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How to germinate cilantro seeds

Cilantro is easy to grow and fast to go to seed in summer. The umbel (cluster) of flowers that forms at the top of the plant is highly attractive to beneficial predatory insects. The secret is to give cilantro deep soil for the roots, try placing the plant in partial shade, pick frequently, and resow several times. Continue reading below for some tricks and tips to grow cilantro from seed.

Latin
Coriandrum sativum
Family: Apiaceae

Difficulty
Easy

Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Sun or part-shade
Zone: Will overwinter with protection in Zones 7+

Timing
Direct sow from just after the last frost date to late spring. Direct sow in the fall under cover for a winter crop. Optimal soil temperature for germination: 15°C (60°F). Seeds should sprout in 5-10 days.

Starting
Sow 2cm (1″) deep in short rows. Thin seedlings to stand 5-10cm (2-4″) apart if harvesting leaves. If growing for seed, allow 23cm (9″) between plants.

Growing
Cilantro is tricky because several factors can cause it to bolt. Avoid transplanting for this reason, and avoid hot conditions as well as too much moisture. It does best in light, well-drained soil in partial shade, in relatively dry conditions. This is easy to achieve beneath a cloche in winter, where cilantro will thrive. Once it blooms, the seeds ripen suddenly, in only a couple of days, so care should be taken to prevent self sowing or simply losing those useful seeds.

Harvest
Pick young leaves once they have reached about 10cm (4″) in height. The flavour, though intense when fresh, diminishes quickly when dried or cooked, so always add cilantro just before serving. Try freezing it in ice cube trays with water. The stems and roots are also full of flavour. Harvest the seeds by sticking 6 or 8 seed heads in a paper bag and hanging it up somewhere airy, away from direct sunlight. The bag will catch the seeds as they ripen and fall out.

Seed Info
Usual seed life: 3 years.

Companion Planting
Cilantro repels aphids, potato beetles, and spider mites. It attracts hoverflies and other beneficial predatory insects.

Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs. I’m part of the population that LOVES the flavor—not the portion that thinks it has a soapy taste! I grow a lot of my own herbs because the cost of one seed packet is comparable to a bunch or clamshell pack at the grocery store. For cilantro, I look forward to the shoulder season months because timing is the key to planting cilantro seeds. In this article, I will share tips on when and where to sow cilantro, how to know when to harvest, and slow-to-bolt varieties.

Cilantro is an annual herb that is part of the Apiaceae family, which is also called Umbelliferae (or referred to by the common name umbellifer). Other edible members of this family include parsley, dill, carrots, celery, and fennel.

As one of my favorite ingredients, cilantro has a presence in a lot of my favorite cuisine—Mexican, Thai, Indian, and more. One thing that may cause some confusion if you’re reading a cookbook or a gardening book from another country is that in North America, we refer to the plant as cilantro and the dried or crushed seeds as coriander. Elsewhere, the entire coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum) is referred to as coriander. When reading a recipe, be sure to check whether a recipe is asking for fresh leaves, or dried seeds or powder.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Planting cilantro seeds in the garden

Like dill, cilantro has a taproot, so it’s really fussy about being transplanted from a pot or cell pack. That’s why I direct-sow seeds outside in the spring.

Coriander aka cilantro seeds are actually the fruit of the coriander plant. They are called shizocarps. Once split in half, each seed is referred to as a mericarp. Most seed packets contain the shizocarps, so you’re planting two seeds as one.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Back to the planting part. Cilantro is shade tolerant, but make sure your garden gets at least six hours of sun. It also doesn’t mind average soils. However, I usually amend my soil in the spring with compost. You can also use aged manure. Plant your first crop as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring. I’ll plant mine usually in late March or early April. Plants don’t mind a touch of frost.

When planting cilantro seeds, make sure they’re covered by at least one quarter to a half inch of soil (.5 to 1.25 cm) because they like to germinate in total darkness. Space your seeds about two inches (5 cm) apart.

Thin seedlings if they grow too close together. Because the seeds are so big and I can plant each one individually (rather than those teeny tiny seeds where you have to just scatter them and hope for the best), I generally just plant what I need, so I’m not wasting seeds.

