How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Vietnamese Coriander

Vietnamese coriander is a heat-loving perennial herb that makes an excellent substitute for cilantro. Plus, it's super easy to grow. Erin Matas gives you all the tips you need to help this herb thrive.

Vietnamese coriander herb.

Contents

Love cilantro but hate its fast-to-bolt personality? Hate cilantro but crave an herby element in your homemade salsa? Up your culinary game with unsung garden hero, Vietnamese coriander.

Vietnamese coriander, or Vietnamese cilantro, is a heat-loving perennial with slightly spicy, flavorful leaves that are a great culinary substitute for cilantro or mint. If papalo herb isn’t your thing, this may be the cilantro alternative for you. The young leaves have the most flavor and are perfect for salads and sandwiches. In stews and soups, it withstands cooking better than regular cilantro.

It thrives in warm climates from spring through fall and in pots in cooler climates until the first frost. This herb is also called ‘hot mint’ and grows like other mints. It may need a container, hanging basket, and regular trimming to keep it in check.

Overview

Vietnamese coriander plants.
Plant Type Perennial herb
Family Polygonaceae
Genus Persicaria
Species Persicaria odorata
Native Area Central China, South China, Malaysia, East Asia
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height 12-18”
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pests & Diseases Aphids and spider mites
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Well-draining, rich
Hardiness Zone 9-11

What is Vietnamese Coriander?

Vietnamese coriander is common in Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisine. It is also known as Vietnamese cilantro, hot mint, or laksa leaf. In Vietnam they call it ‘Rau Răm’ and in Malaysia and Singapore, it is called ‘kesum leaf’. In Singapore, it is a key ingredient in laksa, a spicy noodle soup with fish or chicken.

Native Area

Vietnamese coriander plant in the herb garden.
This herb is native to Asia.

This plant is native to areas of Asia, including South China, Central China, Malaysia, and East Asia. During its journey into the rest of the world, it was taken by Vietnamese emigrants to France in the 1950s and only to the United States in the 1970s where it thrives in the warmer tropical areas. Today it is found in most countries of the world.

Characteristics

Small purple herb flowers on long stalks with blurred background.
This plant produces small purple flowers.

Vietnamese coriander has oblong, pointed, flat leaves with a purple streak mid-leaf. It will grow throughout the summer producing lots of green spicy leaves to use in your cooking. Like mint, Vietnamese coriander is low-growing and spreads quickly which is why it’s grown more often in a container. Trimming the plant regularly encourages new growth and prevents older stems from becoming woody.

It has a lemony and peppery taste that complements many savory dishes and a few sweet ones too. Once you have it in your garden, you’ll want to keep it and grow more.

Branching out from your family’s usual fare isn’t a requirement for enjoying this herb. Simply substitute it for cilantro or mint in most recipes.

Speaking of regular cilantro, many of us have that friend who insists that the cilantro in your award-winning dish gives the whole thing an unpleasant, soapy taste. Actually, they may be part of the four to fourteen percent of the general population with a genetic variation that causes this soap-like aftertaste.

Good news! Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) is botanically unrelated to typical cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) and is usually palatable to the cilantro-averse.

Planting

Vietnamese coriander plants in large black bucket in full sun in the garden.
Vietnamese coriander is great for planting in containers.

Although Vietnamese cilantro is becoming more popular in home gardens, it may be difficult to find at your local plant nursery. Luckily, live plants are available from a few online vendors.

Searching for this herb’s alternative names could be helpful when researching where to purchase them online. You may have to use all the common names including Vietnamese cilantro, Vietnamese mint, Rau Răm, hot mint, and laksa leaf, which all describe Vietnamese coriander.

You may have to resort to buying the plants from an Asian store and rooting the stems in water. Plant in damp soil in the garden or in pots when the plants are well rooted.

Vietnamese coriander’s peak season is summer, but depending on your gardening zone, it can be grown year-round. In cooler areas, wait to plant Vietnamese coriander until all risk of frost has passed. It is best grown in USDA zones 9-11.

When planting in a container, mix all-purpose potting soil and compost. Because this plant will grow rapidly, make sure the container is large enough to meet its size demands. If the container is too small, growth will be stunted. Vietnamese coriander can grow up to two feet tall and 15 inches wide.

How to Grow

This herb is easy to grow but has some important requirements for both heat and water. This will ensure a healthy plant that produces lots of lovely leaves for the kitchen.

Light

Vietnamese coriander green leaves in a full sun position.
Choose a position with full sun to partial shade.

Vietnamese cilantro prefers full sun but can tolerate filtered sun for a portion of the day. In the heat of summer opt for the shadier part of the garden, or plant in containers that can be moved.

With plenty of bright light on a sunny windowsill, it can also be grown indoors. This is especially good for colder areas with frost. Garden pots can be brought inside for the colder seasons to keep growing the herb.

Water

Tall Vietnamese coriander plants with water droplets on the leaves after watering.
This plant prefers consistently moist, but not soggy, soil.

Consistent watering is key to strong growth, so keep the soil around the plant wet. When planting directly into the soil, a low area of the garden that retains more moisture is an ideal location for this herb. These plants will wilt if not given enough moisture. Water plants in containers daily.

