What Is Mexican Tarragon: How To Grow Mexican Tarragon Herb Plants
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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is Mexican tarragon? Native to Guatemala and Mexico, this perennial, heat-loving herb is grown primarily for its flavorful licorice-like leaves. The marigold-like flowers that show up in late summer and autumn are a delightful bonus. Most commonly called Mexican marigold (Tagetes lucida), it is known by a number of alternate names, such as false tarragon, Spanish tarragon, winter tarragon, Texas tarragon or Mexican mint marigold. Read on for all you need to know about growing Mexican tarragon plants.
How to Grow Mexican Tarragon
Mexican tarragon is perennial in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. In zone 8, the plant is usually nipped by frost, but grows back in spring. In other climates, Mexican tarragon plants are often grown as annuals.
Plant Mexican tarragon in well-drained soil, as the plant is likely to rot in wet soil. Allow 18 to 24 inches (46-61 cm.) between each plant; Mexican tarragon is a large plant that can reach 2 to 3 feet (.6-.9 m.) tall, with a similar width.
Although Mexican tarragon plants tolerate partial shade, the flavor is best when the plant is exposed to full sunlight.
Keep in mind that Mexican tarragon may reseed itself. Additionally, new plants are generated whenever the tall stems bend over and touch the soil.
Caring for Mexican Tarragon
Although Mexican tarragon plants are relatively drought tolerant, the plants are bushier and healthier with regular irrigation. Water only when the surface of the soil is dry, as Mexican tarragon won’t tolerate consistently soggy soil. However, don’t allow the soil to become bone dry.
Water Mexican tarragon at the base of the plant, as wetting the foliage may lead to various moisture-related diseases, especially rot. A drip system or soaker hose works well.
Harvest Mexican tarragon plants regularly. The more often you harvest, the more the plant will produce. Early morning, when the essential oils are well distributed through the plant, is the best time to harvest.
Mexican tarragon requires no fertilizer. Pests are generally not a concern.
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How to Grow Mexican Tarragon Herb
Are you searching for a useful herb to add some color to your garden space? Mexican tarragon is a brightly colored herb that is used in a variety of ways. It’s well-known as a traditional home remedy to deal with minor stomach issues, colic, and nausea. It’s also thought to help improve sleep and blood sugar levels. Many gardeners use this herb in their kitchen to add flavor to dishes with high-protein content.
If you’re in need of a versatile and visually appealing herb, Mexican tarragon could be it. Here’s how you can begin growing it around your home:
Growing Conditions for Mexican Tarragon
Mexican tarragon can be grown using a variety of methods. It’s a perennial herb in planting zones nine through eleven. If you live in planting zones eight and below, it can still be grown. However, it will need to be treated as an annual in these zones.
This herb can be grown inground or in containers. It’s vital that the container be large enough to support the root system of the herb due to its size.
Regardless of gardening method, be sure to grow it in partial to full sun. The herb can handle partial shade, but it’s ideal to grow it where it will receive ample sunlight. The heat is known for drawing the flavor out of the herb, making it taste better at harvest.
The herb needs to be grown in well-draining soil that is nutrient-dense. By providing the right elements and a proper grow space, Mexican tarragon should produce beautifully.
How to Plant Mexican Tarragon
Mexican tarragon can be grown in a variety of ways. You can choose to start the herb from seed, direct sow in your garden space, or allow the plant to reseed naturally.
If you prefer to start your seeds indoors, begin the process approximately four to six weeks before the last frost occurs.
Place quality soil in grow trays and add two seeds per cell in the tray. This is to ensure each cell will produce a plant even if every seed doesn’t germinate. Germination takes approximately two weeks.
Care for the seedlings indoors by watering them and supplying necessary heat. When the seedlings have reached four inches in height, they’re ready to be moved outdoors.
Be sure to harden the seedlings off before transplanting them. This could help deter the plants from going into shock. Don’t transplant until all threat of frost has passed.
The plants should be placed two feet apart. This will ensure they have enough room to grow properly once fully matured.
The next option for growing Mexican tarragon is to direct sow the seeds into the garden. Again, wait until all threat of frost is over.
