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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Cilantro

How To Grow Cilantro

Cilantro, scientifically known as Coriandrum sativum, is an herbaceous plant that enjoys widespread usage in culinary traditions across a variety of cultures. While it originally hails from the Mediterranean and Southwestern Asia, cilantro is now grown and savored worldwide, enriching our meals with its distinct, refreshing flavor and deep-green color.

Cilantro is appreciated in its entirety - the leaves, flowers, and seeds are all used in cooking. However, the most commonly utilized parts are the leaves, often referred to as cilantro, and the seeds, known as coriander. The leaves provide a bright, slightly citrusy flavor, while the seeds have a warmer, nuttier taste.

Besides its versatile culinary applications, cilantro also packs numerous health benefits. It is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, along with substantial amounts of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese. It also offers anti-inflammatory properties, aids digestion, and research suggests potential antibacterial effects.

Growing cilantro in your own garden is a fulfilling endeavor. You'll not only have a fresh supply of this beneficial herb at your fingertips but also enjoy the aesthetics it brings with its feathery, verdant foliage and delicate white or pink flowers.

In the subsequent sections, we'll explore how you can plant, grow, and harvest cilantro in your own garden, ensuring you'll always have this unique herb ready to enhance your culinary creations.

Optimal Growing Conditions for Cilantro - Climate, Sunlight, and Soil Requirements

Successfully growing cilantro requires understanding and providing its preferred growing conditions. Cilantro has specific preferences for climate, sunlight, and soil that, when met, can greatly increase your success with this herb.


Cilantro is a cool-season plant, thriving in temperatures between 50°F and 85°F (10°C - 29°C). Although it can withstand a light frost, high temperatures can make cilantro bolt, or prematurely produce seeds, which can cause its leaves to lose flavor. Therefore, in hotter regions, growing cilantro in the cooler spring and fall seasons or providing it with some shade during summer's peak heat is recommended.


Cilantro requires a good amount of sunlight for robust growth. It should ideally receive around 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, if you are in an area with particularly hot summers, providing some afternoon shade can protect the plant from excess heat, helping prevent premature bolting.


Cilantro prefers well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH, between 6.0 and 7.5. The soil should also be rich in organic matter to provide the nutrients cilantro needs for optimal growth. If your garden has heavy clay or compacted soil, consider improving its structure and nutrient content by adding compost or well-rotted manure.


When it comes to watering, cilantro needs a balance. It likes consistent moisture but will not fare well in waterlogged conditions. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. It's best to water cilantro plants deeply but less frequently, allowing the soil to dry slightly between watering sessions.

By providing cilantro with its preferred climate, sunlight, and soil conditions, you can look forward to a healthy plant and a bountiful harvest of this versatile herb

Step-by-step Guide to Planting Cilantro

How To Grow Cilantro

When to Plant – Best Time of the Year for Planting Cilantro

The timing of planting cilantro is crucial for ensuring a healthy plant and bountiful harvest. Given its specific growth preferences, there are optimal times during the year for planting this flavorful herb.

Cilantro is a cool-season crop, meaning it grows best in cooler temperatures. Therefore, the most suitable times to plant cilantro seeds outdoors are in late winter or early spring, after the threat of hard frost has passed, and again in the fall.

For spring planting, aim to sow the seeds about 1-2 weeks before the last expected spring frost date. This timing allows cilantro to grow in the cooler spring weather that it prefers.

For fall planting, you can start sowing cilantro seeds in late summer or early fall, about 8-10 weeks before your area's first expected fall frost date. Fall planting can be particularly beneficial in areas with mild winters, as cilantro can often continue growing throughout the winter months.

In hotter climates where summers are intense, cilantro has a tendency to bolt or go to seed quickly, leading to a shorter harvesting period. To combat this, consider successive planting. Sow new seeds every 2-3 weeks through the cooler months to ensure a continuous supply of fresh cilantro leaves.

By planting cilantro at the right times, you can maximize its growth potential and enjoy a more prolific harvest.

Seed Selection – Choosing the Right Seeds for Your Cilantro Garden

Choosing the right seeds is the first crucial step towards a successful cilantro garden. Various factors come into play when selecting cilantro seeds, from their quality to their variety.

Quality of Seeds

Ensure that the cilantro seeds you choose are of high quality. They should be sourced from a reputable supplier and, if possible, be organically grown and non-GMO. This will ensure the best possible start for your cilantro plants.