Where to strategically plant cilantro seeds

When it flowers, the nectar and pollen of a cilantro plant attracts a number of beneficial insects, including syrphid flies, parasitic wasps, and bees. In Jessica’s book, Plant Partners, she recommends planting cilantro seeds adjacent to your eggplants to attract predatory insects that will eat Colorado potato beetles and their larvae. You can also plant cilantro to control aphids around your cabbage crop.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Why succession planting cilantro seeds is smart

Because longer days and hot weather in the late spring eventually will cause your cilantro plant to bolt, the key to a continuous cilantro harvest is succession planting. After sowing your first seeds, wait a week or two and then continue planting more every couple of weeks. Cilantro is more of a cool-weather plant, so you may need to take a break over the summer. Wait until early September and resume your biweekly seed sowing.

You can start to harvest cilantro leaves when the stems are about six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) long. And you can eat those stems, too! Cilantro plants are ready to harvest anywhere from 55 to 75 days after planting. Use sharp, clean scissors (I use my herb shears) to cut, taking about the top third of the stem.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

How you can tell cilantro is starting to bolt

Unfortunately, cilantro can be a short-lived herb, especially if there’s a sudden hot spell. You’ll be able to tell it’s starting to bolt when the main stem starts to get very thick and those leaves start to get spindly and thin—almost like dill. The flavor starts to wane and eventually white flowers will form. Luckily there are varieties that won’t bolt as quickly. They’ll still bolt, but it will be slightly delayed.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Slow-to-bolt varieties of cilantro

I first bought a packet of Pokey Joe cilantro at a Seedy Saturday event from a company called Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds because the first sentence on the packet read “Slow to bolt to seed.” This was good news to me. Since then, that’s my criteria when purchasing cilantro seeds. Other slow-to-bolt cilantro varieties include Santo Long Standing, Slow Bolt/Slo-Bolt, and Calypso.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

If you let your cilantro go to seed, you can harvest the seeds as coriander. This video teaches you how:

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Cilantro is an herb known for its zesty, citrus flavor and is included in soups, salads, sauces and salsas. Cilantro seeds, also known as the spice coriander, germinate quickly, providing you with a fresh supply for your culinary adventures in as little as three weeks. Cultivate your cilantro in containers to decorate your outdoor deck or porch and have easy access to the bright green leaves from your new kitchen. Harvest new leaves as soon as the plants reach 3 to 4 inches tall.

Plant cilantro seeds anytime from September through November and February to early April. Choose a container 18 inches wide and 8 to 10 inches deep. Select a container with holes in the bottom to allow for proper drainage.

Fill the container with potting soil. Tamp down the soil and add more if needed until the soil level is roughly 1 1/2 inches below the top of the container. Water the pot with a watering can to thoroughly moisten the soil.

Fill a bowl with 3 parts sand and 1 part cilantro seed. Mix the sand and seeds together with your fingers. The sand lets you distribute the seed more uniformly when planted, and you can see where you’ve dropped it. Sprinkle the mixture evenly across the soil’s surface. Cover with 1/2 inch potting soil.

Moisten the top layer of soil with a spray bottle to avoid moving the seeds. Place the pot indoors in an area that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Choose a room with a constant temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to promote germination.

Check the pot daily for signs of soil dryness. Water the pot frequently to maintain a moist, but not wet, soil. Watch for surfacing sprouts to appear withing one to two weeks. Thin the plants to 2 1/2 inches apart as they grow to allow space for expansion. Move the pot outdoors once the seedlings reach 2 to 3 inches in height. Keep the pot in full sunlight.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Planting cilantro supplies you with fresh herbs for Mexican and Asian dishes. Although all parts of the plant are edible, most gardeners grow it for the leaves or the seeds, called coriander. Cilantro seeds sprout readily, but the plants flower and go to seed quickly in summer heat. Sow cilantro seeds every two weeks to have a continuous supply of leaves.

Choosing Seeds

Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, is related to the carrot. Choose a variety of seed that best suits your needs. The “Santos” variety produces a large yield of cilantro leaves, but it flowers and goes to seed more quickly than the “Jantar” variety. Although the Jantar plants are longer-lasting, they produce only half the yield in leaves of Santos plants.