Once the ground is thawed and workable, place the seeds in the desired bed. When the seeds sprout, thin the plants to where there’s roughly two feet of space between each seedling.
You can also grow Mexican tarragon in a container, as mentioned above. If you choose this grow method, be sure to wait until the threat of frost has passed.
Fill your container with quality soil and direct sow the seeds. You could also place seedlings in the planter to speed up the grow-process.
The largest point for consideration with container gardening is to make sure you don’t overcrowd the plants. Depending upon the size of the pot, you may only be able to grow one plant per container.
Be sure the root systems won’t become overcrowded. It should also be a large enough planter that it can handle the shear height of the herb because Mexican tarragon can grow to be three feet tall.
The great news about Mexican tarragon is it reseeds easily, which leads us into our next growing option.
Mexican tarragon has tall stems which makes reseeding an easy process for the herb. As the stems grow taller, they’ll flop over. As they touch the ground, the stems will take root and form new plants.
This herb can be grown using a variety of methods. Due to its natural reseeding qualities, and ease of planting, this herb could be a prominent fixture in your garden for years to come.
Caring for Mexican Tarragon
At this point, it has been established that Mexican tarragon is an easy-to-grow herb. It’s low maintenance as well.
This makes the herb an ideal crop for many gardeners because who doesn’t love a fuss-free plant? To care for Mexican tarragon, you’ll need to practice a few minor maintenance tasks.
Like any plant, this herb needs water. The good news is Mexican tarragon is a drought-resistant plant. If you live in an area which struggles with drought during certain points in the grow-season, this herb could be a great choice for your garden.
However, you should still try to water the herb as regularly as possible. The plant produces a better harvest and maintains better health when consistently watered.
Be mindful of overwatering when growing Mexican tarragon. The herb can’t handle growing conditions where the soil is constantly soggy.
The roots will begin to rot with too much moisture. Therefore, it’s a good idea to perform the knuckle-test to know when to water.
Whether you’re planting in garden beds, inground, or in a container, you should be able to stick your index finger into the soil around the plant.
If the soil is moist up to the first knuckle, you don’t need to water. If it’s dry, it’s time to pull out the watering can.
Be mindful to practice deep watering. Many gardeners fall into the trap of watering daily. This can be problematic because if you don’t water deep enough, the plant won’t get the amount of water it needs to thrive.
Yet, if you deep water every day, the plant will develop moisture problems. By practicing the deep watering method, you only need to water two to three times per week.
This method of watering will allow the ground around your plants to serve as a reservoir. If they need moisture before the next watering session, the roots will have somewhere to pull it from.
Another watering tip is to be sure to water at the base of the plant or early in the mornings. If you water the foliage, especially at night, this could make your plant a breeding ground for disease.
Some gardeners must water overhead. If you must do this, water early in the mornings to allow the plants to dry fully before the cool night-air moves in.
Once you get the watering down, your herbs should thrive. The only other tasks you must perform is weeding and avoiding fertilizing the plant.
Mexican tarragon does best when the weeds are kept under control to stop it from having to compete for nutrients. You won’t need to fertilize the herb during the grow-season. Adding compost at the time of planting and placing the herb in nutrient-rich soil should provide all it needs.
Having an herb that requires this little bit of maintenance is a gift, especially during a busy gardening season.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Mexican Tarragon
Mexican tarragon is only impacted by a few pests and diseases. The pest to be on the lookout for is the aphid. It’s a common garden enemy.
These bugs suck the sap from your crops and cause them to become discolored and sickly. They come in a variety of colors but will leave a trail of honeydew behind them when they travel around your plant.
If you see signs of aphids on your Mexican tarragon, spray the plant with soapy water. This will dislodge the insects. You can also treat aphids with insecticidal soap.
The disease you should be on the lookout for is root rot. It’s a fungus found in most soils. You can avoid this disease by planting in well-draining soil that is warm.
By keeping the water draining and ground warm around your crop, it gives fungus less of an opportunity to grow and impact your plants. Stay mindful of these challenges to keep your plants in good health.
How to Harvest Mexican Tarragon
Mexican tarragon can be harvested from spring through fall. The only stipulation is you must wait for the leaves to become large enough.
