Ultimate Cilantro Plant Care Guide: Expert Tips and Benefits of Grow Lights

Ultimate Cilantro Plant Care Guide: Expert Tips and Benefits of Grow Lights

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a versatile herb used globally in cuisines for its fresh, citrusy flavor. Originating from the Middle East, southern Europe to southwestern Asia, it thrives in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. For indoor grow lights, you should use them for 12 to 16 hours a day. Proper watering, moderate temperature (60°F-75°F), and humidity (40%-50%) are essential. Common pests include aphids and spider mites. For optimal indoor growth, the Nurser 3 grow light set provides full-spectrum, energy-efficient lighting, promoting healthy growth. Cilantro is typically propagated by seeds and benefits from regular pruning to delay bolting. It is used in various dishes and offers both culinary and medicinal benefits.

Edited by: Jille Kuipers

Cilantro Plant Care Guide

Cilantro Plant Care Infographic

Table of Contents

Cilantro Plant Care seeds Coriander
Cilantro is a herb and its seeds "Coriander" are a spice. 

1. Introduction

Cilantro, botanically known as Coriandrum sativum, is a versatile herb cherished around the globe for its distinctive flavor and aroma. Both its leaves and seeds are integral to a multitude of culinary traditions, ranging from Mexican salsas to Indian curries. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of how to cultivate, maintain, and enjoy this aromatic herb in your garden or home.

2. Origin and Characteristics of Cilantro

2.1 Origin

Cilantro, also referred to as coriander in many parts of the world, originates from regions stretching from the Middle East, southern Europe and northern Africa to southwestern Asia. It has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years, with its earliest known use dating back to 5000 BC. Ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians and Greeks, highly valued cilantro for its culinary and medicinal properties. Today, cilantro is a staple in kitchens across the globe, appreciated for its fresh, citrusy flavor.

2.2 Characteristics

Cilantro is an annual herb that grows to a height of about 50 cm (20 inches). The plant features delicate, feathery green leaves that resemble flat-leaf parsley. Its tiny white or light pink flowers form clusters, which eventually produce round, aromatic seeds known as coriander. The entire plant, from its leaves to its seeds, is edible and offers distinct culinary uses. The leaves, known as cilantro, are often used fresh, while the seeds are dried and used as a spice.

Cilantro Plant Care a favorite kitchen herb

3. Popular Cilantro Varieties

Several varieties of cilantro are cultivated for different growing conditions and culinary uses.

  • Leisure: Known for its slow-bolting properties, making it ideal for repeated harvests. Leisure cilantro is perfect for gardeners who wish to extend the growing season and continually enjoy fresh leaves.
  • Calypso: Extremely slow to bolt, providing a prolonged harvest period. This variety is particularly favored in warmer climates where early bolting can be an issue.
  • Santo: Another slow-bolting variety that is popular due to its robust flavor and reliability. Santo cilantro is often chosen by both home gardeners and commercial growers for its consistency and quality.

4. Cilantro Plant Care Tips

4.1 Lighting

Cilantro thrives under medium to high light conditions. For optimal outdoor growth, the plant requires 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. When grown indoors, it should be placed near a south-facing window to maximize light exposure. If natural light is insufficient, particularly during the winter months, supplementing with LED grow lights can ensure the plant receives the necessary light intensity. Signs of inadequate light include leggy growth, pale leaves, and thin stems, indicating the need for increased light exposure . For indoor growth it is recommended to use growlights for about 12 to 16 hours.

Cilantro Plant Care Light requirements

4.2 Grow Light for Indoor Cilantro Cultivation

Nurser 3 Grow Light Set for Home Growers

For home growers, the Nurser 3 grow light set is an excellent option. This set is designed to provide the optimal light spectrum for cilantro and other herbs, ensuring healthy and robust growth. The Nurser 3 features:

  • Full Spectrum Lighting with a specific plant-spectrum: Mimics natural sunlight, promoting photosynthesis and growth.
  • A linear formfactor optimised for growing in trays: Allows to easily place growth trays underneath the and ensures consistent light exposure.
  • Energy Efficiency: Uses LED technology to provide bright light while consuming less power, making it cost-effective for home use.
  • User-Friendly Design: Easy to set up and operate, making it ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.

Nurser 3 (1200mm/4ft) for Larger Scale Farms

For larger-scale farms, the Nurser 3 (1200mm/4ft) model can be used in greater areas, making it suitable for commercial cultivation. This model offers:

  • Right Light Intensity: Provides sufficient light for growing in vertical racks or shelves, ensuring all plants receive adequate illumination.
  • Durability: Built to withstand the demands of larger operations, with reliable engineering and long-lasting LEDs.
  • Easy to install and use: The lights can be daisy-chained to cover up to 18 meters, allowing for extensive coverage in larger growing areas. Farmers have the flexibility to use their own analog or smart programmable timers to automate the lighting schedule, ensuring optimal growth conditions. Additionally, the lights are lightweight, eliminating the need for farmers to factor in extra weight when installing them in large structures.
  • Scalability: Can be easily integrated with multiple units to expand coverage as needed, supporting the growth of large quantities of cilantro and other crops.