General Germination Requirements

Cilantro prefers full sun or partial shade and soil with good drainage. Plant cilantro in fall and winter in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11, or in spring in zones 3 through 8. If sowing in spring, wait until frost is not a danger. Cilantro seed germinates when the soil temperature is 55 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to harvest the seeds, plant cilantro during the heat of summer.

Container Germination

“Sunset” magazine suggests planting cilantro seeds in a shallow, bowl-shaped container a minimum of 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep. Fill the bowl with quick-draining potting mix, and add organic fertilizer. Mix 1 part cilantro seeds with 3 parts sand. Mist the soil in the pot with a fine spray of water, and spread the seed mixture evenly over the pot. Cover the seed mixture with a thin spread of potting mix. Lightly spray the soil again, and put the bowl outside in full sun. In a very hot climate, place it in light shade. Seeds should begin to sprout in about one week.

Garden Germination

Cilantro germinates easily when planted directly in most garden soils. Plant one seed per inch in rows one foot apart in tilled and raked soil in full sun or partial shade. Add organic fertilizer if the existing soil is poor. Cover the seeds with a 1/2-inch layer of soil or planting mix. Moisten the soil with a gentle spray, and water the area regularly until the seeds sprout. Thinning is not necessary because thick plants are easier to harvest.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Saving cilantro seeds, also called coriander, is super easy! Here’s how to save and grow this delicious herb for yourself as well as beneficial insects.

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How to germinate cilantro seeds

Cilantro Herb and Coriander Spice: From the Same Plant

Coriandrum sativum is an annual herb that is popular in kitchen gardens. I use cilantro leaves in Mexican salsa as well as Thai-inspired dishes and grow coriander seeds to make curry powder for Indian-inspired dishes.

Did you know that cilantro and coriander refer to the same plant?

Cilantro refers to the leaves (the herb), while coriander refers to the seed (the spice). So technically what we’re talking about here is saving coriander seeds.

Cilantro is an Eager Volunteer

How often do you get edible volunteer plants in your yard? Volunteer crops are so fun, but do you know what is even better?

Saving the free seeds! And saving cilantro seeds is about as easy as it gets.

I like to grow a lot of different herbs in my front yard strawberry bed, including cilantro.

Cilantro flowers provide nectar and pollen for pollinators and beneficial insects, which helps to reduce pests and increase biodiversity. It’s why cilantro is one of my favorite flowers to grow in the vegetable garden.

When I allow it to flower and set seed, some of the seeds drop right where they are to sow next year’s volunteer plants. No-work gardening!

There are always plenty more seeds to collect for sprinkling this delicious and useful herb all around the garden.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

The dainty white flowers of cilantro are growing here in the strawberry bed, along with yellow calendula flowers.

How to Save Cilantro Seeds

Allow cilantro flowers to develop. Once cilantro flowers die back, they produce clusters of round, brown-colored seeds.

To harvest and save cilantro seeds, wait until there is a stretch of dry weather. It’s never a good idea to harvest seeds after a rain because moisture is the greatest enemy to storing viable seeds.

Even if I harvest the seeds after a dry spell, I still allow them to sit in an open container in a dry room for up to a month before transferring them to an air-tight container for long term seed storage.

Harvesting cilantro seeds is simple:

  1. Hold a container below a cilantro seed head.
  2. Gently rub a dried seed head between two fingers.
  3. The round seeds drop easily into the container below.
  4. Follow my instructions for storing seeds long-term. Save some for the spice rack and some for planting!

Easy harvest and free seeds for many years to come!

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Gently rub a dried seed head between two fingers, and the round coriander seeds drop easily into a container below.

Would you like to learn more about growing herbs for the kitchen, medicine cabinet, and for pollinators?

You’ll find loads of information just like this in my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro-Farm .

Growing Cilantro

How exciting it is to sow seeds that you’ve collected from your own garden!

Plant cilantro seeds in the spring by sowing them directly in the garden. Here are the seeds I bought, and now I never have to buy cilantro seeds again!

I like to sprinkle them throughout the garden in a random way, but you can also sow the seeds in rows. Once the seeds sprout, you can thin them to 6-inch spacing.

