Why Is My Cilantro Plant Bolting and What Can I Do about It?
“Nate! Rob! I need your help! Why is my cilantro plant bolting?” and “What can I do to stop my cilantro from bolting?” We receive these fairly common questions a lot in our DMs. When growing cilantro for the first time, bolting is just like one of those rites of passage every beginner gardener must go through. Heck, cilantro bolting can even be just as frustrating for seasoned gardeners, especially during summertime. But fret not, because we are here to help you handle this bolting dilemma and give you surefire ways to prolong your cilantro plant’s life for as long as possible!
What Is Bolting, And How Can I Tell If My Cilantro Is Bolting?
First off, let’s understand what bolting means and what it looks like. Bolting is the process when a plant starts to flower and create seeds (that you can use to grow next season, by the way). It is a natural occurrence that signals the end of a plant’s life cycle. Cilantro and many other crops like basil, broccoli, and lettuce are known to be fast bolters.
You can tell when your cilantro is beginning to bolt when it starts producing a thick central stem, and delicate leaves and tiny white flowers start to grow on the tip of this stem. By then, your cilantro will have grown very tall, usually about two feet in height. The cilantro leaves will eventually turn yellow, and at that point, they become bitter and inedible. Then, every single bud will transform into little pods of cilantro seeds, otherwise known as coriander.
What Causes Cilantro to Bolt?
So what causes cilantro to bolt anyway? Well, the simple answer is heat. Cilantro will bolt faster than lightning (Ha! See what we did there?) when exposed to hot weather and rising temperatures. Since cilantro is known as a cool-weather crop, come late spring and early summertime, your cilantro can feel its end is about to come. So as a survival mechanism for cilantro, it will put all its power into producing seeds as quickly as possible to ensure its next generation of cilantro children will survive and grow.
Can I Still Eat Cilantro When It Bolts?
Unfortunately, once your cilantro starts to bolt, it quickly loses all its flavor. And no, cutting off the white flowers will not bring back the flavor to its leaves. Instead, the leaves will remain bitter. So unless you want to be dipping your nachos in some bitter guacamole, then it’s probably best to let nature run its course and have your cilantro produce coriander seeds instead. Coriander seeds are jam-packed with flavor and can be used to spice up your next curry dish.
How Can I Stop My Cilantro from Bolting?
Your cilantro plant bolting isn’t a bad thing. It’s a natural process and part of every plant’s life cycle. However, what may be bad is if your cilantro bolts too early, and you cannot enjoy all of what your plant has to offer. So here are some simple suggestions and adjustments you can make to prolong your cilantro’s harvest.
Plant Cilantro Early
If you want to get as much harvest from your cilantro as possible, and are growing outdoors, this means plant it early. It’s better to plant your cilantro in early spring rather than mid-late spring. You may start your seeds indoors, four weeks before your average last frost, so that after the threat of frost has passed, your cilantro is already growing. Plus, early spring means days are still relatively short, so less sun time equals fewer chances of your cilantro bolting faster.
Keep Cilantro Cool and Shady
Once your cilantro has sprouted, make sure to keep it nice and cool. Cilantro likes to keep its roots cool, so it must stay that way. Be careful not to overwater your cilantro, though, since cilantro likes drier soil conditions. However, you can mulch the soil to retain the moisture in it and keep the soil cool. If you’re growing cilantro outside, position it next to a tall plant that can provide it with some shade. That way, your plant won’t bolt as fast once the weather starts to heat up.
Keep Planting More Cilantro
If you want to keep getting cilantro, then keep planting it. Many gardeners like to do succession planting, which is planting the same crop several times throughout the growing season to maintain a good harvest. So instead of planting all your cilantro seeds at one go, consider planting them at different times, like every 2-4 weeks, so they don’t bolt at the same time. And that means you can continue getting fresh cilantro harvests to use for your Taco Tuesdays.
Plant Slow-Bolt Cilantro Varieties
And lastly, one of the most effective ways for you to lengthen your cilantro plant’s cycle is to plant slow-bolt cilantro varieties. You can easily select this kind of cilantro by reading the description at the back of the seed packet. Look for varieties that are described as “heat-tolerant,” “long-standing,” or “bolt-resistant.” Some popular slow-bolting cilantro varieties we can suggest are Santo and Calypso (our favorite). Also, it’s best to try out different cilantro kinds and keep track to see which cilantro variety grows best in your climate.
And there you have it, folks! The best ways to keep your cilantro plant from bolting. However, we want you guys to remember that it is not the end of the world if your cilantro plant bolts. In fact, it’s quite the opposite since bolting will gift you with (almost) an unlimited supply of seeds that you can use to plant on and on. Also, did we mention that the tiny white flowers also attract beneficial insects such as butterflies, bees, and ladybugs? So if you’re planting your cilantro alongside tomatoes or peppers, those other plants will be in for a real treat once the bees start pollinating. Ahhh, the tremendous benefits of planting cilantro at home!
If you have no idea where to begin, check out our comprehensive guide on how to grow cilantro indoors. We’ll walk you every step of the way. Oh, and don’t forget to drop by our shop to purchase some cilantro seeds. We promise you that gardening will be so much fun!