All About Coriander

Whether you call it coriander, cilantro or Chinese parsley, it’s easy to recognize the unique, somewhat pungent fragrance and flavor of this leafy herb. Doing triple duty in the kitchen, the seeds and roots of this plant are also used culinarily.

Coriander grows first as a basal rosette of bright green, parsley-like leaves and is usually harvested at this point. If allowed to grow, the plant sends up stems with increasingly finely dissected leaves, and topped with a dense cluster of tiny white flowers. The small, round, brown seeds that follow are used as a spice in foods as diverse as pickled herring and Indian curries.

Common name: Cilantro
Botanical name: Coriandrum sativum
Plant type: Annual
Zones: All
Height: 8 to 24 inches
Family: Apiaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Average garden soil
  • Moisture: Water regularly to produce lush leaf growth


  • Mulch: None, or a thin layer of organic mulch
  • Pruning: None
  • Fertilizer: Work in compost or slow-release fertilizer before seeding or transplanting


  • Seeds

Pests and diseases

  • Few pest or disease problems


  • ‘Slo-Bolt’ and ‘Calypso’ are slower to go to seed

Garden notes

  • Coriander is native to parts of southern Europe, southwest Asia, and North Africa but has been cultivated since ancient times and is now widely distributed.
  • Coriander leaves are used in cuisines from around the world, including Brazilian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Chinese, and Thai.
  • Sow short rows of coriander seeds every few weeks to keep a steady supply of fresh leaves; it’s very cold hardy and young plants may even overwinter in the garden.
  • Love it or hate it: Some of the compounds that give coriander leaves their distinct scent and taste have positive antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, but are also very distasteful to some people.

All in the family

  • Coriander is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), a large, widely distributed group of mostly herbaceous plants .
  • In addition to carrots and coriander, other vegetables and herbs in this family include parsnips, celery, dill, fennel, parsley and anise.
  • Coriander and many other Apiaceae plants are important food plants for a number of beneficial insects, including butterflies, so plant some extra to share.

Where to buy

Photo: HitroMilanese