How to Grow Cilantro Indoors

How to Grow Cilantro Indoors

Last Updated on August 10, 2021

How to Grow Cilantro Indoors Introduction

Coriandrum sativum, commonly known in the US as cilantro, is an annual herb belonging to the Apiaceae family. In some parts of the world, it is also known as coriander, Chinese parsley, and dhania. A flourish of this delicate and fragrant herb will add flavor and authenticity to many traditional Middle East, Indian and North African dishes. At the same time, this culinary herb provides a wealth of health benefits.

Whether you live in an apartment or house, cilantro is a relatively easy herb to grow. Your thumb will be green in no time, armed with the correct knowledge. 

This article will provide you with the necessary information to help you grow cilantro successfully indoors. Here are the main topics we will discuss:

  • When to plant cilantro.
  • What you need to grow cilantro indoors.
  • Three-step guide to growing cilantro indoors.
  • Caring for your cilantro plant.
  • Harvesting cilantro.
  • What is bolting?
  • Common pests and diseases,
  • FAQs.
How to Grow Cilantro Indoors infographic

When to Plant Cilantro

The best time to plant cilantro seeds is when the weather is cooler in late spring or early fall. Avoid planting cilantro in summer unless you can regulate the temperature indoors. The heat will cause cilantro to bolt, and it will then lose any culinary value.

What You Will Need to Grow Cilantro Indoors

It is easier to grow cilantro by directly sowing the seeds. The cilantro plant does not do well when transplanted because it develops a taproot. Once the seeds have been planted, germination can take up to three weeks.

Cilantro grows best in cool and moist conditions and requires at least six hours of sunlight per day. During the winter months, you might need to use grow lights to produce a constant supply of cilantro.

Cilantro Seeds

Santo and Calypso varieties of cilantro are far more cost-effective for growing fragrant and flavorsome leaves. If, however, you are growing cilantro for the seeds, any other type will do. 

An Unglazed Terra Cotta Pot or Other Container 

Cilantro grows best in containers. Any container with a drainage hole is a reliable option; however, to grow well, cilantro needs a pot that provides plenty of ventilation. This aeration will provide extra moisture and air to the roots of the cilantro plant.

A wide unglazed terracotta pot works best. Terracotta pots are made from iron-rich clay soil. The porous quality of the clay makes these pots breathable, which keeps the soil cool, while retaining moisture. 

This is ideal for cilantro as it thrives in cool and moist conditions. Glazed terracotta pots are not porous, so make sure to get an unglazed pot.

Another factor to take into consideration is the width and depth of the container. Cilantro taproots can grow between 8 inches and 18 inches, which will require a deep container. The ideal depth of the container should be anywhere between 10-20 inches and approximately 18 inches wide. 

Potting Mix

A potting mix is better suited for cilantro compared to potting soil. As the name suggests, potting soil contains some soil, whereas potting mix contains sphagnum peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. 

Potting mix is far more aerated and better at retaining moisture. The potting mix eventually deteriorates and loses nutrients; however, applying perlite and compost to the potting mix will revive it. 

Potting soil tends to compact, which could hinder the growth of the cilantro taproots. Also, potting soil can harbor weed seeds and disease. 

If you prefer using potting soil, look for RAL-certified potting soils. The manufacturers of RAL-certified potting soils have been rigorously tested and cleared for weed seeds, disease, fungi, and pests.

North Facing Location With Adequate Sunlight

Growing cilantro indoors requires it to be situated in at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. Should you notice your cilantro reaching for the sun, periodically turning the container around will help the cilantro grow evenly. 

During the winter months, cilantro can thrive under grow lights

Liquid Fertilizer

Cilantro herbs need to be fertilized once the seeds have germinated and the plant has reached two inches. Cilantro needs a slow-release fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, contains phosphorus and potassium. 

Liquid water-soluble fertilizers are suitable for growing cilantro indoors. 10-10-10 is the ratio of Nitrogen (N)-Phosphorus(P)-Potassium(K) in the fertilizer.

It is best to fertilize cilantro fortnightly in the growing season. Once cilantro has grown to two inches in height, start to fertilize the potting mix. Cilantro that has been exposed to too much nitrogen in fertilizer will make the leaves less flavorful. An organic alternative for fertilizer is fish emulsion. 

Three-Step Guide to Growing Cilantro Indoors.

Step 1

Make sure that your container or gardening pot is large enough and has a draining hole. Fill the receptacle with a potting mix until it is a few inches below the rim.

Step 2

Plant the cilantro seeds a quarter-inch into the soil. Make sure that they are approximately six inches apart. 

Another option would be to plant a handful of seeds a quarter-inch into the soil without spacing the seeds correctly. However, too many seeds could cause overcrowding once the herb begins to grow. 

This leads to poor air circulation and growth issues. If you planted too many seeds, once the plant starts growing, pull out a few new growths to avoid overcrowding.

Step 3

Lightly water the potting mix and place your newly seeded cilantro by a window that receives at least six hours of sun per day. Alternatively, place your gardening pot or container under grow lights. 

 Grow Cilantro

Caring for Cilantro

Cilantro enjoys consistently moist conditions, but too much water can halt or stunt the herb’s growth or cause the roots to rot.  To avoid washing away the seeds, begin watering the container with a spray bottle. Ensure that the soil is moist but not waterlogged. 

When the seedlings begin to sprout, thin out the seedlings as mentioned earlier to avoid overcrowding. Proper spacing between the seedlings can also prevent cilantro from bolting too early.

