Artemisia dracunculus

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: tarragon
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Temperate northern hemisphere
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 1.50 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Yellowish-white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Naturalize
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Dry Soil

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Prefers a neutral soil. Avoid wet soils. Appreciates a sheltered location and a year-round mulch in the St. Louis area. Cut plants to the ground in early spring. Dividing the clumps every 3-4 years will help keep plants robust. Plants will slowly spread by creeping rhizomes.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Artemisia dracunculus, commonly called wild tarragon, is a polymorphic species that is native to temperate Europe and Asia. It is also found in western North America, though many of these populations may have resulted from introduction and naturalization. It produces viable seed and will often self-seed. Its leaves produce variable flavor and aroma, sometimes lacking both flavor and aroma. It has a long history of medicinal uses, but the species is not often used for culinary purposes. It is a rhizomatous perennial or sub-shrub that typically grows to 24” (less frequently to 36”) tall on generally erect stems clad with narrow, linear to lance-shaped, light to medium green leaves (to 3-4” long). Greenish white flowers in narrow elongated panicles bloom in summer.

By contrast, Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa, commonly called French tarragon, is commonly used as a culinary herb. It is the primary flavoring in Sauce Bearnaise. Its leaves have a consistently pungent, anise-like flavor and aroma, and are often grown in herb gardens. French tarragon rarely produces seeds and those produced are usually sterile (plants must be propagated by stem cuttings or division).

Problems

Susceptible to root rot in moist soils, particularly poorly drained ones. French tarragon does not always survive St. Louis winters, and wet soils in winter is a common cause of plant demise.

Garden Uses

Wild tarragon is an aromatic herb that is primarily grown in herb gardens. It also may be effectively grown in containers or window boxes. It is generally not considered suitable for borders or other ornamental plantings.