Coriander, also known by other names including Cilantro and Chinese parsley, is an herb that provides a distinctive flavor to Asian, Mexican, and other global cuisines.
In this post, learn how to grow coriander indoors in a container.
Herbs are one of the most important ingredients in most dishes. They add a unique flavor to the food. Cilantro is one such herb that not only adds flavor but is also beneficial to health.
What is also interesting about coriander is that you can grow it by yourself. You can grow it indoors in containers or outdoors in containers or gardens.
Coriander is one of the few things that I grew when I started growing food. Planting the seeds, watering them, seeing the little leaves grow day by day… is really an experience to look forward to and finally using them to adorn your dish gives quite a satisfaction.
Other names: Cilantro, Chinese parsley, Mexican parsley, fresh coriander, and coriander leaves.
Nutritional value of Coriander leaves
Coriander or cilantro is a wonderful source of dietary fiber, manganese, iron, and magnesium. In addition, these leaves are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and protein. They also contain small amounts of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, niacin, and carotene.
- Coriander is very good food for the digestive system.
- Coriander lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases the level of good cholesterol (HDL).
- It is good for diabetes patients. It can stimulate insulin secretion and lower blood sugar levels.
- Coriander contains anti-inflammatory properties.
- Coriander helps those suffering from anemia because of the presence of iron in it.
The easiest way to grow coriander is from seeds. You can use the seeds that you use for cooking or the ones you get in grocery stores but these do not have a 100% germination rate. So, when you use seeds that are bought from a grocery store, which are meant to be used in cooking then, only 75-80% of the seeds may germinate. This is because the seeds that are sold in grocery stores are dried longer and have preservatives added, hence the less germination rate.
You can buy seeds from a trusted source to grow coriander but if it is just for your Countertop or kitchen gardening then I think the seeds in your kitchen should do the job.
Note: If using the coriander seeds from a grocery store then gently crush the seed husk before sowing. Cilantro seeds are enclosed in a husk that you’ll need to crush to improve the germination rate. Make sure you gently crush or break them open into half using a mortar pestle or rolling pin or a mallet.
Choosing a pot or container to grow coriander
Most people choose too shallow pots for growing cilantro but that a mistake because cilantro has a deep taproot. Cilantro needs a pot that is deep and wide. The minimum height and width are 12cm and 17cm respectively.
Meaning choose a pot which is atleast 17cm wide in diameter and 12 cm deep. The pot I have used to grow cilantro indoors is exactly of those measurements. You can choose a bigger pot, but not a smaller one than this because cilantro grows with a deep taproot, meaning the main root of the cilantro is long.
How to grow coriander/cilantro ?
- To grow coriander, fill the pot or container with premium potting mix, rather than garden soil, which is too heavy. Make sure the pot has a drain hole.
- Wet the potting mix thoroughly, until the water comes out of the drain hole.
- Crush the seed husk before sowing or break open the seeds into half, use a mortar pestle and gently break them open or wrap the seeds in a kitchen tissue paper and gently break them open into half using a rolling pin or a mallet.
- Sprinkle the seeds over the potting mix. (I have sprinkled too many seeds because I am using the seeds that I use for regular cooking.)
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Make sure that the seeds are 1/4 inch deep in the soil and not more.
- At this stage gently water the soil. Make sure you do not expose seeds with watering force. I suggest using a spray bottle or making your own sprinkler bottle by making holes in the cap of a plastic water bottle.
- Keep the container indoors(windowsills, countertops of the kitchen) or outdoors(balcony, patio, garden) where it can get atleast 4-5 hours of sunlight with shade in the afternoon when the sun is the harshest.
- The seeds will sprout in about 2-3 weeks.
Note: Germination time is 2-3 weeks.
If you want a steady supply of cilantro, sow seeds every few weeks to keep a fresh supply of young plants.
When using the seeds that you use in cooking crush the husk and sprinkle more of them, this way even if the germination rate is less we will have a pot full of coriander leaves.
Note: If you don’t have potting mix and if using garden soil in container or pot, then mix some sand in it for the water to move easily and for easy draining.
You can grow cilantro from start(sowing seeds) to end(harvesting) indoors during the months of harsh winters or summers, just find a spot in your home where it can get indirect sunlight or early morning sunlight and water when the soil is dry to the touch, overwatering and underwatering can damage your cilantro.
It is a plant that grows best in the sunlight but dislikes hot weather. And be careful too much heat will make it go to seed quickly. In summer or in regions with hot climates plant it in a position that receives shade in the afternoon.
This means that the ideal cilantro growing conditions are cool but sunny. When growing indoors, place it on the windowsills where it can get early morning sunlight.
Cilantro likes evenly moist soil. That means keep the soil regularly moist but not soaked. Good drainage is essential, as cilantro has deep roots. Aim for about 1 inch of water per week. When watering, try not to wet the foliage as cilantro is really susceptible to powdery mildew.
