How Many Cilantro Plants per Pot: A Guide to Optimal Growth

Ahhh, Cilantro! I can’t imagine guacamole or fish tacos without a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro. Its vibrant flavor adds a delightful zing to countless dishes, making it a staple herb in my kitchen. But cilantro isn’t just about taste; it’s also remarkably easy to grow and harvest. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice with a green thumb, cultivating cilantro in pots presents a host of options.

Consider growing cilantro in pots but unsure of how many plants to place in each container? Whether you’re an avid gardener or new to herb cultivation, understanding the nuances of cilantro growth can make all the difference. Cilantro, with its vibrant flavor and versatile culinary applications, is a beloved herb in many cuisines worldwide. From enhancing salsas to accentuating Asian, Mexican, and Indian dishes, the irresistible appeal of fresh cilantro is hard to ignore.

In this guide, How Many Cilantro Plants per Pot: A Guide to Optimal Growth, we’ll delve into the intricacies of growing cilantro in pots, exploring everything from planting techniques to optimal pot sizes. Join us as we dive into the world of growing lush cilantro plants right in your home, whether you prefer indoor or outdoor gardening.

A pot of cilantro showing How Many Cilantro Plants per Pot.

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Cilantro vs. Coriander

Cilantro Leaves: Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, refers to the fresh, leafy green herb prized for its aromatic scent and vibrant citrus flavor. It’s a staple ingredient in numerous cuisines worldwide, adding a burst of freshness to dishes like salsa, guacamole, and curry.

Coriander Seeds: On the flip side, coriander denotes the seeds harvested from the cilantro plant. Unlike the leaves, coriander seeds offer a warm, earthy taste with subtle citrus and spice notes. They are commonly used as a seasoning in various culinary recipes, from marinades to pickles and beyond.

Regional Naming Conventions: The distinction between cilantro and coriander can vary depending on geographic location. In the United States, cilantro typically refers to the leaves, while coriander denotes the seeds. However, in many other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia, both the leaves and seeds are referred to as coriander. This naming difference can lead to confusion for those unfamiliar with regional variations.

Botanical Family: It’s essential to note that both cilantro leaves and coriander seeds stem from the same plant species, Coriandrum sativum, belonging to the Apiaceae family. Understanding this botanical connection helps clarify the relationship between these two flavorful ingredients and their diverse culinary applications.

Did You Know: While cilantro is beloved for its fresh and vibrant flavor, it’s worth noting that some people possess a genetic variation that makes cilantro taste unpleasant, often described as soapy or metallic. This genetic predisposition, known as cilantro aversion or cilantro soap syndrome, affects a small percentage of the population and can influence individuals’ preferences for cilantro in culinary dishes.

A white rice dish with lime and cilantro.

Planting Cilantro Seeds or Starter Plants

Sowing Seeds: When it comes to planting cilantro, starting from seeds is a popular and budget-friendly option. Cilantro seeds are widely available, inexpensive, and provide the flexibility to harvest the herb at different stages of growth. You can opt for delicate baby greens or microgreens for a milder flavor, or let the plants mature for a more robust taste.

Starting with Young Plants: Another approach is to begin with young cilantro plants. These are available for purchase at many nurseries and garden centers. If you choose this method, it allows for a quicker start to your cilantro growing journey.

Propagation from Cuttings: While less common, some gardeners experiment with propagating cilantro from cuttings. However, this method requires access to an existing cilantro plant. Although not as widely practiced as sowing seeds or starting with young plants, it can be a quick way to kickstart your cilantro cultivation journey.

Tip: If starting with young plants, consider getting plants in peat pots. Peat pots minimize root disturbance during transplantation, promoting smoother growth and establishment in your garden or container.

My hand holding a small pot of a cilantro plant.

Planting Cilantro Seeds in Pots

Outdoor Planting: To begin planting cilantro seeds in pots, select containers with proper drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Fill the pots with well-drained soil, leaving about half an inch of space from the top. Sow the cilantro seeds about 1/4 inch deep in the soil, spacing them approximately 1-2 inches apart. After planting, water the seeds thoroughly to ensure adequate moisture for germination.

Indoor Starting: For indoor cultivation, consider starting cilantro seeds in pots several weeks before the last spring frost. Use seed trays or small pots filled with seed-starting mix. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and keep the soil consistently moist until germination occurs. Provide warmth and ample sunlight or artificial light to encourage healthy seedling growth. Once the seedlings have developed several true leaves, transplant them into larger pots following the same spacing guidelines.

