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How to Grow Cilantro (or is it Coriander?) Indoors!

Nice bunch of freshly harvested coriander sitting on a cutting board next to a knife

Introducing Cilantro Plants!

The perennial question that is constantly on everyone’s minds: is it cilantro, or is it coriander? Well, technically it’s both. Cilantro and coriander are basically different parts of the same plant! Cilantro is the name used for the leaves of the plant, whereas coriander is in reference to seeds that emerge after the plant has flowered. Coriander seeds are what we use a spice, cilantro is the garnish!

Coriandrum sativum is a proud member of the apiaceae botanical family, making it cousins with other integral herbs and veggies like dill, parsley, and celery. This annual herb is known under several other names, including Chinese parsley, dhania, or kothmir. 

We love cilantro because every single part of the plant is edible. All the way down at the roots, going up the stems, including the leaves, flowers and seeds of the plant can be consumed, and they are! This fresh herb is commonly used in cooking in all sorts of different cultures of food.

The best part about fresh cilantro is that it is incredibly easy to grow. Growing cilantro indoors is easy as pie, and growing cilantro in the garden is also easy as pie. However, growing cilantro indoors takes a little bit of extra care from its gardener, so read on to learn all the secrets of how to keep it happy in your indoor herb garden!

What does Cilantro Look Like?

Healthy bushy coriander cilantro plant with green leaves

Cilantro is an annual herb, but don’t let that part deter you. Cilantro is super fast growing and doesn’t take too long to be ready for harvest. Cilantro stems are long, branching, and spindly and plants will usually grow to be around 20 inches in height.

A cilantro leaf will vary in shape depending on the variety, but they can be pretty much always be recognized as cilantro leaves while you’re walking around the grocery store. A cilantro leaf can be broad at the base and deeply lobed, or it can be slender and feathery.

Accompanying these cilantro leaves are small flowers that are borne in umbels. Each cilantro flower will bloom in the late spring and it is white or very light pink, and they will be followed by that coveted coriander seed. We’ll go over harvesting in the last section!

Where does Cilantro Grow?

Though cilantro is now a super common and easily recognized plant, it originally started to grow wild all throughout southern Europe, North Africa, and southwest Asia. It has become naturalized all over the world.

Cilantro can grow outdoors all year round in USDA growing zones 2 through 11! Knowing this, you’ll understand that cilantro is a super hardy and reliable plant that can handle all sorts of different conditions.

How is Cilantro Used?

Freshly harvested green leaves of cilantro plant ready for cooking

Culinary Herb – first and foremost, cilantro is mainly grown as a culinary herb. Every single part of the plant is edible, from the roots, up through the stems, the leaves, the flowers, and the seeds.

As mentioned before, the term cilantro is in reference to the the leaves of the plant, whereas coriander is used in reference to the seeds of the plant. Both are used for cooking, but with different flavor profiles.

Fresh cilantro leaves are known for having a tart and citrusy flavor, but there are some people who find that it tastes like soap and tend to dislike it. The coriander seed has a similar taste but it’s dried and more robust.

Not everybody is aware of this, but the small fresh leaves of a cilantro plant are actually delicious microgreens! Growing microgreens is often done under a grow light to ensure that they grow quickly for frequent harvesting.

Companion Plant – coriander is also a great herb to plant if you’re into companion planting! Herbs with fragrant leaves are wonderful because they do a great job of deterring unwanted pests, while at the same time attracting beneficial pollinators to the area.

How do you Grow Cilantro Indoors?

Tiny microgreen cilantro growing in a pot

Ideal cilantro growing conditions are super duper easy to accomplish outdoors, though growing cilantro indoors will require a little bit extra effort from its gardener. There are a few things to keep in mind, and a few things you will need to get started:

  1. coriander seed
  2. terracotta pots
  3. well drained potting soil
  4. high nitrogen fertilizer
  5. grow light (potentially)

Potting Soil – though cilantro can grow nearly anywhere in the wild, it will require a few things from its soil in order to maintain healthy growth.

Your at-home potting mix should be a mixture of organic matter, sand, and potting soil. This will guarantee that the potting mix has proper drainage and is high in nutrients.

Because the root system of your plant will be limited by a pot it won’t have access to the nutrients it would regularly receive outdoors. This is why it’s important to incorporate the mixture with compost.

Sun Exposure – something great about cilantro plants is that they aren’t too picky when it comes to the amount of sun exposure that they receive.

A lot of the time the plants will prefer to receive direct sunlight exposure for the majority of the day, though they can sometimes tolerate partially shady conditions. A south facing window will be ideal, but if you don’t have a south facing window you may need to get a grow light.

Your grow light should be placed around 5 inches above your cilantro seedling, and you can set the timer for 6-8 hours per day in order to give them the proper amount of light exposure.

Watering – cilantro plants require a moderate amount of water in order to thrive. The important thing to remember here is that thorough watering is more important than frequent watering.

Cilantro should be receiving at least an inch of water per week. Make sure to saturate the soil entirely each time you water the plant. This is why ensuring the soil has excellent drainage, otherwise the plant could develop root rot or powdery mildew.

Little microgreen cilantro plants growing underneath grow lights

Fertilizer – it’s very important that your cilantro plants receive a ton of nutrients during their active growing season. Gardeners find that a liquid fish emulsion is the best fertilizer to give your cilantro.

