Why does my coriander plant look like this? Why are the leaves different? Is this what is called bolting? And why are they drooping?

Could you please help. ro

2 Answers 2


Bolting is definitely not the problem here as that happens when a cilanto plant is mature. All of those plants in your picture are very immature. They look like sprouts, all fighting for space to grow.

I think that's why they are drooping, as the competition for space has made them grow too tall. None of them have developed beyond a slender stalk and cotyledons or a few tentative leaves, as Bamboo says in her or his helpful answer and comments.

This website shows in drawing 3 under "Growing Cilantro in a Pot" about how many seedlings you want in a container the size of yours. You want to space them more widely even at the start, and even then thin them as they grow.

You might want to try drastically thinning what you have there to maybe 8 to 10 plants spaced out a bit. (I suspect even those sprouts you thin out will taste good if you want to use them.) But those seedlings look awfully leggy so you might also want to consider starting over using only a sprinkling of seeds spaced an inch or so apart. That's a little hard to do with such tiny seeds, I know.

Cilantro is a short-lived plant and will bolt easily especially in hot weather. So you may want to stagger plantings even in your container so that you have a mix of older and younger plants growing at the same time.

We have grown cilantro in a variety of containers indoors and out and it is hard to know exactly how to maximize what you get during the growing season. Unlike a lot of plants you do need to be careful in how many seeds you plant and when, so as to spread out your harvesting.

But it's worth it to get fresh tasty cilantro all summer long and then let some plants bolt and flower to get some seeds to plant the next year or to use as coriander spice.

  • Thanks for the detailed info. So drooping is understandable because of the competition for space. Interesting to note the different looking leaf is there in the diagram on the website too! So that means, the number of seeds must have been too many. Yes, I a whole lot of seeds and besides about 10-12 numbers of them in a single hole.
    – Sid
    Jul 3, 2019 at 17:33
  • Yes, I think these seedlings are much too tall and top-heavy to survive. Normally the cotyledons just peek out of the ground and you don't see much if any stalk. Here your stalks look a couple of inches long. It's an impressive crop, but I don't think that's quite what you want. I would start over if I was you and use a small fraction of the seeds you used. Maybe 30 or so seeds for the whole container.
    – Daanii
    Jul 4, 2019 at 3:38
  • Sid, don't feel bad that things didn't work out this time. Gardening is experimenting, and we all learn as we go. Trial and error is a good way to learn but that means that we make errors and have to try again. I certainly learned from reading your post and Bamboo's answer and hope you get some nice cilantro going soon.
    – Daanii
    Jul 4, 2019 at 3:48
  • Finally, I should note that my answer may be all wrong and something else might be going on. It's really hard to tell, so use your own judgment.
    – Daanii
    Jul 4, 2019 at 3:51
  • Your comments were helpful Daanii. Gardening is experimenting, true. I'll make sure I plant fewer seeds next time and have some cilantro going for me which I can use. Thanks!
    – Sid
    Jul 4, 2019 at 7:47

Whilst I can see some coriander foliage in the container, the other leaves are a different plant, not sure what. Trace the narrow, pointed leaves back to their point of origin - its probably something else that's growing in with the coriander. You may or may not be able to remove whatever it is by the root, but it looks as if the invader has largely taken over, so it may be next to impossible to extract it without destroying the coriander, unfortunately.

UPDATE: In response to your comment below. When did you sow these plants in that container, precisely, and did you sow lots of seeds? Because we might be looking at coriander cotyledons rather than true leaves. If that's the case, there are way too many seedlings in that container...


You sowed way too many seeds. That container will only successfully hold three, maybe four at a pus, mature coriander plants, so I reckon we are looking at cotyledons and there's insufficient room for the majority of the plants to develop properly. The drooping is likely due to overcrowding and insufficient water with so many seedlings trying to take it up all the time in too little soil. Next time, sow into a shallow tray and then transplant the seedlings into your container (and several more containers if you want lots of plants) when they've got two sets of true leaves.

  • Yes could be another plant in the soil but the strange thing is that this is the second set of coriander seeds I've planted and the same invader plant grows initially. Unless it is in the soil which was packaged, not sure what it could be!
    – Sid
    Jul 3, 2019 at 12:22
  • Ah, hold on - when did you sow the coriander this time round, exactly? And did you sow lots and lots of seeds in there?
    – Bamboo
    Jul 3, 2019 at 13:01
  • I sowed these seeds around 18 days ago after having soaked the seeds for 2 days in water. Yes lots of seeds; I emptied 2 sachets of seeds into the pot. Well firstly I wanted a lot of Cilantro and also wanted to see what would happen. This is my first time planting Cilantro. So you are saying these are coriander cotyledons and that the number of seeds to be reduced. OK, will try few seeds next time. I was thinking these must be Vietnamese Coriander though because the leaves are a little pointed.
    – Sid
    Jul 3, 2019 at 17:29
  • And I sowed 10-12 seeds in a single hole spaced about an inch or two apart. I had dug about 2 inches deep instead of 1/4 as I read and was concerned if they will come out of the ground but hey Presto they've grown so tall!
    – Sid
    Jul 3, 2019 at 17:38
  • See updated answer...
    – Bamboo
    Jul 4, 2019 at 22:00

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