Cilantro is an easy-to-grow herb with aromatic leaves and spicy seeds. Thanks to its versatility and low-maintenance care, cilantro is an excellent addition to any herb garden. In this article, you’ll learn how to plant cilantro in your veggie garden, raised beds, or containers.
Planting cilantro in your herb garden is a worthwhile endeavor. All parts of the plant are edible, with the leaves commonly referred to as cilantro and the seeds going by coriander.
This wonderful herb also offers numerous health benefits, including regulating blood sugar levels, boosting immunity, and improving brain, digestive, heart, and skin health.
Cilantro grows best in the cool weather during spring and fall. Once the weather warms up in mid-summer, cilantro plants tend to bolt or start producing flowers and seeds. After bolting, cilantro leaves turn bitter and inedible.
Fresh cilantro leaves are an indispensable ingredient in many favorite Asian and Mexican dishes. They often get used as a garnish or incorporated in salsas and dressings. Discover the best way to plant cilantro and enjoy this delicious herb anytime you like.
What to Know about Planting Cilantro
Cilantro, or Coriandrum sativum by its botanical name, is a fast-growing annual plant that has been grown for thousands of years. Experts believe that it was one of the first herbs cultivated by humans, and written evidence of its use appears in ancient Sanskrit texts dated as early as 1500 BCE.
Known for its feathery, bright green leaves with a tangy citrus flavor, cilantro is a staple ingredient in many kitchens. Dried coriander seeds have a sweetly tart, earthy aroma and are used whole or ground.
The leaves are ready to eat in as little as 30 days from planting seeds, and the seeds develop after about three months.
If desired, allow your cilantro plants to self-sow by leaving some of the seed heads to fully mature on the plant. If you do not want to see volunteer cilantro seedlings next spring, keep the plants from seeding by harvesting the whole herb at once before the seeds begin to fall off.
For the best results, plant cilantro in an area that gets full sun to partial shade. In warmer climates, cilantro plants benefit from light shade in the afternoon. Make sure they receive plenty of water, as drought stress might trigger premature bolting.
Did you know that there are numerous different types of cilantro to choose from? Here are a few of the top cilantro cultivars for home gardeners.
How to Plant Cilantro Seeds
The best way to plant cilantro seeds depends on several environmental factors. In mild climates, it is best to direct sow seeds after the expected last frost date or whenever the soil is consistently warmer than 55℉.
If you live in a USDA planting zone with a short growing season, consider planting cilantro seeds indoors in early spring to get a head start once the weather is warm enough to transplant.
Keep in mind that cilantro seedlings have a sensitive taproot that is easy to damage when transplanting, so it often works best to use peat pots or a paper egg carton when planting seeds to avoid removing the seedlings from their containers.
Sow seeds a quarter to a half-inch deep in moist, nutrient-rich potting soil. The optimal temperature for germinating cilantro seeds is between 55-70℉. Germination usually takes around seven to ten days.
Keep the potting soil consistently moist during germination and while the seedlings develop. If you do not have a sunny windowsill that gets at least six hours of bright light each day, use a grow light to keep your seedlings from becoming elongated or “leggy.”
When to Plant Cilantro Outdoors
Although mature cilantro plants can withstand a light frost, the seedlings are much more cold-sensitive. Wait to transplant your cilantro seedlings until the last danger of frost has passed.
To grow these fall garden herbs in autumn, sow seeds in late summer once the temperature is below 85℉. Some gardeners who live in places with mild winters have success growing cilantro year-round in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.
Alternatively, grow a cilantro plant indoors in a container on your kitchen windowsill for a winter supply of fresh cilantro leaves.
If you live in a mild climate where you do not usually experience hot weather in the summertime, try succession planting for a continual harvest of fresh leaves throughout the growing season.
This gardening strategy involves sowing seeds in between established plants every three or four weeks. This way, the new plants begin to mature when the old ones finish producing.
How Far Apart to Plant Cilantro
When planning your garden layout, it is critical to know how far apart to plant cilantro. Although cilantro plants do not take up a lot of space in the garden, do not overcrowd them.
Without enough room to spread out, the plants may grow stunted and produce a diminished harvest. In addition, providing adequate airflow between plants reduces the risk of fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
Cilantro plant spacing should be approximately 12-16 inches, depending on the cultivar. Read the information printed on the seed packet or plant label for variety-specific recommendations.
Caring for Cilantro Plants
Overall, cilantro plants are low-maintenance once they become established. Growing cilantro in partial shade works best in most climates as the hot afternoon sun often burns the leaves. In addition, it extends leaf production by slowing the bolting process.
Cilantro grows best in well-draining, fertile soil that is rich in organic matter. It is worthwhile to mulch around the base of the plants with grass clippings, leaves, or pine needles to insulate the soil, suppress weed growth, and retain moisture.
Cilantro plants are not especially heavy feeders. A week or two before planting cilantro, add several inches of compost or well-rotted manure to your garden soil. Otherwise, feed your plants with organic fertilizer every four to six weeks.
In addition to being a delicious culinary herb, cilantro is an amazingly beneficial plant around the garden. Plant flowers and herbs alongside your veggies to attract pollinators and predatory insects, repel pests and improve the health and vigor of your plants.
Cilantro will repel aphids, cabbage moths, potato beetles, and spider mites and attracts pollinators as well as predators that help control pest populations. These include ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps (which do not sting humans).
To collect homegrown coriander seeds, allow the flower stalk to produce mature seed pods. The seeds are ripe when the husk turns brown and dries out.
Once they are ready, snip the entire seed head from the stem. Store your coriander seeds in an airtight container.
Harvest cilantro leaves as needed until the plant begins bolting. For the best flavor and texture, store them in a paper bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to ten days. A great way to extend the shelf life of your cilantro leaves is by drying or freezing them.
Remedies for Pest and Disease Problems
Although cilantro plants are generally quite easy to care for, check your plants regularly for signs of damage or distress. Healthy plants are far less vulnerable to attacks from insects and pathogens. Providing your plants with adequate amounts of light, nutrients, and water is your best line of defense.
Several of the most prevalent insect pests that cause damage to cilantro plants include leafhoppers, thrips, and whiteflies. Protect newly sprouted seedlings with row covers for the first several weeks after planting.
When you first notice a new insect infestation on your plants, spray them with an organic insecticide like neem oil or insecticidal soap. However, note that applying insecticides in your garden also affects beneficial insects. Only use them when absolutely necessary and be careful when spraying.
Plant diseases like bacterial wilt and downy or powdery mildew thrive in moist environments and are often inadvertently spread through water droplets.
To reduce the risk of infection, set up a drip irrigation system or use a soaker hose to keep the plants’ leaves dry when watering. Spray any affected plants with an organic copper or sulfur fungicide. Practice companion planting, too. Cilantro is what to plant next to potatoes to get rid of potato beetles.
If you have a great crop of cilantro, it’s important to know the best way to preserve fresh cilantro. If you want to store it short-term, the fridge is best. Can you freeze cilantro leaves? Definitely! There are a couple of ways to keep cilantro in the freezer.
Planting cilantro in your herb garden offers numerous benefits, both in the kitchen and for the other veggies growing nearby.
Provide them with fertile soil, plenty of water, and protection from intense summer sun to enjoy a bountiful harvest of savory cilantro leaves throughout the entire growing season. How far apart to plant cilantro depends on which variety you are growing.
If you found these herb gardening tips helpful, please feel free to share this article about how to plant cilantro with your green thumb friends and family on Facebook and Pinterest.