Growing Cilantro


Growing cilantro can be a fun, fulfilling experience.

In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know to grow your own cilantro.

Planting cilantro seeds

If you are starting your cilantro from seed, the timing of your planting will be a bit different. Aim to plant the seeds with enough time for them to germinate, sprout and mature before you plant them outside.

Typically, cilantro will germinate from seed in 7 to 10 days. Once it’s germinated, give it some time to mature until it’s ready to be transplanted.

To plant the cilantro seeds, purchase some potting soil and fill a container or tray with the potting soil. It doesn’t have to be a deep container — even a shallow tray will be fine for cilantro seeds. 

You can purchase plastic pots or packs to plant them, or use something you have lying around your home, such as an egg carton.

Once the container is full of potting soil, poke a hole in the soil with your finger no deeper than the first joint in your finger. Then, place the cilantro seed in the hole and cover it up lightly with potting soil.

To initiate the seed’s growth, water the cilantro seed lightly.

Try to keep the soil in direct sunlight as much as possible. You can cover it with some clear plastic to keep the humidity high as well. 

Make sure to keep on watering the soil lightly whenever it dries out. The soil doesn’t need to be more than damp, but it does need to be moist consistently for the cilantro seed to germinate.

You’ll soon start seeing baby cilantro sprouts emerging from the potting soil.

Transplanting cilantro seedlings

After the cilantro sprouts, you’ll want to let it grow a little bit to establish a root structure. If the seedling is planted with its own space to grow, you won’t need to transplant it until it grows its own root cube. 

However, if the cilantro seed was planted with other cilantro seeds in its own space, it should be planted earlier so that its roots aren’t in competition for limited space.

As long as the roots have room to grow, you’re fine to keep the cilantro in its container. 

If you notice that the cilantro seedling is drying up fast, this may be a sign that it’s time to plant it in a larger container. You can transplant cilantro however many times you’d like before planting it in its final destination.

To transplant cilantro, pinch the bottom of the container as you gently pull the sprout up. If the seedling is very small, you can turn the pack upside down as you do this for each sprout so that the plant and its early root structure fall out into your hand. 

If the cilantro is rootbound, meaning that the roots are tightly wound together forming the shape of whatever container it was in, then you’ll want to gently rip the roots apart once before transplanting the cilantro into its next container.

After you have transplanted your cilantro, water it in and make sure it gets some sunlight for continual growth.

Planting cilantro outside

Whether you are growing your cilantro from seed, or you purchased a young cilantro plant from a local garden center or greenhouse, eventually you’ll want to plant it outside.

To plant your cilantro, gently squeeze the bottom of the container and pull the plant out of its pack.

Then, use a trowel or your hand to remove soil from where you’d like to plant it. 

If the soil is hard and packed down, consider using a tiller to break it up, or just push a shovel in the soil a few times to break up the clumps.

Best soil type for cilantro

You can check your cilantro plant’s tag for specific information regarding soil needs.

Cilantro will grow the best in well-drained soil. Most varieties also like a soil pH of 6.5, which is acidic.

You may need to mix in some potting soil or other soil additives to get your soil to the ideal consistency.

When to plant cilantro outside

Choosing when to plant cilantro outside is an important consideration. If you plant them too early, there’s the risk of a late frost killing them off.

As a general rule of thumb, typically if you wait until after Mother’s Day you’ll be fine to plant cilantro outside. That being said, in Central PA we have had late frosts later than Mother’s Day, so make sure to check the forecast for your area in the spring to make sure that there isn’t a deep frost on the horizon.

In some cases, planting cilantro outside before Mother’s Day is definitely doable. Some annuals are just hardier than others, so you’ll want to consider the hardiness of your cilantro, too.

It depends on the plant’s size, maturity, hardiness (did the greenhouse you purchased the plant from “harden it off”?), and spring weather.

Where to plant cilantro

Once you have your cilantro, you’ll need some soil and a spot to plant it. If you’re going to be planting it directly outside from the pack you purchased it in, you have the option of planting the cilantro in the landscape, in a hanging basket, or in a pot. A cilantro plant will do great in any of these locations.

Sunlight requirements for cilantro

If your cilantro receives too little or too much sunlight exposure, it will likely still live, but may not grow as abundantly and could require more care.

Cilantro will grow fine with a full day of sunlight, as long as it has enough of water.

There are general sunlight requirements for all cilantro. For specific sunlight requirements for the variety of cilantro that you purchased, make sure to check the plant tag.

Best temperature and humidity for cilantro

Most areas have plenty of temperature swings, so an easy way to determine if your growing area will work for cilantro is to check your USDA growing zone.

Cilantro will grow well in most USDA growing zones, but the length of its season will vary depending on the region.

Watering cilantro

One of the most important factors in keeping your cilantro looking healthy is to diligently water the cilantro plant throughout the summer. 

For cilantro, you’ll know they need water when the top inch of soil is dried out. To check, you can stick your finger into the soil down to the first joint in your finger. If it’s moist, no need to water the cilantro plant. If it’s dry, you’ll want to water it in.

