Mexican tarragon, also known as false tarragon or Texas tarragon (Agetes lucida), is an easy to grow herb that can be used for everything from tea to seasoning.
If you’re looking for another herb to add to your garden, false tarragon makes a good choice because it’s low-matineance, drought-tolerant, and grows well with minimal TLC.
Let’s dive in and see how to grow and care for Agetes lucida.
Quick care guide: Mexican tarragon
|Plant type||Annual, perennial (depends on location)|
|Scientific name||Tagates lucida|
|Other names||False tarragon, Texas tarragon, Mint tarragon, Sweet tarragon, Spanish tarragon|
|Soil type||Loamy, well-draining|
|Soil pH||6-7 (slightly acidic to neutral)|
|Sunlight requirement||Full sun|
|Bloom season||Spring, summer|
|Colors||Green, yellow, white|
|Max height||3 feet|
|Max width||6-12 inches|
|Ideal temperature range||60-80F|
|Watering requirements||Often during first year of growth, spring, and summer|
|Days until germination||2-3 weeks|
|Days until bloom||3-6 months (depending on sowing time)|
|Speed of growth||Moderate|
|Hardiness zones||7, 8, 9, 10, 11|
|Plant depth||0.5 inches (from seed)|
|Plant spacing||12-18 inches|
|Propagation||Seeds, division, layering, cuttings, transplants|
|Common pests||Aphids, beetles, weevils, gastropods|
|Common diseases||Botrytis, root rot, blight|
|Indoor plant||Yes (decorative only)|
|Grown in container||Yes|
|Care level||Low (easy)|
|Uses||Decoration, color, centerpiece, pathing, bordering, plant cover, background plant, foreground plant, indoor plant, edible, culinary, herb|
What’s Mexican tarragon?
Mexican tarragon is a spring and summertime plant that produces yellow flowers.
Russian and French tarragon are its cousins.
It looks very similar to marigold and is grown for decorative purposes. It makes a great filler plant as it covers plenty of space in the garden.
Mexican tarragon is also known as Texas tarragon, mint tarragon, or false tarragon.
But that’s not all.
Did you know that the leaves are edible? They’re packed with flavor that can be used in place of French tarragon.
Mexican tarragon can be grown in your herb garden, flower bed, or in a container.
Is it easy to grow?
Mexican tarragon is easy to grow and perfect for beginners.
Whether you plan to eat it or grow it just for decoration, it’s a drought-tolerant summertime plant that grows in a variety of conditions.
It also grows extremely quickly, so it’s perfect if you’re impatient and want to see results right away.
With its versatility of being grown in a container or your herb garden, it makes it suitable for many different purposes.
You can propagate Mexican tarragon from seed.
Get a packet from your local hardware store and read the back of it. Check the hardiness zone.
Sometimes stores will import seeds that are for the wrong zone, which makes it a lot harder to propagate. If you get the right cultivar for your zone, you’re on an easy street. It grows easily from seeds or cuttings.
You can also do it by layering or division, but you’ll need established tarragon from last season to do so.
Sow seeds in the spring after the last frost. Use a seed starter kit and put 1-2 seeds in each compartment.
Plant with fertile, well-draining soil that has a pH between 6-7. This is slightly acidic to neutral. If you don’t know what the pH is, it should say it on the bag somewhere.
Use a soil meter to get exact metrics if needed (they’re a good investment if you don’t have one).
If your pH is too high, you can amend it to lower it. Mix in a bit of aged compost or leaf litter. This should make it acidic.
While it can adapt to a variety of soil conditions, keeping the soil slightly acidic provides the best yield.
Some people like to sow early, which is fine. This gets you a head start on the season.
You can sow indoors 1-2 months before the last frost, but you need to keep temperatures above 40F at the min. Mexican tarragon hates the cold!
Each seed only needs about half an inch of soil for coverage. Water generously the first time. Then cover with a plastic trap or use saran wrap if you don’t have one.
Let it germinate. Keep it moist, but never waterlogged. Expect to see seedlings in 1-2 weeks. Keep temperatures warm and above 40F at all times.
Reduce watering when you see them and the first true leaves have developed. Allow the first inch of soil to dry out before you water again.
Keep tending to them until they’re about 5 inches tall and have multiple pairs of leaves. At this point. They’re ready to go outside into the garden.
All frost should already be over at this point. Harden them before you place them outside into their permanent location.
Start by slow acclimating them. Take the container outside and put it in the sun for a few hours each day. Do this for a week, then it should be good to go.
You’re showing them what sunlight feels like before they go to the big leagues.
