The coriander, aka cilantro or Chinese parsley, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.
The cilantro herb is a highly aromatic spice, abundantly used to enhance the flavor of South-East Asian and Mexican cuisines alike as well as to improve the appearance of a dish served.
Apparently, many people are inclined to think that the cilantro is one of the most difficult herbs to grow, but that’s not so. Just follow the steps below and you will have quite a green thumb – just like my friend Mary Fox:
1. Choosing a pot for planting the cilantro
People mostly choose too shallow pots for growing cilantro, but that is a beginner’s mistake. Similarly to dill cultivation, the cilantro needs a ‘comfortable’ pot that is deep and wide enough. For growing the cilantro in a pot, choose one that is 45cm (18 inches) wide, and at least 25-30cm (10-12 inches) deep. This would make a perfect size for the cilantro!
2. Best cilantro-planting timing
You should start the cilantro when all the possible frostbites are gone. You can grow the cilantro almost non-stop from the spring season to fall. In warm climates, and much hotter regions [USDA Zone 8 and above], you can grow the cilantro in winters too. The cilantro can stand light frost very easily.
As for the warm tropical climate (USDA Zone 10-11), the cilantro grows best in fall and winter. However, in such climates it can be even grown ‘around the clock’ that is year round. In many tropical countries, the fresh cilantro leaves are available the entire year, but you may need to deal with the bolting problem.
You may also need to harvest it quickly, and provide shade for it in the spring and summer.
3. Growing cilantro right from the seeds
It is much better if you lower the seeds directly in the prepared pot as cilantro grows a long taproot, and it does not transplant well, especially when the plant grows up a little.
- Sow seeds around 1 cm (1/4 inches) deep.
- Keep the soil moist until the seedlings germinate.
- If you have grown them in a seed tray, once the plants have developed 2-3 leaves, plant them in their final location – in the pot.
- If you are planting grocery-store seeds, gently crush the seed husk before sowing. As the cilantro seeds are enclosed in a husk, you will need to crush it, to improve the germination rate.
4. Requirements for growing the cilantro in a pot
The cilantro is a plant that grows best in the full sunlight. But be cautious! Too much heat will make it go to seed quickly. In the summer (or in warm climates) position it in a place that gets shade in the afternoon.
The cilantro likes evenly-moist soil. So, when watering the plant, make sure you never wet the foliage as the cilantro is really vulnerable to powdery mildew.
Soil with a neutral pH value, very rich in organic matter, and crumbly in texture at the same time, helps this plant to grow fast and healthy. Plus, the addition of some aged manure, or compost, provides a good steady supply of nitrogen and other trace elements, thus promoting the steady vegetative growth.
Spacing the cilantro in the pot
You can grow the cilantro plants thickly populated, but for optimum growth you should space the plants 10cm (4 inches) apart.
The cilantro plant care
Feed the cilantro every 2 months with any half-strength nitrogen-rich fertilizer to promote the foliage growth. You don’t need to fertilize your cilantro plants much if you side dress them with compost or aged manure. The application of fish emulsion is also recommended.
Check your cilantro plants daily to see if the flowers are appearing, deadhead them regularly to promote the production of leaves. However, you can leave them if you want your plants to seed.
Problem with cilantro/coriander:
A recurrent problem with the cilantro is bolting. The plant eventually goes to seed, but a lot earlier in hot weather. Flowers start to appear quickly, and then give way to seeding. After the seeding the plant quickly fades away!
The best solution to this problem is to:
- Sow seeds successively;
- Plant the seeds every other week to get a regular harvest;
- Also, once the plant starts to bolt, pinch the top of it to slow down the process.
Diseases and pests
When it comes to pests, look out for aphids. Mildew is the most common disease that kills this herb, which more consistently occurs in warm and humid weather.
To prevent powdery mildew:
- Keep a good distance between the plants;
- Provide good air circulation;
- And avoid overhead watering.
Note: Wetting the leaves also promotes the growth of many other fungal infections.
You can start to harvest your fresh cilantro leaves early – about 3-4 weeks after sowing the seeds. Leaves can be picked from the plant when they have reached 8-15cm (3-6 inches) in length.
If you want to collect the entire plant, you should wait at least 45-70 days. Cut the entire plant at the soil level, or 5cm (2 inches) above the crown.
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