Cilantro is a savory aromatic herb that is commonly used to spice up a lot of Asian and Latin dishes. I use chopped cilantro herbs for sauteed vegetables, Asian salads and seafood recipes. Cilantro seeds, also known as coriander, can also be used for seasoning, and they are just as flavorful as the leaves. In the Philippines, cilantro is typically grown in the uplands where the weather is cooler. In Metro Manila where I live, the climate is generally hot and humid so growing cilantro here is quite a challenge. But after several failed attempts, I have finally been successful in growing cilantro in my urban garden.
Here is how I did it.
When to plant
The best time to grow cilantro in the Philippines is during the cold and dry months from November until early March. Cilantro does not like hot weather conditions, and if the weather is too hot, the seeds will not germinate, or the plant itself will bolt prematurely. Bolting means that they will produce flowers, in which case the plant itself will start to wither and die. If bolting happens, save the seeds as seasoning or for future planting seasons.
To get a head start before harvest time, sow the seeds in late-September or as soon as the temperature starts to drop to less than 30 degrees Celsius. Growing the seedlings indoors or by the window with a limited morning sunlight will help prevent the external heat shock and allow the seeds to strengthen before exposing them outside.
How to grow them in a pot
Like most leafy herbs, cilantro does not occupy too much space and is therefore ideal for container gardening. To plant cilantro from seeds, sprinkle around 10 seeds thinly in each pot. A medium sized pot of around 6 – 8 inches in depth and diameter is sufficient to grow cilantro plants. To make sure not to overcrowd the pot, thin out the weaker seedlings. Leave only 2 – 3 seedlings per pot, to maximize the growth and harvest in later weeks.
About three weeks after the seeds have germinated, begin to fertilize the soil by mixing it with organic compost material. Water the plants only to make sure that the soil is moist but not soggy. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause the plant roots to dry out and wilt. When using pots, make sure that excess water drains out of the pot properly.
Cilantro needs only a few hours of sun in the morning. An average of four hours of sunlight is sufficient. If the sun gets too hot, move the pot to a partially shady part of the garden.
How to harvest
To ensure a regular harvest, sow the seeds in batches every 2 weeks. Under the right weather and soil conditions, the plants will be ready for harvest in about 6- 8 weeks. To harvest, cut the mature leafy stems starting with the outermost ones. Do not harvest more than 50% of the stems per round, and make sure to allow new stems/ leaves to grow first before starting the next round of harvest.