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How to Plant, Grow and Care for Borage in the Garden Easily

An easy to grow annual, borage leaves and flowers have a mild cucumber-like flavor.

Borage Herb

Star-shaped borage (Borago officinalis) flowers hang in clusters and are a beautiful blue color. And lucky for you, borage grows well in a variety of environments and is usually resistant to pests and diseases.

Bees love the bright blooms and rely on the herb as a nectar source, literally covering the plants some days. Leaves and stems are covered with fine, silver, or white hairs and appear to be almost woolly.

Borage flowers can be used to decorate cool, summertime party drinks and add color to salads and desserts. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and provide a light cucumber flavor.

It grows well in containers and may be used as a companion plant with tomatoes and squash. Plants are 2-3 feet tall and self-sow readily. Give this hardy annual some space because it will spread out.

Learn how to grow this beautiful borage plant with blue star-shaped flowers in this complete guide.

Botanical Name: Borago officinalis

Common Name: borage

Family: Boraginaceae

Plant Type: Annual, herb

Hardiness Zones: 2 – 11 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Type: Well-draining

Soil pH: 4.5–8.5

Maturity: 55-75 days

Height: 18 to 36 inches

Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart

Bloom Time: Summer

 

Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Borage

  • A low-maintenance plant that draws in bees and beneficial insects
  • Easy to start from seed inside or out
  • Plant in full sun and well-amended soil in a wind-protected location
  • Fresh blooms and small leaves can be used in a salad; large leaves are good in soups or cooked like collard greens
  • Very few pests or diseases

Borage Plant Care

Borage is an annual herb that grows quickly and has clusters of blue star-shaped flowers.

Although it is considered a herb, it is sometimes grown as a flowering plant in vegetable gardens to attract pollinators. In fact, borage planted near strawberries encourages pollination and boosts fruit production.

It also deters tomato hornworms and even increases the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby, making it an ideal companion plant for tomatoes, and even squash and cabbage.

All year long, this drought-tolerant herb blooms with blue, star-shaped flowers that mature to purple, then fade to pink.

It’s an effortless herb to grow and maintain; plant seeds directly in the garden and they’ll come back year after year. Growing to a height of up to 2 feet, borage is an annual plant that is covered with fine hairs. It has big, rough, oblong leaves that smell and taste like cool cucumbers.

Borage is also known as bee bush and bee bread. It attracts a wide variety of beneficial pollinators that help with vegetable garden pollination, including honeybees, bumblebees, and small, native bees.

Light

Borage grows best in full sun to partial sun. Borage plants grown in full sunlight will produce the most flowers and thickest stalks.

Soil

Borage is able to survive even in nutrient-deficient soil that’s dry. However, it thrives in soil that is moist but well-draining.

It can tolerate a wide pH range, but it definitely prefers slightly acidic soils better. Adding organic matter to the soil, like compost, will improve its nutrient levels.

Water

As your borage is establishing itself in your garden, water regularly to maintain an even moisture level but avoid letting the soil become too wet. Once the plant has reached maturity, let the soil get drier between watering sessions.

Temperature and Humidity

Borage is a plant that thrives in hot and cold climates alike. While it is not sensitive to high or low humidity levels, it cannot tolerate freezing conditions such as a hard frost.

Fertilizer

If you’re growing borage in poor-quality soil, then periodically feed it with any plant fertilizer labeled for use on edible crops. Fertilizers containing phosphorus will help promote flowering.

Pruning

Deadheading encourages the plant to bloom again. If you cut and prune back halfway in mid-summer, it will produce tender new foliage for a late summer harvest!

Uses of Borage Seed Oil

Borage seed oil includes gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. The body also naturally produces GLA, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Borage also has mucilage, which is a sticky mixture of plant sugars that can help people with coughs as an expectorant.

It has been touted as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, skin inflammation, diabetic nerve pain, menopausal symptoms, and gastrointestinal disorders.

However, when it comes to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, there is only moderate support for its effectiveness. It’s best to consult with your doctor before using it for any medical reasons.

How to Plant and Grow Borage

Site Preparation

Container gardens — both indoors and out — and outside herb gardens work well for growing borage. The culinary herb prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial shade and rich, moist soil.

Choose a site that is well protected from wind, as plants are easily blown over, and work in plenty of organic compost prior to planting. Read our article on how to prepare garden soil for planting to learn more.

How to Plant Borage from Seeds

Grown from seed, borage can be started indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost or direct seeded just after the danger of frost has passed.

Plant the small, black seeds just beneath the surface of the soil and thin seedlings to at least one foot apart. Trim back occasionally to keep plants tidy and upright.

How to Harvest and Store Borage

Harvest leaves and flowers as they are needed. They have a refreshing, mild cucumber flavor and may be used to garnish salads, dips, and soups. Young leaves are best used fresh as plants do not dry well (see Harvesting and Preserving Herbs).

Tip: Freeze borage blossoms in ice cubes for a festive and fun way to cool down summer drinks.

Seed Saving Instructions

It’s very easy to save borage seeds. Just keep a close eye on the blooms and when they begin to fade and turn brown, pick the seeds.

Be sure to get them before they fall as borage is very good at seeding itself for the next season, even without your help and you’ll often see new plants in the garden each year.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Borage Plant

Insects and plant diseases are not typically a problem for borage.

Instead, it attracts a wide range of beneficial insects, such as parasitic braconid wasps, predatory nabid beetles, and hoverflies, all of which eat unwanted garden pests.

It is a host plant for lacewings, who lay their eggs on the plant, and the scent has been shown to repel tomato hornworms.

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