Climate Considerations: Cilantro thrives in cool, dry climates, making it ideal for outdoor cultivation in various regions. In northern areas, cilantro can withstand direct afternoon sun, while in warmer southern climates, partial shade in the afternoon may help prevent premature bolting. It’s essential to ensure the soil is well-drained, and amending it with compost can improve both structure and drainage.

Potted Cilantro Focus: When growing cilantro in pots outdoors, opt for containers with proper drainage to prevent waterlogging. Adequate spacing between plants, even in containers, allows for optimal airflow and growth. Adjust watering frequency as needed based on environmental conditions and pot size.

Coriander seeds in a hand being planted in soil.

Growing Potted Cilantro Indoors

Pot Selection: When growing cilantro indoors in pots, choose containers with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Select pots that are at least 8 inches deep to accommodate cilantro’s long taproot. Additionally, opt for containers made of materials like plastic, ceramic, or terra cotta, ensuring they match your indoor decor.

Soil and Planting: Fill the pots with well-draining potting soil, leaving a small space at the top for watering. Sow cilantro seeds about 1/4 inch deep in the soil, spacing them evenly apart. Alternatively, transplant cilantro seedlings into the pots if starting from plants. Ensure the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged to promote germination and healthy growth.

Watering Techniques: Water cilantro plants when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, typically every 1-2 days depending on environmental conditions. Avoid overwatering, as cilantro plants are susceptible to root rot in soggy soil. Water the plants at the base to prevent fungal issues and ensure proper hydration.

Lighting Requirements: Place the pots in a location that receives 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily or supplement with grow lights if natural light is limited. Cilantro plants require adequate light to thrive indoors and produce flavorful foliage. Rotate the pots regularly to ensure even exposure to light and prevent leggy growth.

Temperature and Humidity: Cilantro prefers cooler temperatures ranging from 60-75°F (15-24°C) indoors. Avoid placing the pots near drafty windows or heating vents, as extreme temperature fluctuations can stress the plants. Maintain moderate humidity levels around the plants, especially during the winter months when indoor air tends to be drier.

Harvesting and Maintenance: Harvest cilantro leaves as needed once the plants reach a height of 6 inches. Use sharp scissors to snip off the outer leaves, allowing the inner foliage to continue growing. Pinch off any flower buds that appear to prolong leaf production. Monitor the plants for signs of pests or diseases and address any issues promptly.

A beautiful full cilantro plant.

Pot Size and Planting Density

Determining the appropriate pot size and planting density is crucial for successful cilantro cultivation in containers. Below is a guide to help answer the common question: “How many cilantro plants per pot?” This table provides recommended pot sizes along with the corresponding number of cilantro plants for optimal growth:

Pot SizeNumber of 4″ pot Cilantro Plants

Choosing the right pot size ensures that cilantro plants have enough space for their roots to grow and access to adequate nutrients and water. Additionally, proper spacing between plants allows for optimal airflow and reduces the risk of overcrowding, which can lead to fungal diseases and stunted growth. Adjust the number of plants based on the pot size to create an ideal growing environment for cilantro in containers.

A close up of a cilantro plant.

Selecting the Right Pot for Growing Cilantro

When discussing the type of pot for growing cilantro, we should consider factors such as drainage, moisture retention, airflow, durability, and aesthetic preferences. Each type of pot has its advantages and considerations, so it’s essential to choose the one that best suits the specific growing conditions and needs. Here are some options:

  1. Terra Cotta Pots: These pots are porous, allowing for good air circulation and moisture regulation. They are ideal for cilantro as they help prevent overwatering and root rot. However, they may dry out more quickly than other types of pots, requiring more frequent watering.
  2. Plastic Pots: Plastic pots are lightweight, durable, and retain moisture well. They are suitable for growing cilantro, especially for beginners or in environments where moisture retention is essential. However, they may not provide as much airflow to the roots as terra cotta pots.
  3. Glazed Clay Pots: Glazed clay pots offer the benefits of both terra cotta and plastic pots. They have good moisture retention like plastic pots but also provide better airflow to the roots like terra cotta pots. However, they can be heavier and more expensive than other options.
  4. Ceramic Pots: Ceramic pots come in various designs and colors, adding aesthetic appeal to indoor or outdoor spaces. They provide good moisture retention and are suitable for growing cilantro, but they may be more prone to breakage than other types of pots.
  5. Self-Watering Pots: These pots have a reservoir at the bottom that holds water, allowing the plant to absorb moisture as needed. Self-watering pots are convenient for busy gardeners or for growing cilantro indoors, as they help maintain consistent moisture levels without frequent watering.

