When to plant tarragon?

Herb French Tarragon Rooted Cutting Liner

Our French Tarragon Liners are well-rooted starter plants that come ready to transplant into your final container. The herb commonly known as French Tarragon is widely used for its aroma, flavor, and visual appeal in both culinary and ornamental applications. Grow it as a container product or in 4 inch pots for landscape use.

General Growing Tips For Your Rooted Cutting Liner

For best results with French Tarragon, use a constant feed program of 150-200 ppm N on well rooted plants. A pH between 5.8 and 6.2 is important for the healthiest plant color. In most cases, an additional supplement of iron is recommended in order to deepen the coloration of the foliage.

Pinching

We recommend that you pinch French Tarragon 5-10 days after transplanting to your final container. Growing herbs at cooler temperatures will help to keep the plants short and bushy.

Spacing

Space 4-inch, 6-inch, and gallon pots as needed to allow air flow and penetration of light between plants. French Tarragon can grow to a 24″ spread. We do not recommend planting them in 1801 or other traditional market trays as they tend to get leggy and have the potential for fungus problems when planted too close together.

Height Control

Plant growth regulators are not recommended on herbs.

Pests

Whiteflies, aphids, and occasionally mealybugs are all insects to watch out for with French Tarragon.

Disease

French Tarragon is not prone to many diseases, but don’t oversaturate the soil. If the plant sits in moist soil for an extended amount of time, you could end up with root rot, botrytis or a bacterial blight. Botrytis grey rot is usually associated with wet or humid conditions. You can prevent botrytis by allowing the plant to dry out between waterings, allowing for good airflow in your greenhouse, and spacing to allow the sun to penetrate to the soil level. To best fight root rot in herbs, look for an organic or garden-safe fungicide, like Neem Oil.

Planting French Tarragon Liners

  1. If you are planting 4″ pots, 1 plant per pot should be sufficient. We recommend at least 3 starters per pot for 6″ and larger. Use a well-drained soil in your baskets and plant your starter plants deep, allowing the ellepot to be completely covered by the soil. Plant it directly in the middle of your pot.
  2. Pinching is recommended 5-10 days after transplantation of rooted cuttings. A second pinch may be necessary depending on the size and shape of the final pot.

Rooted Cuttings

Cuttings vary in size between different plant families. These rooted starter plants will arrive ready to be transplanted in to your final container. If they are to be used in a landscape application, you will need to establish them in a 4 inch pot or an 1801 before planting outside. Herb French Tarragon Quick Reference Guide

4 Inch crop time

6 Weeks

10 Inch crop time

10 weeks

Habit

Mounding/Trailing

Height

6 Inches

Light

Full Sun

Minimum Temp

Perennial Zone

Zone 5-9

Water Needs

Moderate

French Tarragon Plugs – Key Growing Information

DAYS TO GERMINATION: N/A.
SOWING: Transplant (recommended): If you will be selling the herbs in containers with a relatively quick turnaround (a month or two), 4″ diameter pots are a popular option. Plant one plug per containers and grow on in a protected environment until the plants become established. Water and fertilize as needed. For larger containers, plant one to three plugs per 12″ diameter pot. If you will be transplanting to the field, plant at 18″ spacing.
INSECT PESTS AND DISEASES: Perennial herbs are typically hardy, easy to grow plants that have few problems with insects and disease. Foliar and root diseases can be prevented with adequate air flow and well-drained soil. If foliar disease or pest problems occur, treat the plants with an appropriate fungicide, such as OxiDate®, or insecticides, such as PyGanic®. Be sure to follow the application instructions indicated for herbs.
LIGHT PREFERENCE: Sun.
SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline (pH of 7.4-7.8). Prior to planting, check your soil pH and adjust if necessary. Loosen the soil and work in compost or a balanced fertilizer. It is best to make sure that your planting area is weed-free prior to transplanting. Control weeds after transplanting with shallow cultivation or mulch.
PLANT HEIGHT: 18-24″.
PLANT SPACING: 18″.
HARDINESS ZONES: Zones 4-7.
HARVEST: Wait until the plants are well established prior to harvesting significant amounts. To avoid stressing the plants when harvesting large quantities, keep them well-watered, use sharp sterilized shears, and harvest in the early morning.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

How To Grow Tarragon

Artemisia dracunculus

Common name for Artemisia dracunculus a perennial herb the leaves of which are used for seasoning, especially vinegar.

Tarragon is unique in that during growth, it seems to have little aroma, yet after the leaves or tops are harvested, the oils concentrate and start emitting their unique tarragon sweet smell, similar to freshly cut hay.

Tarragon is used in vegetable dishes and soups, mild cheeses, egg dishes, fish and white sauces.

