Cilantro

(Coriandrum sativum)

If you like the aromatic flavor of salsa served in Mexican restaurants, you’ll like cilantro. The leaves have an instantly recognizable fragrance that fills a room when you cut them. Sometimes called Chinese parsley, its distinctive aroma and flavor is also part of Caribbean and Asian foods, lending flavor to recaito, salsas, curries, salads, chutneys, herbed butters, and meat marinades.

Cilantro looks like flat leaf Italian parsley, but the leaves are thinner. It grows in a rosette of stemmy leaves that are ready to harvest shortly after planting. Young leaves have the best flavor, so be sure to harvest often. It is a fast-growing annual except in milder climates where it will overwinter. Cilantro grows tall and blooms at the end of its life, usually after the weather gets hot. After it blooms, harvest the seeds–they are what you buy in spice jars as coriander, another common ingredient in Asian cooking. You can grind the seeds or use them whole. Some gardeners also let the seeds drop to make new plants.

Fall is a great time to grow cilantro in mild climates, as the plants are frost tolerant and love the cool weather in fall, winter, and early spring.

  • Type Cool season annual, though can overwinter in milder climates
  • Planting time Early spring, fall
  • Features Aromatic leaves, flavorful seeds
  • Light Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Light, moist but well drained
  • Spacing 12 to 18 inches
  • Plant size 18 to 24 inches tall, 12 inches wide
  • Garden use In containers, herb and flower gardens
  • Culinary use Leaves & seeds in Mexican, Caribbean or Asian dishes

Some Bonnie Plants varieties may not be available in your local area, due to different variables in certain regions. Also, if any variety is a limited, regional variety it will be noted on the pertinent variety page.

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At a glance
Nutrition Information

Light requirements: Full sun to part shade, especially in hottest regions.

Planting: Space 12 to 18 inches apart.

Soil requirements: Plants thrive in rich, moist but well-drained soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. Work organic matter into soil before planting to add fertility and improve moisture retention. In containers, use premium quality potting soil.

Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist. Apply mulch to keep soil cool. The combination of cool and moist soil postpones flowering and helps plants produce leafy growth longer.

Frost-fighting plan: Cilantro prefers cool weather. Established plants withstand a few hard frosts (temperatures under 28º F) in autumn. In zones 8 to 10, fall plantings typically survive through winter. However, use a frost blanket to protect newly planted seedlings from frosts.

Common issues: Aphids and whitefly can attack plants. Also, cilantro can get mildew and wilt. Plants fly through their life cycle in spring, shifting quickly from tasty leaves to flowering.

Growing tip: Tuck cilantro where it can self-sow. Volunteers can pop up in fall from spring plantings or in spring from fall plantings.

Harvesting: Pick leaves early in the growing season when plants are short, and again when leafy stems stretch as plants mature. Snip individual leaves or leafy stems close to the ground. Never harvest more than one-third of the plant.

Storage: Cut cilantro stems and place in water like a fresh bouquet. Remove any leaves below the water line, and slip a plastic bag over leaves. Place the jar in the refrigerator. Change the water regularly. Stems will last at least 3 weeks. You can also wrap stems in a barely damp paper towel and tuck into a loosely closed plastic bag or container. Store in the refrigerator and use within 7 to 10 days.

For more information, visit the Cilantro page in our How to Grow section.

Nutrition Facts

¼ cup, fresh:
  • Calories: 1
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Dietary fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Vitamin A: 5% DV
  • Vitamin C: 2%
  • Vitamin K: 16%
  • Vitamin B6: 0%
  • Folate: 1%
  • Potassium: 1%
  • Manganese: 1%

Nutritional Information

Cilantro, the fresh leafy-green stalks of the coriander plant, is a good source of Vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and aids in bone strength. Packed with phytochemicals—plant-based nutrients including limonene, camphor, and quercetin—the herb helps the body fight disease and aging. Fresh cilantro leaves are a natural antibiotic; to get the maximum benefit, eat cilantro when the leaves are fresh, crisp, and vibrant green. Commonly incorporated into Asian and Southwestern cuisine, cilantro’s spicy and lemony flavor is a favorite addition to fresh guacamole and pesto.