Overwatering may turn cilantro and its catnip to pink color. So, avoid overwatering and underwatering.
Neutral soil that is very rich in organic matter and crumbly in texture helps this plant to grow. Also, the addition of aged manure or compost provides a good steady supply of nitrogen and other trace elements, thus promotes vegetative growth.
Cilantro does best in airy, light, fast-draining soil with plenty of perlite or sharp sand mixed in to increase drainage. But when potting in a container, use a premium potting mix rather than a garden soil, which is too heavy.
You can grow cilantro plants closely but for optimum growth space the plants 3 – 4 inches apart. When growing coriander in small quantities in containers indoors you can plant them closely. I grew them in a pot without spacing and there was no problem.
They need more space if you grow them for seed, but you can always eat the extra plants and just leave a few to go to seed.
If you want to grow coriander for seeds you don’t need to worry so much over your plants bolting to seed prematurely. However, a coriander plant will, of course, produce more and better seeds if it is big and strong. Keep watering and feeding your coriander plants well, and wait for the flower to develop and set seeds. In hot weather, this may take as little as 4 -- 6 weeks from sowing, during cool weather it can take several months. Click here to seed how to harvest seeds.
Cilantro plant care:
Feed the cilantro once every 15 days with any half-strength nitrogen-rich fertilizer to promote the foliage growth. You don’t need to fertilize your cilantro plants much if you side-dress them with compost or aged manure. Also, the application of fish emulsion is recommended.
I have grown cilantro without adding any fertilizer but that requires intensive care and when growing without fertilizer you will need to fortify the soil or potting mix with compost.
I make compost at home, you can use fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells etc put them in a container and leave it for a few days or weeks. Then mix it with water and water the plants, in this case, cilantro.
Check on your cilantro plants every day to see if the flowers are appearing, deadhead them regularly to promote the production of leaves. However, you can leave them if you want your plants to seed.
Problems when growing cilantro or coriander leaves:
- Yellowing leaves: Yellowing leaves can be a sign the herb plant lacks sufficient nutrients, particularly nitrogen. Start giving the herb a balanced liquid plant food, such as 14-14-14, once a week when you normally water the plant. Dilute the fertilizer to half strength to prevent fertilizer burn, which can also cause yellow leaves.
- Cilantro and catnip turning pink: Pink is normally a sign of overwatering. It may also have some yellow color. It can also signal a lack of nutrients, a change in temperature (generally cooler), or a chemical reaction to sunlight (not as common). If the soil is wet around the plants, back off on watering and allow them to dry out some.
- Bolting: The plant goes to seed a lot earlier in hot weather. Flowers start to appear quickly, then giving way to seed and after seeding the plant dies. This can be avoided by keeping it in temperatures below 75F. (24C)
- Heat: The biggest problem when growing cilantro is that the plants are so sensitive to heat and also to other stresses. Anything that stresses them will cause them to bolt (meaning they will grow a flower prematurely and set seed).
Notes: Yellowing occurs for many other reasons, including the need for a bigger pot as the plant grows. But that is only if you used a small pot or growing tray. If they become rootbound, where the roots start growing in circles around the interior of the pots, transplant them into pots about 2 inches larger in diameter.
Potting and Re-potting:
Cilantro is an annual that grows with a deep taproot. As a result, it dislikes repotting and will often bolt at the slightest provocation.
When it comes to cilantro, harvesting is relatively easy. Healthy cilantro plants grow fairly big, about 50 cm or 2 feet tall, but you can start harvesting when the plant is about 3-6 inches tall. All that is required is cutting cilantro plants about one-third from the top and not more. Cutting off too much can weaken the plant. The top one-third is what you will use to cook with and the bottom two-thirds will grow new leaves.
If you want to harvest the entire plant you should wait at least 45-70 days. Cutting the entire plant at soil level or 2 inches above the crown.
After harvesting the cilantro, if you aren’t able to cook with it immediately, you can refrigerate it until you are ready to cook with them.
When cutting the cilantro stem, make sure that you are using sharp, clean shears or scissors. Leave a few leaves on the intact stem so that the plant will still be able to generate food for itself.
Harvesting Coriander seed:
Harvesting coriander seed is easy. Just wait till the flower heads are dry.
Then cut the stalk, stick the whole thing upside down in a big paper bag and leave it in a dry spot for a couple of weeks. (Most people recommend to hang it up.)
After a couple of weeks, take the bag and shake it and all the coriander seeds should fall off and you can pull out the bare stalk. Keep your coriander seeds in a cool dry place.
Common pests and diseases:
Pests to watch out for are aphids.
Diseases that regularly affect cilantro include bacterial leaf spot, soft rot, carrot motley dwarf, damping-off, and powdery mildew.
Note: Usually the smaller the pot, the smaller the cilantro plant is.
Recipes using fresh coriander leaves:
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