Tarragon, cilantro & other herbs - why are they so difficult to grow?

Then cut to the ground and let it regrow. Mine looked really puny a month ago but is now again a 2 ft wide, foot tall) bush.

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Thank you! That pic was in an aerogarden, but it needed to be moved to a forever (or summer) home. Flavor, but especially aroma was good. Different varieties for different uses.

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Parsley is, by nature, a biennial or short-lived perennial plant. The first year it makes a rosette and flowers the second year. If it sets a lot of seed, it typically dies. I grew commercial quantities of Italian Flat leaf and it was always best in cooler weather. While blooming, like basil, the quality goes down, even if one removes flower buds. (It’s worse if you don’t.) The best quality leaves are from younger plants; the same is true of basil. In Italy, these herbs are started regularly and replace older plants. Unless you have young and old in-hand to compare, you might not taste, smell the difference.

I took young herb of both to a chef who asked the other cooks to close their eyes and smell, comparing older and younger herbs. The replies all indicated the younger herbs smelled better. The flavors can be acceptable if one removed flower buds, stalks, but these changes in the plant’s biological clock also create flavor differences which are not improvements.

Some herbs, like French Tarragon, Sage and Rosemary seem to be very consistent in flavor, regardless of age. Thyme, such as English or German culinary types are also fairly constant in flavor. Unlike the prior herbs, Thyme performs best when under 3 years old. Oregano and Marjoram are also very stable, but get stronger while blooming.

Italian Parsley gets very sweet growing in cold weather. This is true of many Umbellifers: Parsnips, Carrots, Celery, Finocchio, etc. In most regions, Parsley can get pathogenic root fungus, especially if grown in the same spot or soil. There’s also a grub, a weevil, which can cause a lot of damage and yellow leaf spotting from Septoria fungus. Often, these are much more of a headache when it’s hot and humid.

The main thing with herbs is loose, fast-draining soil and a neutral to slightly alkaline pH: pH 7.2–7.6 is near ideal.


Honestly, I think it is share luck. I was just hoping it doesn’t die in the winter ( and I really knew nothing about citrus plants). My tree is a dwarf tree, so still quite small. It sits in a 10" pot right now. I haven’t feed this as regularly since I moved it indoor. I was feeding it one every week or two outside. I’ve probably only feed this about 4 times since I’ve moved it. I use a citrus feed that was highly recommended on Amazon.

So my concern is how the shape of my tree is growing. :expressionless: Rather than the branches growing at an upward angle, they’ve been almost growing straight out. The branches are getting so long, and it’s creating a weird shaped tree! Does annoying know if there’s a way to gently shape the growth to avoid an elongated T looking tree? :confounded:

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Kobuta, it’s VERY important that you prune off the downward-pointing, thorny growth which is popping out below the graft scar. Notice those leaves are different, divided into threes? That’s because, like many dwarf/semi dwarf citrus, you Makrut Lime was grafted onto Trifoliate Orange, a basically useless fruit which has very good root hardiness. Specifically, it was grafted onto a variety known as “Flying Dragon”, one with contorted growth and mean, hooked thorns. I know because I grow both citrus.

If the understock is allowed to grow branches, there’s a good chance the Makrut Lime will get aborted. You need to force the understock to accept the grafted top. Flying Dragon is more dwarfing than regular Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus trifoliata).

It would also be good to remove the fruit, unless you want to use the zest for a home made Thai curry paste, such as Phrik Khing. Aside from the zest, the fruit tastes terrible. But, I hear the juice causes leeches to let go!

I’m planning on doing my own Flying Dragon-Makrut Lime graft, since there’s a bunch of Flying Dragon seedlings out in the yard, under “Momma tree”.

For those who don’t know, the term “Kaffir” is not a good name to use for this tree, being a racist slur in some countries. Makrut or Magroot is preferred.


We have a discussion on this a while ago in HO:


Thanks for sharing! For a small plant, quite nice that you have a few fruits. I agree that the leaves below the graft scar has to be removed. I’ve this problem with a grafted standard rose, the below part always want to grow new shoots to compete with the tree above.

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Kaffir, كَا فر, is an Arabic word that means “non-believer” or 'non-Muslim". In its original meaning it is not racist. However Arab traders started using the word during the days of the slave trade to refer to Africans, especially those being sold into slavery. This is where the racist element comes in.

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That’s good to know! Thanks for the tip - I’m more than happy to shear off those pesky long thorns.

I should also note that I don’t have much in mind for the fruits either, but I quite love the intoxicating smell from them. I have a few small ones leftover from the summer that is getting all wrinkly, but it still gives off that wonderful fragrance every time I open the fridge door.

I had heard that, and forgotten. Thank you for reminding me so I don’t use itagain.

Not an expert in indoor citrus, but if it was me, I’d not fertilize it in the low-light house, and especially not in the winter.

Thank you for posting the verboten name for the Thai lime, I had completely forgotten.
Also, what kind of fruit does a Flying Dragon produce?

