How to Revive a Dying Cilantro Plant

How to revive a dying cilantro plant

Cilantro (also known as coriander) is an annual leafy herb that is relatively easy to grow once you have recreated its preferred growing conditions.

The reason for a dying cilantro plant is commonly drought due to too much sun, not watering frequently enough, and fast-draining soil. Overwatering, too much nitrogen fertilizer, or pots without drainage can cause cilantro to droop and the leaves to turn yellow with a dying appearance.

Cilantro is an annual herb that dies back after flowering so it is important to prune your cilantro regularly to prevent flowering to increase the cilantro’s longevity and promote the production of fresh leaves.

To revive a dying cilantro it is important to provide the plant with its preferred growing conditions such as partial sun (morning sun followed by afternoon shade is ideal), frequent watering, good quality compost, planting in pots or containers that have drainage holes in the base and regular pruning.

Keep reading for how to implement these best practices to revive your dying cilantro plant…

Cilantro Wilting (Drought and Too Much Sun)

  • Symptoms. Cilantro leaves are wilting and possibly turning yellow. Cilantro can sometimes wilt despite frequent watering.
  • Causes. Not watering frequently enough, soil drains too quickly, intense sun causing temporary wilting during the day and small pots drying too quickly.

The most common reasons for cilantro wilting are that they are not being watered enough or they are temporarily wilting on the hottest days.

Cilantro has abundant leaves with a good surface area, therefore they tend to lose a lot of moisture through their leaves on hot or windy days (transpiration).

To remain healthy and prevent wilting cilantro requires the soil to be consistently moist so that the roots can draw up water at a faster rate than it is lost through their leaves.

If the soil or potting mix is sandy, stony, or particularly fast draining then cilantro tends to wilt as the roots struggle to draw water up.

Cilantro that is planted in small pots often wilts as smaller pots and containers have less capacity for soil and therefore retain less moisture which results in wilting as the sun dries out the pot

It should be noted that cilantro does wilt on hot days temporarily as a method for conserving moisture and perks up later in the evening with cooler temperatures. This is simply an adaptation to heat and the cilantro may not be dying.

How to Revive a Wilting Cilantro Plant

If your cilantro is wilting it can be easily saved. Here are the steps to reviving wilted cilantro:

  • Increase the frequency of your watering so that the soil stays consistently moist (but not saturated). Typically watering your cilantro once or twice per week is the best practice to prevent wilting. However, during drought or a heat wave, you may have to water at least 3 times a week and perhaps every day to keep the cilantro hydrated.
  • Ensure that your potting mix has plenty of compost to help retain moisture. Multi-purpose compost and leaf mold are ideal materials for a potting mix as both help to retain moisture yet have a structure that allows excess water to drain away and allow for root establishment. If you are planting cilantro in a vegetable garden, amend the planting area with lots of compost and add a mulch around the plant to help conserve moisture.
  • If the pot is smaller than 10 inches and your cilantro is wilting then I would recommend replanting your cilantro in a pot that is at least 12 inches across. A bigger pot or container can hold more compost and therefore retain more moisture which helps to prevent your cilantro from wilting.
  • Cilantro that wilts in the sun on hot days and can require some protection from direct light. Find an area of your garden with partial sun or morning sun followed by afternoon shade. This is the right balance for cilantro to grow and develop its flavor whilst not constantly enduring heat stress.

The most important step is to keep watering your cilantro regularly so that the soil is moist. With the optimal soil profile (lots of compost) and a large enough pot, your cilantro should revive from a wilted appearance as quickly as a day or so if the cause is dehydration.

Cilantro Dying After Planting (Transplant Shock)

If you have bought cilantro from a store or garden center or grown it from seed indoors then the plant often droops and looks like it requires reviving after transplanting outdoors.

When the plant is grown commercially for sale it is cultivated in the optimal conditions often in a greenhouse with full sun, specific temperature, watering, and soil conditions.

The cilantro is then accustomed to a specific set of conditions and suffers from shock due to a contrast in temperature, watering, and soil conditions when it is planted in your garden.

This shock is often temporary as the root systems establish in the new soil and the plant becomes more accustomed to its surroundings.

As long as the cilantro is planted in 6 hours of sun, in good quality compost, and watered regularly then it should revive after it has adapted to the conditions of your garden.

The soil must be watered so that it is consistently moist whilst the plant establishes, that cilantro can lose a lot of water through its large leaves to help mitigate the shock.

If the cilantro was already quite leggy when you bought it I recommend pruning it should to around 8 inches as longer stems can be due to higher levels of nitrogen in the soil which causes them to weaken and increases the risk of drooping.

Pruning should reduce the stress on the cilantro and stimulate new growth.

Cilantro Falling Over (Drooping)

If your cilantro stems are all falling over under their own weight then this can be due to several reasons:

  • Too much fertilizer. Cilantro can benefit from the use of fertilizer to stimulate new growth, however, too much nitrogen fertilizer can cause the cilantro to fall over (and turn the leaves yellow). Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants but too much nitrogen can stimulate excessive growth and weaken the stems so that the cilantro falls over.
  • Pots or containers without drainage holes in the base. If your potted cilantro is drooping then this can be due to boggy soil caused by a lack of drainage holes in the base of the pot or because of a tray underneath the pot used to catch the water. Cilantro requires moist soil but if the soil is saturated then it can show signs of water stress such as drooping stems. If cilantro is in damp soil for too long then it can develop root rot which causes drooping and the foliage to turn yellow or brown.
  • Lack of pruning. Cilantro requires regular pruning to keep it looking neat and to prevent flowering (which impairs the flavor of the leaves). Regularly pruning promotes more growth of the flavourful, tender leaves that are best for cooking.

