Cilantro: A Growing, Care, and Use Guide

cilantro image from pexels

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), also better known as coriander, is a multi-purpose annual herb with shiny, broad, and flat leaves that almost resemble those of parsley. Perhaps the major physical difference between the two is that parsley leaves have pointy serrations whereas cilantro leaf serration tends to be more rounded and lacy-looking.

The herb (Cilantro) is believed to have originated from North Africa, Southern Europe, and the western part of Asia.

Other than its culinary use, cilantro was (and is still) also used in the medicine space to treat digestive problems such as dyspepsia and gastrointestinal spasms in addition to being an appetite booster.

Externally, it can be used to ease joint pain and inflammation.

The herb thrives well in outside garden (on the ground) but can also be grown indoors in pots — which should be deep enough to accommodate its big taproots. It is self-sufficient to a great extent, requiring little help from you.

Grow it in zones 3 through 11.

Varieties of Cilantro

1. Santo

They (the flowers) are best used raw since the flavor tends to fade quickly when cooked.

Use on bean dishes, salads, and chicken.

This variety is also a great attractor of the beneficial insects like bees and tachinid flies.

It takes 7–10 days for the seeds to germinate at a temperature of 65–70 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Leisure

3. Calypso

The seeds take 7–10 days to germinate at 65–70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bolting is likely to occur in the midsummer heat.

The plant grows up to a height of 12–18 inches.

4. Cruiser

Its sturdy stems and large leaves make it the preferred bunching variety for market sales.

5. Festival

Cilantro growing needs

Light

Soil

Consider premium potting mix if growing the herb in a container. It’s more aerated compared to garden soil, which is dense.

Temperature

Growing tips

  • 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

Avoid over-watering

Fertilizer

You can as well use organic fertilizer or simply add well-rotted manure/compost into the soil before planting. This option is great if you intend to grow your cilantro organically.

Pruning

Begin trimming off the stems once the plant is 6 inches tall — roughly 60–75 days old after planting.

You can either pinch or use sharp scissors to remove the stems. Just ensure that you don’t cut past the newly emerging growth.

Harvesting

Simply hold a stem by its outermost (or extreme) leaves using your thumb and forefinger. Trace downwards where there is new growth coming up. You do not want to damage the herb, so pinch only about 1 cm above the emerging growth — to take off the leaves and the stem above it.

Avoid pulling off the stem as this can damage the entire plant.

The secret to a prolonged harvesting cycle is to begin pruning early and do it often; to encourage new growth. Once the herb begins to flower and produce seeds (commonly known as coriander seeds), you can no longer harvest it. The leaves will have lost its flavor.

Large-scale harvesting of cilantro

Harvest, at most, 1/3 of the plant’s mass to allow it to retain its strength. You can visually assess and count the large stems on every plant before deciding on the number to remove.

Problems to look out for when growing cilantro

Powdery mildew

Offering the plants sufficient moisture and not overcrowding them is an effective way to prevent powdery mildew.

A layer of mulch around the plants will help to boost and retain the moisture content of the soil.

Leaf spot

In the beginning, the spots will appear yellow and small then later turn into large brown spots.

To prevent leaf spot, ensure the soil is well-drained. Thin out the plants (enough) to encourage good air circulation. Also, avoid over-watering.

Cilantro drying tips

1. Hang to dry

Note: Ensure you put the bunch of cilantro in a paper bag before hanging it upside down to dry. The paper bag helps keep dust off your drying cilantro and enables you to gather any leaves that might fall off during and after the drying process.

Also, never hang the bag anywhere near an air-conditioning vent or oven. An air-conditioning vent will most likely alter the temperature around the bag and elevate the humidity therein, hence causing your cilantro to rot.

The oils and fumes from the oven can as well deteriorate and change the taste of your dried cilantro.

2. Oven drying

Place on a baking tray and heat in the oven for 30 minutes. Ensure you set your oven at its lowest possible temperature to prevent the herb from burning even as it dries out.

Consider lining parchment paper onto the baking tray before placing the cilantro leaves. This will help prevent the leaves from getting glued to the tray during the drying process.

3. Dehydrating cilantro

Freezing option

The Takeaway on Growing Cilantro in Your Garden

However, if you’re growing it for seeds (popularly known as coriander), full sun is mandatory. Cilantro hates movement, so decide in advance where you want it to grow.

Republished with the consent of DIY Home & Garden.

Full-time freelance writer and editor; children’s book author; avid gardener and home cook; blogger. I keep it together with coffee + the grace of God.