When they can be easily handled around the kitchen, they’re ready. If you can’t safely cut them for cooking or use them for herbal tea, hold off on harvesting.
You can harvest both the leaves and flowers from Mexican tarragon. The leaves can be plucked away from the stems if you only need a few at a time.
However, if you’d like to harvest more of the plant at once, use scissors to remove whole stems. When removing the stems, use care to avoid damaging the plant. Harvest isn’t only about getting use out of the plant. It’s also about encouraging heavier production which won’t happen if the plant becomes damaged.
The leaves can be used fresh or dried for cooking and herbal tea. Mexican tarragon’s flowers can be used whole in some recipes or taken apart for use as an edible garnish.
Having an herb in your garden that generates multiple products is an amazing feeling. The fact that it’s low maintenance and adds vibrant color are great bonuses. Whether you’re new to gardening or seasoned, this is an herb you should try raising at some point in your gardening journey.
Mexican Mint Marigold, Sweet Mace, Yerba Anise, Pericon, Spanish Tarragon, Yerba Anise and Cloud Plant
Mexican tarragon tastes like French tarragon with a slight anise flavor. Although it tastes like tarragon, Mexican tarragon is not a true tarragon (Artemisia). Instead, it is related to marigolds. The foliage resembles tarragon but the flowers are definitely marigolds.
Average height: 70 cm
Aspect: Full sun
Soil type: Most soil conditions, chalk, clay, loam or sandy
Sowing period: Sow indoors from February - Outdoors from end May
First signs of blossom: 10 weeks
Average flowering period: 6 months
Contents: Approximately 50 seeds
Because Mexican Tarragon is a beautiful flowering herb it makes a lovely addition to many parts of the garden. The flowers add colour and contrast to a herb garden, but look equally delightful within a flower border. Try growing in patio containers, or indoors on a sunny windowsill.
Snip the flowers and sprigs as required from spring onwards, once the plant is vigorously growing.
Native to Mexico, Mexican Tarragon has been used for culinary, medicinal, and spiritual purposes for centuries.
Mexican Tarragon is hardy down to about 10˚ F. In areas with colder winters the plant can be moved into a container and brought indoors till the cold passes. Even if the top dies back the roots will be in good condition if kept at warm enough temperatures. Perennial in zones 8 to 11, it has to be grown as an annual in colder zones or brought indoors for winter.
Mexican Tarragon needs good air circulation, plenty of sun, and well-draining, semi-moist soil.
Plant after last frost date.
Mexican Tarragon will grow more leaves and flowers of higher quality if grown in full sun.
Mexican Tarragon is fairly drought tolerant but will grow more leaves of higher quality if it receives adequate water.
Mexican Tarragon prefers moderately rich garden soil.
Mexican Tarragon grows well in containers but be sure to put plants in a place that gets at least 4 hours of light daily. Growing Mexican Tarragon in containers is ideal for colder climates with more severe winters.
Similar to French Tarragon with a slightly sweet anise flavor.
Tricia shares tips for planting your very own herb garden in containers.
Store your herbs for flavor over the long winter months.
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Mexican tarragon, also called mint marigold or Mexican marigold, has bright green narrow leaves and small golden-yellow flowers and is beautiful in herb gardens or mixed in with annual and perennial plants. This semi-woody herb forms a small, upright bush that grows to be 2 to 3 feet tall.
The leaves have a complex flavor and fragrance with a mild likeness to anise/tarragon, coupled with notes of mint, cinnamon, and a touch of sweetness. The flowers can be used to brighten up salads. Use the flavorful leaves fresh drying and excessive heat cause them to lose flavor, so as with most herbs, add them to hot dishes at the end of cooking. For long term storage Mexican tarragon does best when frozen or stored in vinegar. Beyond using it as a tarragon substitute you can use the fresh leaves to flavor drinks or make herbal teas the Aztec people used it in cocoa drinks.
Both Mexican tarragon and French tarragon belong to the plant family Asteraceae. Some individuals develop contact dermatitis when handling certain plants in this family, so use caution with Mexican tarragon if you have this sensitivity.
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