The Secrets to Successfully Growing Cilantro (and Coriander)
At the grocery store, cilantro and coriander reside on different aisles. But in the garden, you pick them from the same plant.
"Cilantro" is the name given to its fresh, vitamin K-rich leaves. But its tangy seeds are called "coriander."
The unique herb-spice combo is easy to grow with Tower Garden. And in this guide, you’ll learn how.
Getting to Know Cilantro
Designated the official herb of 2017, cilantro is one of the most controversial plants around. Some people detest its zippy taste (often likening it to soap), while others can’t get enough.
These opposing opinions may be influenced by genetics. But exposure likely has a lot to do with it, too — hatred for cilantro seems more prevalent in cultures that don’t use it in traditional cuisine.
Cilantro was originally cultivated in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago. From there, it spread east through Asia and west as Spanish traders carried the plant across the Pacific Ocean to Mexico.
Today, chefs everywhere use cilantro and coriander to season Mexican, Indian, Vietnamese, and Thai dishes.
Cilantro is grown for both its fresh leaves and dried seeds.
How to Grow Cilantro and Coriander
If you’re growing cilantro for its leaves, look for “slow bolt” varieties. These have been bred to withstand heat for longer periods of time before producing seeds (which ends the plant’s life cycle).
Cilantro prefers the milder temperatures of fall and spring, making it a fantastic crop to plant in cool seasons or indoors. You can grow the herb in summer heat, too. But it tends to bolt — and stop growing — when temperatures rise above 80˚F.
To start your cilantro, plant three or four seeds per rockwool cube, cover with vermiculite, and dampen with water. (Page seven of the Tower Garden Growing Guide offers step-by-step tips for germinating seeds.)
As seedlings germinate over the following week, move them into a sunny spot outside or under a grow light to encourage healthy development.
Seedlings should be ready to transplant about two weeks after sprouting. We’ve found that cilantro grows well when planted in the top sections of Tower Garden.
Cilantro flowers attract good bugs, including pollinators.
Preventing Cilantro Problems
Like many herbs, cilantro is pest-resistant — and even supports natural pest control in your garden. (Its flowers attract hoverflies and other beneficial insects that prey on bad bugs.)
That being said, the plant is susceptible to:
- Leaf spot
Besides pests and diseases, a common difficulty with cilantro concerns its short growing cycle. Heat often causes cilantro to bolt, or start flowering and producing seed.
To delay this process:
- Grow cilantro in a slightly shady spot
- Prune and harvest frequently
- Keep your nutrient solution below 80˚F (here’s how)
Once cilantro starts to flower, the leaves will lose flavor. So you’re better off letting nature run its course and then enjoying the byproduct: coriander.
Cilantro has a short growing cycle and prefers cooler temperatures.
Harvesting and Using Cilantro and Coriander
A fast grower, cilantro is usually ready to harvest within two months of planting. And harvesting is simple: with clean shears, just snip the bottommost leaves at the base of their stems.
Remember to never take more than a third of a plant at once. (When you leave part of the plant behind, it will keep growing — and supplying you with several follow-up harvests.)
To save coriander seeds, cut them from the plant and place them in a paper bag until they fully dry and fall off the stems.
Cilantro leaves lose most of their flavor when dried. So for tastiest results, use them fresh or freeze for later. And if you’re cooking with cilantro, add it last to preserve the herb’s bright flavor.
Whether you’re making curries, salsas, stir-fries, or pickled produce, cilantro and coriander are a useful duo. For healthy ideas on how to use them, download the free Tower-to-Table Cookbook (PDF). It features 33 delicious recipes shared by other Tower Gardeners.
Something else you’d like to know about cilantro? Post your questions in the comments, and we’ll be happy to help.
Otherwise, happy growing!
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