Your Ultimate Guide on How to Grow Cilantro Indoors
Cilantro Coriandrum sativum, or coriander as it’s known in Europe, is a hardy, annual relative of parsley, grown for its seeds and leaves.In the US, this herb is referred to as coriander when grown for its seeds and cilantro, when grown for its leaves.
To say cilantro has been around for a long time is an understatement. Cilantro seeds discovered in a cave in Nahal Hemar Israel, were dated as being 8,000 years old.
An amazing, self- seeding grower, the cilantro plant grows well in a variety of conditions, including indoors in pots. This makes it a perfect inclusion to your indoor herb garden, even if you are new to indoor gardening.
If you know about cilantro, you’ll know what a delicious addition it makes to all kinds of cooking and dishes.I love to include it in rice dishes, mix it with lime juice as a salad dressing and as a garnish for stir fries.
No matter how you use cilantro in your kitchen, there is something very special about the smell of fresh herbs like cilantro, as you cut them from their pot and add their deliciousness to your cooking.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to grow cilantro indoors so you too can enjoy the magic of this wonderful herb. You’ll even discover the amazing health benefits of cilantro as well as my easy but delicious guacamole recipe.
Growing Cilantro Indoors
Being a short –lived annual, you will usually have about 8-10 weeks to harvest cilantro indoors.
It’s a good idea to plant new seeds every three to four weeks to ensure a constant supply of fresh leaves through- out the growing season.
Cilantro grows strong smelling, bright green leaves that look a lot like Italian parsley, before developing clusters of white flowers.
The cilantro plant grows from a single tap root and doesn’t like being disturbed or transplanted.
Growing cilantro in with other herbs isn’t usually a problem, as it gets on nicely with most herbs, with the possible exception being fennel.
A great way to get your indoor herb garden started is with an indoor starter kit with grow light.
For the best results, place your potted cilantro in bright sunlight for 5 to 8 hours, or use artificial grow lights.
Being indoors, your cilantro will generally be safe from conditions that can harm it, such as heavy frosts and high heat and humidity.
Like most herbs, its main growing period is during the warmer months.
During winter, try to keep your plant as warm as possible by avoiding draughts and direct contact with window sills.
Watering Cilantro Indoors
Always keep the soil moist but not consistently wet. Little and often is probably the best way to water cilantro indoors.
Too much water can result in root rot which has a tendency to be terminal for plants such as herbs.
Overwatering is the number one killer of indoor plants generally.
During the hottest months, use your finger to test the moisture level of the soil. If the first inch of soil is dry, then the plant will need watering.
Soil for Cilantro
Like many herbs grown indoors, cilantro does best in loose, well-draining soil.
Select a quality, organic, well-draining soil mix for the best results.
Cilantro is really quite a low maintenance plant, with little need for fertilizer, except perhaps during the warmer growth months.
During periods of high growth, use an organic, liquid vegetable fertilizer, every 3- 4 weeks. Avoid over feeding mint as the tips can turn dark, signaling burning roots.
Seaweed based feeds are also ideal as they are rich in nutrients.
As with basil and mint, try to avoid fertilizers rich in phosphorous (P) or potassium (K). These fertilizers encourage flower growth which competes with leaf growth.
This is fine if you are after coriander seeds but no good if wish to harvest fresh cilantro leaves.
How to Harvest Cilantro Indoors
Make sure that you harvest your cilantro before the leaves turn feathery and the plant starts to flower.
Harvesting cilantro usually occurs during summer and fall.
Cilantro has a tendency to grow like crazy over summer and then go to seed.
Unfortunately, once cilantro starts to flower, its leaves become bitter and less palatable.
Remember that like many herbs such as basil and mint, cilantro is best consumed fresh, as its flavor is lost when drying.
If storage is necessary, then freezing cilantro in air-tight bags is probably the best way to go.
Growing cilantro from seed usually creates the best results indoors.
Use a deep pot to allow room for its long tap root.
It can usually take between seven to twenty days for the seeds to germinate.
If you are growing cilantro for the seeds rather than the leaves, then it’s best to place the plants about 4’’ (10 cm) apart and place them in a sunny position.
Seeds usually appear about 90 days after sowing. Collect the seeds by cutting the plant and hanging it until dry.
Then shake the plant, collecting fallen seeds into a paper bag and then rub the dried plant to extract any remaining seeds.
