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A Guide On How To Harvest Cilantro Without Killing The Plant

A Guide On How To Harvest Cilantro Without Killing The Plant

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Cilantro is an ever-present garnish in many cuisines, including Asian, Mexican, and Mediterranean gastronomy.

However, although growing this plant might be easy, harvesting it can often go wrong. That’s why we decided to bring you some guidelines on how to harvest cilantro without killing the plant.

Before we get into details, let’s look at some cilantro specifics:

Scientific name:Coriandrum sativum
Native habitat:Western Mediterranean and southern Europe
Growth rate:Fast-growing
Time of ripening:45-70 days after seeding
Size: 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) tall, and 1-1.5 feet (30-45 cm) wide

This article will teach you some practical ways of harvesting cilantro as well as some hacks on how to store it and the best time to harvest.

We also included a short care guide to help you get started on your herb garden.

Happy planting!

How To Harvest Cilantro Without Killing The Plant

In the sections below, we will discuss all the different ways of harvesting cilantro, or the coriander plant, which is another name for this herb even though it technically refers to cilantro seeds.

You can pick cilantro plant leaves in small or large batches, which is great as sometimes you simply need to spice up a dish with a garnish, but from others, you want to make a nice coriander preserve.

4 Ways Of Harvesting Cilantro In Small Amounts

Fresh organic cilantros with hand pruner on white wood

We usually harvest fresh cilantro for one-time use when we want to add its unique savory and citrusy flavor to our dishes.

There are four ways to successfully harvest this popular herb without killing the entire plant.

Harvesting cilantro in small batches is encouraged as it can make the plant grow more vigorously and entice healthy growth.

Pick The Outer Parts

The outer leaves of the cilantro plant are the parts we desire most due to their magnificent taste. The older leaves are somewhat bitter and not ideal for cooking.

Harvesting the outer cilantro leaves will not kill the plant, which is a big plus. In fact, it will even encourage it to grow in the same way as pruning encourages the growth of other plants!

Use Your Hands

If you only want to pick a few nodes, you don’t necessarily need scissors or a sharp knife. However, you need to master the technique, and you shouldn’t tug on the plant as it can damage it and hinder further growth and development.

Pick At The Node

When harvesting a coriander plant in small batches, the critical thing is to pick the leaves at their nodes. This will minimize potential damage.

You will also stimulate new growth this way, which will increase the overall yield.

Remove Old Leaves And Stems

You should always remove old stems and leaves when harvesting to give the plant more space and energy for new growth.

Also, the older leaves and stems are bitter, so there’s no point in allowing them to take up space when fresh and tasty leaves could replace them in a matter of days.

Make sure you handle the plant gently to avoid causing any damage that may kill it. You should remove old stems with sterilized scissors as you don’t want to transfer bacteria onto a healthy plant.

4 Tips For Harvesting Cilantro In Large Amounts

growing green cilantro in a hydroponic farm

The good thing about coriander is that you can harvest it many times before it flowers and produces coriander seeds.

This section contains four gardening tips for harvesting fresh cilantro leaves without killing the plant.

Harvest During The Cold Season

The main thing to remember when collecting cilantro is that you should do it during the cold season, before it flowers.

Taking larger amounts of coriander leaves in spring will result in lusher growth, so you’ll have more of this fantastic spice.

Harvesting cilantro when it flowers isn’t forbidden, and the flowers don’t make it poisonous, but the leaves lose their citrusy flavor so there’s no point in harvesting them. At that point, it’s better to let it produce new seeds that you can use when making a curry or for sowing next year.

Wait Until The Plant Matures

Secondly, you should wait until the plant is mature to collect the leaves. There is little difference in taste between the new leaves and the mature ones, but harvesting undeveloped cilantro can have serious repercussions for the plant itself!

The young stems are rather delicate, and cutting them can stress the plant. This means they won’t have the energy to grow new stems, resulting in death.

Don’t Harvest The Entire Plant

The main goal of harvesting this herb is to do so without killing it, and cutting the entire plant will do just that.

Therefore, you should always be mindful of the quantity you’re taking and ensure you never cut more than one-third of the plant.

Taking this amount will stimulate further growth, and you’ll have more to take in the next harvest period. You’ll also avoid killing the plant.

