How-To

Growing Mexican Tarragon

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Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida) grows all spring and summer before it produces many yellow, single marigold-like blossoms. Those are just a bonus, though, 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 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 atop stems ranging from 14 to 30 inches.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Although grown as an annual in most of the country, Mexican tarragon is perennial in zone 9. 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; plants also reseed. Space seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart.

Troubleshooting

Plants are not bothered by most 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.

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.

Uses

Substitute Mexican 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. This herb is an ingredient in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. You will find that it goes by many names: false tarragon, Mexican mint marigold, Texas tarragon, winter tarragon, yerba anise, hierba de anis, hierba de San Juan, and pericon.

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

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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 that subtle licorice-like tarragon flavor to this chicken salad.

FAQs

My French tarragon doesn't seem to be happy in our new home in the Southeast. What am I doing wrong?

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. One solution is to substitute Mexican tarragon. The flavor is very similar, it loves the heat, and you get long stems topped with pretty gold flowers in the fall.