Cilantro bolting is one of the most frustrating things about this popular herb. Many gardeners ask, “Why does cilantro bolt?” and “How can I keep cilantro from flowering?” With attention to the environment you grow cilantro in, you can help lengthen the amount of time before cilantro will bolt and, therefore, increase the amount of time you can harvest leaves from your cilantro plants.
What to Do When Cilantro Bolts
Many gardeners wonder what to do when cilantro bolts. When they see the white cilantro flowers, they wonder if they can simply cut them off. Unfortunately, once cilantro bolts, the leaves rapidly lose their flavor. Cutting the cilantro flowers off won’t bring the flavor back to the leaves.
Instead, go ahead and let the cilantro flowers go to seed. The seeds of the cilantro plant are the spice coriander and can be used in Asian, Indian, Mexican and many other ethnic recipes.
Why Does Cilantro Bolt?
Cilantro grows best in cool, moist conditions and will bolt rapidly in hot weather. This a survival mechanism for the cilantro plant. The plant knows that it will die in hot weather and will try to produce seeds as quickly as possible to ensure that the next generation of cilantro will survive and grow.
How to Keep Cilantro from Bolting
The first thing to understand is that there is no true way to keep cilantro from bolting. Plants are designed to do one thing and that is to reproduce. You are fighting nature. But there are several things you can do to significantly lengthen the time before the cilantro plant produces flowers.
- First, if you live in a climate that doesn’t have moist, cool weather, you can buy slow-bolt cilantro. This is cilantro that has been bred to withstand higher temperatures.
- Second, no matter what kind of cilantro you grow, you should practice succession planting. This is where you plant new seeds every one to two weeks so that as one set of cilantro plantings start to bolt, the next set will be ready to harvest.
- Third, plant cilantro to grow during cool weather. Early spring, late summer and early fall are the best times to plant cilantro. If you plant in late spring to mid summer, your cilantro will bolt quickly in the heat.
- Fourth, harvest your cilantro leaves frequently. The more you harvest your cilantro, the more likely you are to nip immature flowering stalks which will delay cilantro flowering.
- Fifth, mulch cilantro and plant it tightly. It isn’t the heat of the air that causes cilantro to bolt, but rather the heat of the soil. Mulch will help keep the soil cool and retain moisture. Planting cilantro tightly will shade the ground it grows in, which also helps to keep the soil cooler.