Using the Nurser 3 series ensures that both home growers and commercial farmers can maintain the ideal lighting conditions for cilantro, enhancing growth and yield.

4.3 Watering

Proper watering is crucial for the healthy growth of cilantro. The plant prefers soil that is consistently moist but not waterlogged. To achieve this balance, water the cilantro thoroughly until water drains out of the bottom of the pot. Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot. Overwatering can lead to soggy soil and fungal diseases, while underwatering can cause the plant to wilt and become stressed. Regularly check the soil moisture by inserting your finger into the soil. If it feels dry at a depth of about 2 inches, it's time to water again.

Cilantro Plant Care Farm watering

4.4 Temperature

Cilantro prefers cooler temperatures and thrives best in a range of 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). High temperatures above 85°F (29°C) can cause the plant to bolt, meaning it will prematurely produce flowers and seeds, which can make the leaves taste bitter. To prevent bolting, try to provide some shade during the hottest part of the day if you're growing cilantro outside in a warm climate. Indoors, ensure the plant is not placed near heat sources such as radiators or appliances that emit heat.

4.5 Humidity

Cilantro grows well in moderate humidity levels, ideally between 40% and 50%. In areas with low humidity, you may need to increase the humidity around the plant. This can be achieved by placing a humidifier nearby, using a pebble tray filled with water under the pot, or misting the leaves occasionally. Good air circulation is also important to reduce the risk of fungal diseases, so avoid overcrowding plants and ensure they are spaced adequately.

4.6 Soil

Cilantro prefers well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH, ideally between 6.2 and 6.8. A good soil mix for cilantro can be made by combining garden loam, compost, and perlite or vermiculite to ensure proper drainage and aeration. Before planting, work in organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and structure. Avoid heavy clay soils that retain too much moisture and can lead to root rot.

4.7 Fertilizing

Cilantro benefits from regular feeding, especially in poor soils. Before planting, amend the soil with compost or a balanced organic fertilizer. During the growing season, use a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) diluted to half-strength every four to six weeks. Over-fertilizing can lead to lush foliage with reduced flavor, so follow the recommended guidelines and avoid excessive applications.

4.8 Pruning

Regularly harvesting cilantro not only provides you with fresh leaves but also encourages the plant to produce more foliage and delays bolting. Begin harvesting when the plants are about 6 inches tall, cutting the outer leaves first. Use scissors or garden shears to cut the stems just above the soil level, leaving the central growth intact. Remove any yellowing or damaged leaves to keep the plant healthy and vigorous. Promptly remove flower stalks as they appear to prolong the leaf production.

4.9 Repotting

Cilantro can be grown in containers, but it may require repotting as it grows. Choose a pot with good drainage holes and use fresh, well-draining potting soil. When repotting, gently remove the plant from its current container, being careful not to damage the roots. Place it in the new container at the same depth it was growing before, fill in around the roots with soil, and water thoroughly. Repotting is best done in the early growing season to give the plant time to establish itself.

5. Propagation of Cilantro

Propagation by Seeds

Cilantro is most commonly propagated by seeds, which are easy to germinate and grow. Here’s a step-by-step guide to propagating cilantro from seeds:

  1. Seed Preparation:Soak the seeds in water for a few hours to help soften the seed coat and speed up germination.
  2. Sowing:Sow the seeds directly in the garden or in containers. Plant them about 1/4 inch deep in well-draining soil.
  3. Spacing:Space the seeds about 6 to 8 inches apart to give each plant enough room to grow.
  4. Watering:Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate, which usually takes 7 to 14 days.
  5. Thinning:Once the seedlings have grown to about 2 inches tall, thin them to ensure proper spacing and prevent overcrowding.

6. Common Pests and Diseases

Cilantro can be affected by several pests and diseases. Common pests include aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies, which can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and damping-off can occur in humid or poorly ventilated conditions. To prevent these issues, ensure good air circulation, avoid overhead watering, and remove any infected plant material promptly.

Cilantro Plant Care grows towards light
Low light levels cause Cilantro to stretch "in the search of light"

7. Research Findings

7.1 Optimal Growing Conditions for Cilantro

Research indicates that cilantro performs best under specific conditions. Studies have shown that cilantro prefers moderate temperatures and consistent moisture for optimal growth and flavor. Additionally, research highlights the importance of well-draining soil and the benefits of organic amendments to enhance soil fertility and structure.

There are several several scientific studies conducted on the effects of light intensity and photoperiod on the growth and physiological characteristics of coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), commonly known as cilantro. Below is a summary of the key findings from these studies:

Cilantro Plant Care experiment

Different lighting treatments can help determine the optimal growth conditions for your cilantro. This experiment demonstrates that more light is not always better; a balanced light level, appropriate lighting period, and key light characteristics like spectrum and uniformity are essential. Using grow lights such as the Nurser 3 and Nurser 4 can simplify this process, as they are specifically designed for urban indoor farming and address many of these factors automatically.

