somewhere with indirect sunlight with a temperature of around 55-68 degrees.

Don’t let the plant get too hot, as this will cause it to flower and die, known as bolting. If you live in zones 3-11, you can move your pot outdoors as the weather warms up.

If you want to keep it indoors at all times, then you can supplement the sunshine it gets by using a 45-watt grow lightbulb.

6. Watering cilantro plants 

Cilantro plants like moist soil but it has to be well-drained – never let this plant sit in water. The best way to water is to water it thoroughly once the soil is dry to the touch.

Underwatering is better than overwatering this plant. Check out our review of the best watering cans on the market.

7. Fertilize your cilantro 

To thrive indoors, these plants need a good fertilizer. About 3-4 weeks after your cilantro seeds have sprouted, you can start feeding it with a 20-20-20 liquid or granular fertilizer or a liquid fish emulsion fertilizer every two weeks.

Short Lifespan

Cilantro plants are not very long-lasting, so it’s a good idea to have a few at different stages so that you always have fresh cilantro on hand when you need it.


Growing Cilantro on a Windowsill

Growing Cilantro on a Windowsill

Growing herbs on a windowsill is an attractive way to bring your garden indoors. Whether you’ve got a window planter outside or small pots on the indoor sill, the method is the same.

Window boxes and windowsill planters benefit from the sun more than any other pots. Indoors, the window acts as a greenhouse, giving maximum heat and light to your herbs.

Outdoors, the window reflects sunlight down at the plants in front of it. These are great conditions for cilantro, but you will need to water regularly as the higher sunlight exposure means there is a higher risk of bolting.


How to Grow Cilantro Outdoors

You can grow Cilantro outdoors in almost any climate, provided they get 6 or more hours of sun and a summer temperature above 65F. While cilantro likes hot sun and plenty of water, they have a short growing season so can produce regular repeat crops right through summer.

When to Sow Cilantro Outdoors

You can sow cilantro all year round indoors but should sow it in late spring, or early summer for outdoor crops. Wait until all risk of frost has passed, and the nighttime temperatures are reliably over 60 F to support germination

Cilantro is a tender annual crop with a short growing season, so the only way to grow it is from seed. To grow cilantro from seed outdoors, follow our guide below:

How to Grow Cilantro Outdoors

Step 1: Prepare the soil

Cilantro will happily grow on poor soil, provided it has reasonable water retention, and some organic matter mixed in. For a standard garden bed or pot, mix 50% garden soil with 50% compost.

Choose a spot that gets plenty of light and has a constant temperature above 65F (75 is best). Remove any weeds and their roots, as cilantro does not like competition.

Avoid planting near carrots, as cilantro and carrots compete for nutrients, and suffer from similar pests. 

Step 2: Planting cilantro seeds 

Once you’ve prepared the soil and compost mix, sow cilantro seeds directly on the surface of the soil. Scatter seeds thinly (about 1 inch apart is perfect), then cover them with a thin layer of sieved compost, or loose soil.

When they sprout, thin the seedlings to about 3 inches apart. You can eat the young plants too, so they won’t go to waste.

Step 3: Watering cilantro seedlings

After sowing cilantro, soak them thoroughly. Watering cilantro heavily once a week is much better than watering lightly every day, as it allows roots to establish and seek moisture, which helps to reduce the chance of bolting.

Fertilizing Cilantro Plants Outdoors

Cilantro does not need fertilizing outdoors, but it's important to provide some nutrition from the compost. If you sow cilantro is spent compost or used garden soil, fertilizer weekly with any liquid fertilizer to provide a gentle and balanced supply of nutrients. 

Any liquid feed with an equal NPK will work perfectly (5-5-5, 10-10-10, 20-20-20, etc.).

Plant New Cilantro Seeds Regularly

This plant has a very short lifespan even if it is growing in perfect conditions, so be sure to prune it frequently, use the leaves and plant new seeds every 6 weeks or so to ensure you always have a fresh supply on hand.

Once the herbs go to seed, you can either use the seeds in your cooking or plant new cilantro.


How To Grow Cilantro on a Balcony

Cilantro is perfect for balconies and really benefits from the well-controlled microclimate created by these guarded raised gardens. While wind can be drying, and does increase the chance of bolting, the higher humidity, and warmer temperatures provide a better environment for cilantro than growing it outdoors or on a windowsill. 

