Growing Tarragon – Planting, Tips, Ideas, and Secrets

Growing Tarragon – A Planting Guide for Beginners

Hello friends, today we are here with a new topic called “Growing Tarragon”. Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is also called Estragon. Tarragon belongs to the sunflower family and it is species of the perennial herb. Tarragon is a much-favored culinary herb plant, with leaves that have a slight anise flavor. It is a perennial herb plant, with a growing season from late spring to early fall season. Though, if you care for it properly, Tarragon provides fragrant leaves that can be harvested and preserved for cooking year-round.

It needs a sunny, warm and sheltered location to do well for plant growth. It is also one of the four sweet or fines herbs favored in French cooking along with chervil, parsley, and chives. It cultivated well in a rich loamy soil that holds moisture but drains well. Mulching is beneficial to this end.

Tarragon is grown in Jammu, Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh in India. Soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.3 is found to be preferred for a better yield of herb material and essential oil.

A Step-by-Step Planting Guide to Growing Tarragon, Tips, Techniques, Ideas, and Secrets

Quick Info About Growing Tarragon

  • Botanical Name – Artemisia dracunculus (Sativa subspecies)
  • Common Name – Estragon
  • Plant Type – Perennial herb
  • Mature Size – 24 inches
  • Sun Exposure – Part Sun/Part Shade
  • Soil Type – Sandy, Fertile, well-drained
  • Soil pH – 6.0 to 7.3
  • Bloom Time – summer
  • Flower Color – Light green leaves
  • Hardiness Zones – 4 and above
  • Native Area – Temperate Europe and Asia
  • Frost tolerant – cold-hardy perennial, Tarragon can survive temperatures to 30°C.

Soil and Location for Growing Tarragon

Tarragon plant doesn’t like wet conditions. It’s a drought-resistant herb and needs well-drained, sandy, and light soil for best growth. A rich, acidic, moist soil will result in poor plant growth, rotting roots, and a reduced flavor.

There are mainly two types of Tarragon. The French Tarragon one is more widely available and has a stronger flavor than the Russian variety. The French Tarragon variety is the one our advice will be centered around. Select a place that receives plenty of sunshine. Due to its temperamental nature, you will want to plant Tarragon in a place where you can easily manipulate the soil and control the temperature levels and amount of water it receives. A raised garden or herb bed is ideal for growing Tarragon. Be sure to plant it where it can get at least 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Tarragon plant isn’t vulnerable to most pests, but to prevent diseases like mildew and rot, picks a location that has good air and water circulation. You may want to consider planting your Tarragon plant near an eggplant. Consider planting the Tarragon in a raised garden if you live in a temperate region where it can get plenty of sunshine year-round. Consider planting the Tarragon in a pot or container that you can bring indoors during the winter.

Grow Tarragon in well-drained, sandy loam soil. It will tolerate poor and nearly dry soil. Tarragon plant does not grow well in cold, wet, or compacted soil. French Tarragon plant prefers a soil pH level of 6.0 to 7.3 and it does not grow well in acidic soil.

Varieties for Growing Tarragon

Choosing the Best Tarragon Seeds for Your Conditions;

Different types of Tarragon are French Tarragon, Russian Tarragon, and Mexican Tarragon. French Tarragon has the best and most superior flavor. Whereas Russian Tarragon is hardier but has a poorer flavor and worth growing in climates too cold for French Tarragon to thrive.

French Tarragon plant is by far the most popular to put to culinary use, two other types are popular to grow are Mexican and Russian. Below is the information about the differences between the Tarragon varieties.

French Tarragon

This is commonly used in cooking, as it is the most flavorful form of the herb. Also, French Tarragon time-consuming to grow, as the flowers of this variety are sterile and do not produce seeds.

French Tarragon plant is a perennial often grown as an annual. It grows without flowers and has a strong flavor that is a favorite in French cooking.

Mexican Tarragon

It is also known as Texas Tarragon, Spanish Tarragon, Texas Tarragon, and Mexican mint marigold, it can survive in hot, dry locations. It is native to Mexico and Central America. More readily available than the French variety. The lesser-known variety of this fragrant herb, Mexican Tarragon has a more anise-rich flavor that is closer to the French variety than Russian Tarragon.