Assuming that the cilantro isn’t wilting due to a lack of watering, Cilantro can also have a falling-over appearance after planting due to transplant shock or because of a lack of sun or perhaps too much sun and high temperatures.

How to Revive Cilantro That is Falling Over

Cilantro falling over

The key to reviving cilantro that has fallen over is to recreate its optimal growing conditions and prune regularly.

  • Cilantro can grow quickly in the Summer and may require pruning every three weeks to prevent them from growing too tall, leggy, and falling over or flowering. Ideally, try to keep your cilantro stems at a height of around 8 inches to ensure good productivity in terms of growing new leaves and preventing the stems from falling.
  • Ensure pots have drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape to avoid root rot. The soil should be moist yet well-draining so avoid planting cilantro in heavy clay soils or boggy areas.
  • Only use a half-strength all-purpose fertilizer to prevent adding too much nitrogen to the soil which causes the stems to weaken and the plant to fall over. Ideally, scale back the use of any fertilizer and use a good quality compost. Fertilizer can cause excessive growth which lowers the concentration of essential oils in the leaves which impacts aroma and flavour.
  • Place the cilantro in full sun and water frequently (once every 3 days) so that the soil is moist but not saturated.

Prune back any leggy growth that is greater than 8 inches tall and provide the best conditions for your lopsided cilantro and it should show signs of recovery after a week.

Here is a helpful YouTube video for a visual guide to pruning cilantro:

Cilantro Turning Yellow

  • Symptoms. Cilantro leaves are turning yellow and the stems are drooping.
  • Causes. Not enough sun, over watering, too much nitrogen or not enough nutrients.
Yellow cilantro

If cilantro turns yellow (or brown) often this is a sign of stress because of a lack of sun, overwatering causing root rot, or as a result of too much nitrogen due to fertilizers or not enough nutrients in the soil.

Cilantro prefers full sun in cooler climates or morning sun followed by afternoon shade in hot climates. If the cilantro is in too much shade then the growth is sparse and leggy as it looks for more light and the leaves can turn yellow.

Overwatering or slow-draining soil can also result in yellow leaves. Cilantro requires the soil profile to be able to retain moisture yet drain well so the roots are not sat in saturated soil as this causes root rot.

If fertilizer is applied in too high concentration then the cilantro can droop and turn yellow due to excess nitrogen in the soil.

In good soil or potting mix, cilantro does not necessarily require additional fertilizer for lots of growth.

Conversely, if the cilantro is in sandy soil (which is low in nutrients or in a small pot and the roots are pot-bound then there may be a nutrient deficit in the soil which causes a yellowing of the leaves as a sign of stress.

How to Revive Cilantro with Yellow Leaves

Cilantro can often be revived even if the leaves are yellow if you change the conditions to suit the plant.

  • Ensure the cilantro is located in full sun or at least 6 hours of morning sun. Move the pot or container or transplant the cilantro to a sunnier location to stimulate more growth. More sunlight means an increase in the concentration of essential oils in the leaves which improves the flavour and aroma.
  • Cilantro must be planted in soil that is well-draining yet retains moisture. If the soil is boggy transplant your cilantro to a garden border with more drainage and amend the planting area with compost to improve the soil structure. Transplant the cilantro into a pot with drain holes to avoid root rot.
  • If the cilantro is planted in good soil or compost then it is unlikely to require additional fertilizer however it can help in soil that is low in nutrients. If your cilantro is turning yellow then stop using fertilizer for the time being to help the plant recover.
  • Cilantro planted in small pots or containers may struggle to find the nutrients they require. Replant the cilantro in a larger pot or container with new potting soil (multi-purpose compost amended with leaf mold) if it has been planted in sandy or stony soil or a small pot or container. With greater nutrients available to the roots the cilantro can begin to recover from a yellowing appearance and green shoots should emerge with the right weather conditions.

Once you have corrected any environmental conditions that may have caused your cilantro to turn yellow then trim away any yellowing leaves and trim the whole plant back so that it is no taller than 8 inches to stimulate new growth.

Discard the yellow leaves as their flavor is impaired and not recommended for culinary use.

If you have successfully recreated the optimal growing conditions for cilantro then it should revive and produce new green growth that has much better flavor and aroma.

If the cilantro has been in saturated soil for too long then it is difficult to revive and I would recommend sowing more seeds or buying a cilantro to plant in a pot with new soil.

Cilantro Dying After Flowering

Cilantro is an annual herb so its objective is to grow and flower, then produce seeds for next year. After cilantro flowers, the plant dies back and the flavor of the leaves is inferior to new growth.

The key to increasing the longevity of your cilantro is to prune it regularly.

Pruning the plant once the stems exceed 8 inches stops the plant from developing flowers.

Typically pruning once every 2 or 3 weeks in the Summer keeps the plant at its most productive and provides lots of new leaves throughout the year until the temperature drops in Fall or Winter.

After the cilantro has flowered there is not much you can do to revive the stem that is supporting the flowers but you should treat each stem individually. If one stem of cilantro has gone to flower the other can be saved.

Regularly prune the other stems back down to about 8 inches to keep stimulating new growth and preventing them from flowering and then dying back.

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying cilantro plant is often because the soil is not at the right moisture level. If the soil dries out due to infrequent watering, excessive heat, and sun or because of poor soil the cilantro wilts and dies. Cilantro is an annual herb that dies after flowering.
  • To revive your cilantro water the soil so it is consistently moist, and if the pot or container is small transplant the cilantro to a larger pot with lots of compost. Prune cilantro when it is taller than 8 inches to stimulate the growth of new tender leaves which have a better flavor.
  • Cilantro prefers full sun but in heat waves or drought, it may require some shade to prevent wilting.

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