A delightfully fragrant herb, cilantro is well worth the effort. Being a mainstay in cuisines around the world over, having fresh cilantro on hand definitely helps add some variety to your cooking. Today we’ll look at helpful tips for growing cilantro indoors, and you’ll learn how to successfully grow 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. The larger the pot the bigger the cilantro will grow, so by choosing a smaller pot you can limit the plant’s growth.
You’ll also want to choose a pot that has plenty of drainage holes to prevent pooling water. If your chosen container doesn’t already have this then make sure to drill them yourself.
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. Cilantro is easy enough to grow from seeds, but for the easiest time start with a healthy seedling from a nursery.
Our top pick for a cilantro container is terra cotta pots. They are a good choice for most indoor plants, are easy to find, and very affordable. They also naturally whisk away water, which in turn helps prevent any over-watering issues.
Soil & Fertilizer
With cilantro, you’ll want a light, quick draining soil. Most commercial potting soils will work, or you can use a special herb mix. This helps to improve drainage and provide a better environment for your plant.
You can also add an inch or two of loose gravel or sand at the bottom of the container to help improve water flow. This isn’t strictly necessary, but does help lessen the risk of overwatering.
For fertilizing, use a liquid based fertilizer or a few controlled-release pellets. You should do this roughly every other week while the plant is actively growing. This will be during the spring/summer months; during winter and fall the plant will go dormant and not need to be fed.
Lighting & Location
Cilantro likes 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.
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.
Once the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch thoroughly soak the soil until the water runs out of the drainage holes. Then, leave it sit until the soil drys out again. Cilantro is much more likely to be damaged by overwatering it than under. Cilantro is quite hardy, so don’t worry too much if you miss a day or two.
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. 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 frequently trim the plant to promote a more bushy growth. When grown indoors, the plant will tend to “reach” for the light, and this may lead to long, weak stems. By frequently trimming the plant you can promote a bush growth with more leaves.
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. This is a completely different spiced call coriander, and has its own unique flavor.
Cilantro has a delightful, strong and pungent flavor that is sweet and citrusy with notes of pepper. It's often seen in dishes like tacos or rice, but is much more versatile than that. It pairs well in dishes that incorporate lime like a cilantro lime shrimp or a baked chicken with lime. The citrusy flavor of the cilantro helps to elevate these types of dishes. It can also be used to make a tasty vinaigrette and other dressings or sauces. While the seeds and leaves are the most popular parts of the plant used in cooking, the entire plant is edible. Interestingly enough, the different parts of the plant have unique flavors. The seeds for example are often described as more nutty and spicy.
Re-Using Cilantro 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 getting the watering rights can be a bit tricky, 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!
My Cilantro Is Starting to Flower, What Should I Do?
If you’re planning to use the cilantro harvest it right away and either use it or freeze it for future use. Once the plant begins to flower it will rapidly loose flavor. Otherwise, you can wait and use the seeds called coriander which have their own flavor.
My Cilantro Is Dying?
One of the biggest culprits for dying cilantro is simply not harvesting enough. For steady, indoor growth you’ll want to regularly trim it back to encourage healthy growth. Not doing so will lead the plant to struggle. If you’re taking care to provide correct nutrients try trimming it a bit more often.
Outside of that, overwatering is a big concern for any indoor plant and cilantro is especially susceptible to this problem. Make sure you’re not watering too much and wait until the soil is dry before dousing it again.
How Can I Stop Cilantro From Flowing (Bolting)?
The best way is to provide a proper environment that doesn’t get too warm, or has a nice contrast at night. Give the plant bright sunny days, and cooler nights can help delay flowering. Cilantro plants that are kept too warm have a tendency to flower much quicker than those given a bit of coldness. Aggressive trimming can also help keep your plant from flowering too early.