Cilantros are heavy feeders, so provide your plants with fertilizer once or twice a week during the active growing season of the plant. Cilantro growing indoors needs a ton of fertilizer in order to thrive.

Potting – the best type of pot or container to plant cilantro in is a terracotta pot. This is because terracotta is very porous and allows moisture to escape. These are the best options for plants that are sensitive to moist soil.

Planting – the amount of cilantro seeds per pot will depend on how big your pots are, but your seeds should start out with having 1-2 inches of space between one another.

Your cilantro seedlings will need consistently moist soil while they are getting established. Once the cilantro seedlings start to get bigger you should pluck away the ones that are crowding, as each seedling will require some space to develop healthy leaves.

Feel free to sow seeds in 3 or 4 week intervals so that you have a continuous harvest available. Cilantro grows fast and is also eaten fast, so keep planting cilantro to have a constant supply.

Harvesting – harvesting cilantro will depend on when you planted your specimens and how well they grew. The best rule of thumb is to wait until the leaves are fully grown. When they’re this big you can harvest them individually.

If your cilantro leaves are smaller, you can simply snip away the entire stem. This way the plant will grow back quickly. Smaller fresh cilantro leaves are actually used as cilantro microgreens and are known for having a lighter, more leafy green flavor to them.

You can also harvest cilantro seed by snipping away the flowering stems and placing them upside down in a paper bag and shaking them. The seed pods will crack open and release the dried seed into the bag. This is why cilantro is great as an indoor plant because it is wonderfully easy to maintain.

Lovely harvested cilantro leaves in a bundle ready for garnishing

FAQs

Are cilantro plants deer resistant?

Something great about growing coriander in the garden is the fact that it is resistant to grazing from larger pests like deer, rabbits, and squirrels.

What are the damaging agents to cilantro plants?

Since it’s important to keep soil moist for your cilantro plant, it is very important to ensure that they are planted in well draining potting soil. If they are not they are susceptible to developing fungal issues like root rot or powdery mildew.

Are cilantro plants perennials?

Cilantro is an annual herb. This means that it will perish after the plant goes to seed. Luckily, cilantro grows very quickly and is easy to maintain.

Are cilantro plants an invasive species?

Though cilantro grows quickly and spreads easily through seed it is not considered as being an invasive species because it has become naturalized in every area it was introduced to.

What USDA growing zone can cilantro grow in?

Cilantro can grow outdoors all year round in USDA growing zones 2 through 11! Knowing this, you’ll understand that cilantro is a super hardy and reliable plant that can handle all sorts of different conditions.

How often should a cilantro plant be watered?

Cilantro plants require a moderate amount of water in order to thrive. The important thing to remember here is that thorough watering is more important than frequent watering.

Cilantro should be receiving at least an inch of water per week. Make sure to saturate the soil entirely each time you water the plant. This is why ensuring the soil has excellent drainage, otherwise the plant could develop root rot or powdery mildew.

Should cilantro be pruned?

You only need to prune away yellowing leaves or broken or damaged stems of your cilantro plant. You’ll be harvesting cilantro so frequently that it does not need to be pruned.

What time of year should you plant cilantro seeds?

You can plant cilantro seeds pretty much at any time of year, though growing cilantro outdoors doesn’t go to well in the heat of summer. The fresh leaves of the plant tend to go bitter in the summer.

Do cilantro plants prefer full sun or partial shade?

something great about cilantro plants is that they aren’t too picky when it comes to the amount of sun exposure that they receive.

A lot of the time the plants will prefer to receive direct sunlight exposure for the majority of the day, though they can sometimes tolerate partially shady conditions. A south facing window will be ideal, but if you don’t have a south facing window you may need to get a grow light.

Your grow light should be placed around 5 inches above your cilantro seedling, and you can set the timer for 6-8 hours per day in order to give them the proper amount of light exposure.

Where can I buy coriander seeds?

Growing coriander is a very easy plant to grow because their seeds are very easy to access. You can find coriander seeds at your local garden centre or nursery, or you can easily grow them online as well.

Alternatively, you can borrow some seeds from a gardener who collected seeds indoors from their indoor plant.

What is the ideal soil type for a cilantro plant?

though cilantro can grow nearly anywhere in the wild, it will require a few things from its soil in order to maintain healthy growth.

Your at-home potting mix should be a mixture of organic matter, sand, and potting soil. This will guarantee that the potting mix has proper drainage and is high in nutrients.

Because the root system of your plant will be limited by a pot it won’t have access to the nutrients it would regularly receive outdoors. This is why it’s important to incorporate the mixture with compost.

What is the easiest way to propagate cilantro plants?

The best way to propagate a cilantro plant is through sowing seed. Though it is possible to transplant and divide an existing plant, their roots can be kind of sensitive to being transplanted and it may not be successful.

How can you harvest cilantro seed?

You can also harvest cilantro seed by snipping away the flowering stems and placing them upside down in a paper bag and shaking them. The seed pods will crack open and release the dried seed into the bag. This is why cilantro is great as an indoor plant because it is wonderfully easy to maintain.

How tall do cilantro plants get?

Cilantro has branching stems that usually only reach about 20 inches in height.