If you want to plant them in the soil, you can do so as well.
For this, space each seed at least 18 inches apart to provide plenty of access to nutrients in the soil. Read the next section for details regarding soil quality.
Layering is always fun. It works extremely well with tarragon because the plant grows so easily.
All you need is a branch that’s long and sturdy. Look for an established one that’s at least 12 inches in length. Remove the leaves after you cut them cleanly with your favorite pruner.
Put the branch in well-draining soil and then cover it with 1 inch of soil. The branch will form roots over time.
When the roots have developed, you can cut the stem from the original plant and take the branch then replant it wherever you wish.
If you buy Mexican tarragon from the nursery, you can plant them directly into the garden.
Try to give them the same depth as the container they come in. You can plant them with the original clump of dirt around the roots to make acclimation easier and reduce plant shock.
The roots will grow beyond the clump and into the “new” dirt that surrounds it in your garden.
When you remove it from the container, do so carefully. Dig up around it and move towards the center. You can water it down to loosen dirt.
False tarragon grows from plant cuttings. You can do this method of propagation if you already have a few established plants growing.
Take a clean pair of pruners and sterilize them with some rubbing alcohol. This is to minimize the risk of disease transmission between your plants.
Do a clean cut on the stem and remove the leaves. Try to get at least a 6-inch piece. Sow directly into a container or the soil.
A note on rooting gel: Rooting hormone can help the roots develop. You can pick up a small bottle of it and use it as directed.
Typically, you’ll dip the cut end into the powder or apply the gel. It helps develop the roots when used correctly. But this isn’t necessary if you need to go out of your way to get it.
Keep the soil moist as you wait for the roots to develop. You can test if it’s rooted by gently pulling on it. Resistance is good. It means that it’s firmly rooted.
After this point, treat it just like any other plant. If you’re growing it indoors, it can be hardened off into your yard when the frost has passed.
Or you can keep it in a container while acclimating it to the sun.
By root division
Dividing Mexican tarragon is another way to propagate it, but it’s something you should be doing every few years to keep it virulent.
Dividing the roots helps reduce the overgrowth of roots and laminates clutter.
When the roots get messy, you can clean them up by cutting up the roots and growing new plants.
Don’t think of it as killing your plant. You’re using the roots to grow more of them.
Find your oldest tarragon and dig up the roots. Start by digging a perimeter around it then moving closer to the root system.
Be careful not to damage them. This is best done in the spring after the frost.
Tease the roots apart after you’ve uprooted them. The roots will look like a mess, so you’ll have to clean them up with some water. Use a pair of sterilized scissors or pruners then cut them in half so they’re equal.
Place the original plant back to its home. Plant the new one in a similar soil environment wherever you want. You just took one tarragon and made two. Congrats.
How to grow Mexican tarragon
Here are some basics for tarragon TLC. Depending on where you’re located, the care may differ slightly.
But it should get you going with some basic info.
False tarragon grows in USDA hardiness zones 8-11. It can be grown in lower zones like 7 or higher ones, but you’ll have to adjust accordingly.
Colder zones will need to mulch in the winter. Warmer zones should watch out for heatwaves, periods of drought, or humidity.
Use well-draining soil of any kind. Targon isn’t picky and will tolerate loamy or clay soil just fine.
You can use gardening soil if you plan on sowing it directly into the soil, or potting mix for container planting.
If container planting, make sure there are multiple drainage holes for adequate draining.
The pH should be between 6-7. Mexican tarragon likes well-draining fertile soil.
You can use clay, sandy, or regular potting mix. It doesn’t care about being precise as it’s tolerant.
This is why it’s such a good plant for newbies. If possible, use a soil meter to test the soil.
Think about it: A few seconds will save you a season of yield. You’ll get the maximum flower volume and the best blooms if the soil conditions are ideal. That’s why a soil tester is worth it.
Space each flower at least 12 inches apart.
You can space them further if you don’t want them to compete for nutrients, or put them closer if you want that full look.
Note that Mexican tarragon that’s grown closer together will result in smaller flowers and shorter plants, while adequately spaced plants will be bigger.
There’s a limited supply of nutrients in the soil. Giving them enough space helps each plant get what it needs.
Grow in full sun. Tarragon doesn’t like shade, so avoid full shade.
Partial shade works, but don’t expect the best blooms. If you’re in a higher zone, watch out during the summertime. You don’t want to burn them as they’re sensitive to hot temperatures.
In this case, you can plant them in a partial shade environment. It all depends on your climate. For lower zones, you can plant them in full sun.
