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How To Grow Tarragon

Artemisia dracunculus

Tarragon in clay pot.

Common name for Artemisia dracunculus a perennial herb the leaves of which are used for seasoning, especially vinegar.

Tarragon is unique in that during growth, it seems to have little aroma, yet after the leaves or tops are harvested, the oils concentrate and start emitting their unique tarragon sweet smell, similar to freshly cut hay.

Tarragon is used in vegetable dishes and soups, mild cheeses, egg dishes, fish and white sauces.

Growing the Herb Tarragon

Tarragon grows to two or three feet tall and likes moderate sun, preferring a little shade during the warmest part of the day. It grows well in a rich loamy soil that holds moisture, but drains well. Mulching is beneficial to this end.

Tarragon propagates best through root division, planting the divisions at least 18 inches apart. Since tarragon has a shallow root system, care must be taken not to damage the roots when weeding, and special care must be shown during the winter after transplanting, as the root systems will not have developed fully.

Growing Cultures

Outdoors, in containers, and hydroponics.

Plant Height

Tarragon plants grow to a height of 12 to 36 inches (30 - 90cm).

Plant Spacing

Tarragon plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches (45 - 60cm) apart.

Preferred pH Range

Tarragon will grow in a pH range between 6.5 (neutral) and 7.5 (mildly alkaline) with a preferred pH of 6.5.

Propagation

Sow Russian tarragon seed indoors in sunny location or under plant grow lights six weeks before last frost. French tarragon only propagates via division, stem cuttings, or layering.

Seed Germination Period

Russian tarragon seeds will germinate in soil in approximately 10 to 14 days, but can germinate in as few as 7 to 10 days in dedicated propagation media such as Oasis Rootcubes, Rapid Rooters, or Grodan Stonewool.

Number of Seeds per Gram

There are approximately 6,000 tarragon seeds per gram.

Soil Requirements

Tarragon prefers a deep, well-draining, fertile soil.

Alternative Growing Media

Soilless potting mixes (Pro-Mix, Sunshine Mix, etc.), perlite, vermiculite, rockwool, coco peat, Oasis Rootcubes.

Time From Seed to Saleable Plant

Seed not recommended for French tarragon, start with plugs. Plugs to saleable plants, 7 weeks.

Sun & Lighting Requirements

Tarragon grown outdoors prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade.

Tarragon will grow indoors satisfactorily under standard fluorescent lamps, and exceptionally well under high output T5 fluorescent grow lights, compact fluorescent, or high intensity discharge (metal halide or high pressure sodium) plant growing lights. Keep standard fluorescent lamps between 2 and 4 inches from the tops of the plants, high output and compact fluorescents approximately one foot above the plants, and HID lights between 2 and 4 feet above the plants, depending on wattage.

Have an oscillating fan gently stir seedlings for at least 2 hours per day to stimulate shorter, sturdier, and more natural plant habit.

USDA Hardiness

Perennial. Zones 4a through 8b.

Water Requirements

Average water needs, water on a regular schedule. Allow soil to go almost dry between watering, then soak thoroughly. Do not overwater.

Potential Plant Pests and Diseases

Tarragon can be susceptible to whitefly and spider mites but has minimal disease issues.

Companion Planting

Tarragon is a useful companion plant for just about everything, but especially eggplant. The aroma is disliked by most insect pests. Tarragon is also believed to enhance the growth and flavor of crops grown with it.

Special Notes

Drought resistant and ideal for xeriscaping. Suitable for containers and indoor cultivation. Aromatic.