To grow cilantro on a balcony, fill a pot with any fresh compost. The moisture retention of compost is higher than garden soil, so helps to balance the wind exposure. 

Water cilantro on a balcony, every few days, and resow cilantro every two weeks to make sure you have crops right through summer.


Harvesting, Using and Storing Cilantro 

A farmer harvesting cilantro

If you want your cilantro to grow well and produce a lot of leaves, you have to harvest it carefully. Select leaves for harvesting rather than cutting away clumps, and cut them without damaging other stalks. 

Indoor cilantro plants can get spindly and thin if they are reaching for the light, so pinch back the growing tips of the plant to force it to become bushier.

Will Cilantro Grow Back After Cutting?

Harvesting is usually very good for herbs and encourages new growth. Unlike other herbs, however, cilantro is not very long-lasting, so you have to be selective about how you harvest when you’re growing cilantro indoors.

Pick leaves for use rather than cutting it back severely. It will grow back after cutting, but usually doesn’t grow back as strongly, which is why we recommend having multiple plants.

How To Dry Cilantro Seeds

To use your cilantro seeds in cooking, first dry them in the oven. You can do this by spreading the seeds on a tray and putting them in your oven on the lowest setting for about 5-10 minutes.

Once dry, store them in a paper bag rather than a plastic one until you are ready to use them. If you want to keep them for a long time, wait until the seeds turn brown in the paper bag and then store them in a glass or ceramic, airtight jar. 

When you want to use them, crush the seeds into a powder using a pestle and mortar or use them whole. These seeds taste wonderful in curries, soups and meat dishes, as well as in deserts and cakes!

How to store cilantro

Storing Cilantro Leaves

Cilantro leaves are best used fresh off the plant rather than frozen or dried, as they lose their flavor quickly.


Common Cilantro Diseases and Pests

Another great thing about growing cilantro is that these plants are pretty disease and pest resistant! You’re unlikely to have any problems from common pests like thrips, aphids or whiteflies. 

Learn more about aphids, how they look, and how to get rid of them here

If you do see these pests, try not to use a broad-spectrum pesticide because these are edible plants. Instead, try get rid of them using a mix of dish soap and water sprayed onto the plant.

Cilantro can develop fungus like fungal wilt (seedlings wilting and turning brown), powdery mildew (a fine, white powder on the leaves) and stem rot (yellowing, browning stems).

This can be treated with a broad-spectrum fungicide from your garden center. Don’t eat any leaves off affected plants while infected or while being treated, and wait for new growth. Always clean the leaves thoroughly before using them in food.

You can prevent these issues by giving your cilantro plant enough sunlight, not too much water, and planting it in well-drained soil.


Companion Plants for Cilantro

Cilantro plants are good for companion planting, helping tomatoes and spinach grow well. Refer to our guide to learn more about tomatoes, it's types, and how to grow them in your garden

It attracts beneficial insects that eat the pests that attack these plants, so it’s a great method of organically preventing pests in your yard or vegetable garden.


Frequently Asked Cilantro Growing Questions

How to grow cilantro outdoors in the winter?

Cilantro is a bit frost-tolerant and you can grow it throughout zones 3-11 in winter. If you live in a frosty area, it’s a good idea to plant it in outdoor containers that you can protect through the winter using a cover at night and ensuring it gets lots of morning and afternoon sunlight.

Video of how to grow cilantro indoors all year round

Is it better to grow cilantro indoors or outdoors?

It is easier to grow cilantro outdoors as it needs a good 6 hours of sunlight per day. However, if you live in an apartment or a colder zone below Zone 3, then it’s better to grow it indoors.

This takes a bit more effort but with a weekly watering and a dose of 20-20-20 each month, it will grow well.

Can you eat bolted cilantro?

When the cilantro gets too hot, the survival mechanism for the plant forces it to flower. This is known as bolting. Bolted cilantro is edible, but has a bitter, unpleasant taste, so we don’t recommend eating it.

To make your plant last longer, pinch off the flowers as they appear and keep it out of direct sunlight through the hottest part of the day. 


Now You Know How to Grow Cilantro Indoors and Outdoors!

Growing cilantro is simple but requires some attention to detail – particularly with water and light.  Providing the right balance of moisture and sunlight is key to healthy cilantro that crops for longer, and won’t bolt.

And above all else, the key to healthy cilantro plants, indoors, outdoors or on a balcony is repeat sowing, again, and again, and again.

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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