Cilantro is a beloved herb that grows into a beautiful, lacy green pattern in your cool-weather container garden. It is an essential ingredient or garnish in many Middle Eastern, Mexican, Mediterranean, Thai, and Asian cuisines. Sometimes, cilantro is even referred to as Chinese parsley. Cilantro is a member of the coriandrum sativum family, and is sometimes referred to as coriander. This plant has a bright, lemony flavor, but to some of the population, the fresh leaves are said to taste like soap.
Here’s our complete guide to planting, growing, caring for, harvesting and growing your very own fresh cilantro garden. After reading this, you will not be able to add enough cilantro plants to your garden – and that’s a good thing!
When is the Best Time to Grow Cilantro?
If you live in the hot climate of the South or Southwest, you should aim to plant cilantro in the late fall or early spring, aiming for a month before the last frost. For zones 8, 9 and 10, fall is the ideal growing season for new plants because they will last until the weather heats up in late spring; if you’re growing cilantro in Texas, this means you! If you live in a more Northern region, plant your cilantro in the late spring season. When cilantro begins to bloom, the fresh leaves will become increasingly scarce; for a steady and full harvest, you will want to set out plants every 3-4 weeks, until the warm weather of spring, or until the first early fall frost.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Cilantro?
From the time of sowing cilantro seeds, the leaves can begin to be harvested in roughly 3 to 4 weeks. Cilantro seeds can be harvested in about 45 days. Cilantro frequently self-sows, as well; as the seeds fall to the soil, little plants may pop up during the season and the following spring. To harvest fresh cilantro all season, sow seeds every 2-3 weeks starting in late spring.
When you start with a fully rooted mature plant you can begin harvesting it 10 days – 2 weeks later, this will give the plant enough time to settle into its new garden home.
If you’re growing your cilantro in Texas, the best time to plant is in February for an April harvest, then again in September for a November harvest.
How to Grow Cilantro
Cilantro is an eager grower, and it thrives when planted in its own pot; this herb loves to have its own space, which is why it is an ideal candidate for container gardening. Here are some simple steps to get you started with growing a successful cilantro harvest:
Time needed: 45 days
How To Grow Cilantro
- Choose When To Plant
Choose the right time of year to plant. If you live in a more hot and dry climate, aim for late fall or early spring. If you live in a more Northern climate, aim for late spring.
- Choose Where To Plant & Place Your Garden
Prepare your garden in a place that will receive full, direct sunlight. If you live in Texas, your garden will tolerate light shade as well.
- Choose Your Container
Choose a container for your cilantro garden. Cilantro plants need a container that is deep and wide. For growing cilantro in a pot, choose a container that is 18 inches wide, and at least 10-12 inches deep. If you’re growing your garden in a Gardenuity grow bag, you won’t need to worry about deliberating over the perfect pot; we have already solved that problem for you!
- Plant Your Seeds / Transplants
Plant your cilantro seeds, also known as coriander seeds. Sow the seeds about 0.6cm deep, spaced 6-8 inches apart. If you are growing in a raised bed, you will want your rows to be about 1 foot apart. When you are planting fully rooted young cilantro plants that are well on the way to maturity it is good to water the root ball prior to planting. Cilantro has a lengthy taproot, which shoots out from the stem. Be gentle when planting cilantro as this will help ensure growing success.
- Care For Your Cilantro Plant
Care for the cilantro. Once the plant seedlings have reached about 2 inches in height, you should fertilize them with compost or organic fertilizer.
- Harvest Time!
Harvest your cilantro; once the stems of cilantro reach 4 to 6 inches in length, it is officially ready to be harvested. You can cut up to ⅔ of the leaves each week, as this will even encourage the plant to keep growing. If you continue to harvest cilantro this way, it is possible to harvest about four crops of cilantro from a single pot.
How to Grow Cilantro from Cuttings
If you don’t have seeds, you can grow cilantro from cuttings: just place your cilantro stems in a clean glass of water, and they will eventually grow roots, which can then be planted in soil. Once the roots are about 3-4 inches long, you can plant them in your container.
