This is a step-by-step guide on how to grow cilantro in pots. Cilantro, also known as Coriandrum sativum, usually refers to the leaves of the plant, which you can use as a herb. In other words, cilantro and coriander are different parts of the same plant.
Coriander, on the other hand, refers to the seeds, which are typically ground and used as a spice in various dishes and cuisines. This happens after the plant flowers and develops seeds. Cilantro is a fast-growing, aromatic, easy to grow annual herb that grows best in the cooler weather of spring and fall.
Cilantro is also one of those plants you can grow as aromatic microgreens any time of the year. The International Herb Association designated this plant as their Herb of the Year™ 2017.
Let’s learn how to grow this versatile herb in pots indoors.
Step by Step Guide on How to Grow Cilantro in Pots Indoors
Step 1: Select wide and shallow pots
Although not a big deal, I’d prefer wider and shallow plant pots. This is because wider pots will accommodate more cilantro plants which means you’ll have enough per each harvest.
Also, keep in mind that cilantro has a relatively long taproot. Therefore, the shallow part is relative. I’d recommend this Terracotta Wide Planters with Saucers. Get several pots so that you can sow a few seeds in each pot every week or two to give you a steady supply of cilantro.
Also, feel free to use affordable grow bags available in most nursery stores online.
Step 2: Fill the pot with a porous potting mix
The next important step is purchasing an organic potting mix perfect for most indoor and outdoor plants. Make sure the mix drains easily to avoid water-logging. It’s even better if you can incorporate a bit of compost manure.
Let the potting mix dry slightly under the shade before filling your planting pot containers with the mix. This will get rid of fungus gnats if at all present. Fungus gnats are notorious in moist soils so, don’t skip that step.
Step 3: Gentle moisten the potting mix
Since the cilantro seeds are too tiny, you should gentle moisten the potting mix with low-pressure mist before you begin seeding. Keep in mind that, whether you want to grow cilantro in pots for the leaves or seeds (coriander), the seed depth should be about ¼ to ½ inches.
There are about 2,000 seeds per ounce, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing a lot of seeds for each season.
Step 4: Mix the seeds with sand, broadcast evenly, and thin after germination
Besides, moistening the potting soil as done in the previous step, you should mix the tiny cilantro seeds with sand before broadcasting evenly on top of the soil. Then cover the seeds with another thin layer of potting mix. Doing this will ensure the seeds are distributed evenly.
Besides, it’s better if you sow the seeds directly in a pot in which you like to grow the plants as cilantro has a long taproot and it doesn’t transplant well, especially when the plant grows up slightly.
As soon as the cilantro plants germinate and are well established, it’s time to space them. You can grow cilantro plants closely but for optimum growth space the plants 3 – 6 inches apart to allow them room to grow and thrive.
To do the spacing, thin the well-established seedlings to 3-6” apart. For seed production, thin to 12 inches apart. Start by pulling out the weak plants leaving out only the strong and healthy-looking ones.
Step 5: Water properly
Immediately after you’ve sown your cilantro seeds you need to water properly. The plant’s most critical need for water occurs during seedling germination and establishment. After the plants become established, they do not need much water.
Keep watering regularly throughout the growing season. Irregular watering will result in coriander herb garden bolting sooner. Reduce irrigation when the seeds are nearing maturity. One thing to keep in mind is only water when the soil feels dry to avoid overwatering – learn more on how to properly water potted plants.
Step 6: Place the seeded containers under enough light
One of the reasons I prefer to grow cilantro in pots is the flexibility to move the plants around. You can bring the plants outdoors when the danger of frost has passed or take them to shelter.
But most importantly, the flexibility to place the plants under suitable growing conditions such as light.
Cilantro plants will do best in an area with full sun to part shade. Given these conditions, they may begin to produce flowers. If you are growing cilantro for its leaves, pinch off the flower buds when they appear. If you allow the plant to go to seed, it can self-sow but, generally, this is not a problem.
Step 7: Monitor the temperature
To prevent your cilantro plant from bolting, monitor the growing temperature carefully. Cilantro is a cool-season crop that does best at temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees F. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees F, but if temperatures exceed 85 degrees F it will start to bolt.
While cilantro tends to bolt (go to seed) in hot weather, it won’t survive a hard freeze. This is why it’s sometimes categorized as a medium-season crop. Normally, the young plants produce wide, flat leaves but when the plant begins to bolt, it produces lacy and fern-like leaves along the flower stalk.
Step 8: Apply a nitrogen-based fertilizer
If you want to get more cilantro vegetation, you should fertilize your plants twice during the active growing period. Apply ½ teaspoon of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) or ammonium sulfate 21-00-00 fertilizer per square foot.
Even if you intend to harvest the seeds, appropriate fertilizer application is key to a vigorous crop that will produce more flowers hence more coriander seeds.
Step 9: Monitor for pests and diseases
You should keep monitoring for pests and diseases regularly to ensure your cilantro plants remain healthy. Lucky for you, cilantro isn’t a problematic plant, especially in terms of diseases. The only disease to watch out for is Bacterial leaf spot caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. Coriandricola.
You can control bacterial leaf spot in cilantro using cold-pressed neem oil with azadirachtin – which also controls some of the insects.
The common insects to watch out for are; beet armyworm, cabbage looper, and green peach aphid. But here’s the best part:
Cilantro’s little white or pale pink flowers are very attractive to small beneficial insects such as adult syrphid flies and parasitic wasps that consume the nectar. When they are not feeding on nectar, these beneficial bugs will feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
You can also read of other ways to control aphids naturally here.
Step 10: Harvesting
Supposing you’ve done everything right, your Cilantro leaves will be ready to harvest within 45 to 80 days after seeding. If you’re after the coriander seeds, the growing season will be at least 100 days. When harvesting cilantro, you should choose bright, evenly-colored green leaves.
You can begin harvesting Cilantro leaves early once the plants reach 6 inches tall, and continuously thereafter until the plant dies. To harvest cilantro, cut exterior leaves once they reach 4 to 6 inches long. Or, cut the whole plant about 1 to 2 inches above the soil level to use both small and large leaves.
If you only remove the older, outside leaves, you’ll encourage the plant to produce new leaves, but the younger leaves have a more intense flavor. Throw away all the leaves showing signs of yellowing or wilting.
To harvest the coriander seeds, remove the brown, fruiting structures from the plant and allow them to dry. Once they have dried, remove the seeds from the fruiting structures. The process of removing seeds from the plant and breaking up remaining plant materials is officially called threshing.
Step 11: Storage and preservation
Cilantro leaves are best used fresh, but can you can freeze or dry them to use later. However, keep in mind that dried leaves will lose much of their flavor. Cut leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week or place a bunch of leaves in water to maintain freshness in the refrigerator.
If you must refrigerate the leaves, do not wash them. Place the stems in water and cover them loosely with a plastic bag. Snip off leaves and wash them as you need them. Change the water every 2-3 days; cilantro will last up to one week in the refrigerator under ideal conditions.
To save the seed for your next crop, just store the whole pods in a cool, dry location. For culinary use, store the dried seeds in a dry, airtight container and place the container in a cool, dark place.
You’ve gone through the easy steps to grow cilantro in pots.
To summarize the key takeaway points are; summer heat will cause bolting since cilantro is a cool-season herb, also, the plant isn’t frost-tolerant hence you need to protect it in winter, and lastly, this plant doesn’t transplant well and so, you should seed directly in well-draining soil 1/4- to 1/2-inch.
I hope that this article has been of some help to you. If you found it helpful, I’d appreciate it if you can share it with your friends.