The ABC of Growing Cilantro in Containers,
Tubs and Pots

Growing cilantro right at home is perfect solution for attaining culinary bliss. Fresh cilantro is the key to many great recipes.

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is one of the oldest-known herbs, dating back to the 14th century.

Cilantro is popular in Mexican, Indian and Thai dishes, and featured heavily in Chipotle's white rice.

Cilantro is known to have antibacterial effects and some studies have shown that the herb can lower cholesterol. Cilantro is also a great source for potent antioxidants.

As a serene and pictureque side-effect, cilantro is also a great plant for attracting butterflies to container gardens.

How to Grow Cilantro

Growing cilantro can be tricky, especially since the plant begins to bolt (develops flowers and seeds) when temperatures rise.

Because of this, it's best to grow cilantro in early fall and late spring.

Other than this finicky feature of cilantro, this herb grows like most others, preferring well-drained soil, full sunlight, and a thorough watering about once a week.

Due to cilantro being a cooler weather herb, it's an excellent candidate for growing in a container, giving you the ability to better control the climate and soil conditions.

Cilantro Seeds

Cilantro is commonly grown from seeds and the plant grows very quickly. To reduce the risk of quick bolting, look for "Slo-Bolt" seeds. If planting the seeds outside, wait until after the risk of frost has passed.

When growing cilantro in containers, you have two choices: plant them close together (4-6 inches apart), or plant them further apart (in separate pots or containers).

Planting the seeds close together provides extra shade, which may delay bolting, but gives the plants less room to grow, which may restrict their size.

On the other hand, planting further apart allows for more growth and better yields.

If you're planting in a container, start with 4-6 seeds per container.

As the cilantro grows, remove the weakest plants and try to have only one or two plants per container.

Keep in mind: cilantro plants can grow up to two feet tall.

Here, the cilantro seeds are left on top of the soil, covered by sheet plastic to make a mini-greenhouse

Photo used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of uberculture and Flickr

Once you have sown your seeds into the soil, keep the soil moist to ensure germination, which usually takes 7-10 days. Once your seeds have sprouted, growth will start quickly.

As mentioned, cilantro plants require full sunlight - at least six hours a day. For the first few weeks, use a spray bottle, or gentle setting on your hose nozzle. Water when the first 1.5 inches of soil becomes dry, which will probably be about once a week.

If growing cilantro in a container, more frequent watering may be necessary. The leaves of the cilantro plant will turn yellowish if it is getting too much water.

Planting Cilantro

If you prefer to skip growing cilantro plants from seed, you can plant a young cilantro plant directly into your garden or container.

Because the plant is past the delicate seedling stage, you can plant during cooler temperatures, but ensure that risk of frost has passed.

Depending on where you live, late September and April are good times to start cilantro in a container.

For outdoor growth, wait until the last frost date. To maintain a steady supply of fresh cilantro, you can start new plants every week or so.

Cilantro Plant Care

Cilantro is a relatively easy plant to care for, but you’ll have to keep a sharp eye out for any signs of bolting.

To keep your cilantro plants from seeding, prune any flowers that may grow and if available, use the "Slow-Bolt" seed.

Here, the cilantro is starting to bolt (flower buds are forming)

Photo used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of the queen of subtle and Flickr

Cilantro plants benefit from monthly fertilization. Use 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 to ensure a good balance of nutrients. Some gardeners have found that too much nitrogen can decrease the taste of herbs.

A good rule to follow with any plant is to keep the area free of weeds and debris. This will reduce the likelihood of pests munching on your plants and weeds using up precious nutrients.

How to Harvest Cilantro

So your cilantro plant survived and you catered to its every need? It's time to reap the rewards!

Harvesting cilantro: avoid the tender young shoots, and cut off the larger mature leaves and stems

Photo used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of thanh.ha.dang and Flickr

Once your cilantro plant has grown to 8 inches or so, you can harvest some of the leaves. As the plant grows, the most mature leaves will be on the outside, furthest away from the main stem. Harvest these outside leaves and leave the smaller, inner leaves to continue their growth.

If you think your cilantro plant is done growing foliage and will soon bolt, you have the option of pulling up the entire plant and using the root the same as you would the leaves.

Cilantro root has a stronger flavor than the leaves and can be used mostly the same.

Harvesting cilantro with the roots makes sense if it's going to bolt soon. The roots can also be used in cooking

Photo used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of clayirving and Flickr

Cilantro seeds (known as coriander) can be harvested for growing more plants, or they can be used in a wide variety of foods and beverages. The cilantro seeds have a nutty, citrusy flavor and smell.

Because cilantro is primarily used fresh, it's not common to dry and preserve the leaves. Dried cilantro leaves lose most of their flavor.

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Read Our Articles About Growing Herbs in Containers

Follow these links to learn everything you'll need to know to begin growing your own delicious, organic herbs in containers, right on your patio, balcony, or windowsill!

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