Tips to Grow Better Cilantro
After several years, I’m finally growing the cilantro of my dreams! This delicious herb is often elusive, especially in warmer climates like Southern California. While I can’t claim to have figured out the perfect solution, today I’m sharing tips for how I learned to grow better cilantro in my own garden here in Orange County, CA.
Tips to Grow Better Cilantro
How are you? Have you struggled to grow cilantro before? The tips I’m going to share with you today all worked in tandem for me. It doesn’t seem that there was only one, magic secret to growing cilantro, but rather changing a few different aspects of my process produced the best cilantro I’ve ever grown!
For a little background, I’m a Southern California, zone 10b gardener. In our specific little microclimate of inland Orange County, our weather gets scorching hot in the Summer (think triple digits) and stays above 30 degrees in the Winter. You might already know that I’m a big proponent of sharing local knowledge, as most online resources are very generalized in their information or written for climates that are drastically different. Regardless, some of these tips for growing cilantro might also be beneficial for gardeners in other climate zones as well.
Whats the best season for growing cilantro?
Ideally, cilantro is a cool weather herb. Without a doubt, you’re going to have more success if you grow cilantro in its preferred season no matter what tips I share. Here in Southern California, I always make cilantro a part of my Fall and Winter Garden. Most often, growing cilantro in hot weather results in bitter flavors and bolting. It’s December right now and my cilantro patch is loving it!
If you’re interested in pushing the limits, it’s possible to grow cilantro during the Summer in a shady, cooler area. When I did this successfully, it was in-ground (which I think helped the roots stay cooler) and nestled in a shady patch next to a fruit tree. Additionally, following the tips outlined below will also help!
Heat-Tolerant or Slow-Bolt Cilantro
One tip to grow better cilantro is to start by choosing a variety that is known to be more heat tolerant (aka slow-bolt cilantro). Essentially, read the seed packet descriptions and look for clues about climate, heat, and bolting to determine if that variety of cilantro might be good for your garden. Personally, I’ve had great luck with Calypso cilantro. In fact, after having a great season of cilantro a few years ago, my cilantro re-seeded all over the place and I didn’t need to buy seeds ever again! Currently, all the cilantro in my garden has been grown from seeds that have been grown in my garden year after year.
This brings me to an important tip to grow better cilantro—growing out cilantro from seeds collected/grown in your own garden can increase your chances of growing better cilantro! In general, the plants we grow here are more adapted to our specific microclimates and thus can be stronger and more resilient over time. If this topic interests you, you might enjoy reading about my favorite Self-Sowing Flowers too! Keep in mind that you don’t want to save seed from F1 or hybrid varieties since they won’t grow true-to-parent, but that’s a whole other topic!
Related Article: Cool Season Annual Herbs for Southern California
How to Sow Better Cilantro
A huge game-changer for cilantro in my garden was how I sowed the seeds. In the past, I’d treat cilantro like a singular plant because that’s how they sold it in nurseries. Of course, one cilantro plant is never enough for our family because we eat so much cilantro! Instead of treating cilantro like one plant, I instead treat it more like a microgreen. Essentially, I heavily sow my cilantro seeds in large patches where the seeds are growing closely together (although not touching quite like microgreens).
After realizing that cilantro grows so readily from seed sown in patches, I completely stopped buying cilantro from nurseries. It’s simply not worth it! So, if you are ready to grow some cilantro from seed with me, I’m going to share my tips to grow cilantro from seed below.
Tips to Grow Cilantro From Seed
As mentioned above, sow your cilantro seeds heavily in a large-ish patch of soil. If you’re growing cilantro in a raised bed or container, use a soil mix specifically for those instances or amend your raised bed as I typically do HERE. For in-ground growing, I simply top off my soil with compost (over time the soil gets better and better), scratch it in a bit, and sow my seeds.
Now, this is what I think really helped my cilantro germinate quicker and more efficiently:
Before sowing or planting your cilantro seeds, split them in half. Whether or not this is proven to be better, I’ve been doing it the last couple years and have noticed better germination speed and success….or maybe it’s just a mind trick (I’m okay with that). You can take a paper bag and slightly crush your seeds with a rolling pin—-whatever it takes to just make the cilantro seed break in half. In the past I’ve used a compostable coffee filter and a rock. This is the fun and resourceful part of gardening!
After breaking up your cilantro seed, simply toss them generously onto your prepared soil, and make sure to toss some more soil over the top to cover. Personally, I don’t cover deeply, maybe 1/8-1/4” inches of soil.
Last but not least, of all the tips to grow cilantro, this one might be the most imperative! After covering your cilantro seed with a thin layer of soil, tamp the whole area down. Gently firm/press the soil over the top of the seeds. In my experiences, tamping down the area increases the soil contact and really allows the seeds to stay safe and moist to germinate.
Harvest Cilantro for Better Growth
Once you’ve followed the above tips to grow cilantro, you’re also going to want to harvest your homegrown cilantro in a way that promotes continued growth. Very simply, you’ll notice that cilantro grows from the center of the plant like lettuce does (see the small, emerging leaves in the photo below?). Essentially, as long as you leave the center-most leaves and the root system alone, your cilantro can continue to grow all season. Personally, I like to harvest cilantro by grabbing a fistful of cilantro stems and cutting just above the center bunch of leaves that are forming. If you follow this harvest tip, your cilantro plants can give you harvests throughout most of the season, although I do prefer to succession sow every once in a while to keep a good supply.
My BEST cilantro storage tip
So, now that you’ll be growing more cilantro than you’ll ever need, I have a great storage tip for you! Make your harvested cilantro into a bouquet. Next, stick the bottom stems of your harvested cilantro in a mason jar filled with water (enough water for the stems to reach). Finally, take a plastic bag and put it over the top of the cilantro “bouquet”—I’ve used a Ziploc before, but also one of those thin plastic grocery bags works really well too. You can store cilantro this way in the refrigerator for a week and it will stay super fresh!
This time of year, cilantro is one of the many cold hardy, annual herbs that fill the garden in Winter. Growing according to the seasons is such a grounding rhythm. Even when things in life seem busy or chaotic, there’s the garden pulling us along—dragging us into familiar and nourishing routines.