Typically grown as an annual, this Tarragon produces yellow-orange flowers and is better for medicine than when mixed in food. Mexican Tarragon plant also tastes more strongly of anise than French Tarragon. It is a smart choice for climates that are too warm for other types.

Russian Tarragon

It is native to Siberia. Given its powerful flavor, fresh Tarragon is best used in moderation in the kitchen, as this aromatic herb plant can quickly overpower a dish when used in excess. Dried Tarragon has a more concentrated flavor, and should be used more sparingly than the fresh leaves.

Russian Tarragon variety is used less commonly for culinary purposes with an extremely mild flavor. This Tarragon variety is the easiest to grow, and therefore, the most affordable form of the herb. Russian Tarragon is an easy type to cultivate. Though, its flavor is lacking compared to French varieties and takes a lot to add a strong taste to recipes.

Sunlight Requirement for Growing Tarragon

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Terragon Herb
Terragon herb (Image credit: pixabay)

Tarragon plant grown outdoors prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade. Tarragon plan 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. Then, keep standard fluorescent lamps between 2 and 4 inches from the tops of the plants and compact fluorescents approximately 1 foot above the plants, and HID lights between 2 and 4 feet above the plants.

Propagation for Growing Tarragon

For the French Tarragon variety, propagation must come from root division or stem cuttings, as the seeds are sterile which means they’re not viable for planting. French Tarragon plants don’t propagate by using Tarragon seeds, but rather through stem cuttings or root system division. Tarragon flower seeds are likely sterile.

Use clean garden shears to cut about 5 to 8-inch stem from just below a node for propagating Tarragon by cuttings. Remove leaves from the bottom third, dip the stem in rooting hormone, and then place it in a pot with potting soil. At that point, transplant to the garden in the spring season after your local last frost date.  

Some people better success in propagating French Tarragon plants by root division in early spring. For this method, you will need an established French Tarragon plant, a garden fork, and a small tool like a knife, for example, that will allow you to separate the plant’s delicate roots. Once you have lifted the plant with the garden fork, look for green shoots. Remove about 4 to 5 shoots and place them in small pots with potting soil. After hanging out in a shady location for a couple of weeks, and are now ready for transplanting to the garden.

Root division must be performed in late winter by cutting the root ball into halves, thirds, or a quarter before new growth emerges. Stem divisions can be taken in the late spring or early summer season, or once the base of the stems has toughened. Cut the stem back to about 6 inches, and dip into a rooting hormone. Plant a few stems per pot in a light, sandy potting mix and then place in an area where it will get regular water with early morning sun or dappled sunlight but not direct, hot afternoon sun.

Usually, the French Tarragon plant can only be grown by propagation or by buying an established plant. This plant doesn’t flower much and, when it does, the flowers are sterile. If you can get a stem cutting from an existing plant in the late spring or early summer season you should see success. For best results, choose a young stem and cut a length of around 5 or 6 inches. Remove the leaves from the bottom third and the stem can then be placed in moist potting soil after being dipped in rooting hormone. It is possible to use root division techniques. This is best done in the late winter season.

Sowing and Seed Germination Period of Russian Tarragon

Sow Russian Tarragon seeds from April to May. Do not cover the seeds and place them in a propagator at a temperature of 15-20°C.

When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant individually into small pots and grow them on in cooler conditions around 10°C until large enough to plant outside after the risk of frost has passed, after hardening off acclimatize them to outdoor conditions for 7 to 10 days. Plant out at a distance of about 45 cm apart.

Russian Tarragon seeds will germinate in the soil in about 10 to 14 days. Tarragon plant tends to have a low germination rate; this ensures you don’t waste your time planting seeds that will never sprout. For best success, move sprouted trays of Tarragon plants outside after the threat of frost has passed and the temperature level is consistently above 12°C.

