How to Grow French Tarragon: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var Sativa’). French tarragon is a strongly aromatic perennial herb, hardy to Zone 4, and a staple in French cuisine. The French variety (var. ‘Sativa’) is considered to have a better flavour than Russian Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus dracunculoides). French tarragon does not set viable seed; if you are offered seed, it is NOT French tarragon!

Cultivation: Outdoors, French tarragon thrives in well-drained garden soil amended with organic matter (such as compost) or in containers. Established plants prefer full sun, where they may grow up to a metre tall. Tarragon has a twisting serpentine root structure and may need containing in a specialised area of the garden or in a bottomless pot to keep it in bounds. Keep plants well-watered to ensure steady growth. Frequent harvesting of the growing tips and removal of flower buds will encourage a bushier plant and a steady supply of fresh leaves for harvesting all summer. French tarragon can also be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill, but growth will not be as vigorous as outdoors.

French tarragon dies back to the ground in winter. If it is planted in well-drained soil and with some winter protection (such as leaves or straw) it is hardy in Southern Ontario and should come back in the spring. Divide the plant in the spring every three to four years to ensure ongoing vigour. The same applies for container-grown plants that will become root-bound after two or three years. French tarragon can only be propagated by division and cuttings.

Tarragon is slightly susceptible to mildew. Remove affected leaves or shoots, ensure good air circulation, and clean up any debris on the soil surface in the fall.

Disclaimer: Toronto Master Gardeners does not advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. Any information in the recommended resources should be regarded as being for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

For more information:

CC Grow knowledge base http://www.phytotheca.com/phytotheca/tarragon-french/

RHS Herbs: Growing https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=679

RHS Grow Your Own Herbs https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/herbs/tarragon

University of Illinois Extension https://web.extension.illinois.edu/herbs/french-tarragon.cfm

Gardeners Path https://gardenerspath.com/plants/herbs/how-to-grow-tarragon/

Date revised: December 2021

Prepared by the Toronto Master Gardeners, these Gardening Guides provide introductory information on a variety of gardening topics.  Toronto Master Gardeners are part of a large, international volunteer community committed to providing the public with horticultural information, education and inspiration.  Our goal is to help Toronto residents use safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices to create gardens, landscapes and communities that are both vibrant and healthy.

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