Tip: In my experience, I’ve found that using self-watering pots for growing cilantro can be a game-changer, especially if you tend to forget to water your plants regularly. These pots provide a consistent moisture level to the cilantro roots, ensuring they stay healthy and hydrated even during busy weeks. Plus, they’re great for indoor cultivation, where environmental conditions can vary. If you’re new to growing cilantro or have a hectic schedule, consider giving self-watering pots a try for hassle-free herb gardening!

assorted pots that are all clay.

Choosing the Best Potting Soil

When growing cilantro in pots, selecting the right potting soil is essential for providing the necessary nutrients and moisture retention. Here’s a guide to help you choose the best potting soil for your cilantro:

Type of Potting Soil: Select a high-quality potting mix specifically formulated for herbs or vegetables. Avoid heavy garden soil, as it may compact in containers and hinder root growth. Look for a well-balanced mix that provides good drainage while retaining moisture.

Key Considerations:

  1. Drainage: Ensure the potting soil has excellent drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot and other diseases. Look for mixes containing perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage.
  2. Nutrient Content: Choose a potting soil enriched with organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to provide essential nutrients for healthy cilantro growth. Balanced levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) are crucial for robust foliage and root development.
  3. pH Level: Cilantro prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range between 6.0 and 7.0. Test the pH of the potting soil before planting and adjust if necessary using pH-adjusting products or amendments.
  4. Texture: Opt for a potting mix with a light, fluffy texture that allows for easy root penetration and promotes air circulation. Avoid compacted or heavy soils that may restrict root growth and drainage.

Tip: Consider using a premium organic potting mix specifically designed for herbs or vegetables. These blends often contain a balanced combination of organic matter, perlite, and other amendments to create an ideal growing medium for cilantro in containers.

hands holding soil in heart shape.

Tips for Healthy Potted Cilantro Care

Maintaining robust cilantro plants requires attention to several key factors to ensure optimal foliage production and overall plant health. Here are some essential tips for caring for your cilantro:

  1. Maximizing Foliage: To encourage lush foliage growth, pinch back the young cilantro plants regularly. This practice promotes branching and bushier growth, resulting in increased leaf production. Additionally, harvesting the outer leaves periodically can stimulate new growth and prolong the plant’s lifespan.
  2. Managing Watering: Cilantro plants prefer consistently moist soil but dislike soggy conditions. Water your cilantro plants regularly, ensuring the soil remains evenly moist but not waterlogged. Avoid overhead watering, as wet foliage can increase the risk of fungal diseases. Instead, water at the base of the plant to deliver moisture directly to the roots.
  3. Fertilization: Provide your cilantro plants with adequate nutrients by applying a balanced fertilizer regularly. Choose a fertilizer specifically formulated for herbs or vegetables and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates. Avoid over-fertilizing, as excessive nitrogen can lead to rapid growth and reduced flavor in cilantro leaves.
  4. Sunlight Exposure: Cilantro thrives in partial shade to full sun, depending on the climate. In hot regions, provide afternoon shade to prevent premature bolting. In cooler climates, cilantro can tolerate more sunlight. Monitor your cilantro plants’ sunlight exposure and adjust as needed to prevent stress and promote healthy growth.
  5. Pest and Disease Management: Keep an eye out for common pests such as aphids, spider mites, and leaf miners, which can damage cilantro foliage. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control pest infestations, applying treatments according to the product label instructions. Additionally, practice good sanitation by removing any diseased or infested plant material promptly to prevent the spread of diseases such as powdery mildew or leaf spot.
A cilantro plant in a clay pot.

