How to Grow Cilantro

Whether you have a strong affinity for it or an aversion, cilantro remains a top choice when it comes to cultivating your own herbs at home. If you enjoy the zesty and slightly peppery taste of cilantro, you’re in for a delightful experience. Growing cilantro is a breeze and requires minimal effort. In no time, you’ll have a bountiful supply of fresh cilantro to enhance your culinary creations.

Cilantro, also known as coriander (Coriandrum sativum), is an annual herb that provides dual culinary benefits. The lush green leaves and slender stems constitute what we commonly recognize as cilantro. Meanwhile, the seeds of the cilantro plant, known as coriander seeds, impart a warm and spicy flavor. These seeds are employed for growing more cilantro or ground for use in various dishes.

For those new to herb cultivation, cilantro serves as an excellent starting point. Let’s delve deeper into the art of growing cilantro.

Types of Cilantro

Cilantro comes in more varieties than you might imagine, offering flexibility for your home herb garden.

  1. Santo: The Santo variety is likely what comes to mind when you think of cilantro, featuring vibrant green leaves and a robust flavor.
  2. Calypso: Another classic option, Calypso cilantro, is relatively slow to bolt, making it suitable for warmer climates.
  3. Confetti: Distinct from the typical cilantro appearance, Confetti boasts wispy leaves resembling dill. It’s also resistant to bolting and has a mild flavor.
  4. Culantro: Don’t mistake it for a typo – this variety is known as ‘broad green cilantro’ due to its broader leaves and intense flavor, ideal for various delectable dishes.
  5. Long-Standing: Although it takes a bit longer to mature, Long Standing cilantro is well worth the wait, with large leaves and a bold flavor. The time to maturity varies among these varieties, particularly if you’re aiming to harvest coriander seeds. Be sure to check the estimated time for your chosen cilantro variety before planting.

While all these cilantro types offer delightful tastes, this guide will primarily focus on Santo cilantro.

The Best Month for Planting Cilantro

Unlike some other leafy herbs, cilantro thrives in cooler weather conditions. Plant your cilantro in late spring or during the fall for optimal results. It can flourish in either season.

If you’re planting cilantro in the spring, wait until after the last frost has passed. The temperature should ideally range between 50-80°F (10-26°C) for optimal growth. Higher temperatures can trigger bolting and seed production, which may not be desired unless you’re specifically cultivating coriander seeds.

In the fall, ensure you plant cilantro at least 6 weeks before the first frost arrives. This gives it ample time to mature before colder temperatures set in. For those residing in warmer regions, it’s even possible to plant cilantro during the winter as long as temperatures remain above freezing. Although cilantro thrives in cool conditions, it’s not frost-resistant.

How Long Does Cilantro Take to Grow?

Cilantro exhibits rapid growth. Depending on the variety, it can mature in as little as a few weeks. The Santo variety, for example, can be ready for harvest within just 50 days of planting. Some other types boast even shorter life cycles, with a maturity period of only 30 days.

On the other hand, coriander seeds, which are essential for future cilantro growth, require a bit more patience. You must wait for the plant to flower and produce seeds, a process that typically spans around 3 months.

Optimal Growing Conditions for Cilantro

Although cilantro is generally easy to cultivate, it does have specific requirements to thrive. Factors such as location and soil quality can significantly impact its growth. Here are some tips to create the best possible environment for cilantro:

Soil: If you’re growing cilantro in containers, use high-quality potting mix. For in-ground cultivation, opt for rich, well-draining soil. Cilantro prefers moist but not waterlogged conditions, with a soil pH ranging from 6.2 to 6.8.

Sunlight: Aim for approximately 6 hours of full sunlight daily for your cilantro plants. In hot climates, consider providing morning sun with afternoon shade to prevent leaf scorching. Container planting can be advantageous in warmer regions, allowing you to relocate the plants to partial shade if necessary.

You can also successfully grow cilantro indoors by setting up a DIY window herb garden.

Temperature: Cilantro thrives in cool weather, with the ideal temperature range being 50-80°F (10-26°C). When deciding the planting season for cilantro, take your local climate into account. While cilantro can tolerate lower temperatures, it is vulnerable to frost. To protect your plants from frost, consider using row covers or cloches. Conversely, hot weather can induce bolting and seed production rapidly.

