How to Grow Cilantro Indoors for Fresh Herbs All the Time

how to grow cilantro indoors

Learning how to grow cilantro indoors is not only really simple, but it’s also really fun to extend the growing season for more herb enjoyment. Cilantro is one of the best indoor plants to have and an awesome annual herb to be able to pick from whenever you need it.

Cilantro is pretty low maintenance and will grow in a windowsill, or under grow lights, and if you succession plant your Cilantro you’ll always have fresh leaves to harvest.

This plant has quick growth and it’s very easy to grow, making it perfect for growing indoors.

All About Cilantro

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a member of the parsley family of plants. This family of plants is called Apiaceae and includes 3700 varieties of plants.

Some of the well-known varieties other than cilantro include anise, caraway, chervil, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage, parsley, parsnip, Queen Anne’s lace and its subspecies carrots, blue lace flower, and sea holly.

This family of plants also includes Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), which is so similar to the edible plants above that it can be easily mistaken for them. Poison Hemlock has a green stem with purple splotches.

Cilantro has an interesting history. The ancient Hebrews used the root at Passover meals as the bitter herb.

Romans used it in their bread.

It was mentioned in The Tales of the Arabian Nights as an aphrodisiac.

In Iranian history Cilantro was used as a calming and sleep aid.

It has been found in 8000-year-old Israeli caves and 3000-year-old Egyptian tombs.

Coriander vs. Cilantro

how to grow cilantro indoors coriander vs. cilantro

It can be confusing when people from different parts of the world refer to the same plant by different names. However, cilantro and coriander seeds are not interchangeable.

Cilantro is the Spanish word for Coriander and that is the cuisine we in the U.S. most closely associate the fresh leaves with, so we identify the plant by that name. 

But we also use the dried seeds, which we refer to as Coriander, in our spice racks for use in pickling and Indian food.

In Britain and other parts of the world, the entire plant is referred to as Coriander–taken from the Greek word, koriannon.

Cilantro in Cooking

Cilantro is a wonderful herb with hints of citrus and sage in its taste profile. It is featured prominently in Indian, Mexican, and Chinese food.

But it isn’t beloved by everyone.

There are people who simply cannot stand the smell or taste of cilantro.

It seems to be a genetic thing. Up to 14% of the population think it tastes like soap.

Cilantro has five parts that can be harvested from it–the leaves, the flowers, dried seeds, green seeds, and the root. Each part tastes very different from the others and is used differently in cooking.

how to grow cilantro indoors cooking with cilantro

The root is not widely known to be edible. But it is tasty and can be used in soups, stews, and curries.

The delicate herb wilts and loses its taste when exposed to heat. So when using it in your dishes, add the fresh leaves at the end of the cooking process.

Is Cilantro Good For You?

Cilantro has wonderful health benefits. It has lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, which is good for retinal and kidney function; and Vitamin K, which is a coagulant and helps keep your blood at its optimal consistency.

The vital oils in the leaves are antimicrobial and contain important phytonutrients. The leaves also contain folate, potassium, and manganese.

The seeds, leaves, and oils all help lower blood sugar, so much so that anyone on medication for this issue has to be careful not to eat too much cilantro as it will increase the effects of the medication.

How to Grow Cilantro in Pots Indoors

Growing cilantro in pots indoors is a pretty easy task. Your indoors cilantro plant needs soil temperatures of 50-70° F to germinate.

Since cilantro has a tap root it needs plenty of room to grow.

1 | Choose a pot with drainage holes that can hold 8-12 inches of potting mix.

2 | Scatter your seeds over the surface. Cover them with ¼ to ½ inch of potting mix.

how to grow cilantro indoors planting

You should see your new seedlings peeking up out of the soil in just a few days.

3 | Water from above only to initially moisten the soil.

Once there are leaves it’s better to water from underneath the plant by adding the water to a saucer or tray. Be sure the soil is moist but not soggy.

4 | Thin the seedlings so that they have about four inches between them in order to promote air circulation and keep down disease.

how to grow cilantro indoors

Cilantro Plant Care

Cilantro plant care is not very involved and even a newbie gardener can take on the task. There are a few suggestions to take into consideration when growing your cilantro.

  • Provide at least 3-4 hours of light when growing cilantro indoors.
  • Keep your cilantro plant moist and never let it dry out.
  • Be sure it has enough room around it for air circulation so it doesn’t develop diseases like powdery mildew and leaf spot.
  • Water at the base of the plant and not from above to keep the leaves healthy.
  • Harvest the leaves regularly.
  • Succession plant it for a continuous supply.

How to Maintain a Cilantro Plant

Be aware that the goal of the plant is to produce seed. To do that it will produce a thick main stem which will eventually produce cilantro flowers.

This process can be slowed by harvesting the leaves regularly and cutting back the main stem, while leaving some of the side stems and leaves to photosynthesize.

When grown outdoors, it is best to grow cilantro in the cooler shoulder seasons since it bolts easily.

The good thing about plants that bolt is that there are seeds that come with the flowers. So you can actually harvest seeds as soon as the plants’ bolt, dry the seeds and replant them to keep a steady supply of cilantro growing.

