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Borage - Growing and Using the Herb Borage

Growing and Using the Herb Borage

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Borage Flowers

Borage Flowers

Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
Borage

Borage

Marie Iannotti
Borage Growing in a Cottage Herb Garden

Borage Growing in a Cottage Herb Garden

Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

Overview:

Borage is a freely seeding, easy growing annual plant with vivid blue flowers and leaves with the flavor of cucumbers. It is consider 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.

Description:

Borage is actually a somewhat gangly plant, but you barely notice it because the star-shaped flowers are so vibrant. They’re 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:

Borago officinalis

Common Name: Borage

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.

Sun Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade.

Mature Size:

18 - 36" (45 - 90cm) H x 9 - 24" (22 - 60cm) W. They can become gangly 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. Staggering your planting times will give you a longer period of bloom and provide a longer harvest time.

Design Suggestions:

As mentioned above, borage is often grown in the vegetable or herb garden because it is such a bee magnet 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.

Suggested Varieties:

Borago officinalis is the only borage I have seen offered by seed companies.

Growing Tips:

Borage grows best if direct seeded. Barely cover the seeds with soil and keep well watered. They are tolerant of any type soil, even poor dry soil. However a sunny location with rich, well draining soil is optimal.

If you choose to start seedlings, transplant before they become pot bound. Plan to start seedlings about 3-4 weeks before the last expected frost and don’t transplant outdoors until the soil has warmed.

Once seedling are about 2-3" tall, thin to approximately 12" apart.

Maintenance: 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 to keep them shorter.

Harvesting: 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 effect you. Borage is said to have a mild laxative effect.

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 fairly easy to remove from the garden.

Pest & Problems: Virtually problem free.

More on adding blue flowers to your garden.

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