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How to Grow Cilantro & Coriander

June 03, 2014

It’s easy to grow cilantro from seed. And getting fresh leaves isn’t the only reason to grow cilantro. This tasty herb offers up a number of surprising flavors for the kitchen and benefits in the garden.

How to Grow Cilantro from Seed

Dried coriander in your spice rack looks the same as cilantro seed that you sow.

Not only will you get to enjoy the tangy fresh leaves shortly after seeding, but this plant also matures to yield coriander seed later in its life cycle. So, even if you’re someone who finds the flavor of cilantro to be soapy and distasteful, consider growing this crop for delicious coriander, which tastes entirely different from the fresh leaves. While it is possible to purchase cilantro starts at the nursery, we find it is best to grow cilantro from seed because it matures rapidly and doesn’t perform well if transplanted. So grab a packet of seeds, fill a pot with soil, or just get your veggie beds prepped, and start seeding today!

Unlike many other edible plants, cilantro grows very well even when individual plants are grown closely together. And, cilantro will germinate and grow in relatively cool (not frigid or frozen) temperatures, so it is often possible to get an early crop growing under a bit of protection in late winter or very early spring. Although crops sown in the heat of summer have the potential to bolt rapidly, those bolting (aka flowering) plants will come in handy in the garden and kitchen as well. When it comes to cilantro, sowing multiple succession crops (aka plant a new round of seeds every few weeks) means having fresh leaves to harvest harvest well into the end of the growing season.

Cilantro planting emerging from seed

As early as February, begin sowing cilantro seeds in sterile mix under lights. The seeds may seem to take a little longer than other seeds to germinate & emerge from the soil, but once they get started, these plants grow fast! By early March these young seedlings will be ready for harvesting by thinning. And, don’t forget to sow another round of cilantro seeds again and again every couple of weeks throughout the growing season to ensure a continual harvest.

Cool Season Seedlings

Within several days of sowing cilantro (and other cool season crops) seedlings will emerge like these. Cilantro will continue to grow well in a crowded pot, unlike the other plants shown here that need separating and transplanting to give them room to grow bit.

Harvesting cilantro grown from seed

Cilantro plants grow rapidly from seed, and they will perform well grown closely together while they’re young. As you harvest, snip out entire plants from the base as is shown here. This will thin the plantings, giving remaining plants room to continue to grow.
(Disclosure: Shown garden snips provided by Fiskars for test purposes. No additional compensation was provided by Fiskars for this post or photography.)

Aphids on Cilantro

Watch out for aphids on coriander. They love the sweetness of these tender leaves. If aphids find your cilantro, wash them off or squish them. Increase airflow around the plants or try a sticky lure to trap these pests. Worst case: harvest your crop and reseed again.

Four cilantro plants in a 4" pot

Even about 3-4 cilantro plants will perform well in a tiny 4″ pot. Harvest to thin as needed, and allow one to remain in the end. When this last plant goes to seed (aka flowers), it can become your lure for bringing in pollinators. And, this final plant will produce coriander too!

Bee Pollinating flowering cilantro plant

If you allow some of your cilantro plants to go to seed (aka flower), use them as lures to attract pollinators like this wild bee. Not only will the bees pollinate your cilantro plant to form coriander seed, but the pollinators will likely visit other nearby plants like squash, cucumber and others.

Once your cilantro plants begin to form a purplish-thick mid-stem for flowering, the flavor of the entire plant will begin to be more like the taste of coriander than cilantro. It’s still edible and tastes great in curries, but it may not be quite the right flavor for dishes like salsa. Hopefully, as one crop begins to transform into the coriander phase, you have another, more recently seeded crop of cilantro growing on strong as well. Seed this crop over and over for both flavors fresh from the garden throughout the growing season.

Green Coriander Seeds on Plant

After the pollinators visit your flowering cilantro plants, green coriander pods will form. Harvest them green for fresh cooking or freezing. Or, allow them to dry on the plant, and harvest them to store and use as in your spice rack as dried coriander.

It is possible to save seeds from your cilantro plants to grow in the years ahead, but to get a good crop of cilantro from your saved seed, you may need to isolate your seed plant from pollinators. If a pollinator visits a cousin of the cilantro (like dill, parsley or carrots) and mixes the pollen from those plants with the flowers of your cilantro, you may end up with seed that looks like coriander and tastes like coriander but will produce a plant that tastes nothing like cilantro. Sure, you might end up with a new cool plant, but you might end up growing something that isn’t what you want at all. That’s sexual reproduction for you!

Green Coriander

A little bit of green coriander goes a long way in many dishes.
Plus, it keeps well frozen for cooking in winter.

2 Comments

  1. karunasabu says:

    dear sir how one can split coriander seeds safelywith out damage?
    thank you karuna sabu

  2. Karuna Sabu, If you split a seed, you damage it. Not sure what you’re really asking here. Can you clarify?

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