Alternatively, you can start cilantro seeds indoors in pots or in a container herb garden.

This herb prefers to grow in the cooler weather of spring and fall, and those are the best times to harvest the leaves. In the hot days of summer, it flowers and sets seed to produce coriander spice.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Succession planting is a good idea for cilantro. This means that I sow cilantro seeds throughout the garden about once a month. That way, I have a continuous supply of cilantro leaves and coriander spice for the kitchen, as well as flowers in the garden.

Cilantro is in the carrot family, and the carrot family flower is an umbel—an umbrella shape with a mass of tiny flowers. Cilantro flowers are a favorite of beneficial insects, such as tachinid flies, hoverflies and parasitoid wasps, which is why it makes a great companion plant.

Watching this plant swarm with beneficial insects is reassuring, knowing that they’ll do my gardening work for me.

Summary

Saving cilantro seeds is an easy way to grow your own cilantro herb and coriander spice. In addition, you can save money and attract beneficial insects.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Cilantro needs full sun or light shade in southern zones since it bolts quickly in hot weather. It grows best in a well-drained, moist soil. Cilantro plants should be spaced about 6 to 8 inches apart. To harvest fresh cilantro all season, make successive sowings every 2 to 3 weeks starting in late spring.

From the time of sowing seed, cilantro leaves can begin to be harvested in about 3 to 4 weeks. Cilantro seeds can be harvested in about 45 days.

History of Cilantro (Coriander)

Cilantro, has been used for many centuries in the cooking of Mexico, India, Africa, Spain, Russia, China, many areas of Asia – especially Thailand, and the Middle East. It is thought to be native to North Africa or the Middle East. In addition to its many culinary uses, cilantro seeds were used medicinally, especially as a sleep and digestion aid.

Cilantro vs Coriander

Throughout most of North America, the stalks and leaves of the Coriandum Sativum plant are known as cilantro and the plant’s dried seeds are called coriander. However, in different parts of the world, the plant is known as coriander & seeds called coriander seeds.

Should I Plant Cilantro Seeds or Plants?

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Cilantro is best grown by directly sowing seed in the garden for two reasons. It grows so quickly it needs no head start indoors, and since cilantro develops a taproot, it doesn’t like being transplanted.

However, if you can’t wait to harvest some fresh cilantro leaves in late spring, about 2 weeks before the average last frost date start cilantro indoors in peat pots that can be directly transplanted into the garden. Seeds germinate in about 7 to 10 days.

Cultivating Cilantro Seeds and Plants

Prepare soil by adding some compost or other organic matter to the planting area and working it into the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches. Rake the area smooth. Sow cilantro seeds 1/4-inch deep directly in the garden in late spring or early summer. Sow seeds or thin to 6 to 8 inches apart in rows spaced about 1 foot apart. Provide plenty of moisture and feed cilantro plants with a water-soluble fertilizer when they reach about 2 inches in height.

Since cilantro grows so quickly, it can also be sown again in the fall in warmer zones. For a steady supply of fresh leaves all summer, make successive sowings of cilantro seed every 2 to 3 weeks beginning in the spring.

Cilantro Growing Tips

When growing cilantro, the aim is to maximize foliage. Pinch back young cilantro plants an inch or so to encourage fuller, bushier plants. Snip off the top part of the main stem as soon as it appears to be developing flower buds or seedpods. Cutting off the flower heads redirects the cilantro plants’ energy back into leaf, and not flower or seed production.

Watch the plants carefully as the weather gets hotter. Cilantro has a short life cycle and bolts quickly (develops seed) in hot weather. Once cilantro sets seeds, the plant quickly starts to degrade.

If seeds are allowed to develop, you’ll notice how easily cilantro self-sows when you see delicate, lacy-leaf seedlings growing up around mature plants.

Growing Cilantro in Containers

What Insects & Diseases Affect Cilantro?

Cilantro rarely has serious problems with insects or diseases. In fact, probably due to cilantro’s strong scent, it is considered an insect repellant. Two diseases that could be a problem are leaf spot and powdery mildew. Leaf spot appears as small yellow spots that turn into larger brown spots. Excess moisture and poor air circulation most often cause the problem. Prevent leaf spot by making sure cilantro plants are grown in a well-drained soil, are not over watered, and are thinned out enough to allow good air circulation around them.

