How to Grow Cilantro for the Freshest Flavor
Versatile, fast-growing cilantro is easy to start from seed in your garden or in a container. In fact, it's best to grow cilantro from seeds because their long taproots don't transplant well.
Cilantro is an annual, cool-season herb that grows best in temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees F. Choose a location that receives at least eight hours of full sun per day. In hotter climates, cilantro may perform best in light shade. Grow cilantro in a pot or in the ground, but don't expect it to stick around all summer.
Growing Cilantro from Seed
Sow cilantro seeds directly in well-drained soil or in a pot filled with soilless potting mix (garden soil is too dense to use in containers). Place seeds 1/2 inch deep and about 1 inch apart, thinning them to about 6 inches apart before the plants start crowding each other.
When temperatures regularly stay hot, plants bolt, meaning they quickly flower, set seeds, and begin to die. In warm climates, spring and fall are the best seasons to plant cilantro. To keep a fresh source of cilantro, plant a few seeds every two to three weeks except in midsummer, when it's difficult to keep plants from bolting.
Cilantro Growing Tips
- Cilantro prefers soil that is slightly acidic. Fertilize every other week with a balanced 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer after plants reach about 2 inches tall. Keep the soil lightly moist but not waterlogged.
- Cilantro grows best when the leaves are harvested regularly. Snip from sections of the cilantro plants when they're 3 to 4 inches tall, alternating your cuttings between small sections. You should be able to get several cuttings before the plants go to seed.
- The leaves are best used fresh and lose flavor when dried. Small, immature leaves are the most flavorful.
- Cilantro is tough; like parsley, it's likely to survive a light frost in spring or fall.
How to Grow Cilantro Indoors
As with most herbs, cilantro can be difficult to grow indoors because even sunny windows don't provide as much sunlight as plants receive in outdoor shade. The plants may grow but may be spindly or leggy. Grow lights, which emit a larger light spectrum plants need, can provide a better chance of success.
Warm indoor temperatures also can cause this cool-season plant to begin flowering and setting seed faster than outdoors.
Sow seeds directly into a soilless potting mix. Place them 1/2 inch deep and about 1 inch apart. Harvest the leaves and seeds as you would from an outdoor planting.
How to Grow Coriander
If you grow cilantro, then you automatically grow coriander. The botanical name for cilantro is Coriandrum sativum. Cilantro becomes a coriander plant after it flowers and sets seeds. The dried seeds are called coriander for use in curries and other cooked dishes.
Cilantro's pretty, flat-top white flower clusters attract pollinators. Each flower turns into a round seedpod. When the seedpods turn brown, clip the stems and place everything into a paper bag. In a few days, the brown outside husk pops open, yielding two seeds per pod. If you wait too long to harvest the seedpods, don't fret. They'll drop onto the ground, where they're likely to self-sow.
Why Some People Dislike Cilantro
Cilantro is not for everyone. According to studies, 4 to 14 percent of people perceive the flavor as soapy or unpleasant. This reaction has a lot to do with a person's genetics, including smell-receptor genes that detect the flavor of soap. Cilantro includes fat molecules called aldehyde chemicals, which are also present in soaps. Liking or not liking cilantro also may be a learned behavior.