French tarragon is hardy to USDA zone 5, or to zone 4b with winter protection. It grows well in full sun or partial shade, and needs well-drained soil. Purchase plants propagated from stem tip or root cuttings, or from crown divisions. Space plants about 2 to 3 feet apart to give them room to spread.
Harvest regularly or prune plants to a height of 2 feet to prevent flowering and keep plants neat. In central and northern states, water deeply and spread mulch in late fall to protect the roots over the winter. Divide the plants every 3 to 4 years to keep them healthy and vigorous. Each established plant can yield 2 or 3 divisions.
Harvest leaves in early to midsummer when they contain the most essential oil. Use leaves fresh or freeze them in airtight bags for later use. Steeping tarragon sprigs in vinegar is another popular preservation method. If you dry tarragon, you may have to use more than called for in recipies, as it loses its flavorful essential oils during drying and storage.
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