Harvesting and Storing Cilantro

Harvesting cilantro at the right time is crucial to ensure maximum flavor and freshness in your culinary creations. Here’s a guide to harvesting and storing cilantro leaves and seeds:

  1. Harvesting Cilantro Leaves:
    • Harvest cilantro leaves when the plants are approximately 6 inches tall and have developed a full set of leaves.
    • Use clean scissors or garden shears to snip off the outer leaves of the plant, leaving the inner leaves and growing point intact.
    • Aim to harvest the upper, finely cut leaves on the plant, as they tend to have the best flavor and aroma.
    • Avoid harvesting more than one-third of the plant’s foliage at a time to allow for continued growth and regrowth.
  2. Harvesting Cilantro Seeds (Coriander):
    • Allow some cilantro plants to bolt and produce seeds (coriander) by letting them flower and develop seed pods.
    • Harvest the seed pods when they turn brown and start to dry out on the plant.
    • Cut the stems with the seed pods from the plant and place them in a paper bag to continue drying.
    • Once completely dry, shake or roll the dried pods to release the coriander seeds.
  3. Storing Cilantro:
    • Cilantro is best used fresh, so it’s recommended to harvest only as much as you need for immediate use.
    • If storing cilantro, place the freshly harvested leaves in a perforated plastic bag or container lined with a damp paper towel.
    • Store the cilantro in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer, where it can remain fresh for up to a week.
    • Avoid washing cilantro before storage, as excess moisture can cause the leaves to wilt more quickly.
  4. Using Fresh Cilantro:
    • Fresh cilantro adds a vibrant flavor and aroma to a wide range of dishes, including salsas, salads, curries, and marinades.
    • To maximize the flavor impact, add freshly chopped cilantro leaves to your recipes just before serving.
    • Experiment with incorporating cilantro stems and flowers into your cooking as well, as they also contain flavor compounds that can enhance dishes.

Tip: To eliminate the sandy texture often found in fresh-cut cilantro, thoroughly rinse the cilantro under cold running water. Gently swish the cilantro in a bowl of water to dislodge any dirt or sand trapped in the leaves. Alternatively, you can fill a bowl with water, submerge the cilantro, and allow it to soak for a few minutes to loosen any debris. After rinsing, pat the cilantro dry with paper towels or spin it in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture before using it in your recipes.

A shrimp taco on a plate with chopped cilantro.

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Cilantro

What is the growing season for cilantro?

The ideal growing season for cilantro is during the cooler months of spring and fall. It tends to bolt quickly in hot summer temperatures.

How can I store cilantro seeds for later use?

Store cilantro seeds (coriander) in a dry place, such as a paper bag, to allow them to continue drying. Once fully dry, transfer them to an airtight container for long-term storage.

Do cilantro plants require a grow light?

While cilantro can grow indoors with sufficient natural light, a grow light can provide supplemental light to ensure healthy growth, especially in areas with limited sunlight.

When is late spring a suitable time to plant cilantro seeds?

Late spring, after the danger of frost has passed, is an excellent time to plant cilantro seeds outdoors for a summer harvest.

What are seed heads, and why should I remove them?

Seed heads are the structures on cilantro plants that contain seeds. Removing them prevents the plant from diverting energy into seed production and promotes continuous leaf growth.

How does hot weather affect cilantro?

Cilantro tends to bolt, or prematurely produce flowers and seeds, in hot weather. Providing shade and adequate watering can help mitigate this issue.cilantro going to flower, also know as bolting.

How much water does cilantro need?

Cilantro plants require approximately an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation. Avoid overwatering, as cilantro does not like soggy soil.

What should I do if my cilantro bolts?

If cilantro bolts, meaning it produces flowers and seeds prematurely, harvest the leaves promptly for the best flavor. Consider planting new cilantro seeds for a continuous supply. Learn more about herbs bolting vs. flowering in my guide.

How can I ensure the best results when growing cilantro in a hot climate?

In hot climates, provide partial shade and ample water to prevent cilantro from bolting too quickly. Consider growing cilantro indoors or in a shaded area during the hottest part of the day.

What is the recommended growing medium for cilantro in plastic pots?

Use a well-draining potting mix for cilantro in plastic pots to prevent waterlogging and promote healthy root growth. Amend the soil with compost for added nutrients.

Close up of a bed of cilantro outdoors.


Growing cilantro is a rewarding experience that offers a continuous supply of fresh, flavorful herb for your culinary adventures. Whether you’re nurturing mature plants in larger containers or starting with little plants in small spaces, cilantro thrives with just the right amount of sunlight, water, and care. By following the tips in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to enjoy harvesting fresh leaves for Asian cuisines and other dishes from early spring through late summer. With its aromatic leaves and versatile culinary use, cilantro is indeed a must-have herb in any home garden. So grab your seed packet, set those seeds, and watch as your cilantro plants flourish, providing you with a continual harvest of this cool-season herb.

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my signature which is a drawing of me sitting.

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