grow coriander in pots

How to Grow Coriander in Pots [ From Seed + Tips for A Bigger Harvest]

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Coriander is one of my favourite herbs, in terms of the smell, the taste and the food in which I enjoy it.  We use the leaves and the seeds in cooking, and they offer distinctly different flavour profiles – with the seeds providing a slight lemon flavour that we use a lot in Indian recipes.  The leaves are both a popular garnish and also a key ingredient in some of the Georgian and South-East Asian recipes that we use.  Coriander has a reputation as being difficult to grow but once you get the conditions right for this popular herb you’ll do well with it.  We’ve found that the best way is to grow coriander in pots and containers, to be patient and not to compare it to the quicker germinating basil and to make sure that we can control the conditions in which the coriander is growing.

Why Grow Coriander in Containers?

Coriander is an excellent herb to grow in pots for a number of reasons

  • Coriander reacts badly to periods of high heat – so growing it in containers means that you can easily change its environment
  • Coriander hates being waterlogged so again you can change its environment if you grow it in pots.
  • Growing coriander in pots means that you can grow specific plants in an area and easily sow in succession between spring and autumn to ensure that you always have a supply of coriander leaves for your cooking.

The Best Pots for Growing Coriander in

Selecting the right container for growing coriander is one of the most important elements of growing coriander.   You can literally use anything to grow coriander in as long as

  1. Its big and deep enough (coriander has deep tap roots)
  2. It has enough drainage holes

Pots for growing coriander in should be around 25 centimetres in diameter and 25 centimetres deep if you’re looking for a big bushy plant.  Selecting smaller pots for growing coriander in can mean that the herb becomes rootbound.  The compost won’t be able to retain enough moisture and your coriander will wilt and die.

The Best Varieties of Coriander to Grow in the UK

 

How to Grow Coriander in Pots

As  I write this I currently have 12 pots of coriander in varying stages of growth.  I’m nervously worried that for us that doesn’t seem like enough.  We LOVE coriander as at the moment we’re looking after a garden that has a plum tree I’m making oodles of Georgian Sour Plum Sauce or Tkemali, and that needs a lot of coriander, plus I have plans for ceviche and some Indian foods.

It’s a sad fact but coriander doesn’t last forever.  So sowing seeds in succession is the best way of getting a steady supply of coriander to harvest.  We’re also pretty mobile location-wise at the moment, so growing coriander in pots means that we get to take it with us wherever we are.  This year we’re growing coriander both from seed and from cuttings.  Here’s how to do that.

Growing Coriander from a Cutting

Coriander is not as easy to grow from cuttings as other herbs and its not something we recommend, it’s more a labour of love than anything else.  However, this is how you do it.

You can take a cutting from an established Coriander plant very easily, regardless of the variety of Coriander that you are growing. 

  1. Aim to take a 5-10-centimetre cutting right below a node from your existing plant.
  2. Remove all the leaves from the bottom 5 centimetres.
  3. Fill a small container with water (tap water is fine, cold not hot!) and put the cut end of the stem in it. We try to use a glass or see-through plastic container as it makes it easier to watch for regenerated roots.  You can put multiple cuttings in the same container.
  4. You should see roots starting to generate within a week.
  5. Once the roots are 5 centimetres long you can prepare a new pot and plant your new coriander baby. Follow the same guides as above – using one 20 centimetre pot for a single cutting and a 30-centimetre pot for 3-4 cuttings.

Growing Coriander from Seed

The germination of coriander seeds can take 14-21 days and I can tell you it feels like an absolute age.  If you want to grow coriander from seed you can potentially speed this up by soaking your coriander seeds for 24-48 hours.  That’s sometimes worked for us and sometimes it hasn’t.   I tend to sow some coriander seeds that have been soaked and other that haven’t each time, but I don’t see a noticeable difference, I guess I’m just waiting for a definitive in my own results!  

How to plant Coriander – Sowing Coriander Seeds

You’ll want to sow coriander seeds every 3-4 weeks in order to get a steady supply of leaves.  You can sow coriander seeds inside in containers or outside.  Again we do both and I see that the outside sown coriander seeds are a little hardier than the inside plants, but slightly slower to grow.

Sow 3-5 seeds in a small pot and then thin out so that your herbs have room to grow. A full bushy coriander plant will need about 20-centimetre diameter all around it to grow to its full size.