Poor-quality oranges.

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Trifoliate “Oranges”, including Flying Dragon, produce a very aromatic, incredibly seedy fruit, about 1 3/4–2 inches (4.5–5 cm) in diameter, on average. I’ve had a jelly and a rum made from these, but they each had this odd, unpleasant component. There’s not much juice in them. To date, I’ve not found a use for them. They do smell better than they taste.

People smell and taste things differently. A friend once made a marmalade out of them which he liked. When I tried it, the citrusy taste was melded with some funky almost spoiled note. I may try them again, with extra care to not include the pith, which supposedly improves the flavor. There are some mild toxicity concerns and the fruit’s resin is a bother. Here’s a good write up.

But if you’re expecting a flavor similar to any other citrus, forget it! It’s very different.

Some animal occasionally grabs one off the ground and carries it off. Then, they drop it and a whole mini colony of Trifoliate oranges sprouts the next year, crowded into a golfball sized space.

In the end, why use these instead of limes, oranges or Lemons? Just because they’re “free”, one’s time and/or resources (sugar honey, et al) are not. The plants are great barricades! Bees like the flowers and they make fine grafting under stocks.


I would trim those two long branches on the left way back and dry or freeze the leaves for use.
Whenever you prune it you can use the prunings for their intended use, or give them away to like-minded folks, OR- trade/sell them to Thai restaurants. My mother used to do that with Thai basil

Tarragon does not set seeds, at least French taragon doesn’t. You have to get a start from a nursery or dig a rooted cutting out of an existing plant

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Kobuta, the general rule for pruning is to remove 20% or less at a time. Then, give the plant at least six months, if possible, to adjust. The top part of a plant, leaves and green stems, are feeding the root system, which has grown, in balance, with the top. The top feeds the roots sugars, to live and make more fiber/roots and the roots feed the leaves water and nutrients. If plants are foliar-fed, then nutrients can travel downward, as well.

When you prune, the balance is disrupted and the plant needs to make more foliage to keep the root system healthy, or roots will die off. That’s why trees which are improperly pruned will often start growing lots of fast-growing “suckers” and rampant, soft growth. Below a 20% top removal, this shock is generally minimal and regrowth more conservative.

I think I mentioned before, I’ve tried a lot of ways to preserve Magroot lime leaves. So far, the best method is to make a flavored tincture. Put the leaves, packed into a suitable sized glass jar and pour neutral flavored vodka over them. Tightly close the jar and let the leaves soak for about 4–5 days. It’s important you do not leave the leaves to soak too long or the tincture will pick up unpleasant flavors. Strain out the leaves and keep the tincture tightly covered, preferably in the freezer, but it has a good shelf life if kept out of light. When using, add it with aromatics such as curry pastes to cook off, evaporate the alcohol. This tincture was used by one chef to create an amazing gelato, but I don’t know what he did. I need to get him some more!

This tincture method does not work for Lemon Grass.

As for French Tarragon, contrary to much information, it does bloom every now and then; I’ve seen it. However, seeds are rare.

I used to produce hundreds of plants from French Tarragon beds. In late winter, early spring, you’ll see the shoots emerge with just a tiny cap of 1–4 mm leaves. These young shoots can be dug and plucked, each around 4–8 cm long, and buried in a very sandy mix, with just the top green part exposed above the sand mix. Keep very humid and in about 50% shade. When watering, try to water beside the cuttings; water in the top may encourage mold. A plastic, white kitchen trash bag can be fashioned into a rooting tent, leave the end opened about the size of a golf ball and increase the vent as top growth indicates the cuttings have taken root. Remove dead cuttings.

Not all the cuttings will take, so make more than you need. Tarragon hates very acidic soil, so make sure the pH is 6.8–7.3 for best results.

It’s amazing how long Tarragon vinegar keeps it’s delicious flavor. In 2008, I had a surplus of tarragon and made ten recycled/reused wine bottles worth of tarragon vinegar. To best preserve flavor, use dark glass bottles. Stuff bunch of fresh, washed and dried (no surface water) tarragon into the bottles and fill with simmering, not boiling, hot white vinegar (5% acidity). Fill as close to the top as you can and still get a cork in, to eliminate as much oxygen as possible. I used freezer tape to wrap the corks and seal the bottles. Kept in a dark, cool basement, the 2008 tarragon vinegar still tastes great!


So happy with this majestic lemongrass, and I haven’teven eaten it. From a plant mailed by @bogman ! Thanks again.

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They smell heavenly when you break off a bit of the leave too. Just be careful with the sharp edges of the leave. The drought and bright sunny skies for the last two months ( and insane heat waves) have made some of the leaves on my lemongrass plants turn brown. :unamused:

Thank you and heard!

On the freeway my car registered 114 f this week.

It is a bit "caramelized " :grin: on the edges of some of the leaves but this plant has a reservoir on twice daily automatic irrigation, which I’m sure is it’s salvation.

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