Growing Culantro

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growing culantro in your garden

Culantro has a flavor similar to that of cilantro, but stronger.

Culantro, an herb native to Mexico, Central, and South America, has a strong, aromatic scent that fills the air when you brush up against it. This easy-to-grow herb has many culinary uses in Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian cuisine. It is also very popular in Panama, Puerto Rico, and other Latin-influenced areas. Although used in small amounts, its very strong flavor is used as a seasoning in a wide range of foods, including meats, vegetables, and chutneys. It goes by many names: long coriander, false coriander, recao (Spanish), langer koriander (German), ngo gai (Vietnamese), pak chi farang (Thai), and bhandhanya (Hindi). Like its close relative cilantro, the plant tends to stretch tall and go to seed in the lengthening days of spring. While culantro and cilantro look different, the leaf aromas are similar, although culantro is stronger. Grown as an annual, it is actually biennial in areas warm enough to let it overwinter.

In the Garden

Growing culantro is like growing lettuce. You plant after frost in the spring, then pick individual leaves until summer’s long days and high temperatures arrive. At that point, culantro, like lettuce, will grow out of its rosette, stretching upward with a fast-growing stalk that will bloom and set seeds. Soon afterward, the plant is usually exhausted and dies. If the seeds are allowed to drop into the soil, it may reseed. However, in areas that experience freezing temperatures in winter, this tender tropical will be killed. Your best bet is to grow it in spring and cut off the flower stalk when it appears in order to encourage continued leafy growth, rather than flowers. It will eventually succeed in flowering, and when it does, the leaves will become somewhat tough and less appealing.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Culantro plant goes to seed

This culantro plant is going to seed, a signal that it will soon die. To encourage leafy growth for a longer time, trim flower stalks as soon as they appear.

In Central America, where it is native, culantro grows in partly shady areas on the edge of the forest. Gardeners have found that planting culantro in partial shade will result in larger leaves and a prolonged harvest. Plants growing in full sun will attempt to flower earlier than those in shade, shortening their useful lifespan. Space plants about 8 to 12 inches apart in soil that is well drained. Because you want leafy growth, a rich, organic soil is ideal. Add compost or dehydrated manure to give your plants a good start. Fertilize with timed-release granules to assure optimum growth, or use a liquid plant food like Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food both at planting and every couple of weeks thereafter.

Mulch plants to conserve soil moisture and to prevent soil from splashing onto the foliage. Water as needed to keep plants healthy.

Troubleshooting

This is not a plant to set out if there is any chance of a late frost, and it should be sheltered if you have one. Use a black nursery pot turned upside down on top of the plant to protect it, then remove it in the morning as soon as the temperature has risen.

Harvest and Storage

To gather fresh leaves for use in the kitchen, cut the large outer leaves individually. However, if you plan to process and preserve culantro, use a knife to harvest the entire rosette at soil level.You can preserve the wonderful flavor by putting the leaves of culantro in a food processor with enough olive oil to moisten it. Once it is chopped, put the mixture into a freezer container, add a layer of olive oil on top to prevent freezer burn, label it, and place it in the freezer. Whenever you need culantro, use a knife to chip a bit off.

Uses

Culantro can be used as you would use cilantro, although the flavor is somewhat stronger. A traditional use is to make recaito, a Caribbean sauce used as a condiment in numerous dishes.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

When you say culantro, do you mean cilantro?

Culantro and cilantro are not the same plant, but the flavor is similar, and one could be used as a substitute for the other (though culantro does have a stronger flavor). Culantro is favored in West Indian, Latin American, and Asian cuisines. Instead of the parsley-like leaf of cilantro, the leaf of culantro is 8 to 10 inches long and strap-like with a serrated edge. It is highly fragrant and is usually noticeable in ethnic markets where the cut leaves are sold among the produce.

How should I grow culantro?

This is one of the few herbs that actually prefer the shade. It will still grow in the sun, but its leaves will be smaller and the plant will be quicker to bloom. You want it to grow as many large, flavorful leaves as possible for as long as possible. Cutting the flower stalk off will help, but you will need to do it repeatedly. Enrich the soil when you plant with organic matter such as compost. Choose a location with shade, at least in the afternoon, moist soil.

Harvest plants by cutting individual leaves. You can also cut all the leaves on a rosette, but leave the crown in place so it can re-grow. Cut only as you need the leaves, as they are quite perishable; this explains their scarcity in most markets.

27 thoughts on “Growing Culantro

  1. I am looking for an herb that was referred to me as saw tooth mint. Is there such an item or were thay mistaken about the name? All I can find when I google is culantro, or Ngo Gai. Help!!!!

    • Chris,
      Culantro is sometimes referred to as saw-toothed mint or saw tooth mint. If that is what you’re seeking, you’ve found it! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  2. I transplanted a few cilantro plants i had on the ground in my patio to pots but the next day the leaves turned hard and kind of brown, is it dead? What went wrong?