Once the cilantro starts to grow, pinch off the bud. The easiest way to identify the bud is to look for the highest leaf on each stem—you will find a dormant leaf bud. Pinch the stem just above the dormant bud to promote new leaf growth. 

Once the cilantro has grown and reaches two inches, it is time to fertilize your herbs. Follow the directions on the fertilizer package to accurately feed the potting mix. 

Don’t forget to turn the container. Cilantro grows towards the sun, so this will allow your cilantro to grow evenly.

Harvesting Cilantro

Cilantro grows very quickly. To harvest cilantro, use scissors to cut the tops of the leaves off. Make sure that the bottom half still has leaves left. Regular cutting will encourage the herb to grow bushier leaves. Alternatively, pick the leaves off individually.

Because cilantro has a short life cycle, bolting is inevitable. Remove the bolted cilantro since it has lost its flavor. Replace the bolted cilantro with the newly produced seeds. Doing so will give you an ample supply of cilantro.

What is Bolting?

While many gardeners have success growing cilantro, others believe it to be a fickle herb to grow. Growing cilantro indoors can be successful if you know how to care for it. 

There are several varieties of the cilantro plant. However, Santo and Calypso cilantro are amongst the most commonly planted varieties. Both types produce full, bushy leaves and are the slowest to bolt. 

Bolting refers to plants developing full flowering stems in an attempt to produce seeds. This is also known as “Going to seed” amongst avid gardeners. 

Once cilantro starts to flower and produce seeds, the leaves lose their sharp flavor. The cilantro plant is then considered pretty much useless in the culinary sense. However, don’t get rid of the cilantro plant just yet.

Cilantro starts producing the little white flowers and seeds due to the plant coming to the end of its life cycle or if it has been exposed to intense heat due to hot temperatures. Cutting the flowers off will not bring back the flavor to the cilantro leaves.

Instead, in late summer or early fall, allow the plant to flower and the seeds to form. If you harvest the seeds, you can either replant them or use the seeds as coriander spice. 

Once the plants begin to brown, cut off the seed heads and place them in a paper bag. This will dry out the seeds, and then they can be used whole or blended down into powder form.

You can add ground cilantro powder to curries, soups, and stews. Cilantro powder can last up to 6 months when stored in a cool, dry place and an airtight container.

Common Pests and Diseases

Although cilantro is pretty resistant, it can become a victim of pests and disease. To grow cilantro successfully indoors, it is essential to know what to look out for.

Fungal Diseases

Powdery Mildew

A common fungal disease among herbs and vegetables is powdery mildew. It is easily recognizable as the cilantro is covered in a fluffy white coating. The fungus will appear on the cilantro leaves as well as the stems. 

Warm weather and too much moisture is the cause of powdery mildew. Remove infected leaves immediately to avoid the fungus from spreading the disease to other plants or vegetables.

Bacterial Leaf Spot

Bacterial Leaf Spot is a fungal disease that appears between the leaf veins and turns the cilantro leaf black or dark brown. The cause of bacterial leaf spot is an infected seed. Unfortunately, the only option would be to remove the plant as the fungal disease is difficult to control.

Damping-off

Damping-off is a fungal disease spread by rotting seeds that fail to germinate. The fungal disease lives in the potting mix or soil and thrives in wet and warmer conditions. Identifying damping-off is easy. Your cilantro will be brown and mushy and eventually die out.

The best way to avoid damping-off is to use a new batch of potting mix or soil every time you plant new seeds.

Common Pests

Aphids

Aphids are common pests in any garden and can also attack indoor plants. These tiny insects will munch their way through your cilantro plant, causing cilantro leaves to turn yellow and brown. 

Using insecticidal soap should remove any trace of the aphids. To make your own insecticidal soap, mix a few teaspoons of liquid dish soap with one-quart water in a spray bottle. 

Spray the mixture onto the cilantro leaves and stems every second day until the aphids are gone. Don’t forget to spray under the leaves, as this is where aphids take refuge.

FAQs

Is it hard to grow cilantro?

Cilantro is not hard to grow. Common errors like the incorrect spacing of cilantro seeds, thinning seedlings, and planting the seeds deeper than a quarter inch can hinder the process of growing cilantro successfully. 

How quickly does cilantro grow?

Cilantro takes up to 10 days before the seeds germinate. The first cilantro leaves will appear within three weeks after planting. 

Will my cilantro grow back after cutting?

Cilantro will grow back after harvesting. Cilantro has a short life cycle which will require you to replant new seeds in early fall or late spring. 

Should I pull out my cilantro when it bolts?

Cilantro is quick to bolt when the conditions are hot. Cilantro uses a survival mechanism by producing seeds before it dies. The best thing to do is use the seeds to replant or use the ripe brown seeds in your meals.

Conclusion

Growing your crop of cilantro indoors is quite simple. The easiest way to start growing cilantro is from seed. Calypso and Santo cilantro seeds are best since they are slow to bolt. 

Transplanting cilantro does not do well because it develops taproots. Cilantro might go to seed should you try to transplant.

Any container with a draining hole will do. However, an unglazed terracotta pot gives you the chance to grow cilantro indoors more successfully. Using a potting mix instead of potting soil is better for aeration and retaining moisture. 

Fertilize your cilantro after it has grown two inches in height using a water-soluble fertilizer or an organic fish emulsion fertilizer.

Cilantro can fall victim to pests and fungal diseases. The most common are pests like aphids and fungal diseases like powdery mildew, damping-off, and bacterial leaf spot.

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