Powdery mildew appears as a powdery white coating on the foliage usually during hot, dry periods. Prevent powdery mildew by giving cilantro plants adequate moisture and avoid overcrowding.

Cilantro Harvesting Tips

How to germinate cilantro seedsFor Cilantro
The leaves can be cut at any time. Use the upper, new, finely cut leaves in cooking, but not the mature, lower ferny-type leaves. Cilantro is not normally saved and dried like other culinary herbs since, as stated, it loses almost its entire flavor when dried.

For Coriander
The large coriander seeds are easy to harvest and handle. Harvest on a dry day. Cut the top of the stems when the seedpods begin to turn brown and crack if pressed. Make sure pods are harvested before they release seeds into the garden. Once stems are cut, place seedpods in a paper bag so seeds will be caught. Finish the ripening process for a few weeks in a dark, well-ventilated, cool place. Pods can be shaken or rolled around in your hands to release the seeds.

If you’re growing the plant for seed, don’t bother fertilizing since that may delay flowering and thus seed production.

Cilantro Recipes & Storage

Salsa Verde

  • 8 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup green Anaheim or New Mexico chilies, chopped
  • 2 serrano chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and thoroughly mix. Allow mixture to remain a little chunky. Or, all ingredients can be simply mixed together well and served in a chunkier style. This salsa tastes best if it is refrigerated for several hours before serving.

Cilantro Guacamole

  • 2 large ripe avocados, skinned and mashed
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion
  • 2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro (add a bit more if you really like cilantro)
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Salt to taste
  • Mix all ingredients and serve immediately.

Cilantro Butter

To have a taste of fresh cilantro after your plants are finished, make cilantro butter. It freezes well.

  • Combine 4 parts butter to 2 parts finely chopped cilantro, and 1/2 part fresh lemon juice.
  • Mix well and freeze.
  • When thawed, it can be used as a spread or in sauces.

Cilantro butter is delicious on steamed vegetables and good with a little salt and lime juice on hot corn-on-the-cob.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Growing cilantro especially from seeds may be a bit tricky as you must get the right set up to create good germination conditions. One criterion to successfully growing cilantro is to get the ideal germination temperature.

Cilantro is a type of herb used for many great dishes. There are plenty of great reasons to add this dynamic herb to your vegetable garden. But you need to learn how to appropriately germinate cilantro so you can enjoy continuous use of this herb in your various meals.

You may be finding it hard to grow cilantro. But in the actual sense, this herb is actually pretty easy to grow with the right knowledge. Simply follow our guide to learn the right germination temperature for cilantro and other tips to successfully grow this amazing herb.

Table of Contents

Some Info On Cilantro Plant

Cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley and it originates from Greece. Both cilantro green leaves and cilantro seeds are used in different dishes. Cilantro seeds are as well known as the spice coriander. Both cilantro herbs and coriander seeds come from the same plant.

Their leaves are used in fresh salads, meat dishes, and salsa. The leaves can as well add a little spice to an omelet.

Cilantro seeds which are known as coriander supplies a distinctive flavor to your various dishes. The coriander seeds are integrated into sausage, pastries, and cooked fruits. The seed is also a vital component in pickling spice and curry powder.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Cilantro Germination Temperature

The best temperature for cilantro germination is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also do a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But ensure you always maintain moist soil until plants germinate which can take about 7 to 10 days.

How To Germinate Cilantro Seeds

Germinating cilantro is easy with the right knowledge and it’s pretty easy to maintain. So continue reading to learn how to grow cilantro appropriately so you can enjoy its continuous flavor.

When To Sow Cilantro Seeds

The ideal period to sow coriander seeds for the cooler region is in late spring or early summer. This is usually two weeks after the last frost. If your goal is to get multiple harvests, go ahead and keep planting more coriander seeds up until mid-summer.

For warmer regions, the coriander seeds should be sown during fall. Ensure you space them around 10 inches apart once they begin to germinate.

