How to Grow Cilantro

comments (5) August 4th, 2008

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Pungent and pretty, cilantro is found in both culinary and ornamental gardens. Here, the author picks new green leaves for a lively salsa verde.
Homegrown cilantro makes great salsa.
Thin seedlings to 12 in. apart when true leaves appear. Once established, cilantro resents being moved.
Pungent and pretty, cilantro is found in both culinary and ornamental gardens. Here, the author picks new green leaves for a lively salsa verde.Click To Enlarge

Pungent and pretty, cilantro is found in both culinary and ornamental gardens. Here, the author picks new green leaves for a lively salsa verde.

Photo: Cary Hazelgrove

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Sow cilantro fall through spring
Now I sow cilantro seeds in successive plantings every few weeks from early September through February, assuring me a steady supply of tender greens as well as flowers. Sometimes I scatter seeds on a whim; otherwise, I sow seeds 1⁄2 in. deep, thinning the seedlings to 12 in. apart. I plant cilantro in several areas of my garden, using it as an edible ornamental in the flower bed as well as a staple in the kitchen garden.

  North of the border
Cilantro is productive for only about 6 weeks in cooler climes, so here are some tips on dealing with cilantro’s persnickety nature.
• Dedicate a small patch of garden to cilantro.
• Direct sow plants every 2 to 3 weeks, starting about 2 weeks before the last frost date.
• Once the plants bolt, allow them to go to seed. (Cilantro bolts when temperatures climb above 75°F for a few consecutive days.)
• Retain the patch so self-sownplants will come up in the spring.
• Grow Vietnamese coriander indoors during winter. The flavor is the same.
When the plant is young, cilantro’s glossy, finely divided flat leaves resemble those of Italian parsley, then it visibly changes in character. As the plant stretches to reach its ultimate height of 2 ft. to 2-1⁄2 ft., it appears spindly with small, sparse, and lacy secondary leaves. Throughout its growth, the leaves and stems of cilantro may be used. The newer, greener leaves are preferable to the feathery secondary leaves, which have a tendency to be bitter.

Those with limited garden space may choose to buy cilantro transplants from nurseries. One or two plants per garden should be adequate. Since it has a long taproot, it should not be transplanted once established in the garden. With the exception of its proclivity to bolt, cilantro is a worry-free annual and virtually takes care of itself. Cilantro thrives when given ideal growing conditions—rich, loose, well-drained soil, full sun, and adequate water—but it will grow in some shade. In fact, offering cilantro some afternoon shade can prolong the season slightly. Northern gardeners face their own challenges in growing cilantro; see the sidebar above for some tips.

Mulch the roots
  Mulch cilantro's roots to cool it down and keep it from bolting.
Offer light feedings of fish emulsion and seaweed when first establishing the plants; continued feedings will sacrifice flavor for foliage. Application of compost around the base of the plant adds nutrients, helps retain water, and keeps the roots cool. Cilantro’s odoriferous qualities seem to repel harmful insects, yet butterflies, lady bugs, and other beneficials frequently come to visit.

Cilantro flourishes in cool nights and sunny days,
like those found in autumn. Virtually unfazed by brief cold snaps and only slightly rumpled after a hard freeze, it rallies again with renewed vigor and fresh growth at the first hint of sunshine. These plants continue to grace the garden for several months until their grand finale, a wispy profusion of delicate white flowers prior to setting seed.

Slow-bolt seeds seem to extend cilantro’s productivity, sometimes giving an extra month of growth before bolting. Although pinching off the flower heads as they emerge may deter it slightly, once cilantro has set its mind to flower, it will. Up shoots a thick purplish stalk, while the leaves become feathery and fern-like. Cutting the stalk only makes it push harder. To my dismay, I must accept the fact that I cannot have cilantro fresh from my garden in the summertime. Instead, I simply rely on readily available and inexpensive bunches from the supermarket, and eagerly await its reemergence in my fall garden.

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posted in: herbs, cilantro

Comments (5)

Eritacey writes: Greeny scenerio
Posted: 4:31 am on August 11th
VaneelaCharon writes: One of the best article
Posted: 1:44 am on May 25th
LaverneKones writes: Extraordinary data for gardening workers:)
Posted: 2:40 am on February 12th
TracyPoren writes: Great post
Posted: 3:27 am on February 11th
AliceFulter writes: Great info for gardeners
Posted: 6:05 am on January 26th
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