Growing Cilantro in Containers
Growing cilantro in a container is a great way to have its own space to grow fully and self-sow. Choosing to grow your cilantro in a pot or a grow bag is a great way to ensure that your cilantro garden receives plenty of sunshine without overheating. When choosing a container, you need to be sure that it is at least 15-18 inches wide, and 10-18 inches deep. If you’re growing a Gardenuity container garden, we will provide you with the perfect grow bag container for your garden!
Growing Cilantro in a Grow Bag
Grow bags, such as the one included in your Gardenuity garden kit, are an optimal method to growing cilantro. As this plant is a quick grower that is extremely sensitive to heat, a grow bag allows you to easily transport your garden whenever you may need to adjust its environment. Grow bags also provide your garden with wonderful drainage, which is important for any healthy garden.
Cilantro Growing Conditions & How To Care
In general, you will have a successful cilantro harvest if your garden receives enough sunlight, doesn’t get too hot or crowded, and receives enough nutrients and water during the growing period. If you continue to sow seeds every few weeks while your cilantro grows, you will have a hearty, steady supply of cilantro that just keeps giving.
Soil for Growing Cilantro
The ideal soil for growing a cilantro garden is a neutral, crumbly, light and well drained soil, with a pH level of 6.2-6.8. You should also include mulch, or an organic matter, such as compost to your garden. If you are growing with a Gardenuity grow bag, we will have already included our own compost in your garden kit!
Cilantro Growing Temperature
Cilantro is a cool-season crop that thrives at temperatures between 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees F. Be warned – if temperatures exceed 85 degrees F, cilantro plants will start to bolt.
Cilantro Sun Requirements
Cilantro plants require lots of direct sun; be careful not to allow your plants to get too hot, else they will begin to bold. If you are growing your cilantro indoors, be sure to allow the plants to receive about 4-5 hours of direct sunlight every day.
Cilantro Water Requirements
Cilantro seeds require plenty of moisture in order to germinate; make sure to water them frequently. Young plants will need about one inch of water every week, and you should expect the seeds to germinate in about 2-3 weeks. Once the plants have established themselves, they do not need quite so much water; aim to keep the soil damp, but not soggy, as cilantro prefers a dry climate.
Cilantro occasionally has problems with aphids and whitefly, wilt, or mildew. For the insects, use insecticidal soap. That said, cilantro is often considered an insect repellent plant, as it has such a strong and pungent aroma. To prevent or control wilt and mildew, make sure you clean up spent cilantro plants at the end of the season, and definitely remove any infected plants as soon as possible. Further preventative measures include keeping fair distance between the plants, and avoiding overhead watering. Wetting the leaves can promote the growth of fungal infections.
Grow Pro Tips for Growing Cilantro
- If you plant your cilantro plants too late in the spring season, and the summer heat creeps up on you, you will see a slow bolt of your garden. Bolting is when your plants grow white flowers and turn to seed.
- Be careful not to over-fertilize your garden; you only need about 1/4 of a cup for every 25 feet of growing space. If you are growing a Gardenuity garden kit, we already have the correct amount of fertilizer portioned out for your garden.
- If you allow the flowers to go to seed, which takes about 90 days, you can harvest them for use as the spice Coriander.
- When growing cilantro, you want to aim to maximize the foliage. To do so, pinch back young cilantro plants about an inch to encourage fuller, bushier plants. You can also cut off the top part of the main stem as soon as it appears to be developing flower buds or seed pods. Cutting off the flower heads redirects the cilantro plant’s energy back into the leaves.
Cilantro Companion Plants
Cilantro grows best when paired with aphid repellent plants, as well as plants that produce a large amount of nitrogen for the soil. Consider growing your cilantro with the following plants:
- Sweet Alyssum
- String Beans
- Pole Beans
- Wax Beans
You should avoid planting your cilantro near herbs such as lavender, thyme or rosemary.
Cilantro Growing Stages
Cilantro plants grow extremely quickly, so do not be surprised at its relatively quick life cycle. In warm weather, cilantro has a longer life cycle; in cooler weather, your cilantro plants can maintain for several weeks, and even months before bolting.
If you are growing your cilantro from transplants, you will want to be aware of the shock that can incur to your plants. Never fear, your plants should perk up in a few days with a little TLC and a lot of sun. If you are growing your cilantro from seed, you should see a sprout within 7-10 days at most.
