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How to Propagate Cilantro

A collage of propagating cilantro plants.

If you like to cook Mexican food, you are probably no stranger to the cilantro plant. These herbs with fan shaped leaves add just the right touch of freshness to your fajitas, quesadillas, or tacos.

One problem with using cilantro, however, is that you generally will buy a giant bunch of it in the store, and unless you have a very large family who likes to eat Mexican food multiple times a week, most of the bunch will spoil before you can use it up. This is frustrating if you are a frugal person.  

Food waste is a big deal to frugal cooks! One way to get around the waste of buying a bunch of cilantro that will be mostly thrown away is to grow a pot of it in your indoor herb garden. This way, you can have fresh cilantro whenever you need it in exactly the amount that your recipes require.

After you’ve grown cilantro for awhile, you may consider having multiple plants. And when you understand how to propagate cilantro, you can always have a plant that is mature enough to harvest. 

Why Propagate Cilantro?

Cilantro plants in terracotta pot.

Cilantro is a relatively short-lived herb. It only grows for about 8 to 10 weeks. Generally, after this point, the cilantro sends up a flower stalk and starts to create seeds. When the plant does this, gardeners call it “bolting.” After a cilantro plant bolts, the leaves begin to taste bitter and you will no longer be able to use them in cooking. 

Since cilantro is so short-lived, cooks who love to use it should have multiple plants growing at once. You can have two or even three plants growing, each one at a different state of maturity, so that you will have a succession of plants and always have cilantro on hand.  

But, this means that you will have to learn to propagate cilantro plants. Even if you do not have a green thumb, you can learn to propagate cilantro. Propagate simply means creating new baby cilantro plants for your indoor herb garden.

Every part of the cilantro plant is useful from its stems to its seeds. You can learn to use all of these parts of the plant when you allow the plant to complete its life cycle on your kitchen window sill. The leaves and stems are tasty and add delicious flavor to your dishes, but did you know that the seeds of the cilantro plant are useful as well? 

The seeds of the cilantro plant are known as coriander and they are very useful in cooking too. The green seeds taste a bit different from the dried brown seeds, and when you grow cilantro in your kitchen you will have access to both kinds. You can jazz up all kinds of recipes when you have pots of cilantro growing.

Growing Cilantro From Seeds

Cilantro seeds in white bowl ready for planting.

Some herbs and plants are hard to start from seeds, so for these plants it is better to begin with a potted plant. However, cilantro is not like that. Cilantro plants grow readily from seeds, so they are very inexpensive plants to start with in your indoor herb garden.

For just the cost of a packet of cilantro seeds, you can create dozens of cilantro plants and months of fresh cilantro flavor. In fact, your cilantro seeds will probably cost less than a single bundle of cilantro that you might typically buy in your grocery store’s produce department. 

You can simply tuck a few seeds into a pot of dirt and they may grow decently well. However, if you want to increase your success rate, there are a few things that you can do to the seeds before you plant them. 

Cilantro seeds are released from the plant in hard gray or brown husks. There are two seeds typically inside each pod. If you soften the husks before you plant the seeds, you will increase the possibility of germination success. First, lightly crush the seed pod with the handle of a knife from your kitchen. Then, drop the seeds in a jar of water and let them soak over night. 

Cilantro seedlings in container.

The next morning when you are ready to plant, sow the seeds in a pot of fresh potting soil. Cover the seeds with 1/8 to 1/4 inches of potting soil. You will want to choose a pot that is at least eight to ten inches deep so that you can provide plenty of space for the plant’s roots. You should sow three seeds in a pot that is about eight inches in diameter so you can provide enough space for the herbs to grow well. 

Water the soil until it is damp and keep it in a place where it will get about four to six hours of sunlight per day, watering when the surface of the soil looks dry. In about a week, you should see your plants sprouting. Cilantro leaves can be harvested about 45 to 70 days after you plant the seeds.  You can cut the exterior stems when they reach four to six inches in length.

Growing Cilantro From Cuttings

Gardener cutting cilantro stem for planting.

If you already have a cilantro plant, you can grow new plants from cuttings off of your existing plant. This is a great way to get new plants, especially if you are having a hard time getting your seeds to germinate.

When you grow plants from cuttings, you basically take small pieces of a parent plant, cut them off, and plant them so that they will grow roots and create a whole new plant.  You may even be able to use a grocery store bundle of fresh cilantro and plant those stems.

To take cuttings from cilantro plants, choose a healthy, pretty stem from the existing plant. You want something that looks great, not something that looks diseased or weak. This stem should have plenty of leaves and not look wilted. The stem should be about four to six inches long. Make a clean cut with sharp, clean scissors.

Next, put the cilantro stem in a glass of water that is about two or three inches deep.  Half pint mason jars are perfect for this kind of thing! You do not want the leaves to get wet, so be sure not to overfill the jar with water. Put this jar in a sunny place. Change the water every day to help the cuttings stay healthy. 

Gardener planting cut cilantro stem in garden.

After a week or two, you will start to see small roots beginning to grow along the stem of the cilantro plant. Keep the stem in the jar until the roots are about an inch or inch and a half long.  Certain times of year it may take longer for your cilantro plants to start growing roots.

That is perfectly okay. Just be patient and keep waiting. Chances are that the plant will eventually grow roots and make a new plant for your indoor herb garden. When the cutting has several healthy roots, it is time to plant your baby cilantro plant in its pot. Select a pot that is about eight inches across and at least eight inches deep to allow room for the cilantro plant’s deep taproot.

You can plant three cuttings in a pot of this size.  Gently put the cutting into the potting soil in the pot, watering the soil until it is damp. You should plant the cutting about as deep as it was growing in the water. Cilantro likes damp but not soggy soil. Keep an eye on your plants and give them about four to six hours of sunlight per day. When the plant is four to six inches tall, you can begin harvesting from the outside leaves and stems.

Growing cilantro is an easy way to get started in your indoor herb gardening venture. It is quite easy to generate new plants, whether you grow them from seeds or from cuttings. You never know when you will have a craving for some fresh, tasty, Mexican food, so always have a new plant growing cilantro in your kitchen.