Poor Luck with Cilantro, Suggestions?

dianepmt(z5MI)April 30, 2011

We're in SE MI, zone 5, and I've tried cilantro in both well amended raised beds, containers and in average, slightly amended clay-based soil, and all we ever get are a few straggly limp sprigs, while basil and other herbs do quite well. Is that normal for cilantro, or does it need some special conditions I'm not providing?

I actually have no idea what a healthy cilantro plant is supposed to look like (I usually just buy it several big bunches at a time in the grocery store when it's cheap and plentiful in the summer), so maybe those fat bunches are the equivalent of 10 plants for all I know.

It's one of my favorite herbs, I actually make a "vegan" version of pesto with it and would love to be able to grow my own more successfully.

Any ideas?

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emileeg(DFW, TX)

I've never started Cilantro from seed, just from transplants from the store and only this year because my husband made me do it. This is my first year gardening, but here's my experience.

The transplants we got from the store were MEGA leggy - most of the cilantro plants just fell over after transplanting. We put the plants into a pot with potting soil. A bunch of it started wilting, so we snipped all the yellowing leaves. Only a little at a time, not too much. I think a lot of it wilts because of all the abuse the stems get being leggy, being transported to the store, being bought and brought home, and being transplanted. But that's just a guess, heh.

After a lot of the plant wilted (I say wilted instead of died because it never got to "dry/papery" stage, just a lot of yellow that we ended up cutting), a bunch of new cilantro started growing straight up. The leaves at the ends were very very thin and feathery, almost fern-like. I'm not sure if these leaves will eventually fill out - never grown it before this year, so I'll just have to wait and see!

As for care... we water all of our herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and chives) everyday or every other day, but not very deeply. Just enough so the soil doesn't dry out. It would be like if you were watering a sponge and didn't want it soaking wet and didn't want any runoff. I had watered them deeply to begin with, and I thought they looked healthy, but since my husband took over watering (with the above "method), honestly, I think all the herbs have looked a LOT healthier and grown much more vigorously. I guess it kind of makes sense - I read somewhere that herbs don't like too much attention and sometimes thrive when well-neglected, heh.

I used a little bit in some salsa tonight, and seriously, it tastes amazing. All flavor, no funky leafy-aftertaste.

We're down in Texas, though. It's been rainy off and on, and reasonably warm. I'm not sure if the warmth has anything to do with it, but if that's the case, then all you'd need to do is wait for the weather to warm up... right?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 1:12AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I grow it from seed in my "ammended, clay-based soil." Nothing special required. Drop the seed in about as deep as they are wide. Water in well and let it go. Never a problem here. Where are you getting your seed?


    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 8:23AM
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Thanks you guys! Hmm... I wonder if the problem is that we've always started with the potted plants vs. seed. Yes - they are always leggy and thin. It's cheap to buy it when it's in season, but storing it once cut is a pain, and I really like to be able to just walk out into the garden and pick what I need on the spot. I think I'm going to try seed and maybe a few plants again, and put it where it'll be more "neglected," maybe if I don't give it too much good soil, water and attention, it'll be happy.. ?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 10:16AM
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while i have not had trouble transplanting cilantro, it has the reputation for not transplanting well. my primary method of cilantro production duplicates fatamorgana's advice.

once the feathery leaves have begun to appear you may as well pull it... the flavor changes and it is not going to anything but flower and go to seed... if you have a lot of space i suggest leaving it to go to seed- fresh ground coriander is wonderful...

i tell my market customers that here in virginia you can only grow cilantro successfully for a couple of months in late spring and a couple of months in early fall...

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 10:35AM
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Cilantro grows well when the weather is cool. It does not transplant well. I grow it in a pot or the ground as several successive crops because the plants do not last very long before going to seed.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 10:52PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

It grows easily from seed. As pvel says, you can get a steady supply by planting more every week or two, and pulling the older plants when they start to bolt.

Johnny's has a new variety called Calypso they claim is slow-bolting. An ounce of seed, which they sell for $4.25, should last you the season. They have some other interesting varieties, as does Richter's.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 2:41AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

I can grow cilantro Coriandrum sativum only in the fall through late spring. The heat causes it to bolt. I allow it to bolt out and then come fall, I start to see lots of little plants coming up. Here is a short article on growing cilantro.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 6:11PM
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