Cilantro (coriander) is an aromatic herb that fits in a lot of dishes. Its culinary applications extend beyond geographical and cultural boundaries. However, it can be challenging to grow it in your garden as the plant is prone to drooping and dying at the slightest change in the growing conditions around it.
Why is my cilantro dying? Cilantro can die for many reasons including inadequate watering, the wrong type of soil, poor light, not enough nutrients in the soil or too much fertilizer, excessive temperatures, wrong soil pH, pests, diseases, or getting rootbound in a small pot.
As challenging as growing cilantro is, harvesting the fresh herb is well worth the trouble you put into it. Read more to find out why your cilantro is dying and what you can do to revive it and nurture it back to health.
Top Causes of Cilantro Dying (& Solutions)
The reasons for dying cilantro are so numerous that it might take you a few tries before you finally find out the real cause of the problem and remedy it. Here are the top common causes of cilantro dying and what you can do to fix each problem.
1. Too Much Water
Cilantro needs different amounts of water throughout its life span. The seeds and seedlings need more water than the established plants, but there’s a limit to how much water you can pour into the soil. If the soil is waterlogged, the plant will get root rot and die. Overly wet soil is one of the main causes of cilantro dying.
Aim for keeping the soil evenly moist during the early stages of the cilantro’s growth. Don’t water the soil if it’s still moist or after rainfall. When the plant establishes, you can let the top 1 inch of the soil go dry before watering it.
2. Not Enough Water
Cilantro doesn’t do well in dry soil. Not enough water won’t get the seeds to germinate. The same applies to seedlings that haven’t yet developed a full root ball and need constantly moist soil to grow and thrive. A mature plant can handle relatively dry soil as long as the drought doesn’t go on for days.
In general, you should give the cilantro plant 1 inch of water every week. During the summer months, the plant might need more water, especially if you grow it in pots where the soil dries out faster than in the garden.
3. Soil Drains Too Quickly
Sandy soil is not ideal for cilantro. While heavy soil retains water for too long, sandy soil drains it too quickly for the roots to absorb the moisture. It doesn’t matter how often or how much you water the soil; cilantro will turn yellow and droop when dehydrated.
Make sure the soil is loamy before you plant the seeds. If the soil is heavy or clayish, amend it with coarse sand or perlite. If it’s too sandy, add some silt to improve its texture.
4. Insufficient Sunlight
Your cilantro needs direct sunlight to grow and maintain lush green foliage. Partial shade causes the leaves to turn yellow, and eventually, the plant will die since the leaves cannot photosynthesize the sunlight and generate plant energy.
Choose a spot in the garden that gets 6 hours of sunlight every day. Try to avoid too much afternoon sun, which could burn the leaves. In warm Zones, plant cilantro in north- or east-facing areas, and in moderate Zones, choose west- or south-facing spots.
5. Lack of Nutrients
Although cilantro is an herb rather than a flowering plant, its aromatic leaves still need a decent amount of nutrients in the soil to grow and prosper. Poor soil often leads to smaller leaves and wilting cilantro.
Avoid chemical fertilizers, and focus on organic compost or homemade fertilizers instead. These slow-release fertilizers will keep the cilantro growing without stressing it out with sudden growth spurts. They might also positively affect the aroma and taste of the leaves.
6. Too Much Fertilizer
In general, cilantro doesn’t need a lot of fertilizing. Heavy applications of strong fertilizers can burn the roots and kill the plant. The stress of fast growth could lead to bolting. Neither outcome is desired when growing cilantro.
Use mild fertilizers for herbs, such as this organic option, or limit your applications to compost. Apply once a month or once every 6 weeks.
7. Soil pH Too High or Too Low
The roots of cilantro are not only sensitive to dry soil, but they also need the correct amount of acidity in the soil. If the pH levels go up or down, the nutrients in the soil become inaccessible to the roots, which leads to the plant withering and dying.
Check the pH in the soil before you plant the seeds (an easy way to check is to use a 3-in-1 meter that also monitors moisture and light levels). You should get a reading between 6.2 and 6.8. Check again periodically as long as the cilantro is growing. If the pH becomes too acidic, add lime to bring it back into the neutral range.
8. Prolonged High Temperatures
As a cool-season herb, cilantro doesn’t do well in high temperatures, especially if that hot weather persists. It can dry out the soil too fast, depriving the plant of much-need moisture and causing it to die. High temperatures also lead to bolting, which renders the leaves unusable.
To ensure that your cilantro keeps growing succulent leaves and doesn’t bolt too soon, keep the temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a short spring and summer comes too early, consider planting cilantro in pots and taking them indoors in the afternoons.
9. Pest Infestation
For an aromatic herb with a strong odor that repels the vast majority of garden pests, some bugs are still unaffected by that fragrance. Aphids and leafhoppers are notorious pests that can wreak havoc with your succulent herb and damage the leaves.
Aphids are fairly small, but they leave a trail of destruction in their path. You’ll see tiny holes in the leaves and a breadcrumb of droppings on the stems. A strong water current will often wash them off the plant. As for leafhoppers, you can spray them with neem oil (I use this organic neem oil and always see great results). Don’t use pesticides to get rid of the bugs.
Fungal wilt, root rot, and mildew are the three most common diseases that you’ll have to deal with when growing cilantro. These fungal infections are often the result of poor ventilation, high humidity levels, and waterlogged soil. They damage the leaves and can lead to the demise of the plant.
Make sure the area is well-ventilated. Use a sterilized potting mix to start the potted plants, and make sure the soil drains well. Remove any infected plants as soon as you detect them to prevent the spread of the fungal infection.
11. Plant Is Rootbound in Pot
Cilantro is known for its robust root system. The roots develop fast, but if your cilantro is potted, this can lead to a rootbound problem rather quickly. When the herb gets rootbound, its nutrient intake diminishes, and it will eventually die.
If the roots come out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, that’s a sign of rootbound issues. Repot the plant in a slightly larger pot, and use fresh soil. Add organic materials, and water immediately to minimize the transplant shock.
12. Natural Life Cycle of Plant
Cilantro is an annual herb. Once it bolts and the flowers are pollinated, the plant will die after the seeds develop. This is part of the natural life cycle of the herb, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Try to harvest as many leaves as you can while the herb is growing. Once it bolts, you can uproot it and prepare the soil for another crop, or you can leave a few cilantro plants to harvest their seeds (if you didn’t already know, cilantro seeds are known as coriander).
Tips for Growing Cilantro
To ensure that your cilantro grows successfully and doesn’t wither and die prematurely, follow these tips.
- Improve ventilation by planting the seeds 2 inches apart and thinning seedlings to 6-8 inches apart.
- Plant the seeds a quarter inch deep in the soil.
- Mix the soil with organic materials to improve drainage.
- Don’t use pesticides or commercial fertilizers.
- Protect the plants from the afternoon sun in the summer.
- Check the soil pH regularly, and keep it between 6.2 and 6.8.
Does Cilantro Grow Back?
Cilantro will keep growing leaves as long as you harvest the leaves regularly. Don’t harvest more than one-third of the leaves at one time.
Will Cilantro Grow From Cuttings?
You can grow cilantro from a stem cutting. It’s a quick way to start a new plant without having to wait for the seeds to germinate.
Cilantro is an annual herb with fragrant leaves, but it needs ideal growing conditions to ensure its success. Avoid too much or too little watering. Loamy and well-draining soil is crucial, and don’t fertilize it more than once a month.