Water when the top inch of soil is dry. You can let it grow between waterings. Mexican tarragon is drought tolerant. They also like high humidity and moist soil. So it’s a mix of both worlds.
High-quality general-purpose plant food can be applied. Feed every month during the growing season. Liquid or slow-release both are fine. No need to get fancy. Follow the directions on the package. If you want more green, use a high nitrogen fertilizer.
Mexican tarragon will go to seed if you don’t prune them.
Scan your garden and deadhead regularly to help flowering growth. If you want it to bloom multiple times during the summer, you should deadhead spent flowers immediately and prune other flowers that are wilting.
This doesn’t have to take up all your time- once a month is enough.
Additionally, you want to divide your tarragon every 2-3 years to help keep it going. It should also help reduce humidity to lower the chance of pests and fungus.
Remember that tarragon is edible?
Don’t forget that it’s more than something to look at in your garden!
Yes, you can harvest and eat tarragon or use it in your culinary recipes. Because tarragon is such a wild plant, you’ll have plenty of surplus goods that should last you all season.
Plus, harvesting is good for the plant. It helps you get into the habit of pruning which produces even more flowers. How cool is that?
Harvesting is easy. Just grab the flowers when they dry up. They’ll turn brown and get crispy after blooming. Cut them cleanly with a pair of scissors.
Be sure you get the seed pods also- they’re those lengthy brown pods at the ends of the flowers. They contain the…guess what? Seeds. Woot.
Remove the petals on the flower and then grab a container. Shake and rub the flower pod over it.
You should see the seeds fall out. If not, use a cotton bud to scrape them out.
You can store them in any container for planting next season. Just keep them dry and out of sunlight.
Harvesting the leaves is also simple. Cut them off when they’re ready and put them to use in your recipes.
They can be substituted for French tarragon in pretty much any condition.
After you cut them from the stems, put them into bundles. Then hang them up to dry in a dark area.
The leaves are dried by baking them for an hour at a lower temperature. Let them bake and dry. They should become hard and flaky when they’re done.
If you want to keep them fresh before you bake, put them in a paper towel in a container. They’ll last for a week or so before they need to be used or dried.
Dried leaves can be stored pretty much anywhere that’s…dry.
Use a mason jar, cookie jar, or burlap sack. Use them whenever you want. Fresh leaves can be stored in the fridge in a container for a week or hung upside down in a dark area.
Mexican tarragon seeds can be placed in an envelope and label for easy propagation next season.
Summertime is the best time for tarragon when the flowers are in full force.
You’ll have to give it plenty of water and monitor the soil moisture content.
Provide plant food during this period so it can get the best blooms possible.
Watch out for scorching hot days and windy conditions. Other than that, just do the basics (water, sun, and fertilizer).
If you’re in hardiness zones 8-11, there’s nothing to worry about for the wintertime. So just carry on.
But if you’re in a colder zone, like zone 7, you’ll have to do some work if you want to keep your Mexican tarragon throughout the winter.
First, add some mulch around the base of the plant. A few inches should do. This will help insulate the root system to keep it warm.
Next, consider adding a cold frame to protect it. If you’re growing it in a container, you should bring it indoors.
But if it’s in the soil, you’ll need to add some kind of shelter to protect it.
When it gets cold, Mexican tarragon will die back on its own.
If you harvested the seeds on time, you can save them for planting during the winter indoors. Then transplant after the last frost.
For those in really cold zones, just plant it as an annual rather than perennial. It’s a lot less work and you’ll get nicer blooms.
Tarragon itself is known to repel pests due to its bitterness, but some sneaky ones’ll eat it regardless.
Some of the most common pests that eat Mexican tarragon are aphids, root-knot nematodes, weevils, beetles, and gastropods (slugs/snails).
These can be ridden by using natural control methods like manual removal, making a beer trap for snails, using essential oils, or spraying commercial pesticides.
If you decide to get a commercial brand, make sure it’s organic or safe for edibles.
After all, you’ll be eating your tarragon so why spray it with something dangerous? That’s why you should stick with natural methods.
There are plenty of guides online that you can use to get rid of the specific pest that’s eating your tarragon.
False tarragon doesn’t get many types of diseases other than rot.
When the humidity is high, it’s easier for the dense foliage to harbor fungus. Ensure good drainage. Prune often. Don’t overwater.
Mexican tarragon has a few partner plants that make good companions.
These pair well because they grow in similar conditions, but won’t leech each other to the point where one will starve.
Here are some companion plants you can grow in the same plot with Mexican tarragon:
- Lemon balm
- Goji berries
- Bee balm
Mexican tarragon is a perfect substitute for French tarragon.