Varieties of Cilantro

There are several varieties of cilantro to choose from, each with its unique characteristics. Some popular varieties include:

Santo Cilantro: Known for its resistance to bolting, this variety is a good choice if you live in a warmer climate.

Slow Bolt Cilantro: This variety, as the name suggests, is slow to bolt, making it another good choice for areas with hot summers.

Calypso Cilantro: This variety is one of the slowest to bolt, and it can be harvested multiple times due to its capacity for regrowth.

Confetti Cilantro: This variety has thinner, more finely dissected leaves that resemble parsley and has a milder taste than other cilantro varieties.

Seed Preservation

Check the seed packet for a sell-by date to ensure the seeds are fresh. Seeds stored over time may have a lower germination rate.

By choosing the right cilantro seeds for your garden, you set the stage for healthy growth and a plentiful harvest. Keep your climate, the seed's resistance to bolting, and personal flavor preferences in mind as you make your selection.

Site Preparation – How to Prepare the Garden Bed or Pot for Planting Cilantro

growing cilantro

Proper site preparation is an essential step in establishing a successful cilantro garden. Whether you're planting cilantro in a garden bed or pot, the area must be suitably prepared to ensure optimal growth conditions.

Garden Bed Preparation

If you're planting cilantro directly in a garden bed, begin by clearing the area of any weeds or debris. This is important to prevent competition for nutrients and water.

Next, consider the soil quality. Cilantro prefers a well-draining soil rich in organic matter with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. If your soil is heavy clay or compacted, it would be beneficial to amend it with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure.

This can help improve the soil structure, enhance its nutrient content, and increase its water-holding capacity.

Once the soil is prepared, level the bed with a rake, breaking up any large clods of soil. Your garden bed is now ready for planting.

Pot Preparation

If you're planning to grow cilantro in a pot, choose a container that is at least 8-10 inches deep to accommodate cilantro's long taproot. The pot should also have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot.

Fill the pot with a high-quality potting mix that drains well. You can also add some compost or well-rotted manure to the potting mix to provide extra nutrients.

Avoid using garden soil in pots as it can compact easily, impeding drainage and root growth.

By preparing your site thoroughly, whether it's a garden bed or pot, you create an optimal environment for your cilantro seeds or seedlings to thrive. This step lays the foundation for a successful cilantro garden, ultimately leading to a bountiful harvest.

Planting Process – Detailed Steps on How to Plant Cilantro

Seeds or Seedlings

Whether you're starting cilantro from seeds or transplanting seedlings, the planting process is straightforward and can be accomplished in a few steps.

Planting Cilantro from Seeds

Cilantro grows best from direct seeding and does not always transplant well due to its taproot structure. Here's how to plant cilantro seeds:

Sow the Seeds: Sprinkle the seeds evenly over your prepared garden bed or pot. Aim to sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and 6-8 inches apart to give the plants room to grow.

Cover the Seeds: Lightly cover the seeds with soil. Cilantro seeds need some light to germinate, so they should not be buried too deep.

Water Thoroughly: Water the seeds in gently but thoroughly. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged.

Await Germination: You should see sprouts within 7-10 days. Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate.

Planting Cilantro Seedlings

If you're starting from seedlings, be very careful not to disturb the roots, as cilantro does not like being transplanted. Here's how to plant cilantro seedlings:

Prepare the Hole: Dig a hole in the garden bed or pot that is deep and wide enough to accommodate the seedling's root ball. The top of the root ball should be level with or slightly below the surface of the soil.

Plant the Seedling: Gently remove the seedling from its container, trying to keep as much soil around the roots as possible. Place the seedling in the hole.

Backfill the Hole: Fill in the hole with soil, firming it gently around the base of the seedling.

Water Thoroughly: Water the seedling thoroughly after planting to settle the soil around the roots and to help the plant establish.

Follow these steps, and you'll have your cilantro garden started in no time. As the plants grow, remember to keep the soil moist and protect them from extreme heat to prevent bolting.

Care for Growing Cilantro

Watering – How Often and How Much to Water Cilantro Plants

Proper watering is crucial for the growth and development of cilantro. Striking the right balance in watering can help prevent common problems such as wilting and root rot.

Cilantro prefers consistently moist soil but is sensitive to overwatering. As a general rule, water your cilantro plants when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. This usually means watering once or twice a week, but the exact frequency will depend on your climate and the specific conditions of your garden.

