Papalo and Culantro (Mexican Coriander)
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Tom Austin
Posted on: February 26, 2002

> We answered your previous question about papalo. We are surprised > that > you did not get Inge Poot’s answer to it. It is posted on the > Richters > website ( in the "Q and A" section (search > for "papalo"). > > The plant [papalo] is more like a shrub.

I did not see Inge Poot’s response. Also, now that I have in Q & A, I find the info. you sent more to the point of answering what I wanted to know. SHRUB to me means a many trunked plant or one trunk with many bushy branches coming out in all directions to the extent that when leaves are on the bush, you cannot see the trunk or stems.

The East Indian Basil, which grows to 5+ feet tall here in Florida, looks to me to be more of a tree-like form.....with one trunk with branches out from the center trunk and you can always ‘see’ the trunk. Being able to see the trunk, means that it is more tree like in that its leaves a more thinly dispersed than is the case with a shrub such as hibiscus.

Mexican Coriander Eryngium foetidum [culantro] looks like a low lettuce-like plant at first, but then it sends up multi-layered branches above the main plant and these have a seed/flower/fruit on them at the top with a small circle of star formed leaves which have quite sharp, needle like ends. Also, I have found, that if Mexican Coriander is eaten in large quantities, it acts as a laxative! So watch out how much you eat of it.....or that is my experience with it.

So, I guess you mean that Papalo is a typical shrub which grows quite tall (8 ft.) and will have many branches and perhaps more than one trunk or many branches at ground level and will have a rounded, bushy shrub appearance. This means it will be QUITE large.......if its height is 8 feet, what is its girth/width at that height ? Is it conical in shape at 8 ft. or more rounded?

Papalo is more herbaceous than woody like a shrub. It can be large, as described in the catalogue, but if it is harvested regularly, it will be much smaller. Typically when it is grown in a container it is kept at about a meter (3-4 feet) in height.

The reason I ask these things is that I need to know where to put it so that it has the room it needs to spread out and what size pot I will need to house it......I grow all my herbs in pots. I even grow roses on northern rootstock ** in 30 gallon black plastic nursery pots or 30 gal. clay pots because of the nematode problem in south Florida which you do not have up north. To play it safe, I grow herbs this way too.

A 3-4 gallon pot should be plenty when papalo is harvested (and thus pruned) regularly.

**[rootstocks other than R. Fortuniana will not survive more than a year or two in the Central & South Florida nematode infested soil--sandy soil has a high oxygen content and that is the ‘why’ behind the fact there are so many nematodes in the soil in Central and South Florida; north of Gainesville, Fla., the soil turns to more red Georgia clay content and this nematode problem is eliminated.]

Needless to say, extremely large pots are my most extensive possession!

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