    • Hi Ana,
      I’m not exactly sure what happened, but brown leaves are a sign of lack of water. Perhaps your plants were not kept moist enough between digging up and transplanting into new pots. It’s best to water them thoroughly some time before you dig them up, then keep the exposed roots out of direct sunlight and from lingering in open air – transplant immediately to fresh, new potting soil in your pots and water in. If you have any green leaves in the middle of the plant that show new growth, it should recover. Give it a dose of fertilizer, too. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  3. I live in North Georgia and we have had great success with our culantro, it is in a pot and in partial sun, in the fall we bring the pot in the garage with the rest of our plants that cannot freeze and it just keeps on going. Yes, it goes to seed and we just cut the flowers and go from there. We use it in cooking instead of cilantro.

  4. Hi, i had a wonderfull culantro growing but like an 2 weeks the leves are turning brown and it looks like they are dying. Is there any food to prevent it. thank you

    • Hi Roberto,
      Culantro is an annual. I think your culantro has reached the end of the growing cycle for the year. Growing culantro is like growing lettuce. You plant after frost in the spring. You pick individual leaves until summer’s long days and high temperatures arrive. Then culantro, like lettuce, grows out of its rosette, stretching upward with a fast-growing stalk that will bloom and set seeds. At this point, the plant is usually exhausted and dies. If the seeds are allowed to drop into the soil, it may reseed. However, in areas that experience freezing temperatures in winter, this tender tropical will be killed. Your best bet is to grow it in spring and cut off the flower stalk when it appears in order to encourage leafy growth, rather than flowers. It will eventually succeed in flowering, and when it does, the leaves will become somewhat tough and less appealing. For step-by-step growing and fertilizing information, make sure you click the tabs in the article above. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  5. Thought I had bought cilantro. When planted, suddenly finally strarted tp GROW. Then noticed the name. Lost, I
    got on the computer. Thank you, now I need to put in a place that it can have room to grow. It’s Hot & Humid here.

  6. Hi,
    I am trying to find one of your retailers that sell the Culantro/Recao plants in the Los Angeles, CA area.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Danielle,

      Look for Bonnie Plants retailers in your area through our Bonnie Plants Finder. If you can’t find culantro plants at a local store, ask a store’s garden center manager to request the plants from your local Bonnie Plants salesperson. I hope this helps!

      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

    • I found some seeds from Thailand on ebay. I got 200 seeds for just a few bucke, don’t remember because it was so minimal. I think they will ship it for free. The only drawback, it takes 2 to 3 weeks before they arrive. Good luck.

  7. I have tried to grow culantro in pots in the hotter region of the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I actually had success a couple of years, although the growth is very slow. I could not keep up with how much I wanted to use in cooking. Because the humidity is fairly low in the summer where I am situated, I used a spray bottle frequently on the plants to up the moisture content of the local atmosphere. But I also had to be careful of too much ground watering as the plants can rot like most things that get over watered. I also was able to propagate from seeds, but Kelly is right, the success rate is really low, but all it takes is a couple of successes. One big problem is that the seeds are tiny and so they are easy to loose. I used the leaves in cooking, but they did not have the flavoring strength I was hoping for. I think some of it might be the climate not being hot and humid enough. I now have some property in Mississippi that I will test for success, as it is much hotter and very humid compared to my CA property. I’ll post the results when available.

    • Hi John, Thanks for the info! Yes, please update us about your success this season. Best, Kelly

      • Kelly, does Bonnie plants have a outlet near New Site, MS 38859 that sells live culantro plants?

    • Hi Nan,

      Glad you’re enjoying your culantro! From what I’ve read, it can be rather difficult to save culantro seed and replant. The germination rates are pretty low, but you can certainly try! Look for information about seed saving and culantro online. We sell small culantro plants, which are much easier to grow, but we don’t sell seed or have info on growing culantro from seed on our website. Good luck and happy growing!

      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

      • I’ve actually tried saving the seeds and replanting it, but its difficult because the seeds are extremely tiny it took forever to pluck all the seeds from the plant, and when i planted the seeds, only a few culantro plants grew

  8. Can Culantro be grown successfully in a pot? I bought some and am getting ready to plant but would like to put it in a pot. Thanks

    • Hi Nelcine,

      I don’t see any reason that culantro wouldn’t do well in a container. Try growing it in a pot at least 14 inches in diameter. Let us know how it does!

      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

    • I would like to know where can I get culantro seeds , so I can grow some in my house. My sisters and I love to cook with this plant ,but its hard to get it where we are . we can only find mexican cilantro. we need culantro seeds please let me know how to get it.

      Thanks :)

      • Hi Mixila,

        We don’t sell culantro seeds but we do sell culantro transplants that are easy to grow at home! Use our Find Our Plants page to locate Bonnie Plants retailers in your area and look for our culantro plants there. If you can’t find them, ask a garden center manager to request the plants from our local Bonnie salesperson. Happy growing!

        Kelly, Bonnie Plants

      • Richter’s in Canada is an excellent source for Culantro seed. Their prices are fair, they ship to the US, and their seed is top quality.

    • I’ve been growing culantro in large pots for several years and it does beautifully. I keep it under a palm tree that provides filtered sun in the mornings and the house provides full shade in the afternoons. I do bring it in when temperatures drop to freezing. Every couple of years I replace the plants after letting some of them go to seed. I harvest the seed and, as a certified organic commercial grower, I grow starter plants in my greenhouse.

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