Be careful that you don’t overwater the cilantro. A cilantro plant can be susceptible to diseases if it gets too much water. 

If you planted the cilantro in a container, make sure that it has holes in the bottom for excess water to escape. Otherwise, the water can collect at the bottom of the container and cause root rot, or other diseases.

Fertilizing cilantro

Another important factor for plant health is keeping your cilantro fed with nutrition.

If the cilantro is planted in the ground, you can lessen the amount of fertilizer it’ll need by building up the soil with compostable material in the year(s) leading up to your planting. Otherwise, you’ll want to fertilize the cilantro throughout the summer. 

A good rule of thumb for fertilizing cilantro is to give the plant a water-soluble fertilizer every third watering. This rule helps to account for the change in temperature and weather throughout the season. For example, in May you won’t be watering your cilantro plant as much as in the heat of the summer in August. So feeding the plant every third watering helps to provide cilantro what it needs throughout the season, no matter the weather conditions.

It’s also recommended to plant the cilantro with a slow-release form of fertilizer to feed the plant slowly throughout the summer. You can add this in with your potting soil in a pot.

Growing cilantro in a hanging basket

If you’re growing cilantro in a hanging basket, you’ll want to make sure you don’t overfill the basket with plants. Plants will generally fill in the space you give them, so if the hanging basket isn’t packed full when you first plant it, that’s great.

The more cilantro you plant in your hanging basket, the more you’ll need to water the hanging plants. In general, if more plants compete for water and soil, it’ll take more maintenance to keep the hanging basket looking beautiful.

If you’re watering your cilantro in a hanging basket, you can check if it needs water by lifting the basket from beneath. If the basket is noticeably light, it could use some water. 

You’ll know you overwatered your cilantro in a hanging basket if water comes dripping or streaming out the bottom of the basket where the holes are.

Growing cilantro in a pot

As mentioned above, be careful you don’t plant too much cilantro in a flower pot.

The answer for how to care for cilantro grown in a pot will vary according to the size of the pot. In general, make sure that it has plenty of room to grow and has adequate sunlight exposure where the pot is placed.

Cilantro that is planted in a container, whether it’s a pot or a hanging basket, will need to be watered more than cilantro is grown in the landscape, since they won’t be able to pull natural water from the ground.

Growing cilantro in the landscape

Choosing cilantro for your flower beds or other landscaping is a great choice. They make for great borders and can help add beauty to your yard.

Since you’re planting them in a permanent spot, you’ll want to be extra careful when planting cilantro in the ground outside. Make sure that there’s little chance of frost and that the cilantro are in a spot that matches their sunlight needs.

If you do have a late frost, and your cilantro are already in the ground, you can cover them overnight with a bucket or sheet to protect them in most cases.

Cilantro going to seed

Cilantro will typically grow the best in full sun. Be careful about the heat of the summer — if the plant isn’t watered enough it’ll go to seed.

Pruning cilantro

Cutting back or pruning your cilantro can be healthy for the plant. You shouldn’t need to do this more than a few times throughout the summer. It can be good to do this if the plant is overgrowing its area or overpowering another plant in a container.

Common diseases for cilantro

Cilantro is more susceptible to common diseases, such as downy mildew or root rot when it isn’t cared for properly. That being said, even cilantro that is given the correct care can fall victim to some diseases.

Consult with your local garden center if you notice that your cilantro has a disease.

Overwintering cilantro

While it is possible to overwinter your cilantro, this is not common for cilantro.

Cilantro is an annual, meaning it lives for one growing season and then dies. If you’d like to grow a plant that comes back every spring, you’ll want to grow a perennial.

Pest control for cilantro

Typically, natural predators are enough to take care of bugs and pests that eat your cilantro. For example, ladybugs will eat aphids and can help control them.

However, in some cases, you will need to take extra measures to kill off plant pests. Again, consult with your local garden center for a specific solution to your pests.

Companion plants for cilantro

There are many other plants that grow great with cilantro. These are what we would call “companion plants.” This means that if they are planted together they will generally complement each other with their colors and growing styles.

When looking for companion plants for your cilantro, look for plants that have similar growing needs. This is an easy way to find plants that grow well. For example, if two plants love the sun, require similar fertilizer needs and one is taller while the other is a spreader, they will probably be great companion plants in a pot or hanging basket.

Varieties of cilantro

There are many varieties of cilantro. In general, their growing needs will be consistent across these varieties, but it’s always best to check the plant’s tag to make sure there isn’t specific instructions for your variety of cilantro.

Here are some popular varieties:

  • Culantro
  • Indian Summer Cilantro
  • Leaf Cilantro

Propagating cilantro

It’s possible to propagate cilantro. 

To do so, you can cut off a small piece of the plant and put it in water for a week or so. Soon, the cilantro should start growing fine roots.

Eventually, you’ll be able to plant the cilantro cutting into soil.

For some varieties of cilantro, propagating and then selling your cuttings as plants once they are established is illegal. Make sure there isn’t a patent on the cilantro variety before you would do this.

Some annuals, such as sun coleus, can be propagated just by placing the cutting directly in potting soil.