Cilantro can transform a simple dish into an aromatic masterpiece and enhance the flavour of its ingredients. It is called coriander in some countries but in some, cilantro refers to the leaves and stalks of the Coriandum Sativum plant. The seeds have an entirely different flavour and are often known as coriander. However, whatever you would like to call it, it is an incredibly versatile herb that can be a bit challenging to grow. Since I absolutely love to grow this aromatic herb, I know what it takes to coax those seeds to burst into seedlings and result in fresh cilantro.
Prepare the Coriander Seeds
A Cilantro or coriander seed is actually two seeds in a single husk. Before you plant them in the soil you need to prepare these so they can germinate. To do that, gently crush the husk that holds those seeds together. Place the crushed seed in water allow it to soak for 24 to 48 hours. After time’s up, remove the husks from the water and allow them to dry.
Plant the Seeds
The best time to grow cilantro or plant cilantro is during the spring. After the seeds have soaked, add some compost or organic matter to the soil you want to plant them in. When you are done, rake the area smooth and then sow the prepared coriander seeds about six to eight inches apart. Place the pot in a spot that is partially shaded. Cilantro does not like sweltering weather and will refuse to grow if you place the pot in a sunny spot. Plant cilantro seeds in a spot or place the pot in an area that gets plenty of early morning sunshine and shade during the hottest part of the day (https://www.finegardening.com/article/how-to-grow-cilantro).
Even if you plant in the best growing conditions, your cilantro plants may refuse to flourish. This herb is delicate and requires special attention when it is growing. Take time to prune its foliage to increase the harvest time. However, even fresh cilantro will eventually bolt or flower (https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/cilantro/cilantro-bolting.htm) especially when the temperature starts to rise.
You should be able to harvest cilantro leaves 50 to 55 days after you sow the seeds i.e. when the plant is about six inches tall. To make the plant branch out, pinch the upper part of the stem. That way you can get more leaves to grow. Harvest cilantro during this time before it has a chance to flower or you will waste your cilantro plants.
You can harvest the seeds in 100 days i.e. when they mature and dry. Cut off the seed head and place it in a paper bag till the seeds fall off. Then store the cilantro seeds in an airtight jar for storage.
- Growing cilantro in soil that has a pH of 6.2 and 6.8 is ideal. It grows fast so make sure you sow the seeds in plenty of organic matter or compost.
- If you want to plant cilantro or coriander indoors, plant the seeds four to six weeks before the last frost date. However, the herb does not transplant well so it would be best to plant it outdoors in a large planter. Plant a new batch every couple of weeks after harvesting fresh cilantro to maintain the supply.
- You can get more than one plant from a cilantro seed but the crop will thin out if the temperature drops.
- Prevent your cilantro plants from flowering by keeping them in the shade and keep them well watered. Plus, harvest the leaves as often as possible. Chances are that the plants will go to seed anyway but at least you will have a good supply of cilantro leaves to make up for it and you can always grow more.
- The plants do not last long enough for pests to settle in but you may get aphids especially if the cilantro plants are crowded or stressed. You can get rid of them with these tips (https://plantvillage.psu.edu/topics/coriander-cilantro/infos/diseases_and_pests_description_uses_propagation).
- When you are growing cilantro, your aim should be to increase its foliage as much as possible. Do that by pinching the stems an inch or so to encourage more cilantro leaves to grow. If the top part of the stem seems as if it is about to flower, snip off the main part. This will redirect the stem’s efforts to the leaves rather than flower production.
- The leaves of this plant can be cut anytime. However, you should use only new and finely cut leaves in your cooking. The mature fronds don’t have a lot of flavour.
- If your cilantro bolts, allow it to go to seed and it will start to grow again next year. Or, just collect the seeds and plant them some other time.
Q: Will cilantro grow back after cutting?
A: Yes, but you have to harvest new leaves carefully to get more growth. So when you are cutting, make sure to leave an inch of stubble. This will have the crown that can produce new leaves and make sure you water the plant thoroughly after. The herb has long taproots which require a lot of water to trigger new growth (http://blogs.southcoasttoday.com/dirtcheap/2016/04/17/a-pot-of-cilantro-that-wont-bolt/).
Q: How do you keep cilantro alive?
A: Make sure you plant the seeds in a pot that has drainage holes and use soil that drains well. This will prevent overwatering which can otherwise make the roots rot. Plus, make sure it gets sunlight for a few hours a day only.
Q: Why is my cilantro dying?
A: There are several reasons that can ruin a cilantro plant. You may be overwatering it or maybe the soil is not as well-draining as it should be. The herb is notorious for its delicate constitution so you have to be extra careful when you are nurturing it.
Q: How do you trim cilantro so it keeps growing?
A: Cut the outer rather than the inner leaves of the plant when you are harvesting it. Do so when the outer leaves are about six inches high. Cut at the stem base i.e about one-third and don’t prune more than that or the plant may not produce more foliage again.
Q: Why is my cilantro growing so tall?
A: The plant can give out tall shoots when the weather gets warm. These will flower thus signalling that the harvest season is over. The plant does better during the spring and fall season.
Growing cilantro can be a challenge and can end in disappointment if you are not extra careful when you are growing and taking care of it. Just make sure that:
- You plant the seeds in well-draining soil.
- You place the planter or pot in a semi-shaded area.
- You harvest the plant regularly but carefully.
If you have any more questions about cilantro, feel free to drop your queries in the comments below and I will get back to you.