My goal today is to share one of my favorite herbs to as many people as I can because I want everyone to get to enjoy this amazing plant. There are so many things to love about Mexican Mint Marigold, that once you read about them here, I just may have you making plans to hit Rainbow Gardens sooner than you may have planned…and that is A-OK with me. Here we go!
I’m not sure if any of you have tried growing French tarragon in our San Antonio climate, but most of us who have tried do not have a very good track record. For those of us who really dig on the unique taste, we’ve been thrilled to find a substitute that handles the humidity and our hot summers just fine. Mexican Mint Marigold produces an abundance of flavorful, tarragon-tasting, leaves that are delicious both fresh or dried. This Texas Smartscape superstar plant pulls double and triple duty by also looking gorgeous in the landscape AND luring in the pollinators with its golden-yellow flowers. Let’s take a quick look at Mexican Mint Marigold below and then I’ll fill you in on a few more details about this fabulous herb.
Quick Look at Mexican Mint Marigold
Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida)
Type: Perennial Herb/Deciduous
Average Growth: 2’ tall x 3 ‘ wide
Sun Requirement: Full sun to part shade
Soil Preference: Slightly acidic, well-draining
Water Requirement: Low to medium
Bloom Time: Fall
Bloom Color: Golden yellow
Other Top Qualities: Pollinator Attractor, Deer Resistant
More about Mexican Mint Marigold
When looking for Mexican Mint Marigold in garden nurseries (hopefully you are looking at Rainbow Gardens), some other names you may find it under are: Texas Tarragon, Spanish Tarragon, or Mexican Tarragon and even False Tarragon. This herbaceous, semi-woody plant is in the marigold family, and one look at the blooms helps you see why. The golden-yellow flowers that appear most profusely in fall, look very much like a more miniature version of French marigolds.
The fragrance and taste of the leaves are a fresh, soft anise (licorice). Before you turn your nose up if you don’t like licorice, this is such a light flavor of anise, that you need to try it before you say no. I don’t like licorice, and I LOVE the flavor of Mexican Mint Tarragon. Once the stalks of the herb reach at least 6” in height, you can harvest the leaves and begin elevating your chicken salad recipes, herbed vinegars, lemon butters, sauces, salads, basically anything can be enhanced with some chopped up Mexican Mint Marigold. There is an almond tarragon cake and a lemon tarragon quick bread recipe that I have been wanting to try using Mexican Mint Marigold. I’ll let you know how they turn out!
Let’s talk about planting Mexican Mint Marigold. While this herb is not overly picky about soil as long as it drains great, I think it does best in soil that has been amended with plenty of organic matter (most plants do). When planting multiple transplants, plant about 3’ apart. This will allow for the plant to reach its maximum growth potential while providing space for adequate air circulation. Lack of air circulation, along with watering from the top, can lead to issues with powdery mildew (water the base of the plant).
You’ll need to make sure you are watering regularly after you first plant Mexican Mint Marigold, but once established, it is pretty drought tolerant. Through summer, you may have to give it some extra water, just like many other plants trying to survive Texas summers. Mexican Mint Marigold also looks great in containers, just keep in mind that containers always need a little more water care than specimens planted in the ground. As far as winter care, you can prep for that by mulching around the plant in fall. The plant will most likely die back to the ground after a hard freeze, but the mulch will help keep their underground root system protected. Trim back the plant in early spring (even if it doesn’t die to the ground) and get ready to enjoy it all over again.
I need to hurry up and talk to you about Mexican Mint Marigold and pollinators! Those cheerful, golden-yellow flowers pop out at a very opportune time in San Antonio. Fall brings the migrating pollinators through our city and it also brings the blooms on Mexican Mint Marigold. The flowers are full of nectar and hungry butterflies make a beeline for them; bees make a beeline too, but that’s a given! Although the showtime is fall for these flowers, I have some blooming in my herb garden right now!
Speaking of herb gardens, while I definitely recommend including Mexican Mint Marigold in them, I also think they deserve a prime spot in your perennial gardens too. And your container gardens, and your rock gardens. I think you’re picking up what I’m laying down here. Mexican Mint Marigold can go pretty much anywhere.
Ready to give it a try? Hope so!
~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy