How to Successfully Grow Cilantro

By Pritha Golden, Portland Edible Gardens

While many of us associate cilantro with tomatoes, tomatillos and hot chili peppers, this beloved herb does not like the heat like those other plants do. That means it is easier to grow cilantro in the spring and the fall than it is in the summer, when peppers and tomatoes are ripe. That being said, growing the beautiful cilantro you want from your garden is not out of reach!

Start vs. Seed

As a general rule, cilantro does best when grown by seed. One exception is at the very beginning of the season in late February or early March when it is quite cold. At this time, planting cilantro starts will give you an earlier harvest than you would otherwise get. But from April onward, we recommend planting cilantro by seed. 

Cilantro is very sensitive to heat spikes, being in a pot too long and transplant shock. These things can all trigger cilantro to bolt, or shoot up a flower stalk, at which point the leaves start to drop in quality. Planting by seed reduces bolting in cilantro and, because it matures so quickly, you don’t have to wait long before you get a harvest.

Summer Cilantro  

Because cilantro is prone to bolting quickly, the trick to having consistent cilantro from your garden, especially in the hotter months, is to plant it regularly and harvest early, commonly called “succession planting”.  The good news, is that a small space can often provide you with lots of cilantro for you kitchen. 

Try planting a foot or two of densely planted cilantro once a month to start. You can always make your plantings bigger or smaller based on how much you eat. As well, planting in a location with afternoon shade would be great for your summer cilantro, as it will delay the bolting process. Shade can come from something that already exists like a tree or fence, or you can create it. Avoid planting in the hottest times of summer.

Slow Bolt Varieties

If you are growing cilantro for the leaves, you will do best to grow “slow bolt” cilantro varieties. We have had success with ‘Calypso’ and ‘Cruiser.’  That being said, if you let your cilantro mature in your garden, the flowers are excellent for pollinators and the coriander seed is also delicious when used in the kitchen. If you let coriander dry on the plant until it is brown before harvest, it will store well for  the winter. When you harvest coriander while still green, its flavor is a mix between fresh cilantro and dried coriander. Delicious!

How to Successfully Grow Cilantro

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