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How to Grow Cilantro & Coriander

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It’s easy to grow cilantro from seed.

Did you know when you grow cilantro from seed, you’re planting coriander. And by that I mean that coriander seed is the same as cilantro seed. Yep! They’re the same plant! In fact, some people even refer to cilantro as coriander and visa versa. That’s fine, but it can get confusing when you’re reading a recipe.

Green Coriander Seeds on Plant

Green coriander seed growing on cilantro plant.

So why would you want to grow cilantro?

Getting fresh, tangy leaves isn’t the only reason to grow cilantro. That’s because coriander plants offer more benefits.

But if you’re growing cilantro, be sure to harvest the tangy fresh leaves shortly after the plants begin to grow. But if cilantro tastes soapy to you, grow it for fresh and dried coriander seed instead.

Plus, if you don’t care to cook with cilantro at all, this plant may help your garden grow.

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.

Why grow cilantro from seed instead of starter plants?

While you can purchase cilantro starter plants at the nursery, we find it is best to grow cilantro from seed.

Here’s why:

Cilantro plants mature rapidly after they sprout. So even young starter plants in a pot might be past their prime before you bring them home. And it doesn’t always transplant well. So, if you buy starts and try to put them in your garden, you may be disappointed when you try to grow cilantro this way.

Instead, try growing cilantro from seed. It’s easy!

A few specifics about growing cilantro successfully include:

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.

However, cilantro seed sown in the heat of summer will likely bolt fast. But those bolting cilantro plants you’re growing have several great uses too.

Ideally, plan to sow multiple succession crops. Otherwise, you’ll only harvest a little bit instead of all season long.

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How to Grow Cilantro from Seed

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

How to maximize your leafy cilantro harvests:

When you are harvesting cilantro leaves, snip out entire plants. And, if you’re growing them in a crowded space, try snipping out every other plant to thin the crop.

Later, as your cilantro ages quickly, it will form a purplish-thick mid-stem. This indicates it will flower soon.

So, if you only want cilantro for leaves, try to harvest before this happens. That’s because the leaves will begin to taste more like coriander than cilantro at this turning point. Yes, it’s still edible. But, it will now taste better in a curry than a salsa.

If your plants begin flowering, be sure to sow more seeds. This is how to grow cilantro for multiple harvests.

Bee Pollinating flowering cilantro plant

If you allow some of your cilantro plants to go to flower, use them as lures to attract pollinators.

Insects that visit when you grow cilantro:

Different insects visit cilantro for different reasons. Moreover, some are beneficial and some are pesky.

Aphids love the sweetness of the leaves. So, if you see them on your crop, wash or squish them off.

And, once your cilantro begins to flower, bees will beeline to those blooms. In fact, you may want to grow cilantro specifically to use it to lure in the pollinators.

Plus, those flowering cilantro shoots are lovely in this no-lime needed gin & tonic recipe.

Aphids to wash off the 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.

Pollinators on cilantro means coriander!

After the pollinators visit your flowering cilantro plants, green coriander pods will form. And good news! You can harvest them green for fresh cooking or for freezing.

Moreover, when cilantro pods dry, you can harvest them to store and use as in your spice rack as dried coriander.

A final note on growing cilantro from saved coriander seed:

It is possible to save seeds from your cilantro plants to grow in the years ahead. However, you may need to isolate your seed plant from pollinators.

That’s because a pollinator may pollinate your plant with pollen from one of cilantro’s cousins like carrots or even poison hemlock. And if this happens, you may end up with seed that looks like coriander and tastes like coriander. But, it may produce a plant that tastes nothing like cilantro. And worse case: those plants might be something dangerous.

10 comments on “How to Grow Cilantro & Coriander

  1. Bill on

    I’ve noticed my celantro plants leaves have changed shape and some have these flowers. What happened and are these still good to eat with the celantro flavor

  2. Garden Mentors on

    Bill, as the article explains the flowers when pollinated will have coriander seed. The leaves are edible when the plant is in flower and before it happens. Taste it and see what you think. There is a point when the plant begins to taste more like coriander and less like cilantro. At that point, we don’t much like to add the leaves to salsas, but they do taste great in curries. Enjoy!

  3. Bernie Lofchie on

    I used the seeds from last year’s cilantro plants to plant this year’s crop. The plants look exactly like cilantro plants, but lack the full flavor for fresh cilantro. They have a very, very mild flavor. Is that typical.

  4. Garden Mentors on

    Bernie, it can happen. Remember that your homegrown cilantro seed is open pollinated, meaning less flavorful genes may have been bred into your current seed crop.

  5. Garden Mentors on

    Carol, that’s great! You might choose to sign up to be notified when our education programs open for purchase. And, you’re welcome to use our site search anytime to look for more free content!

  6. Mark Fox on

    This may be a really dumb question… can you plant coriander seed from a bottle from the spice rack and grow cilantro?

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Mark,

    Thanks for submitting your question. And hey, yours totally isn’t a dumb question. It’s actually a really great one. You *might* be able to grow cilantro from spice rack seeds. But there’s a good chance they’ve been treated in a way that they won’t sprout. And/or they may not grow a very tasty plant if they do sprout. That’s because not every seed will grow true to the parent plant flavor. That’s the beauty of pollination! It mixes up the gene pool. But, it might also produce an ugly (not-tasty) duckling (cilantro plant). Good luck!

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