Another tactic to help keep moisture consistent is mulching with straw, leaves, or wood chips which have the added bonus of keeping weeds at bay.

Soil

Overhead image of Vietnamese coriander planted in soil covered with straw mulch.
Enrich your garden soil with organic matter before planting and apply a layer of mulch as the plant grows.

The type of soil is important for healthy plants and it must be rich and well-draining. Enrich garden soil with plenty of compost and a handful of slow-release general-purpose fertilizer. Adding extra nitrogen also makes the plants more leafy.

When planting in containers, choose a high-quality potting mix and add extra drainage material if you plan on growing indoors.

Temperature

Mature Vietnamese coriander plant in a herb garden.
Originating from tropical environments, Vietnamese coriander does not tolerate cold.

This plant grows naturally in a hot tropical environment and prefers temperatures between 70 and 90°F (21-32°C). When temperatures get down to freezing, it is treated as an annual.

For colder climates, plant in pots that can be moved into a greenhouse or indoors during the colder months.

Fertilizing

Vietnamese coriander plants in black plastic bag surrounded by grass.
Feed potted herbs more often to combat leaching.

A liquid plant fertilizer works great for this plant. Fertilize twice a month during warm weather and once a month during cooler periods. Feed plants in containers more often to combat soil leaching. Choose a balanced product for best results.

Maintenance

Hand holding freshly picked Vietnamese coriander stalk in the herb garden.
Prune the plants to encourage bushy growth.

Use clean garden shears to prune stems growing outside the designated growing area. Pruning also encourages growth and will result in bushier, stronger plants. Regular trimming will ensure that the plant is rejuvenated and does not resort to very woody growth.

Propagating

Small pot of Vietnamese coriander with green leaves.
Propagate from cuttings to grow new plants.

Vietnamese cilantro is easy to propagate by rooting fresh stems in water and transplanting. In cooler climates, pot young plants and leave them outside in warmer months, bringing them indoors before temperatures hit freezing.

To propagate, use clean, sharp garden shears or scissors to cut a thick, healthy stem (about six inches) from the plant. Then remove about half of the leaves.

Place the cutting in a clean container of water to encourage root growth. Make three or four cuttings at a time. If you have trouble keeping them separated, place a piece of plastic film across the top of the container and pole a hole in the plastic for each cutting. This will keep them upright.

Choose a glass container so that you can see the progress of the root growth. Replace the water every few days. Once a set of healthy roots have formed, they can be planted directly in the garden or in a large pot.

Harvesting

Hand holding Vietnamese coriander stem after harvesting.
Pinch off a few leaves when you’re ready to harvest.

Harvest Vietnamese coriander when leaves are fully formed but still tender. For a continual harvest and to promote fresh, dense growth, pinch the growing tip of each shoot as you harvest. The younger leaves are the tastiest.

Uses

Overhead image of Asian noodle dish with dipping sauce and chilies.
Vietnamese coriander can be substituted for cilantro or mint.

As mentioned, Vietnamese coriander can be substituted for cilantro or mint in a dish. It’s not only for Asian dishes like spring rolls or stir-fries though. Think about making a pesto or adding to a herb dip. It is a refreshing herb with a lemony flavor that is not as peppery as arugula, so is very versatile in the kitchen.

Storage

Vietnamese coriander stems and green leaves on wooden table outdoors.
It’s best to use your harvest within a week of picking.

Once picked, Vietnamese coriander should be refrigerated and used within a week. Either rinse and dry individual leaves and store them in plastic bags or place several cut stems in a container of water and cover them with a plastic bag.

Common Problems

Vietnamese coriander has a couple of requirements that are non-negotiable: moisture and heat. The good news is that both of these needs can be met in most growing areas, even if you need to bring pots inside when it gets colder.

Underwatering

Close up of Vietnamese coriander leaves with holes in the garden.
Don’t let the soil dry out completely.

Vietnamese coriander can be a little fussy in terms of its water requirements, so underwatering could be your biggest difficulty. This plant loves consistently moist soil – think tropical. If you notice any wilting, add moisture to perk up the plant again.

Low Temperatures

Yellowing Vietnamese coriander plant in a terra cotta pot.
Vietnamese coriander needs protection from cold temperatures.

If you’re growing this perennial in a zone cooler than 9-11, plant it in a pot large enough with room to grow. Before outdoor temperatures dip to 30°F (-1°C), welcome it into your home as a seasonal house guest.

Pests & Diseases

Small Vietnamese coriander plant with damaged leaves and stems.
These plants aren’t susceptible to many pests and diseases.

Vietnamese coriander doesn’t have many pests and isn’t susceptible to most diseases. If you notice that leaves are yellowing or falling off, check for aphids and spider mites (the two most common enemies). Spraying plant surfaces with water will deter both pests.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Vietnamese coriander taste like?

Vietnamese coriander tastes a little like cilantro but more peppery, spicy, and lemony. These qualities explain why this herb is also known as hot mint! Young leaves are best to eat, as older leaves get tough and lose flavor.

Can I freeze Vietnamese coriander?

Freezing Vietnamese coriander will damage the leaves and make them unusable. Instead, place cut stems in a container of water, put a plastic bag over the leaves, and refrigerate for up to a week.



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