If you’re looking to grow coriander leaves to use in the later autumn early winter, then sow seeds in Autumn and protect with cloches or with polytunnel material if you’re growing outside.

Once you have sown the seeds keep the compost moist.  Once germination of the coriander has occurred and seedling appears, again keep the compost moist, but try and water from the bottom or at least away from the seedling which is very delicate.

Where to Sow Coriander Seeds

You should NOT use seed trays for coriander.  You should try and sow the coriander seeds in their forever pots, or at least in a pot that when you transplant them you can do so without disturbing the roots, which get deep VERY quickly.

However, if you are growing coriander for the seeds and not the leaves you SHOULD plant in full sun.  Coriander seeds will come as a result of the plant flowering and then developing leaves, so you WANT it to bolt.  The stressful situation and conditions caused by the full sunshine will trigger bolting flower production and then seeds.

Caring for Coriander

Generally, coriander growing care is not difficult.  You should keep the compost damp, but do not waterlog it.  If your compost is dry then your coriander will bolt prematurely, you’ll end up with flowers seeds and little coriander leaf.  If you’re using a good vegetable compost then coriander should not need feeding, but if you’re using normal soil from the garden we recommend a bit of a pick me up every couple of weeks just to give it a boost.  Be sure to pick out any weeds or stray seedlings that appear in the pots – let’s keep the focus of the goodness in the compost on your main attraction!

Temperature Requirements for Growing Coriander

Coriander doesn’t like excessive heat.   In fact its generally a cool-season herb, which should work perfectly with British conditions!  Just be careful it there are hot spells and make sure that if there are hot spells that your coriander has shade in the afternoon and plenty of water.  Once temperatures get to 30 degrees centigrade then you’re likely to see your coriander flowering and bolting, so try and keep it cool!

Light and Sunshine Requirements for Growing Coriander

Coriander is very sensitive to extreme amounts of sun, and so that for me makes it perfect for growing in the UK.  The herb grows well in reasonable levels of sunlight.  We recommend as summers are starting to heat up that you place your coriander in an area where it gets indirect sunlight.  My outdoor pots go under the garden table when we’re expecting either a lot of rain or a lot of sunshine.  Partial shade is actually a good environment for growing coriander.

Airflow Requirements for Growing Coriander

Keep a reasonable airflow around your coriander pots – but no drafts, and once the plant starts to establish itself you’ll want to keep it out of strong winds, or lose your leaves forever!

Watering requirements for growing coriander

When it comes to how often to water coriander, it’s the same old story.  Don’t underwater coriander and don’t over water it.  Keep the soil moist.  Coriander watering should be done from the bottom if you can, don’t water the leaves of your coriander plant.  Ensure you have good drainage.  If you soak the stem of your coriander plants then they can break and rot.  We check coriander plants morning and evening and for the outside plants if a lot of heat or rain is forecast then they move to a space under a garden table so that neither weather extreme can affect them too much.

Harvesting Coriander

Harvesting coriander is easy.  Make sure that the plant has established itself enough first and that is big enough to survive with you removing the leaves – if that is, that you want it to survive.  You can cut off the leaves or take the whole stems as you can use both in cooking.  Younger leaves also have a better flavour and coriander leaves can be frozen too.

Essentially you can harvest coriander seeds in about 4 weeks from germination.  Coriander seeds can be harvested after about 45 days.

If you are growing coriander for its seeds then you’ll need to wait until the dainty white flowers have died before you harvest.  Just cut the stems put the flower heads into a paper bag leaving the stems sticking out and tie them together.  Hang upside down and leave in a cool dry place for 3 weeks.  Once dry shake and the seeds will fall out of the flowers and be in the bottom of the bag.  Just keep them in a dry cool place until you are ready to sow them.  Or of course, you can cook with them – we use them both whole and as ground coriander too.

Common problems with Growing Coriander

Bolting is the biggest problem with growing coriander

Bolting means that the coriander plants flowers early and sets its seeds prematurely.  This happens when there are periods of high heat or a lack of water. It’s basically a survival mechanism for the plant trying to ensure that its “offspring” survive.   To protect against bolting coriander grow your plants in pots, move them to suitable locations and avoid high sunlight and high heat and keep the soil moist.

Slugs and Snails can be a problem when growing coriander

Snails and slugs may feed on young coriander seedlings.  Just use a standard beer trap or an eggshell barrier to protect against them.