Use Scissors Or A Knife

When harvesting larger batches of cilantro, you shouldn’t use your hands as it would cause too much damage to the plant.

You can use sharp scissors or a knife to snip the stems, but there’s more to the story as the way you harvest is also important.

You should harvest the leafiest stems first and always cut them as close to the base of the plant as possible. You must also ensure that you don’t cut other plants that aren’t ready for harvesting, as this will kill them.

Here are some great tips for harvesting cilantro safely:

When Is Cilantro Ready For Harvesting?

Knowing when to harvest cilantro is essential if you want to make the best use of your plant and harvest as many leaves as possible.

Generally speaking, cilantro is ready for its first harvest once it reaches a height of 6-8 inches (15-20 cm), and it should be harvested on a weekly basis if you want to avoid bolting. Even slow-bolt varieties can catch you off guard and start flowering when you need the leaves of the plant the most.

Cilantro prefers colder temperatures, so its growing season usually lasts from early to late spring. You can also grow it in the fall to preserve some of this fragrant spice for the upcoming winter.

How To Store Cilantro

bunch of fresh cilantro on the boards

Harvesting larger amounts of cilantro means that you need to store it to prevent waste. You will find four ways of doing just that in the following section.

These methods for preserving and storing fresh cilantro are really helpful!

Refrigerating Cilantro

Refrigerating cilantro is really easy, and quite beneficial if you want to keep your fresh herb for a while.

The first step is to wash the freshly picked cilantro. Then, put the leaves in a damp cloth or a kitchen towel and place the cilantro leaves in a container or a sealed bag.

After that, simply store the container in the crisper of your fridge and you’ll have fresh cilantro for up to a week.

Here are some other ways of refrigerating cilantro that keep it fresh for days.

Keeping Cilantro In Water

The next method is keeping cilantro in water. All you have to do is place the fresh cilantro in a glass jar filled with water to prolong its freshness.

You can place the cilantro in a container with water and put it in the fridge to keep it fresh for even longer. You only need to change the water from time to time to keep the leaves crisp.

Freezing Cilantro

Freezing cilantro is a unique method of preserving this herb. It’s great for cooking your favorite dishes and making cocktail ice cubes. Those would be the talk of any party!

Simply chop the cilantro leaves, place them in ice cube trays, and fill them with water. Store the tray in the freezer, and enjoy them with a refreshing beverage or a nice dinner.

This method preserves the cilantro for two months, so you’ll have plenty of time to come up with novel ideas for using it in your cooking.

Drying Cilantro

Dried cilantro lasts about a year, so it’s the method that allows you to enjoy this herb for the most amount of time.

You must first wash the green leaves and remove the stems. Then, put them on a baking sheet and bake them for around 20-30 minutes in an oven preheated to 250°F (120°C).

After the cilantro has cooled a bit, place it in an airtight container and use it whenever your salsas and salads need more flavor.

You can also dry cilantro by tying the stems together and hanging the bunch in a dry place out of direct sunlight. All that’s left after that is to wait until the leaves are dry and ready for use.

Cilantro Companion Planting

Growing cilantro on its own is no problem, but companion planting makes your work so much easier, especially if you know what plants to pair it with. Herbs with similar watering and sunlight needs, such as basil and parsley, are ideal companions for cilantro.

However, even though parsley and cilantro are quite similar, their harvesting methods aren’t the same. The ways of harvesting parsley without killing the plant are different from those for harvesting cilantro.

You can also grow cilantro with tomatoes, which protect this herb from the hot weather, and legumes that provide the nitrogen that cilantro requires.

Also, pests that are attracted to cilantro are sworn enemies of potato bugs, so growing cilantro with potatoes keeps them both safe.

Cilantro Care Guide Overview

Cilantro in the hands of a man in the garden

The care guide below will teach you the essentials of cilantro plant care. Knowing when and how to harvest cilantro greatly depends on whether the plant is healthy and how much sun and water it gets.

We will discover the right amount of lighting and water this plant needs, as well as temperature requirements, which soil to use, and more!

Light Requirements

Cilantro needs full sun to thrive, although you might need to cover it with a shade if you live in a region with intense sunlight.

You don’t have to avoid partial shade because this herb is quite adaptable and can tolerate different lighting conditions.

Water And Humidity

Cilantro thrives in moist conditions, but you shouldn’t soak it in water as it can lead to a number of issues.

