How to Grow, Harvest, and Use Cilantro

Herb Gardening

If you’re looking for a fresh, easy-to-grow herb, choose cilantro. This quick growing annual will be ready to harvest in as little as three weeks. Known for its unique flavor, cilantro is used in recipes from a variety of cultures around the world.    

Cilantro growing in a pot

Cilantro Planting Instructions

It doesn’t take long to grow cilantro from seed.     

You can plant cilantro seeds in an outdoor garden once the soil reaches 55 F. If you are planting for indoor growing, you can start from seed at any time.

Cilantro does not need to be planted deep. Sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and cover with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil.     

Keep the seeds moist, and they will germinate in 7 to 10 days. Once the seedlings are growing, continue to water them to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Cilantro


Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a popular herb to grow both indoors and outside.


It can be grown for its fresh leaves and flavorful seeds (coriander).  


Grows well in pots and indoors so that you can always have fresh cilantro on hand.


Cilantro is a quick growing annual that you can begin to harvest in as few as three weeks. 


Cilantro Growing Tips

Cilantro prefers cool temperatures and can grow in partial shade. Protecting it from the hot afternoon sun will prolong growth and keep it from bolting.     


Soil should be loose and rich in organic matter. The cilantro plant will have one main tap root that will grow deep and doesn’t do well with transplanting.     


Cilantro plants need some room to grow and should be spaced about 8 inches apart.

Growing Cilantro Indoors

Growing cilantro indoors is a great way to keep a fresh supply readily available.     


Place pots of cilantro in a sunny window that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you don’t have enough sunlight, you can use grow lights or cool fluorescent lights placed 6-15 inches away from your plants. Provide 2 hours of artificial light for every hour of natural sunlight your plants need. And remember to rotate your plants occasionally, so they get even exposure.

Harvesting Cilantro

You can start harvesting cilantro as soon as it is 4-6 inches tall. You can pick individual leaves as needed. 

    

Regularly trimming cilantro is the trick to keep it growing. As you trim off the top, it will send out side shoots and develop a more bushy plant. The more cilantro you harvest, the more it continues to grow.     


When cutting off sections, cut above a leaf node. This node is where the plant will send out a new shoot.     


Like with most herbs, you don’t want to take off more than 1/3 of the plant at one time.  

"Cilantro and coriander come from the same plant but taste very different.”

Additional Tips and Tricks for Growing Cilantro

Succession planting is a great way to always have a fresh supply of cilantro. For succession planting, wait 2-3 weeks and then plant more seeds. Continue to do this throughout the growing season. Succession planting is also easy to do with indoor pots. 

    

Keeping cilantro cool is the best way to keep it from bolting. When the weather gets above 85 degrees, cilantro often stops growing new leaves and instead goes to seed which is called “bolting.”    


To keep cilantro growing, you will need to harvest often and keep it cool. Planting in a shady location or placing screens to create shade will offer some relief.    


The leaves of a cilantro plant are broad and flat. However, when it starts sending up shoots for flowers, those leaves will be thinner, like the leaves of carrots. If you don’t want your cilantro going to seed, regularly cut off these shoots.    

Harvesting Cilantro Seed - Coriander

When cilantro goes to seed, it will first send out top growth that produces flowers and then matures into seeds. These cilantro seeds are edible and are used in recipes calling for coriander.    


If you want to use the edible seeds, then, by all means, allow your cilantro plants to bolt and go to seed. Once the plant starts turning brown, the seeds will begin to dry. At this point, you can cut your cilantro plants and put them in a paper bag to catch the seeds as they continue drying.     

Using Cilantro and Coriander

While cilantro and coriander come from the same plant, they do not taste the same and cannot be used interchangeably.     

Cilantro leaves are most often used fresh. The taste is often described as fresh and citrusy. However, to some people, it tastes like soap. This response has been linked to specific DNA.     

Coriander is a warm, spicy taste. Coriander seeds can be toasted at a very low temperature and then ground to be used in recipes. 

Coriander flowers blooming