Planting Process of Tarragon

Remove the soil in an area slightly deeper than the root ball, and twice as wide. Amend the soil with plenty of organic material such as mature compost,  worm castings, or well-rotted manure, some liquid-retaining material like perlite or peat moss, and a couple of tablespoons of bone meal. Set the root ball in place, fill in the hole, and then cover the crown with the amended soil, then firm in place. Water gently to settle.

Single Plants – 40 cm each way (minimum)

Rows – 40 cm with 50 cm row gap (minimum)

French Tarragon plant does not set seed, and rare flowers, therefore buy and plant young plants in the spring season. Dig over the soil and incorporate lots of bulky organic matter, such as compost, particularly if the soil is heavy clay to improve drainage. Place in the planting hole and adjust the planting depth so that it is planted at the same depth as it was growing and the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Water in well and then apply a light dressing of a granular general feed over the soil. Tarragon plants, particularly French Tarragon plants, are not particularly long-lived. They must remain productive for at least 3 or 4 years, but will eventually need replacing.

Growing Tarragon from Stem Cuttings

  • Initially, wash the planting containers and rinse them thoroughly.
  • After that, cut the growing tips from a Tarragon plant by using a sharp knife. Then, remove the leaves on the lower third of each cutting.
  • Carefully dip the leafless end of each Tarragon cutting into water.
  • Put the containers in indirect light and then keep the soil evenly moist. The cuttings should be rooted and ready to transplant in 3 to 4 weeks. It grows well as a potted plant and then roots the cuttings directly in their final growing container.

Growing Tarragon from Crown Divisions

  • Firstly, dig an established French Tarragon plant in the early spring season, loosening it with a spade to expose the roots and crown.
  • Cut the root crown into two or more sections by using a sharp knife. Cut each section is a clump of healthy roots with viable nodes at the crown and uses the knife to prune away surface debris and dead roots.
  • Plant the divisions in clean pots or containers filled with potting mix. Set the divisions at the same depth they were previously growing so the roots make good contact with the soil and the crown is at the soil surface. Tarragon spreads naturally. Adequate spacing between plants is about 18 to 24 inches; allow 2 to 3 feet between rows.
  • Water the newly planted divisions and keep them evenly moist until they are established with new green top growth.

Water Requirement for Growing Tarragon

Water requirement for your Tarragon will mainly depend on the weather conditions and the maturity of the plant. These plants can cope in dry ground, and care must be taken not to overwater as this will diminish growth and flavor intensity.

Also, use micro-sprinklers or drip irrigation, rather than watering with a hose. Micro sprinklers are quite gentle to the Tarragon plant and keep the plant leaves clean. French Tarragon has fairly shallow roots, so during the summer months, you will want to water daily. In the winter season, when the plant has died back, you don’t need to water until you see new shoots coming up in the early spring season. Don’t allow the soil to become soggy, and excess water will kill the Tarragon plant. Once established plants need occasional watering; the soil can go nearly dry between watering.

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Fertilizer Requirements for Growing Tarragon

  • French Tarragon plant is light feeders so it needs foliar spray with compost tea or seaweed extract 2 to 3 times during the growing season.
  • Tarragon plant doesn’t need fertilizer to do well and the best flavor is achieved when it’s planted in low-nutrient soil.
  • Tarragon doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer, but it will benefit from 1 or 2 applications of fish fertilizer during the growing season.
  • The Tarragon plant is a pretty easy-going herb and doesn’t require a lot of feeding throughout the season. When planting Tarragon, include rich compost and top-dress the plants with compost again in the fall.
  • Tarragon plants will grow best by using a seaweed or compost tea foliar spray a few times during the growing season. Or, using a pelletized fertilizer, the addition of composted chicken manure every 6 weeks or so will also give plants a boost.

Tarragon Plant Care

  • For growing Tarragon indoors, it needs at least 6 to 8 hours of light and fertilizes the herb with a dilution of fish fertilizer every 2 weeks. Don’t overwater when growing the Tarragon plant inside. Indoor herb plants must be kept on the dry side. And, provide a thorough watering and then allow the plant to dry out between periods of irrigation.
  • Give plants one or two light feeds with liquid plant food during the summer season.
  • Remove any flowers that can appear for a constant supply of some leaves.
  • Plants will die down to the ground level in the winter season.
  • In very cold conditions, it would be best to put mulch around the plant in the winter season to help protect the roots when it dies back and goes into dormancy.
  • Water about once a week and then allow the soil to dry between watering.
  • French Tarragon plants can be pruned and also pinched to maintain their shape. Divide the plants in the spring to retain the health of the herb and replant every 2 to 3 years.

