Borage is a warm-season annual herb. Sow borage seed in the garden after the average last frost date in spring when the soil has warmed. You can start borage from seed indoors, but it forms a taproot and does not transplant well. Once established it will readily self-seed.
Borage is a tender annual that grows 2 to 3 feet tall. The stems and leaves are grey-green and covered with stiff velvety hairs; leaves grow 4 to 5 inches long. Borage has light blue, star-shaped flowers that grow in drooping clusters beginning in midsummer.
Bees love borage. Plant borage to attract pollinators to your garden. It is also said to strengthen the pest and disease resistance of plants growing nearby, particularly strawberries.
In the kitchen, use borage leaves and stems as a flavoring. The leaves and flowers have a cucumber flavor, cool and fresh-tasting with a slight saltiness.
Where to Grow Borage
- Plant borage in full sun; borage will tolerate partial shade.
- Grow borage in well-drained but moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter.
- Borage prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Borage will grow in alkaline soil that is well drained.
Borage Planting Time
- Sow borage seed in the garden after the average last frost date in spring when the soil has warmed.
- Start borage from seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost, however, borage grows a taproot and can be difficult to transplant successfully.
- Borage will not survive a hard frost.
- Seeds easily self-sow.
Planting and Spacing Borage
- Plant borage seeds ¼ inch deep.
- Thin plants from 12 to 18 inches apart once plants are 6 to 8 inches tall.
- Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
- Grow one borage plant per household for kitchen use.
Container Growing Borage
- Borage grows easily in containers. Choose a container 12 inches deep and wide; borage forms a taproot.
Companion Plants for Borage
- Grow borage with basil, leeks, pumpkins, kale, nasturtiums, pansies, marigolds, parsley.
Watering and Feeding Borage
- Borage requires even regular water until established. Once established borage can dry out between waterings.
- Avoid soil rich in nitrogen or plants may not bloom. No extra feeding is needed.
Caring for Borage
- Keep planting beds well weeded to avoid competition for moisture.
- Tall plants may require staking or support.
- Mulch around borage to keep foliage off of the ground where it may rot.
- Japanese beetles may attack borage if they have no other source of food. Generally, borage has no serious pest problems.
- Borage has no serious disease problems. It can be susceptible to root rot in constantly wet soil.
- Snip fresh, young leaves in spring and summer as needed. Strip away the stems. Older leaves can be coarse.
- Flower can be snipped individually or in clusters as soon as they open.
How to Use Borage in the Kitchen
- Borage has a flavor similar to cucumber.
- Mince leaves in yogurt or over soups, salads, curries, fish, and chicken dishes.
- Leaves can be steamed and eaten as a vegetable.
- Use leaves to make flavored vinegar.
- Add fresh flowers to salads.
- Freeze flowers in ice cubes for use in drinks.
Storing and Preserving Borage
- Leaves and stems can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days in a sealed plastic bag wrapped in a paper towel. Place leaves in a plastic bag to freeze.
- The flavor is best when leaves are used fresh, but leaves can be frozen or dried.
Botanical name: Borago officinalis
Origin: Southern Europe and Western Asia