Based on your genetic predisposition it either tastes lemony or metallic and soapy taste. Ya love it or hate it – but few are in-between.
Sprouts in 1-2 weeks. Harvest from Month 2+ on.
Equivalent of 4+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 12+ mol/m²/day].
Beginner friendly. You’ll sprout, thin, and harvest.
Best Cilantro varieties to grow inside
The following are the four most popular varieties of cilantro or coriander. Santo and Indian Summer are popular due to their slow-bolting properties, while the Vietnamese Cilantro and Culantro are well-liked because of their flavor.
The benchmark variety for field-grown coriander. It is probably the best variety for leaf production as the plant combines very slow bolting with an upright habit and excellent flavor.
Indian Summer (papalo)
It’s easy to grow, and provides an ample harvest of leaves—sometimes a little too ample, so don’t worry about growing too many plants.
Tastes a little like cilantro but more peppery, spicy, and lemony. This herb is also known as hot mint.
Best Setup for Cilantro Plants
Ceramic Self Watering Planter or pot that is at least 4″ / 1 pint.
At the start: Balanced Blend. This should be equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10).
Ongoing: Herb Blend. This should be high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5).
A strong grow light that can give the equivalent of 4+ hours of direct sun [DLI of 12+ mol/m²/day].
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Preparing your Planter & Watering Schedule for Cilantro
Cilantro plants don’t do well in moist soil conditions. The roots are not accustomed to being too wet and will rot in boggy conditions. On the other hand, if the soil dries out completely the roots will die back and the plant won’t recover. This can catch you off guard because the plant’s not very expressive (its leaves don’t wilt) so it will look fine right up until it dies.
A Ceramic Self Watering Planter filled with a free-draining potting mix self-regulates to keep the soil on the drier side, but with a little consistent moisture (and means no watering guesswork for you). Careful of wick-based self-watering planters with Cilantro – as they tend to be too wet.
To set one up:
- Fill up the planter with dry soil from the bag, gently tamping down the top.
- Dump the soil into a large mixing bowl and add water until the soil is moist, but not sopping wet (about ½ Cup)
- Mix in 1 tablespoon of the Balanced Blend Plant Food.
If you are using a regular pot instead, it should be a little bit bigger (at least 4″ / 1 pint and will need drainage holes to prevent it from being over watered. Let the top of the soil dry out between watering.
Starting your Cilantro: Seed vs Cutting vs Nursery Plant
New Cilantro plants can be started from seed, propagated from an established plant, or purchased live at many garden centers. We prefer to sprout from seed or propagate from a stem cutting, as it results in plants that are adapted to your growing conditions and limit the chances that you accidentally bring home pests.)
How to Plant Cilantro seeds
Cilantro grows quickly from the seed. Plant 5 sites in a 4″ / 1-pint container. In larger containers, space sites 1″ apart. For each site plant 2 seeds 1/4 inches deep. Keep the soil warm ( 55-70°F, ideally 65°F). Sprouts typically appear in 8 days but can be as quick as 6 days or as long as 10 days depending on your conditions. To speed things up, you can soak them in water for 44554 hours before planting.
To speed things up, you can soak them in water for 12-24 hours before planting.
Propagating Cilantro: How to Clone from a Stem Cutting
If you’ve already got a Cilantro plant you love (or a friend does!) you can easily “clone” it with just sharp scissors and a clean glass of water. First, cut a couple 6” shoots of new growth (avoid anything woody). Next, remove the lower leaves, so the bottom half is just stem. Place in a glass of 3” of water, making sure the cut leaf spots are underwater. Place the glass on a bright windowsill and change the water every few days. In a couple of weeks, roots should emerge and you can transplant them into your container. While using additional rooting hormones won’t hurt, it’s not necessary with Cilantro plants.
- Cut 6” section of new growth
- Remove leaves halfway and place them in the water on a sunny window sill
- Wait 14 days for a few ½ inch roots to form and carefully transplant into it final container.
How to Transplant Cilantro
Live starter plants give you a big jump start on your first harvest. When you’re in a garden center – pick the bushiest plant available (tall and lanky ones will be weak growers) and give it a good inspection for pests. Leaves should be dark green without holes, spots, or curled edges. A best practice is to actually “quarantine” your plant for about a week after bringing it home to make sure it’s free and clear of ride-on pests.
Ensuring it’s pest and disease-free it’s time to transplant your seedling into its final home.
- Remove some soil from its final planter – leaving enough space for the bottom of the seedling to be just higher than the soil surface.
- Hold on to the base of the stem with one hand, and turn the pot over while gently pulling the seedling. Giving the pot a few squeezes can help dislodge it.
- Place in its final container and fill around it with soil so that it’s tight, but not compacted.
