How To Harvest Cilantro For Maximum Yield (Cut-and-Grow-Back)

Struggling to get “enough” fresh cilantro from your plants? Not quite sure when, where, and how much to cut?

You are not alone.

It took me a while to get comfortable around cilantro. Harvesting coriander seeds was always a breeze. But getting enough fresh cilantro was another story.

Summary for the impatient reader: Maximum yield comes down to proper and regular harvesting to encourage plant to grow back coupled with a process for storing what you do not use.

Sounds easy, right? But it is oh-so-easy to get caught in a loop. Yes, this used to be me.

  • If I harvested weekly, I had fresh herbs when I did not need them
  • So, I skipped harvesting…
  • …and the plant bolted

This is why harvesting regularly and storing what you do not use is important. Trust me, it is great to have fresh herbs come winter, and it is a greener way to grow.

A handful of fresh cilantro
A handful fresh cilantro

I found that harvesting fresh cilantro for maximum yield came down to answering 5 questions:

  1. When to start harvesting
  2. How much to cut back each time
  3. How often to harvest
  4. Post-harvest plant care
  5. How to store properly

There is no magic to it; stay true to the process and add a sprinkling of common sense as needed.

But First, What Gives With Cilantro vs. Coriander

Some plants give us more.

And the culinary herb ‘Coriandrum sativum’ is one of them.  Cilantro typically refers to the fresh leaves and stems, while coriander refers to the dried seeds.

And therein lies the whole confusion. One plant – two edible parts. 

So, when you see a recipe is calling for coriander, you will be using the seeds, not the leaves.

This post is all about harvesting fresh cilantro. Check out this article if you are looking for information on how to harvest coriander seeds.

1. Timing: When To Start Harvesting Cilantro Leaves

  • Cilantro is ready to harvest when the plant is about 6 to 8 inches and has developed several pairs of true leaves.
  • Don’t rush it; harvesting too early will stunt the plant. 
  • Depending on where you live, the plant can take 3-4 weeks from sprouting the first leaves to reach this stage.
Large cilantro leaves
Harvest-ready plant

2. Harvest Cilantro Gently: How Much To Cut Back Each Time

  • Harvest individual leaves or whole stems, but be gentle to avoid stressing the plant.
  • Locate the outermost leaves near the base of the stem. These are the oldest and most mature leaves.
  • Do not cut too close to the roots. Use scissors to snip the stems and leave about 3-5 cm (1-2 inches) of stem above the soil level.
  • Avoid Over-harvesting: Never cut more than one-third of the plant at a time. Cilantro needs its leaves to photosynthesize and grow, so be mindful of how much you trim.
  • You can harvest the whole plant, but it will reduce the overall yield of the plant.
  • Keep It Balanced:  Harvest evenly from all sides of the plant. You want the plant to maintain its shape and encourage balanced growth.
Cilantro grows bask slowly if you harvest the whole plant
Harvesting the whole plant reduces the yield

3. Regular Harvesting: How Often To Harvest Fresh Cilantro

  • Harvest your cilantro plant regularly. I have found weekly harvesting to work, but you may need to harvest more often in summer. Leaving the plant to grow unchecked will lead to bolting as the plant matures.
  • Regular harvesting encourages the plant to grow back after cutting. Expect new leaves to start forming a few weeks after each harvest.
  • Keep harvesting your plant at regular intervals throughout the growing season.
  • Remember, cilantro is an annual, so make the most of it while it’s around!

4. Water and Fertilize: Post Harvest Plant Care For Grow Back

  • Water your plant to keep the soil consistently moist. Cilantro thrives in well-draining, evenly moist soil.
  • Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. This will provide the nutrients your cilantro needs to generate new growth.

5. Store Fresh & Keep It Flavorful: How To Store Properly

When you harvest regularly, you will have cilantro leaves when you do not need them.

Here are 3 methods teaching you everything you need to know about storing cilantro properly.

The Water Method: 

Fresh cilantro does not store well. But this method will keep it fresh for a day or two. Change the water at least daily for best results. 

  • Place the cilantro stems in a glass or jar of water.
  • Make sure there’s enough water to cover at least an inch of the stems.
  • Store the jar in the fridge.

The Freezer Trick: 

My preferred method of storing cilantro. Perfect for preserving cilantro for a more extended period. When ready to use it, pop out a cilantro ice cube!

  • Chop the cilantro leaves finely and place them in an ice-cube tray.
  • Fill each cube with water and freeze.
  • Once frozen, transfer the cilantro cubes to an airtight container or plastic bag.

Upside-Down Method For Dry Cilantro: 

I have tested this method, and it works. But it is not my favorite, as dried cilantro loses most flavor and aroma.

Still, the process is straightforward, and dried cilantro works well in soups, stews, and other cooked dishes.

  • Snip the stems of your cilantro plant, leaving them around 4 inches long.
  • Bundle several stems together and secure them with a string.
  • Place the bundle in a paper bag and hang it upside down in a well-ventilated area.
  • After a week or so, the cilantro should be dry and ready to use.

Harvest Cilantro Plant To Prevent Bolting

Cilantro plants tend to bolt or go to seed prematurely, especially when exposed to full sun in hot weather. You want to delay this process as long as possible to maximize your yield.

Bolting cilantro plant with white flowers
Bolting plant with small white flowers

Here are 3 tips to help you:

  1. Harvest regularly to encourage leaf production and delay bolting.
  2. Plant cilantro in partial shade during the hottest part of the summer if you live in a region with scorching temperatures.
  3. Remove buds and immature flowers before they are fully formed to slow down the process

And if all else fails, grow slow-bolting cilantro varieties like the Coriandrum sativum ‘Santo’ [1] variety next season.

FAQs: Your Cilantro Questions Answered

What should I do if my cilantro starts to bolt?

My best advice is to harvest more frequently to encourage leaf production, cut buds, and relocate the plant to a cooler and partially shaded area during hot weather.

Are cilantro flowers edible?

Yes, the small white flowers are edible and are used in Latin and Asian cuisine. Flavorwise, the flowers are milder than individual leaves. 

Can I grow grow cilantro indoors?

Yes, cilantro can be grown indoors in an herb garden or a single pot. Ensure the plant receives at least 4-6 hours of sunlight daily or use a grow light. Keep the soil evenly moist, fertilize every 2-3 weeks, and harvest as needed.

Is it coriander or cilantro seeds?

Normally, the seeds of the plant are called coriander seeds. You can learn more about harvesting coriander seeds here.

Summing it all up

  • Harvesting cilantro for maximum yield comes down to proper harvesting and storing techniques.
  • Your plant will grow back after cutting when harvested properly.
  • Harvest your plant weekly and choose your preferred storage method for what you do not use. 
  • Remember to maintain even soil moisture and fertilize your plants every 2-3 weeks.

Helpful sources:


Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.