Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a versatile herb commonly used in Mexican and Asian cuisine. Despite its popularity, many gardeners hesitate to grow cilantro because it tends to bolt or go to seed easily. In this article, we will explore some helpful tips to ensure your cilantro plants thrive and provide a continuous harvest.
- Cilantro Growing Conditions
- Why Does Cilantro Bolt?
- Delaying Bolting and Working Around It
- Flowering Cilantro and Its Uses
- Harvesting Cilantro Seeds
- Planting Cilantro
- Additional Tips for Successful Cilantro Growth
Cilantro Growing Conditions
The key to successfully growing cilantro lies in understanding its preferred conditions. Cilantro does not fare well in hot weather, so it is important to provide it with a cool and sunny environment. Ideally, choose a location that receives early morning or late afternoon sun while providing shade during the hottest part of the day.
Why Does Cilantro Bolt?
When temperatures rise in late spring or summer, cilantro employs an ingenious survival mechanism – it bolts. Bolting refers to the rapid production of stalks, white flowers, and seeds, allowing the plant to ensure its own reproduction. The heat becomes unbearable for the plant, triggering this natural response.
Delaying Bolting and Working Around It
While it’s impossible to completely prevent bolting, there are several strategies you can employ to delay it and make the most of your cilantro plants:
Plant Cilantro in the Shoulder Seasons
Cilantro thrives in cooler weather, particularly in spring and fall. Take advantage of these seasons by planting cilantro early in spring and again in late summer. This way, you can enjoy two harvests under the most favorable conditions.
Regularly removing leaves from your cilantro plants can help prevent immature flowers from fully forming and slow down the bolting process. Make it a habit to harvest and enjoy fresh cilantro regularly.
Soil temperature plays a significant role in cilantro bolting. Keep the soil cool and help it retain moisture by applying mulch around the plants. This will create a favorable environment for your cilantro to thrive.
Water Regularly and Provide Shade
During the hot summer months, prolong the lifespan of your cilantro by ensuring it remains moist and cool. Water your plants daily and consider moving potted cilantro to shadier areas during the hottest parts of the day.
While you cannot completely stop cilantro from bolting, you can delay the process by cutting back immature flower stalks as soon as they appear. This intervention can buy you some extra time before the bolting becomes inevitable.
Accepting that each cilantro plant has a short season, you can overcome this limitation by practicing succession planting. Plant new cilantro seeds every couple of weeks. As one set of plants starts to bolt, the next batch will be ready to harvest, ensuring a continuous supply throughout the growing season.
Look for Slow Bolt Varieties
Certain cilantro varieties, such as Slow Bolt, Calypso, and Leisure, are more tolerant of heat and less prone to bolting in the summer. Seek out these varieties to enjoy extended harvesting periods.
Flowering Cilantro and Its Uses
When cilantro flowers, the plant is still edible, albeit with less flavor. The leaves may also become smaller and assume a lacy, fern-like appearance. While the leaves are still safe to consume, they won’t provide the same intense flavor as when the plant is young. At this stage, your cilantro is better suited for allowing pollinators to enjoy the delicate white flowers and for harvesting its seeds.
Harvesting Cilantro Seeds
Bolting cilantro provides a unique opportunity to harvest its seeds and propagate the plant. These seeds are commonly known as coriander, a popular spice used in various cuisines. When the husk surrounding the seeds turns brown, they are ready for harvest. Simply roll the seeds in your hand to remove the outer hull. To use the coriander seeds in cooking, dry them in the oven on low heat until they become crumbly, then grind them into a powder. If you intend to use the seeds for planting, allow them to dry naturally and prepare them for germination.
To increase the chances of successful germination, prepare cilantro seeds before planting them in the ground. Soak the seeds in water for 24 to 48 hours, then remove and dry them. You can choose to start cilantro seeds indoors or directly sow them in your garden.
For direct-sowing, place the seeds in the garden bed and cover them with a 1/4-inch (6mm) layer of soil. Keep the seeds consistently watered until they sprout. Once the seedlings reach a height of at least 2 inches (5 cm), thin them out to be 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) apart. Growing cilantro in crowded conditions can help shade the roots and prevent bolting during hot weather.
If you choose to transplant cilantro seedlings, wait until they have developed a couple of sets of true leaves. Dig holes 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) apart and carefully place the seedlings in them. Water thoroughly after transplanting to ensure their successful establishment.
Additional Tips for Successful Cilantro Growth
Although cilantro has a relatively short lifespan, there are ways to prolong your harvest:
- Frequent pruning can delay bolting and extend the harvest period.
- Consider allowing cilantro to reseed itself, providing a fresh crop for the next year.
- If you collect cilantro seeds, you can use them as coriander in your cooking.
By implementing these tips and tricks, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of flavorful cilantro throughout the growing season. For more information and quality gardening products, visit Ames Farm Center.