How to Grow Cilantro

As I travel the country so many gardeners tell me they can’t grow cilantro well. If you know how, cilantro can be quite easy. First, cilantro grows best from seeds. But the most important point is to know when to plant it: cilantro is a day-length sensitive herb - and it grows best when the days are getting longer in fall, not in spring like many sources recommend. In spring it goes to flower as the days get longer and bolts in weeks. In addition, gardeners who buy cilantro seedlings often have problems because they do not know they are buying a cluster of plants, not a single one. See the information below. To grow it well, plant cilantro in late summer, or early fall in mild winter climates, in a sunny spot with good rich soil, and keep it fairly moist. It can withstand a mild frost but if a hard frost is predicted, harvest the leaves, chop and make a cilantro pesto with garlic and peanut oil and freeze in cubes. In mild climates it will overwinter and not usually bloom until March as the days get longer.

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This is a cilantro “plant” as you often would buy it in a nursery. You are not buying one cilantro plant.

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In reality you are buying many more plants than you ever knew! Look carefully at the base of the what you think are stems and see all the crowded individual plants!

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See how many plants were actually in that little container? We counted 16! If we hadn’t separated them out, those 16 little plants would have choked each other out until there were only a few stressed plants left.

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When cilantro seeds are planted in my garden (zone 9) in early September the plants grow fairly large, to two feet, and produce leaves for enjoying through the entire mild winter. When cilantro has such a long growing season it produces roots substantive enough to use in traditional Thai and Indian curries, where they add their especially pungent, rich flavor.