Where to grow your Cilantro plants
Out of all edible plants, Cilantro plants have some of the lowest light needs – but they still need to be in a very bright place that gets at least 4+ hours of direct sunshine. While you might be lucky enough to have a bright windowsill that works, most of us need to use a grow light (especially during the winter). For an introduction to grow lights, head over to our post on grow lights for indoor gardeners. We’ve also got a buying guide for screw in types, but to keep things simple in this guide, we’ll just provide directions for the 24W Screw in Bulb by Sansi, which we think is a good middle-of-the-road option.
How bright should your grow light be?
Cilantro plants need the equivalent of 4+ hours of direct sunlight [DLI of 12+ mol/m²/day] to grow their best. In order to provide an equivalent amount with a grow light, it needs to be pretty bright! The 24W Sansi bulb should be placed 6 inches away from the top of the plant. This will give your PPFD (the standard measure of brightness) of 500 μmol/m²/s.
How many hours per day do your Cilantro plants need under a grow light?
Cilantro plants are known as “long-day”. When they sense over 12 hours of light per day, they’ll start the end of their lifecycle and work on making seeds. We want to keep them in an earlier stage so we can keep harvesting the leaves, so we recommend setting up a timer to leave it on for only 8 hours per day.
Extend your harvest by keeping the Temperatures Cool
Cilantro is known as a “cool weather crop.” If it senses warming temperatures it will “bolt” – send up flowers and become bitter in the process. Where you plant them can have some effect on the temperature – lower positions on a growing rack and ceramic planters tend to run cooler. It’s best to avoid windows that get really hot (like bay windows)
Week 1-2: Check for Sprouts
You could see seedlings in as little as 6 days (though 8 days is more typical). If it’s been 10 days and you still don’t have any sprouts, it’s likely that your setup is too cold.
Week 3: Thin Your Seedlings
Thin your planter to only have 1 seedling per site – leaving the largest plant. If you are using the recommended planter (at least 4″ / 1 pint) this will mean you’ve got 5 plants after thinning. By getting rid of the smaller seedlings, you’re allowing the biggest and strongest one to flourish by reducing its competition for water, food, and space.
If your seedlings are under 1 inch, stretching out, or folding over, it’s likely that they don’t have quite enough light.
Week 4: How to Prune Cilantro
You’ll notice how all the stems and leaves of Cilantro grow from a single, central point (called radial growth). The plant puts out new leaves in the center and pushes old leaves outward, getting bigger and bushier over time.
Pruning and harvesting is one-in-the-same with Cilantro. Once the plant at least 3 separate stems coming from the base take one of the outside leaves and cut it close to the base (½” above is fine). It’s good to leave at least 2/3rds of the plant left to regrow. If you only want a tiny amount of herbs, you also can clip the top of an individual stem – just be sure to leave some leaves on that stem, otherwise it won’t grow back.
Month 2+: How to Harvest Cilantro
As soon as plants are about 4 inches you can start harvesting. Pick the largest leaves and cut them about 1 inch from the base. Pick from the outside when taking an entire leaf.
Month 5-6: End of Life
As cilantro matures, the leaves will change to a feathery shape, reminiscent of dill. The mature leaves are much more bitter than the younger leaves, but you can use the seeds as coriander in your cooking.
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The right supplies can take the guesswork out of caring for your plants – and turn care from a daily to weekly routine. Through our grow tests, we’ve found these products to produce the best indoor Cilantro (and also have simple maintenance). Plants are adaptable and can grow in many different conditions, so they are by no means necessary if you already have other supplies.
Best Containers for Cilantro: Ceramic Self Watering Planters
Plants thrive on consistent moisture but can suffer if they’re waterlogged. A semi-porous ceramic self regulates ideal conditions. Our favorite is the COSWIP planter. Runner up is XS Self Watering Planter by Wet Pot.
Best Soil for Cilantro: Free Draining Mix
Cilantro needs a drier environment – so you are better off using a free-draining cactus potting mix – we like this Organic Mix by Espoma.
Best Nutrients for Cilantro: Balanced Blend followed by Herb & Lettuce Blend
Cilantro likes to start with nutrients that are equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (with NPK numbers like 10-10-10). For this Balanced Blend we recommend: Dr Earth All Purpose
Once they are growing, it’s better to use plant food that is high in nitrogen (with NPK numbers like 10-5-5). For this Herb Blend, we recommend: Joyful Dirt All Purpose
Best Light for Cilantro: DIY or Soltech
There is a very small chance that you have the bright windows needed to grow these without a grow light. If you are looking for a higher-end option – we love the Aspect Light by Soltech. For a more affordable option, a DIY setup using a 24W Screw-in Bulb by Sansi with a Clamp Light and Mechanical Timer works well too. Check out our complete guide on a DIY setup for less than $40 or our buying guide for screw in bulbs.