Home herb gardeners are growing tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) to accompany many egg, fish and poultry dishes. Its delightful licorice-like flavor is also used to infuse white wine vinegar and works well when added to sauces, soups and salad dressings. Leaves can be used dried or frozen, but the fresh herb is best for aroma and flavor.
A member of the daisy family, French tarragon is an attractive herb with narrow green leaves and delicate gray-green flowers. Plants add a soft, pleasant texture to garden borders and grow very well indoors in pots. Tarragon is also a good companion for eggplant, but will benefit most other vegetable crops.
Like many classic herbs, tarragon is super-sized with health benefits, which include vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. Aromatic perennials — 12 to 24 inches tall — are half-hardy, drought tolerant and often require winter protection.
Fun Fact: Tarragon reportedly aids in digestion, and when made as a tonic is said to soothe rheumatism, arthritis and toothaches.
Heirloom Herb Seeds
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Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Tarragon
- For true flavor, choose French tarragon
- Starts, not seeds, offer best results
- Plant outside after all danger of frost; prefers full sun to part shade and compost-amended soil
- Harvest fresh leaves 6-8 weeks after transplanting
- Typically free of diseases and pests, but water carefully to prevent mildew and root rot
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 40-60 days from transplant
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart
French tarragon requires full sun to partial shade, rich, well-drained soil and regular watering. The plant often fails due to soil that is too wet or too acidic. It can be grown outdoors in a sunny garden plot or indoors in window containers that offer good drainage. Learn all about container gardening here.
How to Plant
New plants must be produced from rooted cuttings or purchased as nursery stock from your local garden store. French tarragon is NOT grown from seed. Make sure you purchase plants labeled “French tarragon” to ensure you get the best variety for cooking. Russian varieties, which can be grown from seed are available, but they are weedy and lack the necessary essential oils and intense flavor.
Plant outside after all danger from frost has passed. Plants will die back to the root over winter, returning in spring. Space 2-3 feet between plants and mulch well with compost or well-rotted animal manure. Read our article about planting and propagating herbs here.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest tarragon 6-8 weeks after transplanting outside. Handle plants with care as they bruise easily and pick in the morning after the dew has dried for best flavor. Leaves are best used fresh but can be stored dry or frozen in True Liberty® Turkey Bags. These unique bags preserve herb harvests, with all the aroma and flavor locked right in.
To dry herbs, tie cuttings in small bunches and hang upside down in a well-ventilated, dark room. When completely dry, remove the leaves from all stems and keep whole in airtight jars for storage. The leaves will brown slightly during this process (watch our video How to Dry Herbs here). Crush or grind just before use.
Note: Fresh tarragon can be preserved in white vinegar which will keep the flavor better than drying.
Insect & Disease Problems
Tarragon is not bothered by many insect pests but is susceptible to plant diseases such as downy mildew, powdery mildew and rhizoctonia (root rot). To prevent these fungal problems, plant in areas that provide good air circulation and water on bright sunny mornings to allow the leaves to dry by evening.
Seed Saving Instructions
True tarragon produces no seeds. Divide mature plants in the spring or root tip cuttings anytime during the gardening season.
Provides organic matter and natural nutrients for flowers and vegetables.
Preserve your harvests by locking in the nutritional value of fresh garden crops.
Savvy growers know redworm castings to be rich in nutrients and beneficial microbes.
Comfortable Softgrip handles reduce stress and are non-slip for added safety.