Within 3-4 weeks from planting your cilantro, you should expect to see full and hearty bushes beginning to form. At this time period in your plant’s journey, you can even begin to harvest the leaves.
It’s Time to Harvest
You will know that your plant is ready to be harvested when it has grown to about 6-8 inches tall.
I Waited Too Long, Now What?
If you wait too long to harvest your cilantro, it will bolt and go to seed. This is sad, especially if you were excited about your cilantro crop. That said, you can still harvest the seeds and use them as fresh coriander.
- Culantro: This plant looks like long-leafed lettuce, and is also used for both flavor and medicinal purposes. These leaves can even grow up to one foot tall!
- Indian Summer Cilantro: This plant is a biennial plant, unlike most other varieties of cilantro. Indian Summer Cilantro is best when kept up over the course of 2 years.
- Leaf Cilantro: This variety of cilantro looks most similar to its sister plant, parsley. There are several different varieties of leaf cilantro, including Jantar, Leisure, and Long Standing.
- Jantar: This is often considered the best variety of cilantro to grow, as it yields a larger amount of leaves, and is also slower to bolt when the weather heats up.
- Leisure: You guessed it – this plant is slow to bolt, and loves to soak up the sun. This variety of cilantro is also a must for your garden that might be subject to some heat.
- Long Standing: If you don’t have the most ideal space to grow your cilantro garden, the Long Standing cilantro variety will still grow for you. This plant is resilient, and very slow to bold.
How to Harvest Cilantro
- Find a pair of sharp, clean shears
- Cut your cilantro plant about ⅓ of the way down the main stem
- Leave a few leaves on the plant so that the plant can regenerate
- Repeat at least once a week, once the plant is fully matured
When to Harvest
Cilantro can be safely harvested at any time during the day; just be sure to wait until your plants are about 6-8 inches tall before picking the leaves.
How to Store Cilantro
Cilantro is enjoyed best when it is freshly harvested, which is why it is such an advantage to grow your own. Even further, when you’re growing your cilantro in a container in your kitchen, you always have it readily available as a fresh addition to your culinary creations.
When storing your cilantro, fill a jar partially with water, and place the stem ends of the herbs into the water in the jar. If you are storing the herbs in the refrigerator, cover loosely with a plastic bag, and be sure to change out the water regularly throughout the one-month period that the leaves will stay fresh. It is not recommended to freeze your cilantro, as it is best enjoyed fresh. You can dry your cilantro for a different experience and for further longevity.
Cilantro Recipes We Love
When adding cilantro to your recipes, keep in mind that cilantro does not cook! It is used raw in the kitchen, typically as a garnish, similarly to parsley. It will almost always be added to your dish after it is cooked.
- Cilantro Salmon Sushi Bowl
- Guacamole with Fresh Cilantro
- Roasted Tomato Salsa Recipe
- Cucumber Gazpacho with Yogurt & Cilantro
- Herb Infused Salsa Verde
Our Grow Pro Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, rabbits can eat cilantro!
Yes, your guinea pig can eat cilantro in moderation. Only give your guinea pig a couple of leaves of cilantro, as it is very high in calcium and oxalic acid.
No, in fact, cilantro is healthy for your dog to eat. It can even soothe an upset stomach or provide a working solution for digestion issues.
Cilantro does not grow back after harvesting.
It takes about 45 days to grow fully.
Beans, peas, basil and mint all grow well with cilantro.
Cilantro plants need at least 4-5 hours of full sun each day.
For some people, the soapy taste of cilantro is a result of genetics. These people have a variation in olfactory-receptor genes that allows them to taste the soapy-flavored aldehydes in cilantro leaves.
Start Growing Your Own Cilantro & Herbs
Now that you know all of the ins and outs of growing cilantro, you are perfectly equipped to start your own garden. If you are feeling overwhelmed, that’s okay, too. Remember, when you grow a Gardenuity Garden Kit, we will be working with you every step of the way to ensure that you have a successful harvest. Not to mention, that you gain confidence and have fun along the way. Take a look at our available Gardening Kits today!