Watering Cilantro in Garden Beds

For cilantro growing in garden beds, it's better to water deeply and less frequently. This encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil, making the plants more drought-resistant. A good soaking once or twice a week should suffice in most climates. If you're experiencing particularly hot and dry weather, you may need to water more often.

Watering Cilantro in Pots

Cilantro grown in pots tends to dry out faster than those planted in garden beds. Therefore, it may require more frequent watering. Check the soil regularly, and when the top inch feels dry, water the pot thoroughly until water starts to flow out of the drainage holes.

Regardless of where you're growing your cilantro, always water at the base of the plants to avoid wetting the foliage. This can help prevent fungal diseases which are often caused by excess moisture on the leaves.

By following these watering guidelines, your cilantro plants should thrive and provide a bountiful harvest. Remember, the goal is to keep the soil consistently moist, not waterlogged.

Fertilizing – The Type of Fertilizer Needed and How to Apply It for Cilantro Plants

While cilantro isn't a heavy feeder, providing it with supplemental nutrients can help promote lush growth and higher yields. The type of fertilizer you use and how you apply it can have a significant impact on your cilantro's health and productivity.

Type of Fertilizer

Cilantro prefers a balanced fertilizer, meaning it has equal parts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Look for a fertilizer labeled with three similar numbers, like 10-10-10 or 14-14-14, which signifies a balanced N-P-K ratio.

Organic fertilizers such as compost or well-rotted manure can also be beneficial. These options not only supply necessary nutrients but also improve soil structure and promote beneficial microbial activity.

How to Apply Fertilizer

Before applying fertilizer, it's a good practice to water your cilantro plants. This helps prepare the roots to absorb the nutrients more efficiently and prevents fertilizer burn.

If you're using a granular fertilizer, scatter it around the base of the plants, avoiding direct contact with the foliage. Once applied, water the area well to help dissolve the granules and carry the nutrients down to the roots.

For liquid fertilizers, follow the manufacturer's instructions for dilution rates. Apply the diluted solution to the soil around the cilantro plants.

In general, cilantro should be fertilized once every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. However, if you're using a rich compost or manure, additional fertilizing may not be necessary.

Remember, while fertilizer can benefit your cilantro plants, more is not always better. Over-fertilizing can lead to a buildup of salts in the soil, which can damage the plants. Always follow the manufacturer's recommended application rates for best results.

Disease and Pest Control – Common Diseases and Pests That Can Affect Cilantro, and How to Manage Them

Like any other plant, cilantro can be susceptible to certain diseases and pests. However, with early detection and appropriate management strategies, you can keep your cilantro healthy and productive.

Common Diseases

Leaf Spot: This fungal disease causes small, brown, circular spots on the leaves of the cilantro. To manage it, remove and dispose of infected leaves and avoid overhead watering to reduce humidity levels.

Powdery Mildew: This is a fungal disease that appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves. It's common in high humidity conditions. Good airflow around plants, avoiding overhead watering, and the use of fungicides can help manage this disease.

Bacterial Wilt: Caused by bacteria, this disease can lead to the wilting and yellowing of cilantro leaves. Unfortunately, there's no cure for bacterial wilt, so prevention is key. This includes practicing crop rotation, ensuring good soil drainage, and avoiding the transfer of bacteria via contaminated tools or hands.

Common Pests

Aphids: These tiny insects can cause distorted growth and can spread diseases. Insecticidal soaps or neem oil can effectively control aphids. Encouraging beneficial insects, like ladybugs, can also help manage aphid populations.

Carrot Fly: The carrot fly larvae can cause damage to the roots of the cilantro. Crop rotation and the use of protective nets can help prevent infestation.

Cutworms: These pests can cut young cilantro plants at the base. Use collars around the base of the plants and hand-pick any visible cutworms.

Regularly checking your cilantro plants for signs of disease or pest activity is vital for maintaining a healthy garden. Many issues can be mitigated with good cultural practices, like proper watering and spacing, crop rotation, and regular weeding. If diseases or pests do occur, there are both organic and conventional control options available.

Harvesting cilantro

When to Harvest – Identifying Signs that Cilantro is Ready for Harvesting

Determining when to harvest cilantro can make a significant difference in the flavor and quality of the herb. Fortunately, cilantro provides clear signs when it is at its peak and ready to be harvested.

Cilantro grows relatively quickly and can usually be harvested within 3-4 weeks after the seedlings first appear. It's best to harvest cilantro early in the morning when the leaves are crisp and full of flavor.

