In the Garden
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.
Plant it in an herb garden, flower bed, or container. Let Texas 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 atop erect, 2-foot stems.
Although grown as an annual in most of the country, Texas 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.
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.
Plants are not bothered by pests, but be sure to plant them in a spot that drains well, or the roots can rot.
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.
Substitute Texas terragon 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, Texas tarragon is an ingredient in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. You will find that it goes by many names: false tarragon, Mexican mint marigold, Mexican tarragon, winter tarragon, yerba anise, hierba de anis, hierba de San Juan, and pericon.
My French tarragon doesn’t seem to be happy in our new home in the Southeast. What am I doing wrong?