Ideally, you should aim to give this plant 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week, but not all at once. You should water the plant every couple of days instead.

When it comes to humidity, the good news is that you don’t have to make any amendments to your home, and there’s no need for misting or assembling pebble trays.

This plant flourishes in both moderate and high humidity levels.


Cool-weather crops like cilantro prefer colder weather. Anything in the range of 50-85°F (10-29°C) represents ideal growing conditions for this plant.

It can survive low temperatures, and being exposed to temperatures even as low as 10°F (-12°C) won’t pose too much danger. However, if the temperature climbs higher than 85°F (29°C), there’s a good chance this plant will bolt and leave you with a bitter taste.

Soil And Fertilizer

The cilantro herb is not picky about planting substrate, but if you want to give it the best chance for growth, go for slightly acidic mediums with a pH level between 6.2-6.8. Also, the soil should be well-draining and rich in nutrients and organic content, so you can add some compost to the loam before planting the seeds.

Finally, if you grow cilantro in an outdoor garden, you should consider mulching it to discourage weed growth and allow moisture retention, which is necessary in hot weather.


The best fertilizers for cilantro are nitrogen-based, and you can feed this herb once or twice during its growing season.

However, be careful to avoid over-fertilization as it can tarnish the looks of this plant, and too much nitrogen can lead to bitter-tasting cilantro.


Cilantro is an annual plant with extensive taproots, which means it doesn’t like to be transplanted. However, if you bought a few sprouts at the farmer’s market and want to grow them outdoors, we have a few tips that can help you fight transplant shock.

Tip 1. Ensure that your garden soil is well-draining and nutrient-rich. You should also add fertilizer at least twice during the growing season to help this delicate plant recover.

Tip 2. This herb has deep roots, so you should make sure that the soil is at least 10 inches (25 cm) deep. Also, give the plant some space by leaving 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) between the seedlings so the leaves of the plant have enough room to grow.

Tip 3. Transplant the seedlings in spring or fall when the weather is a bit colder to avoid bolting and wilting, as too much heat can cause excessive evaporation and dry the soil out.

Tip 4. Be careful not to overwater or underwater your cilantro, as too much water can cause root rot, and too little can result in wilting and dying.

Finally, knowing when to plant cilantro sprouts and how to grow them will reduce the risk of transplant shock, and improve your overall yield since planting them in spring, summer, and fall differs and affects the harvest.


Cut fresh green cilantro and wooden spoon on white marble table

The last section of this article brings you answers to some of the most common questions we’ve been asked about the cilantro plant.

Let’s look at them!

How many times can you harvest cilantro?

You can harvest cilantro at least eight times during its growing season, and even more if the plant grows well.

You should harvest this herb once a week to delay bolting, or even more frequently if the new leaves grow back rapidly.

What if you cut cilantro and it doesn’t grow back?

If you harvested too much cilantro and it didn’t grow back, there’s nothing you can do. The plant is most likely dead, and you’ll have to plant the seeds again and be careful of how much you take.

However, if you harvest the entire plant, there’s no rule that says that the plant can’t grow back again. But keep in mind that this process will take a long time and won’t encourage lush growth.

Remember to take only 30% of the plant, as this will result in more leaves and a larger yield. If you take everything, you should be aware that your herb might not grow back up.

Do you need to replant cilantro after harvesting?

No, you shouldn’t replant cilantro, especially after harvesting. Transplanting this plant often leads to shock, even when the plant is established and strong.

Replanting after harvesting will only lead to wilting and death, as the plant needs more energy to grow new leaves; it cannot battle on two fronts.

To Sum Up

This article taught you some top tips for how to harvest cilantro without killing the plant, perfect for whether you want to gather it in either small or large amounts.

Cilantro is a delicate plant, and you should be mindful of how much you take and when you take it. However, external conditions such as the temperature, lighting, and planting medium play an important role in this, and if they’re not suitable your plant will have a hard time staying alive.

The short care guide for cilantro in this article will help you incite healthy growth. Also, cilantro is a great companion plant to many other veggies, and it can be safely grown with other herbs such as basil and parsley, so you can take care of them all at once.

We also discussed some ways of storing cilantro so you don’t have to worry about running out of this essential spice.

Finally, we give you our best wishes and hope your cilantro plant does well!

Until next time!

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