I've had a French tarragon plant in a pot since last year. I bring it into a cool-ish GH in the winter and put it outdoors in the summer. It doesn't grow well, looks pretty wimpy and frequently loses its leaves. I haven't been able to harvest much of the leaves for cooking. It's been in a potting soil with "water crystals". Does anyone know what conditions this herb needs to grow well?
I am also in zone 5 and mine is planted outside next to the driveway. It seems to like full sun, but not a lot of water -- I seldom give it extra, just rely mostly on the rain. It dies to the ground each winter but comes back fine in the spring and has grown to two or three times its original size. The one further down towards the street isn't doing as well, probably due to the fact that my mother ran over it.
Thanks for your tips. Had to smile about the one "down towards the street". I'm so hesitant to actually plant it in the ground here since it would be exposed to the NW wind in the winter. I did read that they prefer a pretty dry, sandy soil with lots of gravel in the bottom of the pot. I'm planning on repotting it this weekend and if it does better, I might be able to get a healthy cutting or division to try in the ground next year although my sunniest bed does get supplemental water during dry spells for roses and other perennials. I hedge my bets even with sage - some in the ground, some in a pot that comes indoors over winter.
Cindy, French tarragon is one of my 2 favorite culinary herbs so I pay a lot of attention to it. Yes, it is perennial, and No it cannot be propagated from seed. I am borderline between zones 5-6, depending on how my micro-climates vary each year. My tarragon does best when it gets a fair amount of sun, and it's in average soil that was wood chips 4 years ago. I never fertilize that bed. Last year some daisys grew up next to it just enough to shade it some, and my tarragon grew leggy, but that's not typical.
I find it grows better if I cut it back to about 4-6" several times over our somewhat short growing season, and I dry those cut sprigs to use.
I did repot my poor specimen last week, giving it a freer-draining soil. It's currently situated under some fluorescent lights (16 hours per day) in my little GH, heated to mid-50's. I did notice that the roots hadn't developed much in the past year - maybe too much water over the course of the season? It currently has only one small bunch of green leaves. If it puts on some size, I might try starting something from a cutting (?) and try it out in the ground next season.
Hi Cindy, I would definitely put this one in the ground. Here in my Z5 IL garden my tarragon, which I started from a 3" pot picked up at the Chicago Farmer's Market has more than tripled it's footprint and gets to about 36" tall. I purchased another from Ted's that was a little bigger and planted that one in a different location just to see which location was preferred. I do cut it back if it gets out of bounds but that encourages it to grow more. Now I have a couple of plants distributed throughout my perennial beds because the rabbits don't like it and it adds height to my garden and is great in chicken salad. I don't fertilize any of my perennial beds, but I do use my leaves (mostly oak, maple, sycamore) and composted mulch from my village in them and this herb does just fine. My soil is now quite loamy but prior to that it was grass that I covered in layers of newspapers, leaves and composted mulch in spring and planted in fall.
I thought after the major snowstorm we received last year that I would lose a number of herbs, but French tarragon is one tough cookie.
Woman - thanks for the encouragement to plant in the ground. I know we're close enough geographically (I used to work in Homewood years ago) so our climate is identical. How are your plants sited? My only suitable bed is sheltered on the north but open to those nasty winter west winds. Maybe I'll hedge my bets and order another plant just in case. My poor little plant hasn't grown any since it's been under the lights. At least repotting it didn't kill it. :)
One plant is in my front yard perennial bed that has a west exposure along a concrete pathway. It is minimally shaded by an very old maple tree. This one more than doubled in size the first year. I purchased it in October for about fifty cents at the end of the season as a three inch pot from a veggie stand that was going out of business. It looked awful and I had no hope that it would survive the winter...especially last winter, but it has. This one was planted in what was once my front yard that was turned into a garden bed three years ago using the lasagna method of gardening. No additional fertilizers have been added. I rarely water this bed unless there is a new plant added and then only the new plant.
There is one plant in backyard that is the happiest. It has an eastern exposure that had no winter protection as it was planted in front of peonies. This one grows to about four feet. When I initially transplanted it it flopped something alwful. The next year it spread quite a bit and grows on rather sturdy stems in comparison to the floppy remnant mentioned below. I cut it back just because I can't use it fast enough. This area only gets supplemental water if I have planted new perennials in this bed. The bed contains black-eyed Susan, lovage, drift roses, tree peonies (which may be a mistake for this location), bearded iris, knock out roses, serviceberry, catmint, elijah blue fescue, and daylilies. The soil its planted in is loamy but was grass about 2 years ago. This bed does not get any shade and has no protection from winter wind other than my neighbors cedar fence * the garage both of which area ~20 - 30 feet away. In this bed this is probably the only plant (other than jimson weed) that the rabbits will not touch. Really big deal for me as I have a LOT of rabbits (think Watership Down and you have my garden).
The last grew as a remnant from one that I transplanted to make room for a tree peony that I placed next to my garage. This area stays very moist, is in a raised stone bed and for parts of the day is shaded by the garage. In this location the growth was rather floppy and leggy. It definitely did not like the shade and extra moisture. I have since removed this one and passed it along to a coworker in Chicago who reports that it grew very well for her.
I get really busy with work so my plants are basically what will survive neglect. French Tarragon and a number of other herbs is definitely one of the survivors.
Thanks for all of that wonderful info. I'm on the lookout for another plant to keep in a pot while I test my poor little specimen in the ground come spring. I did look at it this afternoon and it's actually grown a bit. I have it under artificial light for about 17 hours a day and it must have finally settled in after the repotting a couple of months back.
Sorry to hear about all of the rabbits. They don't seem to like my mostly-shady yard. Chipmunks and squirrels I have but neither is much of a pest.
I just read through this thread and got lots of good tips. I think my tarragon (planted last year in the ground) is dead because I haven't seen any new growth yet, then noted that it is a late emerger. Most everything else in my garden at least shows sprouts of growth, although I do have a couple no-shows yet. Are you who are successful with it seeing new growth yet?
My poor little specimen bit the dust in a hot GH while I was out of town. While being more drought resistant than some other herbs, it still apparently liked a weekly watering. Hadn't had a chance to even plant it outside where it might have done better. Now am on the lookout for a couple of new plants.
Most herbs are Mediterranean weeds- they thrive best where life is tough- not protected- they are meant to rebound after abuse- such as munching animals, and hungry humans- their flavor gets stronger under hard conditions, though I know that outside their zones they are just not as healthy, good luck guys
I did pick up a couple of French tarragon plants last weekend. Just need to find the time to move an Amsonia to make room for the tarragon. Both are much healthier plants than I originally received a couple of years ago so hopefully they'll fare a little better. They're going in alongside a couple of sage plants that have wintered over for me for a few years now. Hoping that's indicative of potential success for the tarragon.
Thanks for this thread...you folks have inspired me to buy a French tarragon plant. It arrived a couple days ago and is just a little slip of a thing. I decided to put it in a clay pot for this summer. Perhaps next year it can go into the garden!