The first time I tried cilantro, I hated it! I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to consume an herb that tasted like soap. But over the years, I’ve not only come to enjoy the pungent leaves of the cilantro plant, it has become my favorite herb. Which is a good thing, because growing cilantro from seed is relatively easy.
Cilantro Plant Care
Planting cilantro in my herb garden began with sowing seeds about ¼ inch (.6 cm.) deep. This ancient herb prefers full sun and rich, slightly acidic soil, which made it a perfect fit for my southwest-facing herb patch. Plus, cilantro is quick-growing. The plant produces harvestable leaves in about 3 to 4 weeks.
Well, if this sounds too good to be true, it was. By week five, my cilantro was bolting. A thick, flowering stalk had pushed its way up and multiple white blossoms quickly emerged. And when cilantro bolts, the flavor in the leaves deteriorates.
Additionally, cilantro leaves don’t retain their flavor when dried. This meant I had to learn how to prevent cilantro from bolting, in order to have fresh cilantro all year long.
How to Prevent Cilantro from Bolting
As a cool-weather crop, cilantro is naturally prone to bolt during hot weather and lengthening summer days. As gardeners, we can’t change this pattern, but sometimes we can slow down the process of bolting cilantro. And this begins with dedicated cilantro plant care:
- Successive sowing – Planting cilantro every two to three weeks is one way to provide a steady supply of this herb. Growing cilantro from seed is a better option than purchasing seedlings as this herb has a tap root that doesn’t transplant well.
- Regular watering – Dry soil is an indicator to many cool-season crops that their ideal growing conditions are coming to an end. To prevent water-stress from hastening the seed producing process, keep the soil around cilantro plants moist but not soggy.
- Pruning – As soon as a flowering stalk emerges, pinch it back. This won’t prevent further attempts at bolting, but may delay the leaves from losing flavor.
- Mulch – Something as simple as spreading a couple of inches (5 cm.) of grass clippings around the base of the plant can delay bolting. Cilantro plants with mulch will have cooler roots and soil moisture will evaporate slower.
- Shade – Grow summer crops of cilantro in shady areas or in moveable containers. Planting cilantro in partial or mottled shade keeps this herb cooler and helps hold off the bolting process.
- Protect fall crops – Cool-weather crops do beautifully in my locale during the fall, but are often cut short by bouts of winter weather. A row cover or other means of protection can keep these crops productive through the fall season.
- Fertilize correctly – Nitrogen promotes foliage growth, while phosphorus triggers flowering. My cilantro plant care strategy includes using fertilizer with higher nitrogen and lower phosphorus levels.
- Slow-bolting cilantro – Choosing varieties of cilantro which are slower to bolt, such as ‘Long Standing’, can delay flowering by up to two weeks.
Finally, I’ve learned not to panic when I see bolting cilantro in my herb garden. The dropped seeds readily sprout into new cilantro plants or can be collected and used in recipes which call for coriander.