If you however wish to have some fresh cilantro during winter, you should sow seeds at the start of autumn or even winter. You can be sure of a great harvest result when you sow cilantro seeds during spring or winter. This is because cilantro is very sensitive to heat.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Soil Preparation For Germinating Cilantro Seeds

The first step to growing cilantro is to prepare your soil. Choose a well-draining soil for our cilantro plant. You can go for a moderately fertile sandy or loam soil. But you can still choose other types of soil all you need to do is to ensure nutrient levels and moisture are observed closely.

Cilantro Seed Germination

Next is to obtain your cilantro seeds for germination. Cilantro is a cool-season crop but will thrive in temperatures between 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Cilantro can withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if the temperatures surpass 85 degrees Fahrenheit, it may enter bolting.

In Texas, February is the most appropriate time to plant cilantro so you can get an April harvest. September is also another perfect time to plant cilantro in Texas for a November harvest.

Seeds should be planted in a soft, well-tilled, and composted soil. The seeds should be planted 2 inches apart in rows 12 to 15 inches apart if you wish to harvest cilantro leaves. If the seed is what you wish to harvest, then you should sow the seeds 8 inches apart in a row 15 inches apart.

The depth to which you sow your seeds for both cilantro leaves and coriander leaves purposes should be about a quarter to half inches.

Fertilizing Cilantro

Fertilization should be done twice throughout their growing season. Half a spoon of ammonia nitrate or urea should be applied per square foot of your plant.

Watering

The cilantro plant will require more watering during its seedling germination and establishment. Once the cilantro plant has developed and become established, their watering needs won’t be so demanding.

Harvesting

Harvest your cilantro leaves 45 to 70 days after seedlings germinate. The exterior leaves should be cut or trimmed when they attain 4 to 6 inches in length. Or you can simply cut the entire plant about 1 to 2 inches above the soil level.

Germinating In Containers

To germinate cilantro in containers, get a shallow bowled container of at least 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep. Then fill the container with a well-draining potting mix and apply some organic fertilizer. One part of cilantro seeds should be mixed with 3 parts of sand. The pot should be misted with water then spread the mixture evenly over the container.

Next, you should cover the seeds with some potting mix. Gently mist the soil once again then position the set up in the full sun. If the weather is very hot, position the set up in a light shade area. You should begin to notice the seeds germinating in about a week.

Additional Tips On Cilantro Germination

The cilantro growing period is pretty short. We encourage you to frequently trim your cilantro plants to help delay bolting and extend your harvest time. However, even if you continuously trim your cilantro plants so many times, they will still enter the bolting phase. And bolting will give rise to bitter-tasting leaves. But you can enjoy some nice cilantro leaves before they enter bolting.

When the cilantro has entered its bolting stage, just allow the plant to grow and let it seed. The seeds will be available for you to grow again next year. You can as well use the seeds for coriander cooking.

Conclusion On Cilantro Germination Temperature

We have concluded that the best germination temperature for cilantro is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can as well follow our growing tips for that successful cilantro leaves or coriander seeds germination.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Coriandrum sativum , known as either coriander or cilantro, is a delicious herb to eat but a fickle plant to grow. Coriandrum sativum can be grown outside in a garden or indoors in containers. Once it sprouts, the race is on to harvest leaves before the plant flowers and the flavor profile changes. Growing it indoors helps with this process, as you simply snip off what you need as you prepare meals. Expect your cilantro plant to live only for a couple of months before it flowers, at which point it becomes useless as a culinary plant.

Botanical Name Coriandrum sativum
Common Name Cilantro, coriander
Plant Type Annual herb

How to germinate cilantro seeds

How to germinate cilantro seeds

How to germinate cilantro seeds

Can You Grow Cilantro Inside?

Cilantro is a fast-growing but short-lived plant that is ready to harvest in just three or four weeks. Cilantro is very easy to grow indoors; simply provide it with adequate water and indirect sunlight. Pinch off the leaves regularly for culinary use to extend the life of the plant.

How to Grow Cilantro Indoors

Sunlight

Cilantro likes bright indirect light but dislikes intense, direct sunlight. The best option for container gardens is morning sun in an east-facing window or a very bright sill that doesn't get too much direct sun.