Pests and Diseases Problem in Tarragon

Pests – Tarragon plant has no serious pest problems.

Diseases – It is most susceptible to downy mildew, powdery mildew, and root rot where the soil or plants stay wet. To prevent these fungal problems, plant in areas that provide good air circulation and water on bright sunny mornings to allow the planned leaves to dry by evening.

Tarragon rust (Fungal Diseases)

Symptoms – Yellow or white color spots on the underside of leaves; bright orange or yellow color pustules on the underside of leaves; leaves may turn yellow; growth is stunted and the plant may become stunted.

Management – Remove all crop debris and infected plant leaves; avoid the use of overhead irrigation or water in the morning to allow plant foliage to dry during the day; and ensure plants are well spaced to promote good air circulation around plants.

Problems in Growing Tarragon

French Tarragon plant is mostly a no-fuss herb, but growing problems can pop up with extremes like too sunny, too cold, too shady, too humid, and too wet. Hot weather dries out plants rapidly and scorching sun can burn leaves.

To fight against these challenges, water plants more often during hot weather conditions and protect leaves with shade cloth. Locate the Tarragon plants in a suitable location in soil with good drainage, and enough room between plants to support good airflow. Prune overgrown Tarragon plants consistently to increase air circulation if your climate is humid.   

When and How to Harvest Tarragon

When and How to Harvest Tarragon
When and How to Harvest Tarragon (pic credit: pixabay)
  • For harvesting Tarragon, pick young, top leaves of the plant in early summer for the best flavor. Stems can be pruned in the early summer season and again at the end of the season. Harvesting French Tarragon leaves is also a simple process. You shouldn’t begin harvesting the Tarragon plant until it’s a minimum of 1 foot tall.
  • Snip leaves and stems by using a garden pruner or scissors. Handle leaves gently, and they bruise easily.
  • By using scissors to cut sprigs of the plant away from the main stem. You should harvest what you’re planning on using fresh because the herb doesn’t dry well.
  • Being a perennial herb, French Tarragon can be harvested up until the end of the summer season (usually May through to the end of August). You just want to make sure you stop picking leaves at least a month before the first frosts are due to arrive.
  • If Tarragon plants in a young, tender stage, pinch out the top set of leaves. Also, this will encourage branching, resulting in a bushier plant overall. Harvest Tarragon by cutting the stem back to about 5 or 6 inches to force new growth, and then strip the leaves from the cut stem.
  • You can start harvesting once the stems reach about 6 inches tall.

Commonly Asked Questions about Growing Tarragon

Does Tarragon like the full sun?

Tarragon is native to mild European regions. It is hardy and easy to grow in a sunny or partially shaded spot in well-drained soil. It thrives in spring temperatures and doesn’t do well in overly hot climate conditions.

Why is my Tarragon dying?

Tarragon plants will water daily during the dry season.  When the leaves are yellow or brown in color but crisp, that means you need to water more; when they’re soggy, that means they’re drowning.

Why is my Tarragon yellow?

Severe cases stunt plant growth and cause leaves to yellow color and die. For prevention, increase air circulation among your Tarragon stems and plants and then keep leaves dry. Try drip irrigation or water plants early enough so that the plant leaves dry completely before sundown.

Is Tarragon annual or perennial?

Tarragon is a perennial herb, but it could be either based on your growing zone. But if you’re growing in subtropical climate conditions, plant in the summer or fall and harvest throughout the winter and spring-like an annual.

 How long does it take to grow Tarragon?

It requires 5 to 6 weeks after transplant to harvest.

Is Tarragon easy to grow?

Tarragon is easily propagated from cuttings or root division, so you need to buy one plant.


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