Dividing Tarragon and Overwintering Parsley
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Rory Edge
Posted on: February 25, 2002

I would appreciate any advice that you can give me on dividing a French tarragon plant. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Last spring, I planted a tarragon cutting in a 12 inch diameter container on a balcony. The plant did well and I wound up with four or five shoots and very good bernaise sauce. In late fall, I put the plant on the sill of a window that I keep open so that it would go dormant. Last week, I put the plant on the sill of a south facing, closed window, and it has started to sprout rather vigorously. There are a lot of shoots, more than 20. I want to divide the plant into two 10 or 12 inch containers. How should I go about this, how many shoots should I have per container and when should I do it?

Spring, just as the plant begins to grow is the best time to divide it. Since it is sprouting vigorously now (since you gave it the essential cold rest) divide it now. The more shoots you put per container (within reason!) the stronger the plant will be and the better your harvest will be. A minimum would be 3 shoots to get a plant strong enough to harvest from the first year.

If you don’t mind, I have one other question. Last spring, I also purchased a plug of five flat leaf parsley plants. The plugs were transplanted to a 12 inch container and they all thrived sufficiently well that I did not find it necessary to thin them. While I understand that parsley is usually treated as an annual, come fall I decided to put the plants on a window sill to see what would happen. They continue to thrive. Is there a reason why I should treat these plants as annuals, replacing them for this summer? In other words, if I keep them, will they continue to produce flavourful parsley?

For a while the plant will not try to flower and die, because you did not give it the triggering cold spell. But in summer the plant may decide that enough is enough and bolt to seed anyway. You might keep it longer by harvesting any flower shoots - they cut up into perfectly edible parsley! and set it back this way for a while. Eventually, but maybe not until fall, it will just die by sort of petering out. Why don’t you interplant one or two new seedlings in your pot, then you are set for any eventuality.

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