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.
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.
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.