Borage is an annual herbaceous plant that is easy to grow and provides a myriad of benefits for gardeners. Not only are its striking star-shaped flowers picturesque to look at, but borage is an excellent companion plant that helps other plants to thrive, and it is entirely edible from stem to flower. The plant’s leaves and stems are easily identifiable by the bristly hairs that cover them as they mature and look particularly unique on dewy mornings. Follow our guide to learn about borage uses, benefits, and companion planting advantages.
Borage Soil Requirements
Borage soil should be well-tilled and well-draining. Borage is a vibrant herbaceous plant that can tolerate soil that falls between 4.5-8.5 on the pH scale but thrives optimally in the middle at a pH of 6.5.
How to Plant Borage
Borage plants can be found at your local specialty nursery in the herb section, but they grow very well from seed as well. Either way, they should be planted directly outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. Sow seeds directly into the ground about ½ inch deep in clusters of 3 or 4 seeds and cover with nutrient-rich soil or compost. Plant borage plants or thin seedlings to approximately 15 inches apart. Borage can tower up to three feet in height, so it’s essential to give the plant room to spread out. Proper spacing will help airflow, proactively combat against diseases such as powdery mildew and allow for the adequate spread of blooms.
How Much Light Does Borage Need?
A common question when planting and growing borage is, how much light does borage need? Plant your borage plants and seeds in full sun or partial shade. Plants will bloom more vigorously if they are planted in an area where they receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
How Often Should You Water Borage Plants?
It can tricky to figure out exactly how often you should water borage plants. The answer is simple, water borage plants regularly. They are not drought tolerant and need plenty of water to thrive. However, try and avoid over-soaking them.
The Best Temperature for Growing Borage
Borage is relatively cold-tolerant, enjoying soil temperatures that are a minimum of 50°F. It can withstand light frosts.
Common Borage Pests and Diseases
Unfortunately, borage tends to be plagued with powdery mildew in damp conditions or in areas of high humidity. For the best chance of avoiding this devastating disease, space your plants adequately for proper airflow and be sure that your plants receive plenty of sunlight.
Aphids and Japanese Beetles are drawn to borage plants and feed on their leaves. Aphids can be kept at bay with a strong spray of water from the hose, while the beetles can be easily handpicked off the plant and placed in a jar of soapy water to eliminate them.
Borage Companion Planting
Companion planting borage with vegetables and certain flowers can bolster each other and significantly improve your garden productivity. Borage is an all-around best friend in any garden bed for several reasons. Borage flowers attract beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies to the garden, which are essential for plant reproduction. Borage also benefits gardens by attracting beneficial insects for natural pest control of common garden pests.
Additionally, borage releases calcium and potassium into the soil, which can help other plants like squash and tomatoes to combat diseases such as blossom rot.
Interplant borage with:
Borage Uses and Benefits
Not only does borage have a flower you can eat, but its leaves are also edible and can be used in a variety of ways. Its flowers have a refreshing taste that is reminiscent of cucumber. Pick blooms early in the morning and use them to brighten up a fresh salad, add some zest to a sandwich, mix into dips, and cook up in soups or stews. Harvest borage leaves when they are young for the best taste and texture.
You can use borage fresh as salad greens or steam them up like you would spinach or kale. Another option is to dry the leaves and set them aside for use as a dried herb or seasoning. It can also be used to steep in teas and is a delightful treat when candied.
How to Harvest Borage Seeds
Borage plants do a fine job all on their own when it comes to propagating and spreading their seeds around. Once you have an established borage plant, you will likely always have a borage plant or several. You will often find new plants in the garden each year, and they are a pleasant surprise to see. Once you have borage in your garden, you will likely never have to reseed them again.
If you intend to save the seeds, wait for the flowers to dry thoroughly on the stems, and allow the petals to die away. When the flower head is dehydrated and browned, remove the seeds from the center and store them in a paper bag or paper envelope until next spring.