Store the seeds in an airtight container and use whole, or grind them with a mortar and pestle to create a powder.
It’s important to select a pot that’s at least 8 inches in diameter, at least as deep, if not deeper, and has drainage holes at the base.
Plant in a high quality, well-draining soil based mix.
Recommended Varieties of Cilantro
Coriandrum sativum is by far the most popular cilantro variety grown as a cultivar known as ‘Leafy Leisure”. It’s selected for its quantity of leaves and the fact that it’s slower to bolt than regular cilantro.
It’s fun to experiment with other different cilantro cultivars such one with a hint of lemon flavor to its leaves.
Cilantro for Health & Beauty
Cilantro is packed full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals. This means that not only does it taste great, it’s a health food as well.
Cilantro contains high levels of vitamins A, K, C and E. By eating ½ a cup of cilantro a day, you would be receiving 16% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin K [a vitamin group important for functions such as blood clotting, bone metabolism and regulation of blood calcium levels].
It’s also a supplier of essential minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as being a source of dietary fiber.Cilantro is widely consumed across many European countries where people believe it to lower blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels and heart disease.
There are numerous studies that demonstrate a wide variety of health benefits associated with cilantro. Some of these cilantro health benefits include;
- Removes Harmful Heavy Metals : Studies show that cilantro binds with toxins such as lead to help prevent heavy metal poisoning. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19902160
- Supports Heart Health: The phytochemicals in cilantro appear to lower oxidative stress on the heart and reduce risk of heart disease.
- Balances Blood Sugar Levels: Research suggests that adding cilantro to your diet can help maintain a consistent blood sugar level. For more information. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22671941
- Reduces Anxiety and Aids Sleep: A study by the Indian Journal of Pharmacology found that cilantro extract had the same effect on anxiety levels as valium, without the negative side effects.
- Prevents Food Poisoning: The international Journal of Food Microbiology published a study that demonstrated that cilantro was especially effective in fighting listeria. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11929164
- Reduces Neurological Inflammation: Research published in Molecular Neurobiology found that diets high in ginger, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, turmeric and cilantro, helped with inflammation associated with such neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21360003
- Protects Against Colon Cancer: Research shows that cilantro reduces cholesterol levels and increase bile and sterol compound secretion.
This in turn reduces the levels of toxicity in the colon which helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10940583
Other cilantro health benefits include;
- Easing skin irritation from sunburn, hives and poison ivy
- Settles stomach, reduces gas and bloating
- Prevents urinary tract infections
Apart from its many health benefits, being high in anti -oxidants such as vitamin A and C, cilantro has a number of benefits as a beauty aid.
Cilantro is a strong antiseptic with anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities.
This means that it can serve to clean and disinfect, as it cools and soothes your skin.
Trouble Shooting- Common Cilantro Care Issues
Cilantro is quite a hardy plant and generally quite hard to kill. When grown indoors, cilantro is unlikely to be affected too badly by pest or disease.
Here are some of the most common cilantro growing issues;
Problem: Growth” bolts” which shorten the harvest season and hasten flowering
Cause: Warm weather
Solution: Seek out “bolt reducing” cultivars from your nursery
Problem: leaves turning yellow & drooping
Cause: aphids, fungus gnats or whiteflies
Solution: Shower the plant to remove the insects or use insecticidal soap
Problem: looking dry and colorless
Cause: Not enough water
Solution: Keep up your watering, especially in summer
Problem: Stunted growth, lacking color
Cause: Lack of full sun
Solution: Move your cilantro plant to a sunnier spot or use a small grow light.
My Guacamole Recipe
Every cook has their own favorite version of guacamole.
This is mine and I love to serve it with freshly made tortilla (or toasted triangles of pita bread works just fine too!)
If you want to get more fancy with guacamole, you can use it as a garnish for a crab salad or a filling for a hollowed out baked potato to accompany grilled chicken.
Note: I don’t use tomatoes but many cooks do!
2 perfectly ripe avocados, peeled and chopped
Juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of freshly chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh chilli
3 spring onions, finely chopped
Toss avocado in with lime juice
Add cilantro, chilli, salt and spring onion
Serve immediately or as soon as possible
How to Grow Herbs Indoors – The Series
Mint: how-to grow-mint-indoors
Rosemary: how-to grow-rosemary-indoors