Tarragon is a perennial herb that has been cultivated for thousands of years. It belongs to the sunflower family also known as Asteraceae. The variety of tarragon that is used in cooking is known as French tarragon and is famous because of its use in classic French dishes and to flavor vinegar. It grows well in temperate and warm — but not too hot — locations. You can consume tarragon in fresh or dried form, though the fresh is more common since drying the herb causes it to lose much of its flavor. The flavor is similar to that of licorice and is highly concentrated in the fresh herb.
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How to grow tarragon
Get a tarragon plant either by purchasing a young plant or growing one from cuttings. Tarragon does produce flowers, but the flowers do not usually come with viable seeds, so the most common ways to grow tarragon is via cuttings (stem or rhizome) or root division. Russian tarragon is a relative that you can grow from seed, but it lacks the flavor of French tarragon and is not commonly used for cooking.
Grow tarragon from cuttings by starting with a cutting about six inches long and removing the leaves from the lower part of its stem. Place the sprig in a container of water. You should see roots sprouting from the bottom of the stem within a month. Alternatively, you can dip the bottom of the sprig in some rooting hormone and plant it in some potting soil.
Propagate tarragon with the root division method by splitting the root ball and planting each part in fresh soil.
Choose a sunny spot for planting your outdoor tarragon. The best time to plant tarragon outdoors is in the spring. Ideally, you want a soil temperature that is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plant tarragon at least 18 inches from the next plant. Tarragon needs room to develop its root system.
Growing tarragon in containers
Choose a tarragon container with large holes for drainage, along with soil that drains well. It should also be deep — about 16 inches — and measure at least 12 inches across. If your tarragon container is outdoors and you live in an area with cold winters, place it in a hole deep enough to fit the whole container. Burying the container like this can keep the roots from freezing. Good drainage is particularly important in winter.
Place your indoor tarragon container in a location where it can get eight hours of sunlight. If you don’t have a sunny spot like this in or around your home, consider investing in grow lights.
How much sunlight does tarragon need?
Your tarragon plants will need full sunlight as long as you don’t live in a particularly warm climate. If you do live somewhere hot, opt for an area that gets partial sunlight. Good locations for tarragon should also have soil that drains readily.
How much water does tarragon need?
Water judiciously. Because of its robust root system, tarragon does not always need a lot of water. You may only need to water it a few times each week if you live in a temperate climate. In hot weather, tarragon might need daily watering. Water only if the surface of the soil around the tarragon is dry. Be careful to not overwater.
Harvest tarragon by pinching or cutting off the leaves as you need them. You can harvest tarragon at any point in the growing season, but the leaves are particularly flavorful just before the plant puts out flowers.