Harvesting Cilantro Leaves

When you are ready to use your cilantro leaves, there are a few things to consider before harvesting them.

Wait until your cilantro is about six inches tall to begin harvesting.

Then you can either snip off single sprigs above the leaf nodes or you can grab all the stems in your hand like a bouquet and snip it off as a clump.

Just be sure to leave some of the cilantro leaves and leaf nodes so the plant can take in light and regrow.

how to grow cilantro indoors

Also, harvesting regularly is one of the main ways to keep the plants producing leaves. But after each plant has been cut back several times, it will no longer produce and will need to be replaced.  

Preserving Cilantro

Here are three ways to keep cilantro fresh (fridge or freezer) after harvesting.

Keep in mind for all three methods, you must remove any yellow leaves or damaged stems. Those can make the entire bunch go bad while being stored in the fridge.

1 Clean your bunch of cilantro by running it under water till all the soil is removed. Then place the bunch in a glass just like you’d place flowers in a vase, but with only two to three inches of clean water in the bottom of the glass.

Then loosely cover the entire thing with an open ziplock bag and place in the fridge.

Stored this way the stems can be preserved for several days.

2 Do not clean the bunch of cilantro. Instead, wrap it snugly in a paper towel so that it is completely enveloped by the paper.

Even cover the ends by dividing another paper towel in two and wrapping it around each end of your roll.

Now place one or more of these rolled bunches of cilantro into a large ziplock bag.

When unwashed, cilantro can last up to a month in the fridge this way. Wash before using.

3 Clean your cilantro in water and pat it completely dry. Then chop it up into smallish pieces and place into a small ziplock bag.

You can include the stems. Freeze it for up to three months.

This is not as good to use as a garnish since it won’t look like or have quite the same texture as fresh cilantro. However, it’s great in stir frys and other dishes that call for cilantro.

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How to Harvest Cilantro Seeds (Coriander)

If you would like to use your cilantro to harvest coriander seeds, the best way to do it is to let your plant flower.

Once the cilantro has flowered, it will form seed heads. The key is to allow the seed heads to turn brown before you harvest them.

After the seed heads turn brown:

1 | You can then clip off the clusters of seeds from your plant, and include a few inches from the stalk of the plant.

Place the clusters in a paper bag, upside down, so they can continue to dry.

The seeds will fall off into the bag once they are fully dry. Then you can place them in a jar or other airtight container.

Make sure you store your coriander seeds in a cool, dry place.

How to Grow Cilantro Indoors From Cuttings

If you don’t want to buy an established plant from your local garden center, it IS possible to grow your indoor cilantro plants from cuttings. In fact, you can grow them from the stems of your grocery store cilantro.

Just cut off the stems below the leaves and place each stem into your potting mix and allow it to root and regrow.

You can also place the stems in water and then plant them into the potting mix once there are roots in place.

How to grow cilantro indoors image.

How to Grow Cilantro Hydroponically

Place the cilantro seed into a cube of rock wool sitting in a shallow pool of water. The rock wool absorbs the water and the seed will germinate in just a few days. There are hydroponic kits with rock wool, cups and everything you need to grow your cilantro hydroponically.

Once there’s a seedling, the rock wool cube and plant can be placed into a net cup (a small plastic cup with holes).

Then the net cup is placed in a hole cut into the top of a container filled with a mixture of nutrients and water, so that the roots are submerged and can take up the nutrients.

A small pump inside the container keeps the liquid solution oxygenated so that the plants can absorb what they need from it.

how to grow cilantro indoors hydroponically

The plants only require three to four hours of artificial light each day, so you can just grow them under three CFL bulbs from Home Depot that are each 150 watt equivalent.

Hydroponic cilantro is known to bolt early. To help alleviate this issue choose varieties like Calypso, Santo and Marino, since they’re slow to bolt and can be harvested at least three times before they need to be replaced with new plants.

More Cilantro Growing Tips

  • How to know when the soil is moist enough… stick a pencil into the growing medium. If it is moist the pencil will come out with bits clinging to it. If there is not enough moisture the pencil will come out clean.
  • As the plant begins to bolt (or form its flowers) the leaves will change. They become much narrower and start to look a lot like carrot leaves. These narrow leaves do not taste good.
  • Once the plant goes to flower save the seeds and replant them or dry them and grind for use as a spice (Coriander). The seeds will be green at first. They can be used at this stage and taste like a cross between the leaves and the dry seeds. But waiting until the seeds are dry will allow you to store and use them much later.
  • Once you’re ready to replace the plant, pull it up and rinse off the potting mix. You can use a toothbrush to gently scrub the root clean. Then remove that tap root and save it in the freezer. It can be used to make a stock or when combined with lemongrass and pulverized, it makes a great curry paste.
  • You can also hang the plants upside down once you’ve pulled them up. Allow them to dry out completely and save the seeds for planting next year.

Once you know how to grow cilantro indoors I think you’re going to love the simplicity, fragrance and fresh taste of this lovely herb.