Cilantro is a popular herb that adds rich flavor and interest to any dish. The exact citrusy-spicy-nutty flavor of this vibrant green herb can vary depending on the varietal you grow, which is a big part of the fun!
But before you start planning all the great dishes you will prepare with your home-grown organic cilantro crop, you want to make sure you have a crop to harvest. And that begins with learning exactly how to grow cilantro so you can count on a robust yield.
In this article, we will take a look at seven key tips for growing cilantro in any growing zone. You will learn how to successfully grow cilantro whether you only have a window ledge's worth of space or you have the luxury of a whole backyard for growing different varietals.
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7 Awesome Tips for Growing Cilantro
These seven tips will help you grow healthy plants even if this is your very first time growing cilantro.
Even better, you will learn how to make sure you have tasty cilantro to eat and add to your favorite recipes all year long.
So now, let's dive in!
1. Know When To Plant Your Cilantro For Optimum Yield
In this first tip, we will cover planting cilantro both outdoors and indoors.
Many cilantro enthusiasts do not know this, but cilantro isn't just cilantro. It is also coriander, which has its own earthy, sweet, warm flavor to add to your recipes.
While cilantro is the leaves of the plant, coriander is the seeds. And while cilantro can produce leaves all year long, seeds will only appear at certain times of year.
So if you want to use your plants to harvest both cilantro and coriander, you need to know exactly when to plant them. Different planting times will drive different harvests.
To Plant for Cilantro
To plant primarily for cilantro (leaves), you want to start your planting in cooler weather. The timing for this may differ depending on your growing zone and local climate.
Generally speaking, cilantro does better when the soil temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (12.77 to 21.11 degrees Celsius).
To Plant for Coriander
The cilantro plant will produce coriander seeds naturally when the weather turns warmer.
You don't want to deliberately plant cilantro in the warm season to get coriander seeds because this will just send the plant into a "bolt," which is the term master gardeners use to describe a plant that suddenly produces seeds.
Here is a very general guide for the best time to plant cilantro outdoors based on your growing zone (if you are not sure what your growing zone is, this handy finder tool can help you look it up based on your zip code):
But what about when planting cilantro in a window box garden or indoors?
The first thing to know about planting cilantro indoors is that you do not want to transplant cilantro plants that are already growing successfully outdoors. Cilantro typically does not react well when transplanted from outside to inside.
Instead, you want to grow your cilantro indoors right from seeds. If you are pressed for time, you can also use small starter cilantro plants found at most garden centers.
Growing cilantro indoors is a bit less temperature-sensitive, but you still want to make sure your seeds or young plants in temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.66 degrees Celsius) or lower.
2. Know How to Plant Your Cilantro to Ensure Plant Health
Planting cilantro works best when you follow certain time-honoured standard planting tips as follows.
These general tips hold true whether you plan to plant your cilantro indoors in pots or outdoors in the ground.
Here are some general planting, watering, light and more.
Once the plants are at least two inches tall, you can start fertilizing with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer (often liquid solutions work best) every two weeks.
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3. Know the Right Care Steps to Take for Your Growing Zone and Varietal of Cilantro
As climate change continues to make its presence felt around the world, it is getting harder to predict simply by growing zones when to plant and how to care for cilantro (and any plants) for the best results.
This can make the first few weeks of your growing journey feel especially stressful. You may wonder if you planted at the wrong time or in the wrong manner.
Here, it can help to know that when you are growing cilantro from seeds, it can take up to 14 days before you will get your first exciting glimpse of the first little shoots start to pop up out of the soil.
As long as you follow the basic care tips outlined here and do additional research to identify any extra adjustments to make based on your specific growing zone, you should do fine.
When in doubt, don't hesitate to reach out to your local garden center experts to discover any other best practices growing tips for your specific growing zone.
4. Know When to Let Your Cilantro Grow and When to Harvest Your Crop
You can safely harvest the plants for both leaves and coriander seeds after they have reached six to eight inches in height.