FAQs on Growing Coriander

Got questions about growing coriander? Or want to know how to grow coriander in a pot and we haven’t answered your questions?  Check out our frequently asked questions about growing coriander in pots and containers below, or ask us yours in the comments.

What is the best way to grow coriander?

Coriander grows best if it’s sown directly into the pot or container where it’s going to live rather than in seed trays and then transplanting.  Sow Coriander from late March until early September and sow over successive weeks to get a constant supply.  You’ll get the best harvest of coriander in late Spring and Autumn.

Can you grow coriander at home?

Yes.  Coriander can be grown at home.  This popular herb has something of a reputation as being difficult to grow, but its more than there are specific requirements that it has – like sowing directly into pots and not transplanting if at all possible, plus ensuring that it is looked after in hot weather and doesn’t bolt.

How much sun does coriander need?

In a British climate, coriander can grow well in full sun, so long as its not a heatwave as it tends to bolt in hot weather.  Coriander needs well-drained moist soil but does not fare well if it is waterlogged.

Does coriander grow back after cutting?

Yes, coriander can grow back after cutting.  In the same way that you can grow basil or mint from cutting coriander can grow roots if you cut a stem off and place it in a tub of water.  Roots will start to grow. Once the roots become long enough then you can plant it and you’ll have a full plant in a couple of months.

How often should coriander be watered?

Seeds should be kept moist while germinating and once germinated you’ll need to check that the soil remains moist but not waterlogged.  We check morning and evening (we love coriander!)  Once coriander plants are established then they don’t need as much water (but we still check twice a day!)

Can coriander be grown in pots?

Yes.  Growing coriander in pots is an excellent way to grow coriander.  Use a good vegetable compost and make sure that your pots are at least 25 centimetres deep as coriander has deep roots. 

How long does coriander take to sprout

Coriander seeds will germinate within 14-21 days. If you’re growing basil at the same time this may be a little scary as basil germinates EXTREMELY quickly in comparison, but stuck with it.  Once coriander has started to sprout it will quickly generate leaves.

How long does a coriander plant last?

Your coriander plant is likely to only live for a few months before it flowers bringing on the seeding process.

Why does my coriander plant have flowers?

Your coriander plant probably has flowers because its hot weather and its bolted.  It’s a survival mechanism and the herb is trying to produce seeds as quickly as possible to ensure the survival of the species.  Try and keep your coriander in cool moist conditions (the UK summer should be fine, if the location of your pot of coriander is too hot then try moving it around).

What should I do if my coriander has flowers?

If you are growing your coriander for seeds, then you can leave the flowers on.  Then cut the stems and dry as we’ve discussed previously.  If you do not want to grow your coriander for seeds and want it to keep producing leaves, then you’ll want to check regularly for flowers and cut them off or deadhead them regularly in order to promote the growth of leaves.

 

Should I soak coriander seeds before planting?

It’s not absolutely necessary, but if you soak coriander seeds in room temperature water for 24-48 hours before sowing then this will increase the chances of them germinating.  Remove them from the water and allow them to dry so that they are no “soggy” when you sow them.  We have grown coriander from seeds that have been soaked and not and both have germinated, although the soaked ones have germinated quicker.

How do I make my coriander bushy?

If you pinch off upwards growth you will encourage a bushier coriander plant.  Cut off the top bit of the main stem, especially if it looks to be starting flowers.  Cutting off flowers will direct the coriander plant energy to the production of leaves.

How many times can you harvest coriander?

Harvest coriander at least once a week or more if it is growing well.  Harvesting will help the herb to grow more and will encourage further growth.

Why is it so hard to grow coriander?

Coriander is quite particular about how and where it will grow.  So get this right and it’s not difficult.  Coriander has a relatively short growing cycle and doesn’t like a huge amount of heat, which causes it to bolt, start flowering and producing seed.  Coriander also doesn’t react well to being transplanting, so it doesn’t work to start it in seed trays and then transplant.  Try sowing coriander seeds directly into the containers in which they will live and experiment with the best place in garden, greenhouse or windowsill for your coriander plant.

Final Words on Growing Coriander in Pots & Containers

Coriander often gets a bad rap as being difficult to grow.  However, I’d argue that it’s not difficult to grow, it just has particular needs and if you can meet those needs then you and coriander will get along just fine.  Using containers and pots to grow coriander in can be an excellent way of maintaining the best possible conditions for your coriander, whether you’re growing for the leaves or the seeds.  Do let us know how you get on!

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