7.2 Lighting Research Findings for Cilantro:

  1. Light Intensity and Photoperiod Impact:
    • High Light Intensity: High light intensity (400 µmol·m−2·s−1) with continuous lighting (24 hours) can reduce the photosynthetic capacity of coriander, though it can boost yield at the expense of energy efficiency.
    • Optimal Conditions: A light intensity of 200 µmol·m−2·s−1 combined with a 16-hour photoperiod is recommended for optimal growth, balancing yield and energy efficiency. Low light intensity (133 µmol·m−2·s−1) is suboptimal, inhibiting plant development.
    • Photoperiods: An 8-hour photoperiod significantly decreases yield compared to a 16-hour photoperiod. Continuous lighting (24 hours) can increase yield but is not energy efficient.
  2. Morphological and Photosynthetic Characteristics:
    • Studies show that light intensity and photoperiod significantly affect the morphological development and photosynthetic traits of coriander plants. Optimal light conditions enhance plant height, stem diameter, number of branches, and overall leaf area.
    • Extended photoperiods and appropriate light intensity can promote higher photosynthetic rates and better chlorophyll content, leading to improved plant growth and biomass accumulation.
  3. Energy Utilization:
    • Using LEDs in controlled environments like Plant Factories with Artificial Lighting (PFALs) allows for precise control of lighting conditions, leading to more efficient energy use in coriander cultivation.
  4. Environmental and Operational Factors:
    • Coriander's yield and quality are influenced by various factors including light conditions, which can help mitigate some environmental stresses such as adverse weather conditions.
  5. Potential for Indoor Cultivation:
    • The research supports the potential of indoor cultivation systems using LEDs to optimize coriander growth, ensuring high yield and quality while maintaining energy efficiency.
Cilantro Plant Care Hydroponic system

7.3 Recommendation for urban farms:

The studies consistently highlight the importance of balancing light intensity and photoperiod to optimize the growth and yield of coriander. The recommended conditions for efficient and productive coriander cultivation in indoor systems are a light intensity of up to 200 µmol·m−2·s−1 and up to a 16-hour photoperiod. These conditions can help maximize photosynthetic efficiency and plant growth while minimizing energy consumption.

Please note that you should conduct your own trials, as each growth environment and crop growth goal may vary. The Nurser 3 grow light can be used for both higher and lower micromole intensities. Using a timer (analog or digital) can help automate your operations and ensure year-round consistency. 

cilantro indoor farm with growlight

Commonfarms growing Cilantro with Nurser 3

8. Frequently Asked Questions About Cilantro

  • Can cilantro grow indoors? Yes, cilantro can be successfully grown indoors with adequate light, proper watering, and suitable temperature conditions.
  • How often should I water cilantro? Water cilantro thoroughly and allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between waterings. This typically means watering every few days, depending on the indoor humidity and temperature.
  • Why is my cilantro bolting? Cilantro bolts due to high temperatures or prolonged daylight exposure. To prevent bolting, keep the plant cool and provide some shade during the hottest parts of the day. Regularly harvest leaves to delay flowering.
  • Can I grow cilantro from store-bought seeds? Yes, cilantro can be grown from store-bought seeds, provided they are fresh and viable. Ensure the seeds are not treated with chemicals and are meant for planting.
  • How do I harvest cilantro seeds? Allow the plant to flower and produce seed heads. Once the seeds turn brown and dry, cut the seed heads and place them in a paper bag. Shake the bag to release the seeds, then store them in a cool, dry place.
Cilantro Plant Care Farm

9. Benefits of Having Cilantro

9.1 Culinary Uses

Cilantro is a versatile herb widely used in global cuisines. Its fresh, citrusy leaves are a staple in Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Middle Eastern dishes. Cilantro adds a burst of flavor to salsas, salads, curries, soups, and marinades. Both the leaves and stems are edible, though the leaves are most commonly used in cooking. The seeds, known as coriander, are dried and used as a spice with a warm, nutty flavor.

9.2 Medicinal Properties

Cilantro has numerous health benefits and has been used traditionally for its medicinal properties. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals such as potassium and manganese. Cilantro is known for its potential to aid digestion, reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels. Additionally, it has antimicrobial properties that can help fight infections.

9.3 Aesthetic Appeal

Cilantro plants can also enhance the aesthetic appeal of your garden or kitchen. Their delicate, feathery leaves and small white or pink flowers add a touch of greenery and beauty. Cilantro can be grown alongside other herbs and vegetables, creating a lush and productive garden space.

10 Cilantro Care Conclusion

Growing cilantro can be a rewarding experience, providing you with fresh, flavorful herbs for your culinary creations. By understanding its origin, characteristics, and specific care requirements, you can successfully cultivate healthy cilantro plants. Remember to provide adequate light, consistent moisture, and proper soil conditions. Regular harvesting and preventive measures against pests and diseases will ensure a bountiful and prolonged harvest. Enjoy the benefits of this versatile herb, from its culinary uses to its medicinal properties, and enhance your garden with the vibrant appeal of cilantro.

This comprehensive guide should help you grow and maintain cilantro successfully. Enjoy the process of nurturing this delightful herb and reaping the rewards of your efforts in the form of fresh, aromatic leaves and seeds.

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