Growing Tarragon

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.

Try growing Mexican tarragon in an herb garden, flower bed, or container. Let it 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.

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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.