Growing the Herb Tarragon

Tarragon grows to two or three feet tall and likes moderate sun, preferring a little shade during the warmest part of the day. It grows well in a rich loamy soil that holds moisture, but drains well. Mulching is beneficial to this end.

Tarragon propagates best through root division, planting the divisions at least 18 inches apart. Since tarragon has a shallow root system, care must be taken not to damage the roots when weeding, and special care must be shown during the winter after transplanting, as the root systems will not have developed fully.

Growing Cultures

Outdoors, in containers, and hydroponics.

Plant Height

Tarragon plants grow to a height of 12 to 36 inches (30 – 90cm).

Plant Spacing

Tarragon plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches (45 – 60cm) apart.

Preferred pH Range

Tarragon will grow in a pH range between 6.5 (neutral) and 7.5 (mildly alkaline) with a preferred pH of 6.5.

Propagation

Sow Russian tarragon seed indoors in sunny location or under plant grow lights six weeks before last frost. French tarragon only propagates via division, stem cuttings, or layering.

Seed Germination Period

Russian tarragon seeds will germinate in soil in approximately 10 to 14 days, but can germinate in as few as 7 to 10 days in dedicated propagation media such as Oasis Rootcubes, Rapid Rooters, or Grodan Stonewool.

Number of Seeds per Gram

There are approximately 6,000 tarragon seeds per gram.

Soil Requirements

Tarragon prefers a deep, well-draining, fertile soil.

Alternative Growing Media

Soilless potting mixes (Pro-Mix, Sunshine Mix, etc.), perlite, vermiculite, rockwool, coco peat, Oasis Rootcubes.

Time From Seed to Saleable Plant

Seed not recommended for French tarragon, start with plugs. Plugs to saleable plants, 7 weeks.

Sun & Lighting Requirements

Tarragon grown outdoors prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade.

Tarragon will grow indoors satisfactorily under standard fluorescent lamps, and exceptionally well under high output T5 fluorescent grow lights, compact fluorescent, or high intensity discharge (metal halide or high pressure sodium) plant growing lights. Keep standard fluorescent lamps between 2 and 4 inches from the tops of the plants, high output and compact fluorescents approximately one foot above the plants, and HID lights between 2 and 4 feet above the plants, depending on wattage.

Have an oscillating fan gently stir seedlings for at least 2 hours per day to stimulate shorter, sturdier, and more natural plant habit.

USDA Hardiness

Perennial. Zones 4a through 8b.

Water Requirements

Average water needs, water on a regular schedule. Allow soil to go almost dry between watering, then soak thoroughly. Do not overwater.

Potential Plant Pests and Diseases

Tarragon can be susceptible to whitefly and spider mites but has minimal disease issues.

Companion Planting

Tarragon is a useful companion plant for just about everything, but especially eggplant. The aroma is disliked by most insect pests. Tarragon is also believed to enhance the growth and flavor of crops grown with it.

Special Notes

Drought resistant and ideal for xeriscaping. Suitable for containers and indoor cultivation. Aromatic.

Tarragon Mexican Heirloom Seeds
Mexican tarragon is a type of marigold that produces leaves with a delicious tarragon-anise flavor. It can be used as a substitute for French tarragon and is easier to grow.

Growing French Tarragon

The sweet, anise-flavored leaf of French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is a key ingredient in Béarnaise sauce and fines herbs. It also makes a delicious addition to egg dishes, seafood, salad dressing, vegetables, and poultry. You will find plants of this hardy perennial for sale, but not seeds because the plants seldom produce viable seed. If you find seed for sale, it’s probably Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides), a related species with what most cooks consider an inferior flavor. (Grow French and Russian species side by side, and decide for yourself!)

Cultivation

French tarragon is hardy to USDA zone 5, or to zone 4b with winter protection. It grows well in full sun or partial shade, and needs well-drained soil. Purchase plants propagated from stem tip or root cuttings, or from crown divisions. Space plants about 2 to 3 feet apart to give them room to spread.
Harvest regularly or prune plants to a height of 2 feet to prevent flowering and keep plants neat. In central and northern states, water deeply and spread mulch in late fall to protect the roots over the winter. Divide the plants every 3 to 4 years to keep them healthy and vigorous. Each established plant can yield 2 or 3 divisions.

Harvest and Storage

Harvest leaves in early to midsummer when they contain the most essential oil. Use leaves fresh or freeze them in airtight bags for later use. Steeping tarragon sprigs in vinegar is another popular preservation method. If you dry tarragon, you may have to use more than called for in recipies, as it loses its flavorful essential oils during drying and storage.

French Tarragon

Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

Perennial

Description

French tarragon is a loose, open perennial growing to about two to three feet tall. Leaves are dark green, narrow and slightly twisted. Plant will occasionally produce small, greenish flowers that are sterile. Leaves have a licorice or anise flavor.

