By Jennifer Poindexter
Are you interested in growing lesser known plants? There are many out there, and you may find great alternatives to more common plants that don’t grow well in your area.
One of these options is culantro. It’s a relative of cilantro but prefers warmer temperatures. If you’re interested in learning more about this plant, you’re in the right place.
I’m going to walk you through its growing conditions, how to plant culantro, as well as how to care and protect this plant, too.
If you’re considering adding culantro to your home garden, here’s what you should know to start the growing process on the right foot:
Growing Conditions for Culantro
Culantro is a biennial herb which loves the warmth of summer. This plant is native to the Caribbean and Central America. It also goes by a variety of names.
It’s sometimes called Black Benny, Puerto Rican coriander, Mexican coriander, or saw leaf. No matter what you choose to call it, this plant belongs to the Apiaceae family just like cilantro.
However, they vary in appearance. Culantro has elongated green foliage with a rougher texture than cilantro.
The leaves have an edge like a steak knife, hence why it’s sometimes called saw leaf. These two herbs vary in flavor as well. Cilantro has a milder flavor than culantro.
Also, if you live near the beach, you may struggle to grow cilantro as it isn’t known for being salt tolerant.
However, culantro is mildly tolerant of salt and may make a good addition to your herb garden in this area.
When growing culantro, select a growing location with well-draining soil that remains evenly damp. This plant also needs a growing location with shade.
By protecting the plant from harsh lighting, it could reduce the occurrence of bolt. When this plant goes to seed it produces small white flowers.
You want to deter this because once the plant starts going to seed, it’s no longer good to eat.
Finally, you may grow culantro in a container or in the ground. Take these pointers into consideration when deciding where to grow culantro around your home.
How to Plant Culantro
When planting culantro, you have two options. The first option is to directly sow the seeds into the growing location.
You’ll do this by finding a location which meets the specifications presented above. Ensure all threat of frost is over.
From there, till the soil to where it’s ready to receive seed. Be sure to amend the soil with compost at the time of planting.
Then sprinkle the seeds into the growing location. It should take them approximately three weeks to germinate.
During this time, be sure to keep the soil evenly damp without oversaturating to encourage germination. Once the seeds have sprouted, thin them to where there’s one foot of space between each plant.
The second method to growing culantro is to start the seeds indoors. If you live in an area with a shorter growing season, this might be a good option for you.
Start the seeds two months prior to the final frost date. Fill a growing tray with well-draining soil and place two seeds per cell in the tray.
Mist the soil with water to ensure it remains evenly damp while you wait for the seeds to germinate. It’s best to place the tray of seeds on a heating mat or on top of your refrigerator as receiving heat from the bottom tends to boost the germination rate.
Once the seeds have sprouted, keep the soil damp and provide bright, indirect light. When frost is over, harden the seeds off and transplant them outdoors.
Be sure to place one foot of space between each plant. You should still amend the soil prior to planting as well.
Now that you know how to start culantro seeds, let’s discuss how you should care for the plants once they’re in the ground and becoming established.
Caring for Culantro
Culantro is a low-maintenance herb. When caring for it, you will need to water it correctly, provide fertilizer intermittently, and remove heads from the plant.
Let’s begin by discussing how you should water this plant. It’s best to water culantro deeply. This means that you’ll water it for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.
By watering the plant in this way, you’re encouraging it to develop a deeper root system. This leads to a healthier, stronger plant over time.
You’ll know it’s time to water your culantro plants again by inserting your finger into the soil. When it’s dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to water the plants.
If it isn’t dry, wait a day or two and test the soil again before having another deep watering session.
Next, you should fertilize culantro. You may use either a granular or liquid fertilizer. Be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging for best results.
Finally, you must remove flowering heads from the culantro. When these plants produce flowers, it’s a sign they’re going to seed.
This has a negative impact on the flavor. To prolong the plant’s growing period, it’s best to remove the flowers at first sight.
You now have a few tips to keep your culantro plants healthy and productive. Put them into practice to prolong your plant’s growing season.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Could Harm Culantro
Culantro may have already won you over considering it loves warmer weather, may do well when grown near the beach, and is low-maintenance.
Get ready to fall in love even more. Culantro is known for being pest and disease free. There isn’t anything noteworthy that typically harms this plant.
In fact, culantro is known for inviting beneficial insects (such as ladybugs) into your growing areas. If you’re looking for a productive, low-maintenance plant with no common enemies in the garden, culantro could be for you.
How to Harvest Culantro
The last thing we must discuss about growing culantro is how you can enjoy it. Understanding how to harvest your crops correctly can help you enjoy them when they’re at their prime.
As we’ve discussed, older culantro leaves aren’t as desirable as younger ones. Therefore, it’s best to begin harvesting culantro at the bottom where the older leaves are.
As the plant continues to grow, continue to harvest the leaves by age. Unfortunately, culantro doesn’t preserve well like cilantro.
It’s best to only harvest what you need at the time and ensure you chop the herb finely to avoid experiencing its chewy or tough texture.
You harvest the leaves by gently pulling them away from the plant as you need them. By harvesting culantro regularly, you should extend the plant’s growing season and be able to enjoy it longer.
You now know how to grow and care for culantro. Many people have never heard of this plant, but it could be a game changer to those who live in warmer or saltier climates that don’t normally get to enjoy fresh cilantro.
Though culantro is a little different from its cousin, cilantro, it’s still a great way to enjoy fresh flavors with little fuss during the growing process. Give this herb a try in your garden and see if culantro could be a new favorite for you.
Culantro Quick Reference Growing Chart
|Botanical Name||Eryngium foetidum|
|Other Names||Recao, long coriander, Mexican coriander, saw leaf herb|
|Origin||Continental Tropical America and the West Indies|
|Flavor||Strong, pungent, similar to cilantro|
|Plant Size||Basal rosette of leaves (30 cm long and 4 cm wide) 6-12 inches high, 8-12 inches wide|
|Leaves||Oblanceolate, serrated with small yellow spines|
|Flowers||Creamy white flowers|
|Sunlight Requirement||Full sun to partial shade (63% to 73% shade recommended)|
|Soil Requirement||Moist, well-draining, heavy soils high in organic matter|
|Water Requirement||Regular watering|
|Fertilization||High nitrogen fertilizers or manures|
|Planting Zones||USDA Zones 8-11 (grown as an annual elsewhere)|
|Common Pests||Root knot nematodes, aphids, spider mites|
|Common Diseases||Bacterial black rot|
|Harvest Time||Harvest leaves before bolting and flowering|
|Storage Duration||Up to 22 days|
|Nutritional Value||Rich in calcium, iron, carotene, riboflavin, vitamins A, B1, B2, and C|
|Culinary Uses||Seasoning in dishes, chutneys, preserves, sauces, and snacks|
- Culantro is a warm-weather, biennial herb native to the Caribbean and Central America, related to cilantro but with a stronger flavor.
- It prefers well-draining soil, shade, and can tolerate mild saltiness, making it suitable for coastal areas.
- Culantro can be grown from seeds sown directly in the ground or started indoors and transplanted after the last frost.
- Care for culantro involves deep watering, occasional fertilization, and removing flowering heads to prolong its growing season.
- Culantro is generally pest- and disease-free, and it can even attract beneficial insects to your garden.
- Harvest culantro by picking the older leaves from the bottom of the plant, and use it fresh in your dishes, as it doesn’t preserve well like cilantro.