How to grow Tarragon at home in Containers
Growing tarragon in containers is relatively easy, and some gardeners often find success in container gardening because you can control the amount of water that goes into the pot. French tarragon grows 12 to 24 inches tall, with long and slender stems decorated with spiky aromatic 1-inch sized leaves.
Why grow French Tarragon at Home?
French tarragon is the most sought-after species of tarragon by cooks who are into preparing fine-dining dishes. The herb’s sharp, tangy taste is accented with an anise-quality flavor that makes it perfect for sauces and dips if used appropriately.
Do be aware that there is an “impostor” of sorts for French tarragon, which is the Russian tarragon. Before you buy your herb for growing tarragon in containers, ask if you can take a bite out of a leaf so you can taste it. French tarragon is characterized by sharp, tangy, anise-like taste with a slight sting at the lips.
If the anise-like quality is absent, do not buy the herb for you are holding in your hands Russian tarragon that has no flavor at all. Potted tarragon plants should have at least 3 green shoots attached to the roots.
Choose a location that has the best sun, with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Although it will do well in partial shade, your tarragon will definitely grow better if you have the full advantage of unfiltered sunlight.
Choosing a pot for your French Tarragon
Tarragon is not particularly picky about the container that you would put it in. However, it would be best if you choose terracotta pots for growing tarrago. Terracotta pots are porous, effectively allowing the exchange of gas and moisture for your herb’s roots.
Excess moisture can steep through and escape because of the porous quality of the container. Tarragon does not like its roots drenched in water, and the porous material of terracotta pots will certainly help if you become over-zealous in watering them.
It is also highly beneficial if you live in a cool, damp climate that can make water evaporation slow and virtually non-existent. Choose a terra cotta pot that has drainage holes in it to prevent water from pooling at the bottom of your container.
Your starting container should be around 4 inches in size, especially for root divisions. Once your tarragon reaches maturity, you will have to re-pot your herb to a 12-inch sized container, although a larger container can be suitable. Place several pieces of broken terracotta pots or small pea pebbles to aid in drainage of excess water.
Growing tarragon in containers will require a specific mix of growing materials as a potting medium. Ordinary garden soil is not suitable because of the presence of dormant microorganisms that can cause harm to your herbs.
How to Grow Tarragon from Seeds
Growing tarragon in containers from seeds is rather a lottery. Seeds can be very hard to find because true French tarragon is sterile and does not produce seeds. If believe that you have come across a French tarragon seed, you will end up growing Russian tarragon instead.
Seeds are propagated around April. Prepare a 4-inch pot with potting compost and place 4-5 seeds on top. Cover the seeds with ¼ to ½ inch potting compost and water very well using a fine mist spray. Keep the seeds indoors while maintaining a temperature above 66 degrees Fahrenheit to stimulate germination. Harden the seedlings once they begin to appear by placing them by the window but away from direct sunlight. Once the seedlings are 4 inches high, they are now ready for transplant.
How to grow Tarragon from Cuttings
Root divisions and cuttings are the best way for growing tarragon in pots if you wish to preserve its flavor. Root divisions can be taken from a plant that is 2-3 years old. Cuttings from new growths can be taken and planted during summer or early fall.
To get root divisions, carefully divide the plant and make sure that each division has at least 4 green shoots attached to it. Carefully remove the soil from the roots and trim them down to remove any tangles so that it would fit a 4-inch container half-filled with potting mix. Cover the roots with soil up to 2 inches below the level of the lip of your container. Press the soil firmly to remove any air pockets and water well. Keep under the shade for 2 weeks before exposing them to full sunlight.
Protecting your Tarragon from bad weather
Protect your plants during the winter by bringing them inside or placing a very thick layer of mulch to insulate the roots from frost. Once your plants are established, you may need to divide them every 2-4 years to prevent the roots from getting too tangled. Over-winter your herbs indoors by trimming the foliage an inch above soil level. Give your herbs water only when the soil is dry 2 inches from the top. It is best to give them deep watering until it flows through the holes rather than giving them daily measured amounts.
Harvesting and preserving your home grown Tarragon
Expect harvesting season 60 days after planting for growing tarragon in pots. Top leaves have the best flavor during early summer. Cut down your tarragon around July or August if you want to freeze your tarragon.
Freezing is the better way to store tarragon compared to drying for it preserves most of its aromatic oils. If you wish to dry tarragon, it is best done by hanging the stems upside down in a dry, dark room that has good air circulation.
Tarragon usually has no problems, except for powdery mildew and aphids. Prevent mildew by keeping the leaves dry during watering. Aphids can be brushed off or blasted with water. There are soap sprays available that will help deter aphids and they can easily be bought in your local garden store.