Culture

True French tarragon is only available as plants grown from cuttings or root divisions. Because French tarragon produces flowers that are sterile, it cannot be grown from seeds. Seeds that are sold as tarragon at seed racks or in catalogs are seeds of Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus dracunculoides). This is a much taller, coarser plant and its culinary use is considered to be inferior because it lacks the odor and flavor characteristics of French tarragon.

French tarragon prefers a full sun location but will tolerate some light shade. Soils should be well prepared with organic matter and must be well-drained. Tarragon will not tolerate poorly drained soils especially over the winter as this will lead to plants not overwintering successfully. Plants benefit from division every 3-4 years to keep the planting vigorous and productive. Cut back plants in the spring just as growth resumes. Leaving the tops stand over the winter helps to improve overwintering chances.

Harvesting

Young stem tips and leaves can be harvested as needed throughout the season. Because the flavor of tarragon is quickly lost if leaves are dried, it is suggested that this herb be used in the fresh form whenever possible for best flavor. Tarragon is best dried in a cool, dark well-ventilated location and once dried quickly put into sealed containers.

Uses

Use in vinegars, oils, marinades and salads.

Indoor Culture

Small pots of tarragon can be grown in areas where very bright light is available. Pot cuttings using a standard potting media. Keep soils on the dry side. Plants grown indoors will not be of the same quality as those grown outdoors but small amounts of tarragon can be harvested for fresh use.

  • Introduction
  • Herb Directory
  • Preserving Herbs
  • Recipes
  • Credits

Photo: Penny Woodward

French tarragon Artemisia dracunculus is one of the trickiest herbs to grow, but also one of the most rewarding. It’s anise-like flavour is clean, subtle and delightful, while also being penetrating; a little goes a long way. It has smooth narrow bright green leaves on stalks that grow from a spreading rootstock. Growing to about 40 cm, it rarely flowers, and never sets viable seed.

Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides) is similar to look at, but much more vigorous; it both flowers and sets seed. I wouldn’t bother growing it as the flavour is muddy and it is never a good substitute for French tarragon. Although French tarragon can be tricky to grow, once the right position is found, it will thrive. It needs a well-drained slightly gritty soil that is pH neutral or slightly acid, sunlight for about half the day and reasonable water in dry weather. English books tell us that it needs full sun but I find, with our more extreme summers, it does best in a position with morning sun and afternoon shade. Propagate tarragon by root division in early spring, or take cuttings in summer. Every two to three years dig up the whole plant in spring and replant some pieces into fresh soil with well rotted manure and compost added, otherwise it’s serpentine roots eventually choke the plant. Tarragon also grows well in a deep pot and that is where I have mine now. In these dry hot conditions I have much more control over how much sun and water it gets.

Tarragon is a true herbaceous perennial and so disappears completely in winter and is often late to reappear in spring. Make sure you mark where it is planted so you don’t dig it up by mistake. In very cold regions with heavy frosts the roots may need to be protected in winter with a layer of straw. Tip prune regularly to keep it growing densely although if you are using the tarragon all the time this will naturally tip prune it.

In warm humid regions, French tarragon generally succumbs to fungal diseases. So it’s not suitable for tropical or even many sub-tropical regions. In marginal areas you can try keeping the foliage as dry as possible by growing it in a pot in an open, airy position, avoid wetting the leaves when you water, and mulch the root zone with pebbles to help create a dry environment. If you can’t grow this plant, try growing winter tarragon (Tagetes lucida). It thrives in tropical and sub-tropical regions and has a similar but stronger and coarser flavour, so use it in smaller amounts.

French tarragon is a classic culinary herb. It combines beautifully with any dish containing eggs or mushrooms and with a range of chicken and fish dishes. You can also add it to salads and sandwiches, use it as a garnish with soup and or as part of the herb combination fines herbes, (a mixture of chervil, parsley, chives and tarragon) that is added to stock, fish and poultry. My favourite way of using French tarragon (apart from sprinkling it over slowly roasted mushrooms) is to add it to vinegar. In the height of summer, stuff a wide mouthed jar full of fresh tarragon leaves and stems, pour a really good white wine vinegar over the top and leave to stand on a sunny windowsill, shake every few days. After about a month, strain the vinegar into a bottle, add a fresh sprig of tarragon and then use this vinegar right through winter (when no fresh tarragon is available) to make salad dressings and marinades or just sprinkle over veggies or meat.

So go and buy a pot of French tarragon and add this delectable herb to your repertoire. Don’t ever bother buying tarragon seeds as this will be Russian tarragon. And how can you be sure the plant you are buying is true French tarragon? Break off a leaf and chew it, if it is French tarragon then the tip of your tongue will go numb.

By: Penny Woodward

First published: December 2015

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