Cilantro, also known as coriander, is one of my personal favorite herbs. It has a bright, fresh flavor that pairs well with a variety of other veggies in the kitchen. But what does cilantro pair with in the garden?
In this article, I’ll share my top 10 favorite cilantro companion plants. These plants will work well when planted alongside your cilantro plants. Some companions may even form a symbiotic relationship, benefiting each other when planted nearby.
Ideal conditions for cilantro plants
Believe it or not, cilantro loves to grow in the cold. You may think of it as a warm-weather herb, but it is actually a biennial, easily able to survive freezing winter weather. This means that you should be thinking about planting cilantro when it is colder, not in mid-summer.
When is the best time to plant cilantro? If you live in a region with winter, it is best to sow cilantro seeds in fall, about 4-6 weeks before the first frost. This allows for a fall harvest before the plants overwinter and regrow in spring for an additional, early spring harvest!
Cilantro can also be planted in early spring outdoors, and does best as a direct-sown herb. You can transplant seedlings, but be careful not to disturb the root system as they do not like to be tampered with.
While cilantro prefers cool weather, it can be succession planted all summer long, and harvested before bolting. The plants prefer full sun and a well-draining, evenly moist soil.
10 great cilantro companion plants:
Given that cilantro prefers the cooler weather of spring and fall, here is a list of 10 great companion plants:
- Allium bulbs. Planted in fall, these early-spring flowering plants are amazingly beautiful when planted near cilantro and other leafy herbs. Alliums are known to be deer resistant, and can provide a gorgeous backdrop for your herb garden.
- Radishes. Another early season, fast-growing crop, radishes make a great neighbor for cilantro. Many varieties can be grown from seed to harvest in just 50 days or so, making way for summer transplants in later spring.
- Broccoli. Broccoli and cauliflower are both cool weather brassicas that are best transplanted outdoors in early spring. While they are nutrient and space-hungry plants, broccoli will thrive in the same conditions the coriander prefers.
- Snap peas. One of the very first crops that we direct sow in spring are sugar snap peas. However, aphids and other pests are quick to find the pea plants, so planting cilantro nearby can act as a trap crop, deterring or confusing early spring pests.
- Sweet alyssum. Once of my favorite flowers to plant in the garden, sweet alyssum is a companion plant for almost everything. Cilantro helps deter some pests, while alyssum attracts beneficial insects such as hover flies and bees.
- Tomatoes. While cilantro may be bolting by the time your tomatoes are ripening, the fragrance of the cilantro leaves and flowers can provide benefit. The aroma of cilantro is said to deter some pests that commonly attack tomato plants. Plus, you can’t make salsa without fresh tomatoes!
- Leafy greens. Leaf lettuce, romaine, bok choy, and spinach all love to grow in cooler temperatures. While the greens may not like quite as much sun as cilantro, they will happily grow side by side.
- Cabbage. Another spring or fall crop, cabbages make a great companion for cilantro. These two plants can be planted in rows together to provide a barrier to other pest-prone crops like peppers and potatoes.
- Zinnias. With flowers planted nearby your cilantro, you’ll invite a wide variety of beneficial insects to your garden. Zinnias flower mid-summer through to frost, providing consistent late season blooms!
- Cucumbers. Notorious for aphid infestations and other pests, cucumber plants may benefit from having cilantro planted nearby as a trap crop.
While this list could certainly go on, the general principle of companion planting cilantro is the same. Cilantro likes cool weather, but can also be allowed to flower to attract beneficial insects and continue providing insect-deterring properties.
Does cilantro actually deter pests?
While I wasn’t able to find any specific studies showing the cilantro deters pests, we know that it can actually attract some pests, such as aphids. This means that cilantro can be used as a sacrificial plant to keep the pests away from other plants such as peppers, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and cabbages.
There is some evidence that cilantro may be deer resistant, simply because it has a strong flavor that some deer may dislike. When cilantro flowers, it can be used to attract beneficial insects, thereby helping control pest populations in the garden.
Harvesting cilantro for the best flavor
Cilantro should be harvested early and often to get the freshest flavor. Once the weather warms up in late spring and early summer, cilantro will begin to bolt.
The best time to harvest is when the leaves are flat and wide, well before the plant bolts. Once the cilantro plant begins to stretch upwards, its leaves will begin to curl inwards. At this point, the flavor has already begun to decline.
We usually begin harvesting cilantro about 4 weeks after sprouting, and it can be harvested every week or so thereafter. Continue to harvest regularly to encourage more leafy growth and to help delay flowering.
The best way to keep a constant supply of cilantro is to succession plant every 1-2 weeks. The growing cycle of cilantro is short, especially in warmer weather. So by having new plants in the ground every week or so, you’ll have fresh harvests on an ongoing basis.
Why do some people dislike cilantro? While some simply don’t care for the flavor, other people may have a genetic distaste for it. There is a group of olfactory genes that causes the aldehydes in cilantro to taste much stronger, most often compared to soap.
I hope this article helped you find some suitable cilantro companion plants for your garden. The most important thing is to think creatively, and plant other crops that like the same or similar conditions to cilantro. Happy gardening!