When you see your plant start to produce flowers, cut those back to keep new leaves coming in (unless you want coriander seeds too).
Cilantro Leaves: Time to Harvest
Wait at least eight weeks (around 55 days) or until the plants are about six inches tall to start harvesting the cilantro leaves and only cut the top one-third of each branch or hand-prune the leaves or you may impede further leaf production.
When you harvest the leaves, be sure to wash your hands first and use shears specifically designed for harvesting herbs. These will ensure the cleanest cut and minimize damage to the plant itself.
Coriander Seeds: Time to Harvest
If you also want to harvest coriander seeds to grind your own fresh coriander, you will need to double or triple your wait time depending on whether you start from seeds or seedlings.
On average, cilantro won't flower and drop seeds until 90 to 150 days after planting.
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5. Know How to Keep Your Cilantro Organic by Attracting Natural Pest Predators
Organic produce is the safest and most nourishing produce you can eat. But organic farming at any level, whether you are growing window box micro-nutrients or running a huge commercial farm - is the most challenging type of farming.
Organic produce is produce that is free of commercial pesticides, insecticides or herbicides. Since many bacteria, fungus, mold and insects are attracted to cilantro just like people are, the key to success is to find other ways to keep pests and toxins at bay.
In every case, adding protective mulch around young growing cilantro plants can help to repel invaders like bacteria, fungi and predatory insect parasites.
Here are several of the most common issues that can crop up when growing cilantro:
Some strains of cilantro are more resistant to aphids than others. In the early stages, sometimes pruning can stop the problem before it worsens.
Introducing ladybugs can also control for aphids, since ladybugs like to eat aphids. Neem or canola oil are other natural remedies.
Diatomaceous earth is one of the best organic ways to control leafhoppers. Spraying infested plants with water is another way, but here there is a potential to damage the leaves with water and then cause leaf spot.
A strong water stream can sometimes remove small whitefly infestations. Neem oil, organic insecticidal soap, a handheld vacuum (to suck the pests off your plants), a strong water jet and introduction of parasitic wasps are all good ways to control against whitefly without using pesticides.
Powdery mildew is another common fungal issue that can plague cilantro. The fungus gets its name from the appearance of a white powder-like coating on leaves. This fungus is airborne which can make it hard to control.
Potassium bicarbonate, apple cider vinegar, mulching and using fertilizer sparingly are all good techniques to naturally control against powdery mildew.
Wilt is another fungal infestation that is transmitted through the soil. Unfortunately, the best way to guard against wilt is to dispose of infected plants to prevent the disease from spreading.
It is a much better strategy to avoid wilt in the first place by being conservative in fertilizing and watering. There are also a couple of preventative organic soil treatments that you may want to try.
Leaf spot shows up with small water spots on leaves between the veins. The leaves turn yellow, then brown, then rot and wither. Unfortunately, infected seeds spread this easily. Keeping the leaves dry is the best defense.
6. Know How to Harvest the Coriander Seeds as Well as the Cilantro Leaves
Harvesting the coriander seeds is done for two main reasons:
In either case, you need to wait for your cilantro plants to bolt (flower and seed) before you can collect the coriander seeds.
Once you have collected all the visible seeds around your plants, what you do next will depend on what you plan to do with the seeds.
Make Coriander Spice
If you want to make your own crushed or ground coriander spice, gather up the seeds first. Then crack the hull so you can get at the seed inside. You can do this by gently crushing them with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle.
Then you can store them in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place until you have a recipe that calls for coriander.
Replant Cilantro Again
If your goal is to store heirloom seeds to use to replant more cilantro at the next growing season, do everything you just read in the previous section first.
Next, after extracting the seeds, soak them overnight in room temperature plain water. Then let the seeds air dry. After you are sure they are completely dry, store them in a pest-safe cool and dry place until you are ready to plant them.
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7. Know How to Protect and Store Your Fresh Cilantro for Use
After harvesting the fresh cilantro leaves, you have two options.
With these seven tips you can be enjoying fresh cilantro and coriander spices all year long for many years to come!