Growing Tarragon

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growing Mexican tarragon

In the Garden

Mexican (also called Texas) tarragon (Tagetes lucida) grows all spring and summer before it produces many yellow, single marigold-like blossoms, but that is just a bonus because the main reason to grow it is for the flavored leaves. In warm climates, its anise-like flavor makes it a substitute for French tarragon, which often withers in heat. You will find that it goes by many names: Texas tarragon, false tarragon, Mexican mint marigold, winter tarragon, yerba anise, hierba de anis, hierba de San Juan, and pericon.

Plant it in an herb garden, flower bed, or container. Let tarragon be the bright spot in your herb garden, which often needs a boost by summer’s end. The upright plants pair well with other fall bloomers such as pineapple sage. Plants bloom lightly in the spring, then profusely in the fall.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Mexican tarragon grows well in humid, hot climates where French tarragon does not grow well.

The leaves of Mexican tarragon have an anise-like flavor that serves as a substitute for French tarragon in warm, humid climates.

Although grown as an annual in most of the country, Mexican tarragon is a half-hardy perennial in warmer regions, where it comes back vigorously from the roots in spring. In climates where it never dies down from frost, keep it trimmed. When planting, space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.

Plants need full sun or partial shade and must have well-drained soil. Given that, they grow easily and without fuss. Although drought tolerant, they will be fuller and bloom best if kept moist. If stems fall over and touch the ground, they will take root, causing plants to spread. They also reseed.

Troubleshooting

Plants are not bothered by pests, but be sure to plant them in a spot that drains well or the roots can rot.

Harvest and Storage

Snip fresh sprigs as needed, beginning in spring. Before frost, harvest the stems by cutting them at the base and letting them air dry on a screen, or bundle a few together at the base to hang upside-down to dry.

Uses

Use Mexican tarragon leaves to add tarragon flavor to chicken recipes such as chicken salad.

Tarragon is a traditional favorite flavor for chicken dishes. Mexican tarragon leaves add a subtle licorice-like flavor to this chicken salad.

Substitute Mexican tarragon for French tarragon in equal proportions. The flavor breaks down more quickly when heated, so it is best to add it at the end of cooking. Also called yerba anise, Mexican tarragon is an ingredient in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

I live in the Southeast. Should I grow French tarragon or Mexican tarragon?

Mexican (or Texas) tarragon is the better choice. French tarragon usually has a tough time in the land of hot summers and not-so-cold winters. Although it will grow in spring, it seems to stop growing when the weather gets hot. Overall, it is a much smaller plant in the South. The flavor of Mexican tarragon is very similar, but it loves the heat and you get long stems topped with pretty gold flowers in the fall.

16 thoughts on “Growing Tarragon

  1. Hello! I am a student, and recently I have received a project to create an imaginary farm. For my farm the product I am growing is Mexican tarragon. I have done a tremendous amount of research and I still haven’t found the best country/place to grow this wonderful herb. I would also like to ask where does this herb tends to sell the most. As in which country, city.

    Thank you for your help! ~Kimberley

    • Hello Kimberley,
      There are different types of tarragon. Many are used to the French tarragon. French tarragon does not grow well in the hot and humid Southern part of the United States so Mexican tarragon, Tagetes lucida,
      (also know as Texas Tarragon and Mexican mint marigold) is used. Mexican tarrago survives heat better. Both of these are in the sunflower family. Mexican tarragon is a native of Mexico where it grows like crazy. Great homework assignment! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  2. Two weeks ago I purchased three Bonnie plants herbs: sage, sweet basil, and mexican tarragon. I have left all three plants in their original cardboard pots and have placed them indoors near a window. I live in zone 10. The sage and basil are doing well. Though tarragon, however, has withered and looks like it is near death. Should I place it outside during the day? Plant it? Return it?

    Lou

    • Hello Lou,
      Bonnie Plants are not meant to stay in the peat pots. Grab a larger container or plant in the ground. Fill your container with potting soil and transplant according to the instructions in this video. The peat pots will dry out fast and so will the herbs.
      If the threat of frost and cool weather is gone in your area, you can plant outside. Growing herbs indoors is very doable, but sometimes plants will become spindly because of low light levels. South facing windows are best. But they do grow best outdoors.
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  3. We had a Mexican tarragon plant that came back year after year until it finally died. Have tried since to get another one going both from seedlings (I think from Bonnie’s) and from seed. The stems never seem to get erect — they are almost vining — and eventually they poop out when it gets hot and humid. Have tried it in pots and in the ground with same result. Help! I love the stuff! I live in Southwest Alabama, Zone 8B.

    • Hi Martha,
      Does your tarragon look like ours in the photo and like this one? I’m thinking that what are you describing is potentially vining could be it’s creeping, floppy, stretchy habit. It can get semi-woody stems in proper climate. It also tolerates heat and humidity well–much better than French tarragon–so I’m surprised to hear it’s pooping out in Alabama. Make sure that your soil gets great drainage and you might try putting it in a spot with light afternoon shade if you are in an intensely hot/bright area. You can also clip and dry leaves for later use if you see it going through a natural cycle of flourish and rest. Definitely let us know that the soil gets great drainage. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  4. Thanks so much for advising me regarding Mexican tarragon. I have one more question. In order to keep it going in Zone 7, I dug up the plant today, and put it in a pot. I noticed that it has developed a large, deep root system. My question is this: Can the plant be propagated by root division, and if so, do I just cut the root ball in half?

    • You’re welcome! I think stem cuttings are the easiest, as you see in this article recommendation. If you have a large root base with multiple above-soil stems, you can simply divide those with a sharp garden tool and repot separately, too. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  5. So does the flowering of Mexican tarragon ruin the flavor or the leaves? And when the flowers die back, should it be cut back like a perennial flower?

    • Hi Pamela,
      Most herbs have a more robust and varying flavor before blooming than if you eat leaves after flowers form. The good news is that you can also try eating these flowers, as discussed here. It is only a perennial in the warmest of climates, Zones 8 or 9 through 11. It should come back next spring after foliage dies during frost. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  6. Thanks so much for the advice regarding Mexican Tarragon. We are in Zone 7, so we’ll pot up our plant and hope it will overwinter indoors under lights.

  7. Hi! We have been delighted with the mature, potted Mexican tarragon we found this summer in a nursery. We planted it in the ground, and I’d be sad to lose it in the event that we here in northern Georgia had a rare snowy winter. So, do we need to bring it in for the winter months? Please advise. Thanks.

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Mexican tarragon is a semi-hardy herb that can overwinter well in Zones 8-11. If your home is colder than those zones, you can pot it up to bring indoors over winter. Just make sure your pot has great drainage. For more tips and gardening information, sign up for our e-newsletter and join our Facebook page. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

  8. I tried 3 years to grow French Tarragon with no success. It hates the heat. But on a suggestion I tried Mexican (Texas) Tarragon and finally got an anise flavored herb. Went through the heat with no problem and also rearded me with flowers. A relatively easy herb to grow.

    • If Mexican Tarragon is the same as Texas Tarragon, there is a third benefit to growing this herb in the garden.
      It’s heavenly smell.
      I’m thinking that with this smell and the yellow flowers that the bees, Hummingbirds, and the butterflies would love this plant.

  9. For your region, I’d recommend growing Mexican tarragon instead (also called Texas tarragon.) It’s happier in a hot, moist climate. It also has an arguably stronger anise-like flavor than the French variety. Good luck!

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