Temperature and Humidity

Cilantro bolts easily, especially in warm weather. Once cilantro bolts, the flavor changes, often becoming bitter. With potted plants, you can extend the harvest season by keeping the plants around 70 degrees and bringing them indoors to an air-conditioned environment when outdoor temperatures get warm.

Watering

Keep the soil regularly moist, but not soaked. Good drainage is essential, as cilantro has deep roots. Aim for about one inch of water per week.

Fertilizer

Use a liquid fertilizer or supplement the soil with controlled-release pellets. For organic cilantro, use organic fertilizer or fortify the soil with compost. Feed the herb once a month.

Pruning and Maintenance

As the young plants grow, periodically pinch back them by about one inch to encourage fuller plants. To extend your cilantro harvest, regularly snip soft stems, rotating the plant as you harvest to encompass the whole plant.

Container and Size

Cilantro needs a pot that is deep enough for it to take root; look for a pot at least 12 inches in depth and about 18 inches wide. A plastic pot will help hold water and keep the plant moist, feeding its desire for humid surroundings.

Potting Soil and Drainage

Cilantro does best in airy, light, fast-draining soil with plenty of perlite or sharp sand mixed in to increase drainage. In a container, use a premium potting mix rather than garden soil, which is too heavy.

Potting and Repotting Cilantro

Cilantro is an annual that grows with a deep taproot. As a result, it dislikes repotting and will often bolt at the slightest provocation. It’s best to repot your garden-center cilantro only once after bringing it home, then keep the plant in that container for the rest of its life.

Seed-grown cilantro can transition from your seed-starting pot to its permanent home pot. Because cilantro is an annual, mature plants should never need repotting. A fully mature flowering cilantro plant can hit a height of 24 inches, including flower stalks.

Moving Cilantro Outdoors for the Summer

If you move cilantro outdoors, it should not be during the summer. Move it during the spring or early fall when temperatures are moderate.

Considerations

When moving cilantro outdoors, remember to keep it in a shaded area and take it outside only when there are moderate temperatures of about 70 degrees. Temperatures too high will make cilantro bolt. Pay attention to the rainfall; water cilantro only if there isn't enough rain during any given week.

When to Bring Cilantro Back Indoors

Pay close attention to the temperature. When it begins to dip into the 60s or rise into the 80s, it's time to bring cilantro back inside to an air-conditioned space.

Pests to watch out for include aphids, armyworms, cutworms, and root-knot nematodes. Diseases that regularly affect cilantro include bacterial leaf spot, soft rot, carrot motley dwarf, damping-off, and powdery mildew. You can reduce the possibility of disease by avoiding overhead irrigation and not working with the plant while it's wet.

From the time you sow the seeds, cilantro leaves will be ready to harvest in just three to four weeks. Cilantro seeds (coriander) can be harvested in about 45 days, or when the plant is three to four inches tall. Cut the leaves at the bottom of the plant, if possible, and avoid harvesting more than one-third of the plant at the time. Cutting off too much can weaken the plant.

If you're harvesting the seeds, clip the seed heads and put them upside down in a paper bag. Wait a couple of days, and the husks will dry, split, and drop out the seeds inside.

Cilantro can be grown from nursery transplants, but it is also a very easy plant to grow from seeds. If sowing the seeds in pots, use an ordinary potting mix. Keep the soil moist as the seeds germinate and sprout. Thin the seedlings to about 6 inches apart, and keep them consistently moist as they grow.

Cilantro really grows like a weed, and often self-seeds so a cilantro patch often cultivates itself year after year, but when starting your own cilantro from seed, I’ve noticed a lot of people have had trouble with it.

This year I also had difficulty growing cilantro. I had very, very poor germination rates, maybe less than 5% of the seeds I planted (and it was a lot of seeds) actually sprouted. I have also had some issues with young cilantro plants being stunted or dying off in previous years, but with such poor germination I had never seen before, I thought I was doing something wrong.

I later found out that the reason was likely because my seeds were old, around 5 years old, and cilantro seeds (also called coriander) lose viability relatively quickly compared to other large seeds. If you’re wondering why you can’t grow cilantro, the problem isn’t with you but likely environmental factors or poor seed quality.

