Coriander is an easy crop to grow from seed, for harvesting both the leaves and seeds. It’s widely used in many dishes, especially in Mexican and Asian cuisine. Simply sow seeds outdoors, in the ground or in containers, from spring onwards. Plants are compact, so make ideal gap-fillers on the veg plot or even in borders.
If you don’t want to harvest the edible flowers or seeds, then remove the flower stems as soon as they appear, to prolong the leafy harvests. It’s worth leaving a few plants to go to seed though, to provide you with seeds to sow next year, or you can just let some self-seed if you prefer.
However, if you mainly want to harvest the seeds, make your sowings in spring or early summer, to allow time for the seeds to ripen.
Coriander has few problems with pests or diseases, although
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Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is widely available as seed. There are also several varieties that have been bred for longer leafy harvests (as they are slower to flower), although you can still harvest edible seeds from these too.
When choosing varieties, look for those with an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which shows they performed well in trials – see our list of AGM fruit, herbs and veg.
What and where to buy
Coriander seeds are widely available in garden centres and from online retailers. Potted plants may also be available in garden centres and supermarkets.
Seedlings harvested as mini leaves
You can get an earlier crop by sowing seeds in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill in February or March.
Harden off the young plants when they’re about 15cm (6in) tall, then move them to their outdoor growing site after the last frost. Just beware of slugs and snails, especially in damp weather. Covering plants with a cloche or fleece after transplanting will help them get established if the weather is still cold.
In spring or autumn, you can also keep coriander as a greenhouse crop – in pots, grow bags or a greenhouse border – rather than transplanting outside. But in summer the heat would mean it goes to seed too quickly.
Growing seedlings to full size in your home, however, is unlikely to be successful, so they are best transplanted outdoors. Even on the sunniest indoor windowsill, coriander plants will rarely get enough sunlight to grow well for very long.
Another option is to harvest indoor-sown seedlings after only a few weeks.
Sow coriander seeds outdoors from spring to autumn in a cool, sunny or lightly shaded spot with free-draining soil. You can also sow in pots of multi-purpose compost – coriander grows particularly well in containers, as it likes the free-draining conditions. In summer, cool conditions, shaded from midday sun, will help to deter premature flowering (bolting).
Grow coriander as close to your kitchen as possible, for easy pickings whenever you need them.
The large seeds are easy to sow – simply scatter them thinly along shallow drills or on the surface of firmed compost in containers or grow bags. Cover with a little soil or compost, then water gently. Germination takes one to three weeks.
- When growing for leaves: sow small batches every three or four weeks for constant harvests from mid-summer onwards – see our guide to successional sowing. To extend your leaf harvests into early winter, sow batches in autumn under cloches or in a low polythene tunnel, or in a greenhouse (see Sowing indoors, below).
- When growing for seeds: sow in full sun in spring or early summer to ensure the seeds have time to ripen. Thin out the seedlings to 10cm (4in) apart to give plants space to mature.
If you don’t have the time or space to grow from seed, or only want a few plants, you can buy pots of coriander in garden centres and supermarkets. These can be planted outdoors into larger containers or in the ground from spring onwards. Water plants well, both before and after planting.
Plants in containers dry out much more rapidly than those in the ground, so check the compost regularly and water if it starts to feel dry.
Coriander plants don’t normally need feeding, but the occasional application of a balanced liquid fertiliser can be used as a pick-me-up, if necessary.
Weed regularly around coriander plants, so they don’t have to compete for sunlight or water.
Unless you want to harvest the seeds, remove any flower stems as soon as they start to develop, otherwise plants will put all their energy into flowering and setting seed, rather than producing new leaves. Alternatively, add the flowers to salads.
Gather ripe coriander seeds at the end of the season, both for the kitchen and for sowing the following year.
Coriander leaves, stems, flowers and seeds are all edible and can be harvested from mid-summer onwards.
The leaves are best harvested as a cut and come again crop – take only a few from each plant along the row, then allow them to recover for a few weeks, before making another harvest. Start harvesting when plants are 10-15cm (4-6in) tall, and you should be able to take several pickings before the plants start to flower. Regular picking encourages more leaves to sprout. Use the leaves fresh or freeze then add to cooked dishes.
Alternatively, you can grow seedlings indoors for harvesting as micro-greens or mini-leaves, when packed with flavour and nutrients.
When coriander plants flower, which they inevitably will, either pick the blooms to add to salads or leave them to form seeds.
Harvest the seeds when they ripen and turn brown, just before they start to fall – it’s usually easiest to cut entire stems and put them in a bag, so you don’t lose any of the seeds.
Drying and storing coriander seeds
- Lay out the seeds to dry on a sheet of paper in a warm room.
- When fully dry, store in an airtight container.
- Seeds can be used whole or ground to a coarse powder with a pestle and mortar.
- Keep some seeds for sowing the following year too.
Coriander is generally easy to grow and trouble free. Just be sure to protect the seedlings from slugs and snails.
Plants tend to bolt (flower) prematurely in hot, dry weather, so if you’re growing coriander for its leaves, be sure to water plants regularly in summer to delay flowering. This is particularly important when growing in containers, which dry out quickly. A cool growing site, out of midday sun, is best in summer.
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