There are a TON of recipes that call for it so I’m not going to list them all here.
But just to jog your mind:
- Egg dishes
- Meat seasoning
- Brewed as tea
- Used in soups
- Used a seasoning in stews
- Chicken salads
- Used both fresh or dried
- Flavor vinegar
- Flavor chocolates
- Bath additive for retaliation
Go to your favorite recipe database and search for some good ones!
Other common questions
Here are some commonly asked questions from readers about growing and caring for false tarragon.
Is Mexican tarragon a perennial?
It’s both. It can be planted as an annual in cooler regions but grown as a perennial in zones 8-11 where it needs no overwintering support.
If you live in a colder zone, just harvest the seeds so you can propagate them again next season.
It’s a perennial in warmer regions where it’ll come back in the spring.
It’s an annual in colder regions where it’ll die back in the winter but can be replanted.
Is Mexican tarragon edible?
Yes, Mexican tarragon is edible and can be used in a variety of dishes.
It’s a good substitute for French tarragon and can be used as a flavoring, seasoning, tea, or sprinkled on salads or soups, or chicken dishes!
It can be eaten fresh or dried.
How do you harvest it so it keeps growing?
Don’t cut more than 30% of the leaves. This will keep some leaves for photosynthesis so they can keep growing.
If you cut too many leaves at once when you harvest, then you slow down the growth of the plant. It’s all about balance.
You need to cut enough for your recipes, but leave some so that it can proposer and continue to produce yield for you.
The newer baby shoots can be sniped, which are the bright green shoots. The older woody branches can be retained permanently.
How do I plant it in a container?
It’s really no different than doing it in the soil. Just use well draining soil and water it often because it evarpoates quicker. Transplant to a larger pot if needed, but this is unlikely if your’e starting from seed each season.
Avoid using excess plant food because it’ll buildup inside the soil.
Container planting is nice because you can move it indoors if it’s too hot or cold. You may even be able to grow it like a perennial if you want since the winter won’t kill your tarragon.
Should I cut the flowers off my tarragon?
You should be regularly pruning it when the flowers are spent.
Deadheading will help encourage future growth. Don’t let spent flowers just sit there and suck all the energy out of it.
Should I let my tarragon flower?
If you want to enjoy them, yes. Let it flower and use the flowers to collect seeds for the next season.
How often do you water Mexican tarragon?
Water when the top inch of soil is dry. Water extra on hot days and less on cooler ones.
And don’t forget to give it some more water during the peak growing season (summer).
What does it taste like?
False tarragon has an anise-like flavor that can be compared to french tarragon.
The taste is distinct and can be flavorful in just pinch amounts. No need to go overboard. It’s minty and gamey with a slightly peppery taste and some turpentine?
It’s pungent, gamey and just hay-like. Think licorice or vanilla. Bittersweet. Something like that.
Where does tarragon grow best?
Plant it in full sun for best results.
Keep it within its ideal temperature range so it’s not too hot. If you’re in a warmer zone, you can get away with parietal shade.
Never plant in full shade. Use a well-draining, slightly acidic substrate. Don’t plant next to competing plants.
See the “companion plants” section for more info.
What is the difference between French tarragon and Mexican tarragon?
Mexican tarragon is hardier and the leaves are stronger than your typical french tarragon.
Both can be used for the same recipes pretty much. If you want a stronger flavor, use Mexican tarragon instead of French tarragon.
Mexican tarragon is in the marigold family. French tarragon also doesn’t do well in heat, so it’s not as hardy.
For beginners, Mexican tarragon is easier to grow. It grows well in warmer zones, unlike French tarragon.
French tarragon numbs the tongue while Mexican tarragon tastes sweet. Both can be used together if you want.
- Let’s Talk Tarragon : Cooking – Reddit
- My experience with Tagetes lucida (Mexican tarragon – Reddit
- Mexican tarragon & herb mix-ups! – Houzz
Enjoy your tarragon
Mexican tarragon is an easy-to-grow herb that has plenty of practical usage scenarios.
You can substitute it for french tarragon in most dishes and it takes care of itself with plenty of harvests every season.
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant to add to your herb garden, consider Mexican tarragon!
What Do you think? Do you have any questions? Or tips for growing false tarragon?
Post a comment and share your experiences!
I’ve always been interested in gardening, but I never took it seriously until I was forcefully gifted an orchid. This was what got me into the hobby and I’ve never looked back. I enjoy writing about it, but not nearly as much as getting into the dirt and sculpting the perfect decorative ornamental to enjoy for the times.