Cilantro is a common herb that is flavorful and easy to grow. It is often used in Asian, Caribbean, and Mexican cuisines, where the plant’s leaves add a distinctive flavor and aroma to any dish. Its leaves grow on long, tender stems, which can be readily snipped off for harvest. Cilantro is a fast-growing herb that tends to bolt in very warm temperatures, which can make leaves bitter to the taste. Once the cilantro plant flowers, its seeds can be harvested as the ever-popular coriander.
While it is known to be an acquired taste, cilantro is loved by many. Even if you don’t love to cook with this herb, growing cilantro can benefit neighboring garden plants in many ways. Follow our guide to growing cilantro: planting care & tips to grow your own successful crop and get the most out of this culinary favorite.
Soil Preparation and pH for Growing Cilantro
Cilantro thrives in well-draining soil with a targeted 6.2 and 6.8 on the pH scale. Cilantro grows best in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil but can tolerate lesser quality soils. Amend your garden soil with rich organic matter and well-decomposed compost and provide one to inches of mulch around plants for optimal results.
Water and Nutrients for Growing Cilantro
Water cilantro plants regularly, especially as temperatures rise. Be sure that soil is well-draining and does not get soggy. Add a couple of inches of mulch around cilantro to help regulate moisture levels and keep roots cool.
Feed plants every couple of weeks with a balanced organic fertilizer and plant alongside plants that fix nitrogen into the soil as they grow.
Light and Temperature for Growing Cilantro
When growing cilantro: planting care & tips can guide gardeners to consider light and temperature when planting their crops. Cilantro is a fast-growing plant that tends to bolt quickly in warm temperatures. They should be planted in full sun, but they like it cool. If you live in a warmer climate, you may want to provide your cilantro with some light shade to decrease the plant’s likelihood of going to seed.
How to Plant Cilantro
Cilantro traditionally has a short maturation period, so there is no need to get too much of a head start indoors before transplanting.
Follow these simple steps for how to successfully plant cilantro:
- Seeds should be planted ¼ inch deep and can even be scattered on the soil surface.
- Sprinkle soil over the seeds and tap the soil to firm.
Water in well.
- Maintain consistently moist soil throughout the germination period of 7-10 days.
- Plan to reseed cilantro every two to three weeks from early spring through early fall to ensure a continuous crop.
- If you do choose to start seeds indoors, cilantro plants should be spaced 6-8 inches apart.
Starting from Seed vs. Buying Plants
Cilantro produces taproots, so they prefer not to be transplanted. It is best to sow seeds directly into the garden bed or container. Plant seeds in mid-to-late spring after the soil warms up, approximately two weeks after the possibility of frost.
If you want to get a head start on your plantings, consider planting your seeds indoors in biodegradable pots, 3 weeks before the last frost in your area. Using biodegradable pots allows you to plant the whole pot directly into the soil so that the roots can remain intact.
Where and When to Plant Cilantro
Cilantro can be planted just about anywhere. Fall is the ideal time to plant in Grow Zones 8-11 because the plants will produce right through the winter until the weather heats up in late spring. In milder climates, plant cilantro late in spring.
- Containers: Cilantro can be grown successfully in containers. Be certain that you have a nice large pot or growing container full of enriching potting mix and water regularly. Growing in containers can be very handy for a plant that tends to bolt. It enables you to move the plant around to shield it from too much heat. It also allows you to have fresh herbs right outside on your porch or patio.
- Raised Bed: Growing cilantro in a raised bed takes much of the guesswork out of supplying a nutrient-rich and well-draining soil for plants. In a raised garden bed, you can control your garden’s soil quality, and plants and seeds will stay warmer earlier in the season than if they are planted in the ground.
- Backyard Garden: Cilantro can be quickly and easily grown in a backyard garden as long as the soil is well tilled and amended with organic material and well-decomposed compost. Mulching can help with moisture retention, reduce soil erosion, regulate soil temperature and prevent pesky weeds from propagating in your garden.
Cilantro Succession Planting
Unlike many herbs, cilantro will not continue to produce all season long. As they grow, they can either be harvested or allowed to go to seed. The key to success in having a successful cilantro crop with a rolling harvest is implementing succession planting into your regimen—plant cilantro seeds every two weeks throughout the growing season. Cilantro is also a self-sowing herb if allowed to go to seed, so you are sure to have plenty sprouting up in your garden bed once plants are established.
Cilantro Companion Planting
Cilantro is an excellent companion plant to others in the garden and can also benefit from other plants. It has a fragrance that wards off predatory pests and also attracts beneficial pollinators to the garden when it flowers. It attracts hoverflies whose larva feeds on destructive aphids, and its strong scent wards off spider mites and other threatening insects. When growing cilantro: planting & care tips can help keep plants thriving as they help each other grow.
- Plant cilantro with spinach, melons, tomatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, yarrow, basil.
- Beans, peas, and lupines are also compatible planting buddies, as they fix the soil with nitrogen, thereby feeding nearby cilantro plants.
- Plant chervil with cilantro to deter pests that feed on the plant.
- Plant cilantro under tall varieties of cosmos and sunflowers to provide shade and reduce the tendency to bolt.
- Plant cilantro far away from fennel. The fennel plant releases a chemical into the soil that will inhibit the growth of cilantro.
Cilantro Pests and Disease
As always, the best defense against pests and disease is planting with intention, providing plants with space for airflow, utilizing companion planting practices, and providing plants with essential nutrients, water, and soil conditions. When growing cilantro: planting care and tips for reducing the impact of pests and disease include:
- Aphids – A few sharp sprays of water from the hose and companion planting will keep aphids at bay.
- Whitefly – A few sharp sprays of water from the hose and companion planting will keep whiteflies at bay.
- Wilt – Choose disease-resistant varieties and keep leaves dry by providing airflow and watering at the plant’s base.
- Mildew- Proper spacing will help with airflow, which can prevent powdery mildew from forming and spreading. Remove any diseased plant and dispose of it to prevent spread.
- Leafspot – Add neem oil to help ward off bacteria. Remove diseased leaves and debris from the garden bed and dispose of immediately.
How to Harvest Cilantro
Cilantro seeds can be harvested approximately 35 to45 days after sowing seeds. Simply snip their thin, leafy stems roughly a third of the way down the plant with sharp scissors. This will allow you to use the cut portion while encouraging new growth. With the practice of succession planting, you should be able to harvest cilantro at least once per week or more throughout the growing season. Cilantro is best when used promptly, otherwise it quickly loses its flavor.
If cilantro plants bolt and go to seed, the coriander seeds may be harvested and stored in a cool, dry place. They can be used in culinary dishes or stored as seeds for planting. Cilantro can also be left alone to reseed itself in the garden bed, creating new cilantro plants.
Recommended Cilantro Varieties
- ‘Confetti’ produces fernlike minuscule leaves. This variety is great for microgreen production.
- ‘Calypso’ bolt resistant variety with full plants full of fragrant leaves.
- ‘Marino’ slow to bolt variety of leafy fern-like herbs.
- ‘Santo’ is a standard cilantro plant full of flavor.