As I learn more about growing cilantro from seed, I may add more common problems to the list.

Cilantro is pretty finicky when it comes to germination. In fact, reasonably fresh cilantro seeds can sometimes have germination rates lower than 50%. In my experience, they also tend to rot easily if sown into soggy soil.

There are a few reasons why your cilantro seeds aren’t germinating.

First, it could be that your seeds are too old. Cilantro seeds can last up to 2 years without a significant decline in germination, but since the germination rate is already unreliable, that means you need to sow a lot more seeds in order to get a good set of coriander sprouting.

This is also why some people have trouble germinating cilantro from coriander seeds from the grocery store. Store-bought coriander seeds can sprout, but as a dry spice, they can already be too old to sprout by the time you buy them, and if they have been dehydrated with heat, that will make them unviable.

Your seeds may have been sown in soil that is too wet. Sopping wet soil not only leads to root rot and fungal diseases (more on that later) but can also cause seeds to rot before they even have a chance to germinate. Ensure the soil, potting mix, or seed starting mix is moist but not soggy.

It’s also possible you’ve planted your coriander seeds too deep. There is only so much energy in the seed to push the sprout up high enough to breach the top of the soil. Try to plant your coriander seeds no more than 1/2 an inch deep.

This is a common problem many gardeners face, and it doesn’t only affect cilantro. There are many potential causes of cilantro sprouts dying, from drying out to facing a surprise killing frost. But in most cases, the problem is too much water.

The culprit is usually a disease called damping off. It’s caused by different molds that infect and kill young seedlings. These molds, such as species of Fusarium, thrive in wet, cold, dark environments with little airflow, and their spores are commonly found in nature.

Once present, you can’t stop it, but you can prevent it by making sure that the potting mix or soil is well-draining and kept moist but not soggy. If you notice this is a consistent problem, you can take it a step further and sterilize your seed-starting pots with a diluted bleach solution and use fresh potting mix.

If direct sowing outdoors, sow cilantro somewhere where the soil isn’t soggy, and is getting enough sunlight to keep the soil warm to speed up germination and growth.

Once your cilantro plants start getting more true leaves and become established, they will be strong enough to ward off any threats from damping off molds.

How to germinate cilantro seeds

If your cilantro is already growing but now you’ve noticed the leaves are getting thin, it almost always means one thing: your cilantro is getting ready to bolt.

When you see cilantro leaves getting thin, this is the natural process of your cilantro plants switching from vegetative growth to flowering, which is called bolting.

There isn’t much you can do at this point, although some gardeners harvest the thin leaves to try to prolong vegetative growth.

Fortunately, there are ways to delay bolting. Bolting is triggered by hot and dry weather. This is why cilantro/coriander is considered a cool weather plant. The easiest way to avoid bolting is to plant coriander in the middle of summer and harvest it as a fall crop, so it grows and matures over increasing cooler days.

For spring-sown cilantro, you can plant it in a partially shady area so it stays cooler during hot summer days. Some people also drape shade cloth (blocking anywhere from 30% to 50% of sunlight) over their cilantro to keep it from bolting longer.

There are also varieties of cilantro that don’t bolt as quickly, such as ‘Slow-Bolt Cilantro’. Reviews on Baker Creek seeds report that the Slow-Bolt variety can grow well into the height of summer in a partially shaded area without bolting.

Cilantro that has stunted growth is often the result of temperatures that are too cold (and thus slowing down growth) or root damage.

While cilantro loves cool weather, it’s a physiological fact that plants grow more slowly in colder conditions. If you think this is the reason your cilantro is still small, you can cover your plants with some garden fleece or clear plastic (even a plastic jug for small plants) to create a mini greenhouse and warm up the soil, thus increasing their growth rate. However, just be mindful not to do it on a warm day or when the sun is too bright, as your cilantro can quickly overheat.

It’s also possible that your cilantro is stunted because of root damage. This could be due to serious root damage during transplanting, or it could be due to root rot damaging significant portions of the roots. If you suspect this is the reason, I would recommend replanting more cilantro. You can still keep the original cilantro plants there in case they start growing again; and if they don’t, they will get overtaken by the new cilantro, anyway.