Tips for Growing Cilantro

Cilantro is a delicious herb capable of adding so much flavor and character to your foods. While some people don’t enjoy it we love it in our cooking and always try to have some cilantro growing in the home garden.

Growing beautiful cilantro plants isn’t a difficult thing but there are a couple things you should know to maximize your cilantro harvests.  Yesterday a reader asked me in my post 5 Herbs You Should Grow In Your Garden if I had any tips for growing cilantro so I thought today I pass along a few.

Cilantro’s Botanical Name: Coriandrum sativum (Native to Western Asia, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa)

Tips for Growing Cilantro

What is the Best Time of Year to Grow Cilantro?

First you need to know that cilantro is a cool season crop.  The best times of year to grow cilantro are in the early spring or fall.

When the heat of summer comes along cilantro doesn’t have much time left and will quickly start to bolt. Bolting, as it refers to plants, is when the flowers start to produce. When a plant is bolting the flavor of the leaves changes and develop a more bitter taste. 

young cilantro plant

Cilantro grown in part shade will take a little longer to bolt.  My advice would be to plant a couple in part shade and a couple in full sun.  

When Do You Sow Cilantro Seeds?

Plan on sowing cilantro seeds several weeks before the last frost date indoors and/or sow directly outdoors a few weeks before the last frost date.  I usually have cilantro germinating in the fall and we selectively harvest it over the winter. Cilantro is very cold tolerant and will survive our Tennessee winters easily but doesn’t actively grow much during that time. Cilantro goes dormant over the winter then explodes into growth once the spring temperatures return. 

Plant Successive Sowings of Cilantro

To lengthen your cilantro harvest plant it successively. Every 10 to 14 days plant a new crop of cilantro and you will have cilantro to harvest nearly all year.

What should you do when Cilantro bolts?

Should you let your cilantro bolt? Yes! I usually let ours bolt for several reasons. The easiest way to insure a cilantro crop for later in the year is to let your cilantro flower (bolt) and allow it to set seeds. 

When cilantro sets seed you can gather the seeds and save them or sow them directly back into the garden. When seeds form collect the hard shelled seeds and either plant them directly in the garden where you want the cilantro to grow or save them to plant outdoors in fall. Cilantro is an annual so the only way for it to come back year after year is through its seed.

Cilantro flowers - cilantro bolting

Growing Cilantro Bonus Tip: As an added benefit flowering cilantro attracts tons of beneficial pollinators. Plan on it bolting and the pollinators can visit your vegetable garden plants to increase pollination. It attracts small bees and wasps which may be predatory on caterpillars that eat leafy green vegetables. Just by having the wasps and bees in the garden you could be scaring the pests away!

Watch More About Growing Cilantro

What Soil Type Does Cilantro Need?

Cilantro doesn’t need any fancy soil type to grow.  It grows fine anywhere the seeds land in my garden. A heavy clay soil or a really loose sandy soil may not be ideal so add some compost to improve the soil in general. Lighter soil may grow a better plant than heavy clay but cilantro isn’t too picky.

Cilantro will grow anywhere it can. Here it self sowed in the grass of my lawn! No fancy soil, just whatever the grass was growing in.

When Can you Harvest Cilantro?

We harvest our cilantro anytime there are enough leaves to continue to support the plant after a cutting. That can be a little hard to gauge but when it is small I always try to leave more than I take. As the cilantro plant grows larger I leave at least a third of the plant to grow. Cilantro is a cut and come again plant until it bolts it can be harvested at anytime for use for cooking.

You can also grow cilantro as a microgreen and harvest it as soon as you have a couple leaves.

Can You Grow Cilantro Indoors?

Cilantro is an herb you can grow indoors. The key to growing cilantro indoors (and other plants as well) is to make sure they have enough light. If they do not get enough light your plants will start getting leggy and won’t grow as many leaves as you would like. Place them near a sunny window and if that isn’t an option get a grow light of some kind to supplement their lighting.

Can Cilantro Grow in the Shade?

Cilantro can be successfully grown in the shade. In fact if you want to harvest cilantro longer through the warm season the shade is a good option. The shade will keep the cilantro cooler and cause it to grow a little slower.

Where To Find Cilantro Seeds

Once you have a cilantro plant bolt and go to seed you can save those seeds and always have a good supply but initially you have to start somewhere. If you know a gardening friend who grows cilantro arrange a swap or offer to buy some.

Also there are many reputable seed companies you can purchase seed from. Here is a link to some organic cilantro seeds at Botanical Interest Seed Company (aff.). I have ordered seed from them and had a lot of successful plants grow. One each seed packet you will receive a ton of information on growing the seeds on the seed packet, probably more than any other seed company I have seen.

Cilantro seedlings

Fertilizing Cilantro

Do you need to fertilize cilantro? There really is no major need to fertilize cilantro, it will do just fine on its own as long as you have decent soil. I always recommend amending your garden beds with good compost rich soil for good soil health but cilantro can handle virtually any decent soil. As I mentioned early if you are trying to grow cilantro in heavy clay or really poor sandy soil go ahead and amend with some compost.

Is Cilantro the Same as Coriander?

Is Cilantro the same thing as Coriander? Yes! Well sort of. Cilantro seeds are the spice named coriander and can be harvested for that spice also. To harvest coriander first reserve some seeds to plant a new crop of cilantro but then gather the coriander. Use the coriander in a grinder to sprinkle over your foods for extra flavor.

Preserving Cilantro

Since Cilantro is harder to grow in the summer and does actively grow during the winter preserving cilantro is a good idea. It can be dried but doesn’t retain as much flavor as freezing it does. To freeze cilantro chop it up and put into ice cube trays. Then fill with water and freeze. You can take it out and use small portions of your cilantro as you need it. The leaves may also be washed, patted dry, and put in plastic freezer bags.

Why Do People Not Like Cilantro?

I’ve heard there is actually a gene that causes people to either like or dislike cilantro! Whatever the case our family really loves having cilantro fresh from the garden.

Cilantro is an easy plant to grow and I hope if you enjoy it that these tips are useful for growing cilantro in your home garden!

3 thoughts on “Tips for Growing Cilantro”

  1. Thank you! I had no idea that cilantro liked the cold. I had a little last fall that promptly died. I want to try again now but I will plan to bring it inside when it starts to get hot around here (Tucson), which won't be much longer. 🙂

  2. I love the stuff, hate that the big box stores sell it in the spring when it is too late to plant it, but I have had zero luck growing it here, despite my best efforts. Now I buy big bunches of it, press it flat in a ziplock, and freeze it flat. When I want it I chop fast while it is still frozen and put the remainder back. Soggy texture, but original flavor. Salsa doesn't mind.

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