How to Grow Cilantro

You have two primary options for growing cilantro: direct seeding or using young plants. While both approaches can yield success, most people prefer starting from seeds due to the potential challenges associated with transplanting cilantro, which has a taproot. Here’s how to grow cilantro:

  1. Direct Seeding:
    • Sow cilantro seeds directly in the ground or in containers. Indoor planting allows you to begin the growing season ahead of time, using pots that are approximately 8 inches wide and deep for each plant, equipped with drainage holes.
    • Prepare the soil by loosening it and adding compost or other organic matter, ensuring the removal of weeds and debris.
    • Plant the seeds at a depth of 1/2 inch, spacing them 2-4 inches apart. If planting in rows outdoors, maintain a spacing of approximately 12 inches between rows. For container plants, place them near a sunny window.
    • Water the seeds thoroughly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not saturated.
    • Germination should occur within 7-14 days.
    • To ensure a continuous supply of cilantro throughout the growing season, consider succession planting by sowing new seeds every 2-3 weeks.
    • Before transferring indoor cilantro seedlings outdoors, harden them by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over the course of a week.
  2. Using Young Plants:
    • Alternatively, you can start with young cilantro plants, but be cautious when transplanting due to their taproot. Success can be achieved with either approach.

How to Propagate Cilantro

Cilantro has the intriguing ability to self-seed if allowed to bolt and produce seeds. Alternatively, you can collect the seeds for use in the next growing season. Here’s how to propagate cilantro:

  1. Wait for your cilantro plant to flower and produce seeds.
  2. Once the flowers have dried up, carefully remove the stems and place them upside down in a paper bag.
  3. After a few days, the seed heads will split and release the seeds.
  4. Allow the seeds to dry in a cool, dark space away from direct sunlight.
  5. Once fully dried, store the seeds in a labeled envelope or container for planting in the next season.

How to Maintain Cilantro Plants

Caring for cilantro plants is essential for their healthy growth and development. Here are some guidelines to help you take care of your cilantro plants:


The watering requirements of cilantro depend on its growing conditions. Plants in containers generally need more frequent watering compared to those in the ground. It’s crucial to maintain consistently moist soil without overwatering.

Seedlings typically require about an inch of water per week, while mature plants demand less. Check the top inch of soil regularly, and if it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Pest Management

Spider mites, aphids, and whiteflies are natural adversaries of cilantro plants. Vigilantly monitor your plants for any signs of these pests and take immediate action if an infestation is detected. In indoor herb gardens, fungus gnats can also pose a problem, but there are several natural methods to address them, such as repotting, using insecticidal soap, or employing traps.


Cilantro generally doesn’t require frequent fertilization, but if you wish to use it, a well-balanced fertilizer suitable for herbs can be applied once during the growing season.

Weed Control

To ensure optimal growth, always remove weeds from the vicinity of your cilantro plants. Weeds compete for water and essential nutrients, which can hinder cilantro’s development.

Bolting (Flowering)

While cilantro bolting is favorable for those interested in harvesting coriander seeds, it’s less desirable for those seeking fresh leaves. To encourage leaf production, promptly trim any flower stalks that emerge. If your cilantro has already bolted, leave the flower heads on the plant until they turn brown, allowing you to harvest the seeds for future use.

Cilantro Harvesting

Harvesting cilantro at the right time is crucial for its flavor and continued growth. Once the stems have reached a minimum height of six inches, carefully pinch off leaves from the upper stems, leaving the inner ones intact to promote a bushier plant. Harvest before the cilantro flowers, as the leaves may become bitter afterward.

Ensure that you do not take more than a third of the plant at once to avoid hindering new leaf production.

Storing Homegrown Cilantro

How you store freshly harvested cilantro depends on your intended use. Here are three different storage methods to consider:


This method is ideal if you plan to use cilantro within a week or two.

Place the cilantro bunch in a jar with an inch of water at the base, ensuring that the leaves do not touch the water. Loosely cover the jar with a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator’s produce drawer. Keeping the water fresh will help maintain the cilantro’s freshness for up to two weeks.


Cilantro can be frozen whole or as a puree for future use. Place the leaves in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible before sealing. Alternatively, blend the leaves with olive oil and freeze them in ice cube trays for convenient portioning during cooking.

Frozen cilantro remains viable for up to six months.


There are multiple ways to dry cilantro, whether in the oven, using a herb dehydrator, or hanging it in bunches to air-dry. Some methods are faster than others, but all result in dried cilantro. Store your dried cilantro in an airtight container once the drying process is complete.

How to Use Cilantro

Cilantro leaves are ideal for garnishing complete meals or used as the base of pesto, dips like Tzatziki, and in dishes such as salsa and pasta. Here are a few recipes cilantro works amazingly with:

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