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how to plant borage seeds

How to Grow Borage for Beautiful Flowers and a Cucumber Flavor

The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

Borage is an easy growing annual herb plant with vivid blue flowers and leaves and flowers that have the flavor and scent of cucumbers. It is considered an herb but is 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.

Borage is a somewhat gangly plant, but you barely notice it because the star-shaped flowers are so vibrant. They start pink and turn a true blue, hanging in downward facing clusters. Even the fuzzy white buds are attractive. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible, with a cucumber-like flavor. Use the leaves while they are young because as the plant matures, the stalks and leaves become covered with a prickly fuzz.

Botanical Name

Common Names

Borage, Bee Bush, Bee Bread, Starflower,

Hardiness Zone

Borage is an annual plant, so USDA Hardiness Zones do not apply. Although the original plants will not come back next year, they do self-seed readily. Don’t worry. They are easy enough to pull out and won’t become a nuisance.

Sun Exposure

Borage grows best in full sun to partial shade. Growing borage plants in full sun will give you the most flowers and the stockiest plants.

Mature Size

Borage can become a fairly tall plant, reaching a size of 18-36 inches (45 – 90cm) H x 9-24 inches (22-60cm) W. They can become rangy and floppy when they get top-heavy with flowers. Growing borage in full sun will help make for sturdier plants.

Bloom Period

Borage can bloom from late spring through summer although 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.

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The Spruce / Autumn Wood

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The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Design Suggestions Using Borage

As mentioned above, borage is often grown in the vegetable or herb garden because it is such a magnet for bees and other pollinators and because it is considered a good growing companion for other plants. However, it is equally beautiful in a cottage-style flower garden, where it has room to self-seed. Harvesting or deadheading will keep it in bloom longer.

Planting Borage

Borage grows best if directly seeded. Barely cover the seeds with soil and keep well watered. The plants are tolerant of any type of soil, even poor dry soil. However, a sunny location with rich, well-draining soil is optimal. Amending the soil with some type of organic matter, such as compost, will give your borage plants a boost.

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.

Once seedlings are about 2-3 inches tall, thin to approximately 12 inches apart.

Caring for Borage Plants

Borage is open-pollinated and it is very easy to collect and save the seed from flowers allowed to remain on the plant and turn brown. Borage self-seeds readily if allowed to go to seed naturally. Excess plants are very easy to remove from the garden.

Harvesting 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. Plants can be pinched or pruned, to encourage branching and keep them shorter.

Harvest leaves and flowers as needed. Older leaves will get prickly, making harvesting anything on the plant a bit unpleasant. However, the flowers do add 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 sparingly until you know how they affect you, especially if you have plant allergies. Borage is also said to have a mild laxative effect.

Suggested Borage Varieties

Borago officinalis is probably the only borage you will see offered by seed companies.

Pest & Problems of Borage Plants

Borage is virtually problem-free. Nothing wants to get too close to those scratchy leaves.

Tips for growing borage, an herb with the flavor of cucumbers and brilliant blue flowers. It's beautiful and delicious, and it even sows itself.

Borage Herb: How To Grow Borage

The borage herb is an old fashioned plant that can get up to 2 feet (61 cm.) tall, or more. It is native to the Middle East and has an ancient history in war as an enhancement for bravery and courage. Growing borage provides the gardener with cucumber-flavored leaves for tea and other beverages as well as bright starry blue flowers for decorating salads. All parts of the plant, except the roots, are flavorful and have culinary or medicinal uses.

Borage Plant Info

While not as common as thyme or basil, borage herb (Borago officinalis) is a unique plant for the culinary garden. It grows quickly as an annual but will colonize a corner of the garden by self-seeding and reappearing year after year.

June and July are heralded by the presence of the borage flower, an appealing, small, brilliant blue bloom with attracting qualities. Indeed, the plant should be include in the butterfly garden and brings pollinators to your veggies. The oval leaves are hairy and rough with the lower foliage pushing 6 inches in length. The borage plant may grow 12 or more inches wide in a tall bushy habit.

Growing Borage

Herb cultivation just takes a little gardening know how. Grow borage in an herb or flower garden. Prepare a garden bed that is well tilled with average organic matter. Ensure that the soil is well drained and in a medium pH range. Sow seeds directly into the garden after the last date of frost. Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch (6 ml. – 1 cm.) under the soil in rows 12 inches (30+ cm.) apart. Thin the borage herb to at least 1 foot (30+ cm.) when the plants measure 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.) tall.

Planting borage with strawberries attracts bees and increases the yield of fruit. It has limited culinary use in today’s foods, but the borage flower is often used as a garnish. Traditionally the borage plant was used to treat many ailments, from jaundice to kidney problems. In medicinal use today it is limited, but the seeds are a source of linolenic acid. Borage flowers are also used in potpourris or candied for use in confections.

Borage can be perpetuated by allowing the flowers to go to seed and self sow. Pinching the terminal growth will force a bushier plant but may sacrifice some of the flowers. Borage herb is not a fussy plant and has been known to grow in refuse piles and highway ditches. Be assured you want the plant to regrow annually or remove the flowers before it seeds. Growing borage requires a dedicated space in the home garden.

Borage Herb Harvest

Sowing the seeds every four weeks will ensure a ready supply of borage flowers. The leaves may be picked at any time and used fresh. Dried leaves have little of the characteristic flavor so the plant is best consumed after harvest. Leave the flowers alone if you are hosting a honeybee colony. The blooms produce an excellent flavored honey.

The borage herb is an old fashioned plant that can get up to 2 feet or more. Growing borage provides the gardener with flavored leaves for tea and other beverages. Learn more in this article.