Here are some signs that your cilantro is ready for harvesting:

Leaf Size and Quantity: Cilantro is ready to harvest when the plant has produced a decent amount of foliage and the leaves have reached their mature size, typically around 3 to 6 inches long.

Plant Height: Most cilantro plants will be ready to harvest when they've reached about 6 to 8 inches in height. However, it's the leaves, not the height, that matters most when deciding to harvest.

Color and Texture: Mature cilantro leaves are bright green and have a slightly crinkled texture. Avoid harvesting leaves that are yellowing or wilting as they are past their prime.

Flower Buds: Once cilantro starts to produce flower buds, it's an indication that the plant is beginning to bolt. It's a good idea to harvest heavily at this stage because once the plant starts to flower, the leaves often become more bitter.

By watching out for these signs and regularly checking your plants, you'll be able to harvest your cilantro at the optimal time, ensuring the best possible flavor for your culinary creations.

How to Harvest – Techniques for Harvesting Cilantro to Prevent Damage to the Plant

When harvesting cilantro, using the right technique is crucial to avoid causing harm to the plant, ensuring continued growth and productivity.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to properly harvest cilantro:

Identify Mature Foliage: Look for full-sized leaves that are bright green in color. These mature leaves will provide the best flavor.

Use the Right Tool: A sharp pair of garden scissors or pruning shears is the best tool for harvesting cilantro. Make sure they are clean to prevent the spread of disease.

Cut at the Base: Make your cut near the base of the stem, about 1-2 inches above the soil level. This will encourage more stems to sprout and will result in a bushier plant.

Harvest Outer Leaves First: Begin harvesting from the outer parts of the plant. The younger, inner leaves need more time to develop before they're ready to be harvested.

Don't Harvest the Entire Plant: To ensure the cilantro plant continues to produce leaves, never harvest more than one-third of the plant at a time.

Remember, regular harvesting encourages new growth, extending the life of your cilantro plant. After harvesting, rinse the cilantro leaves under cool water and pat them dry. Cilantro is best used fresh but can be stored in the refrigerator for short periods if needed. Just make sure to handle your harvested cilantro gently to preserve its delicate flavor and texture.

Post-Harvest Care and Storage – How to Store and Preserve Cilantro for Maximum Freshness and Longevity

Proper care and storage of your harvested cilantro can significantly extend its shelf life, ensuring you can enjoy its fresh flavor for longer. Here's how to store and preserve your cilantro:

Storing Fresh Cilantro

Rinse and Dry: After harvesting, gently rinse your cilantro under cool running water to remove any soil or pests. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Store in a Jar of Water: Trim the ends of the stems and place the cilantro in a jar or glass of water, much like a bouquet of flowers. Make sure the leaves are not submerged in the water.

Cover with a Plastic Bag: Place a loose plastic bag over the cilantro leaves. This creates a mini greenhouse that keeps the humidity high, which cilantro loves.

Refrigerate: Place the jar in the refrigerator. This method can keep your cilantro fresh for up to two weeks. Make sure to change the water every few days or if it starts to discolor.

Preserving Cilantro

If you have a large harvest and can't use up your fresh cilantro in time, consider these preservation methods:

Freezing: Cilantro can be frozen, either whole or chopped. For best results, spread the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. Alternatively, you can freeze chopped cilantro in ice cube trays filled with water or oil, then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag for long-term storage.

Drying: Although dried cilantro loses some of its flavor, it can be used in cooking where the dish is cooked for a long time, like stews or sauces. To dry cilantro, bundle the stems together, hang them upside down in a dry, well-ventilated location away from direct sunlight, and leave until completely dry. Once dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container.

By following these post-harvest care and storage tips, you can maximize the longevity of your cilantro harvest, ensuring you have a steady supply of this flavorful herb at your fingertips.

Recap and Final Thoughts: Time to Start Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Cilantro

Now that you're equipped with all the necessary information, it's time to put your green thumbs to work and start your journey with cilantro! Growing your own cilantro can be incredibly rewarding, not only providing you with a fresh and flavorful addition to your meals but also adding a lush, green element to your garden.

Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a complete novice, growing cilantro is an enjoyable and satisfying project. So, why not give it a try? Enjoy the process, learn from it, and before you know it, you'll be adding your home-grown cilantro to your favorite dishes.

Remember, gardening is about patience, learning, and, most importantly, having fun. Start planting your cilantro today, and soon, you'll reap the benefits of your hard work.

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