A delightfully fragrant herb, cilantro is a bit of a challenge to grow indoors but well worth the effort. Being a mainstay in cuisines the world over, having fresh cilantro on hand definitely helps add some variety to your cooking. Today will look at helpful tips for growing cilantro indoors, and tips to successfully growing this delicious herb!
Choosing A Container
One thing to keep in mind is that due to cilantro’s deep root structure it is generally not advisable to attempt to repot cilantro. It’s best to choose a pot that it will live in for its entire life and leave it there to grow.
You’ll also want to make sure you choose a pot that is deep enough to handle this root system. Generally, the pot should be at least 8″ (20cm) deep. You’ll also want to choose a pot that has plenty of drainage holes to prevent pooling water.
Also make sure to give each seed or seedling enough space to grow. Give each seed/plant 6-8″ of space between, so be sure to choose a container that can accommodate how much you’re looking to grow.
Soil & Fertilizer
With cilantro, you’ll want a light, quick draining soil. Use one with lots of perlite or sharp sand mixed in. This helps to improve drainage and provide a better environment for your plant.
For fertilizing, use a liquid based fertilizer or a few controlled-release pellets. Due to cilantro being an annual plant, it won’t live long enough to require more than 1-2 feedings during its lifespan.
Lighting & Location
Cilantro like bright light, so if you’re looking to getting a full, healthy crop be sure to provide an ample amount of it. That said, it doesn’t like intense, direct light all day long.
Your best bet is to give it 8-10 hours of indirect, but still bright light. An east facing window is perfect for this. Also, feel free to move it outdoors during the warmer months.
When choosing a location, also keep in mind that cilantro typically likes things a bit cool. Keeping the plant in the 65-70°F is ideal. Any warmer and the plant will begin to bolt, or start to prematurely produce flowers. This is problematic for gardeners as once the flowers begin to appear the leaves quickly begin to loose their flavor. Keep the plant in a cool, semi-shaded location for best results.
Cilantro has deep roots so it’s absolutely essential to have well draining soil and not to overwater. That said, it still should be watered regularly and thoroughly.
Check the plant every couple of days, and see if the soil is dry. You want to keep it moist, but not soaked. With good drainage the soil should maintain a bit of moisture, but not pool large amounts of water. Keep an especially good eye on the plant when growing cilantro indoors as the soil will tend to dry out a bit quicker.
Start harvesting when the plant has reached out 6″ (15cm) tall. Simply snip the leafy stems right at the soil level. The entire plant is edible, and even the stems will have that strong flavor commonly associated with cilantro.
Keep in mind, that younger leaves are the tastiest, while older ones are typically more bitter. Also, once the plant starts flowering the flavor will rapidly leave the leaves. Therefore, err on the side of caution, and harvest sooner than later. If you wait too long to harvest you’re likely to be disappointed in the plant’s flavor.
You can also use the seeds from the plant for cooking. In this case, wait for the flowers to bloom and fade, and then clip off the seed heads.
Re-Use The Seeds
Due to the short lived nature of cilantro plants, to keep a steady supply of cilantro you’ll want to re-plant the seeds every couple of weeks. Luckily, you can re-use the seeds from your own cilantro plants!
Start by gently cracking the husk of the seed, and then let them sit in water overnight. Dry them the next day, and plant them directly into fresh soil.
If you’re not ready to use the seeds right away you can store them in a cool, dark place in a paper bag. Plastic tends to retain moisture so always use paper. Seeds stored in this manner can last for months!
Done correctly, you can indefinitely grow cilantro plants re-using the seeds from your first grow!
While a bit difficult to grow, it’s well worth the effort to grow cilantro indoors. The versatility of this herb makes it excellent for a wide variety of dishes. Having it on hand and fresh is sure to spice up your kitchen, and add a wonderful aroma to your home!