Borage is an easy, fast-growing annual herb with vivid blue flowers and the flavor and scent of cucumbers. While it is considered an herb, it's often grown as a flower in vegetable gardens where it attracts pollinating bees and is considered a good companion plant for tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. It’s even supposed to deter tomato hornworms and improve the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby.
Native to the Mediterranean, Borage is a somewhat gangly plant, but you barely notice it because the star-shaped flowers are so vibrant. It also boasts a greenish-grey stem and leaves that are covered in a prickly fuzz which acts as a deterrent for insects.
After planting your borage in early spring, its blooms will emerge in June and July, hanging in downward facing clusters. Both the flowers and the leaves of the plant are edible, with a unique flavor similar to a cucumber. Use the leaves while they are young because as the plant matures, the stalks and leaves become covered with a prickly fuzz.
|Botanical Name||Borago officinalis|
|Common Name||Borage, bee bush, star flower|
|Plant Type||Annual herb|
|Mature Size||1–3 ft. tall, 6–18 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Dry, moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||2–11 (USDA)|
It's rare that you find an herb that is as beautiful as it is delicious, but borage does the trick. Commonly planted in vegetable or herb gardens, it acts as a magnet for bees and other pollinators while adding a charming, cottage-style appeal with its petite blue buds. Caring for borage is rather simple, as the herb doesn't require any special treatment. Its ability to thrive in even the driest soils or drought-like weather has earned it an easy-to-care-for reputation.
When first introducing borage to your garden, plant the seeds in early spring after the final frost has passed. Borage can bloom from late spring through summer and will reach maturity in about eight weeks, at which point you can harvest the leaves and flowers as need. Keep in mind, the plants will start to decline if they are not deadheaded and are left to go to seed. Staggering your planting times will give you a longer period of bloom and provide a longer harvest time. If the flowers fade before you have a chance to deadhead them, the plants will re-seed on their own.
If you choose to start seed indoors, transplant before they become pot bound. Plan to start seedlings about three to four weeks before the last expected frost and don’t transplant outdoors until the soil has warmed and the plants have been hardened off.
Borage adds a bit of flavor and a great deal of color to salads, soups, dips & spreads, open-face sandwiches, beverages, and ice cubes. As with all edible flowers, use borage sparingly until you know how it affects you, especially if you have plant allergies.
Borage grows best in full sun to partial shade. However, growing borage plants in full sun will give you the best chance at a plant with lots of blooms and stocky stems.
The good news: Borage can thrive in even the most dismal of soils, so there's no need to carve out a special spot in your garden for this herb. However, given the choice, the plan prefers a moist but well-drained mixture with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Amending your soil with organic matter will also help give your plants a nutritional boost.
As your borage is growing from seed and getting established in your garden, water it regularly, at least every few days. Once the plant is mature, you can cut back on your watering cadence, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings.
Temperature and Humidity
Borage is a particularly hardy herb, able to withstand temperatures on both ends of the spectrum. However, while it is tolerant of both heat and cool weather, it will not be able to withstand a hard frost, so care should be taken to harvest all you need from the plant before then. Additionally, it has no added humidity needs.
Borage plants in poor soil will benefit from periodic feeding with any fertilizer labeled for use on edible plants. Something with a high phosphorous number (the middle number on a fertilizer package) will help keep them in flower; additionally, the plants can be pinched or pruned, to encourage branching and keep them shorter.