Cilantro: A Growing, Care, and Use Guide

cilantro image from pexels

Varieties of Cilantro

Just like the other members of the cilantro family, Coriandrum sativum also has several cultivars, and they include:

1. Santo

Santo is a slow-bolting cilantro variety often grown for its leaves. Other than the seeds and leaves, its flowers are also edible.

2. Leisure

This standard type of cilantro is very similar to Santo when it comes to flavor, uniformity, and cold-tolerance.

3. Calypso

Calypso full bulky plants are the slowest to bolt. They’re estimated to be 3 weeks slower (when it comes to bolting) than Santo.

4. Cruiser

This cilantro variety is bolt-resistant and unlike calypso, it exhibits a tidier, more upright form.

5. Festival

It grows fast with large leaves and can overwinter in zones 8 and 9.

Cilantro growing needs

Light

Cilantro prefers full sun but can also tolerate light shade, especially for areas with a warm climate. Grow it where it will receive early morning or the late afternoon sun, and be shaded when the day gets hottest — to keep from overheating.

Soil

The soil should be well-drained with a neutral pH level of 6.2 to 6.8. You can improve your soil by mixing in aged compost or any other rich organic matter.

Temperature

70 degrees Fahrenheit is good enough to extend cilantro’s life span. Anything more than that, (say over 75 degrees F) will quickly trigger the herb into bolting thereby cutting short your harvest cycle.

Growing tips

  • Plant your cilantro in the cool weather of fall or spring. Avoid planting in the summer as the heat can trigger premature flowering and send the plant into seeding. Plus, it can make the leaves bitter.
  • If possible, grow from seed, and directly where you would want it to grow. This is to avoid stressing up the plant, something that can as well lead to premature bolting (seeding). Also, cilantro grows long tap roots which the little seedling pots may not be able to accommodate.
  • Prepare the seeds before planting by soaking in water for 24–48 hours. Then remove from the water and allow them to dry (this step is optional). Soaking helps increase the seeds’ chances of germination.
  • Sow the seeds 1 cm apart and cover with ¼ inch layer of soil. Wait until your cilantro plant(s) get to a height of 2 inches then thin to a spacing of 3–4 inches. The seemingly crowded growing conditions of cilantro helps ensure that the leaves offer the much-needed shade to the roots to prevent the plant from bolting, especially in hot weather.
  • For a steady supply of cilantro throughout the growing season, consider planting new seeds every six weeks.
  • If you’re transplanting the herb into your garden, make holes 3–4 inches apart. Water thoroughly after transplanting.

Care tips

Here are the tips you need to bring your plants to harvest.

Avoid over-watering

Just water enough to keep the soil moist. About an inch of water, a week is sufficient. Regularly check the soil and irrigate when it appears dry.

Fertilizer

Fertilize with water-soluble fertilizer about once a week — to boost foliage development. Stop fertilizer application once the plant flowers and begins to set seeds.

Pruning

Pruning helps encourage new growth by delaying the seeding process and in turn prolonging your harvest time. Also, when grown out, cilantro’s leaves tend to be bitter; making it less desirable.

Harvesting

Harvesting is pretty much the same thing as pruning. So by 60th or 75th day after planting, trim your cilantro leaves and use them when fresh.

Large-scale harvesting of cilantro

Use shears or sharp scissors to cut those large leafy stems — just above the ground. By this time the stems should be 6–12 inches tall, which is the appropriate harvesting height.

Problems to look out for when growing cilantro

Powdery mildew

This is a powdery white coating that you’ll most likely spot on the foliage during the hot dry periods.

Leaf spot

It’s usually a result of poor air circulation and excessive moisture.

Cilantro drying tips

And so, below are the three methods you can use.

1. Hang to dry

Wash your cilantro under cool running water then use paper towels to pat it dry. Tie the stems together into clusters with twist-ties or simply some string. Hang in a warm dry place away from direct sunlight and leave to dry for several days.

2. Oven drying

After washing, pat dry with a paper towel.

3. Dehydrating cilantro

After the same washing procedure and removing the excess water, place the herb onto your dehydrator trays. You can remove the stems (optional).

Freezing option

This is great for storing large amounts of the herb. Wash the leaves and stems then dry them thoroughly. Place in an airtight freezer-friendly container or re-sealable freezer bag, and freeze. It will store for a year.

The Takeaway on Growing Cilantro in Your Garden

What’s your reason for growing cilantro? If you intend to use it for medicinal and culinary purposes, feel free to give it some partial shade.

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