How to Grow Borage Herb from Seed
- Scientific Name: Borago officinalis
- Hardiness Zone: Annual to Zones 2-10
- Days to Harvest: 50-60 days
- Days to Maturity: 60 days
- Days to Germination: 7-14 days
- Seeding Depth: ¼-½”
- Plant Width: 12-18"
- Plant Height: 12-36"
- Growth Habit: Spreading and broad-leaved wildflower
- Soil Preference: Average, organic, well-drained
- Temp Preference: Temperate, 55-70°F
- Light Preference: Full sun - partial shade
- Pests/Diseases: A wildflower tolerant of many pests and disease. Can be susceptible to disease carried by aphids
- Availability: See All Borage Varieties
Borage, native to southern Europe and western Asia, is regarded as being both an annual and perennial depending on the variety and zone in which it is planted. It is tolerant of both hot and cold weather. The only weather that borage is not tolerant of is a heavy frost, as it will kill the plant. Borage has an extensive history of being used in traditional herbal practices. In ancient Rome, it is said that borage was taken internally to instill courage and bring about positive feelings. Borage is very attractive to bees, attracting honeybees, bumble bees, and other native bees. It makes a wonderful choice for a companion plant in gardens as it repels many pests and is an attractive addition to garden with its blue foliage.
How to Grow Borage from Seed
- Enrich the soil with organic matter and aged compost
- Sow seeds about ½” deep and water regularly
- Borage is hardy wildflower once established
When growing borage from seed, it prefers soil that is well drained and rich. Many people enrich their soil with organic matter and aged compost prior to sowing borage seeds as it responds well to the extra nutrients. When sowing seeds, place 3 per foot and a quarter to a halk inch into soil and lightly cover. Space the plants 24" apart to encourage growth and make sure that they do not grow on top of one another. Sow seeds in early spring, just as the soil has begun to warm up. Borage performs best in soil that is 50 degrees F and above, particularly in its earliest stages of growth. Germination should occur after 7-14 days. Borage plants typically reach maturity after about 60 days, blossoming bright blue star-shaped flowers. Water the plants regularly and make sure that it receives sunlight daily to ensure optimal growth.
Borage, while it prefers rich, well-drained soil, performs well in most soil conditions. It tolerates drier soil conditions as well as wetter ones. It is not terribly picky in terms of growing conditions, as it is a hardy plant that can tolerate most. Even with this, it's best to adhere to its preferences if possible. Borage prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 but will grow in acidic or alkaline conditions both as long as the soil remains well-drained. To encourage optimal growth, ensure that the plan is able to obtain enough moisture by watering it every few days in its earliest stages of growth. Once it has become mature, it may be watered less than before.
- Water regularly every few days
- Requires less water as borage matures
- Keep well-drained to avoid possible mildew
Borage does not need tended to frequently, even in terms of watering it. Since it is usually planted in early to mid-spring, this time is characteristic for rainfall in many areas. If this is the case, borage may not require watered beyond that since in its early stages of growth only requires watering every few days and just enough to keep the soil moist. Borage can withstand drier and wetter soil conditions easily but prefers to be settled somewhere in the middle with moderate watering. As borage grows to maturity, it typically requires watering even less than before up to once a week. Even with these recommendations, it is important to keep an eye on the soil to make such determinations. If the soil feels very dry to the touch, it is likely time to water it. If it feels wet to the touch, it may not need water for a day or two. Make sure to not over-water borage, as this can cause root rot which will cause the plant to die.
Is Borage A Perennial?
Borage is an annual that is self-seeding. It is characterized by both annual and perennial habits and because it self-seeds, it is considered a short-lived perennial in some varieties and hardiness zones. Because borage is self-seeding, it usually acts as a perennial by coming back year after year. While short-lived, it does have many perennial qualities while still being considered an annual that completes its life cycle in one season and then dies. Certain varieties of borage are considered to be perennials, like creeping borage (Borago pygmaea). This variety of borage is highly invasive and true to its name, spreads itself over large areas of land through propagation. Due to this, creeping borage is considered to be a short-lived perennial.
Borage in Winter
- Tolerates colder temperatures
- Does not tolerate heavy frosts
- May be transferred to a pot and indoors if needed
Borage fares well in winter and colder temperatures. It is a hardy plant in terms of its tolerance to most temperatures and soil conditions. The only weather phenomenon that borage is not tolerant of is a heavy frost as this will cause the plant to die. However, this will not cause the seeds to die--they will just be trapped within the soil and will likely reappear that next year. Because of this, it is important to make sure that borage is planted after the threat of frosting has passed. Borage grows well indoors over the winter, as it is not picky about its environment. Borage can be started indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost or after the danger has passed. The process for planting it indoors is similar to that of outside. Prepare the soil and sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2" and ensure that it receives ample sunlight while watering it occasionally.
Growing Borage in Pots
To care for borage in pots, make sure that the pot has draining holes to ensure that the soil is able to drain well, as borage prefers well-drained soil. It may also be helpful to enrich the soil with organic matter and compost before sowing seeds as this will aide borage in its growth due to the extra nutrients enriching the soil. Since borage is not picky about growing conditions, it is fairly easy to take care of whether planted in ground or in pots. All it needs is water every now and then, and to receive sunlight every day. Even with drier or wet soil and potentially drastic weather conditions, borage is a hardy plant that is tolerant of most.
How to Care for Borage Plants in Pots
- Make sure the pot is big enough
- Make sure that the pot has draining holes
- Water it and make sure that it receives sunlight daily
To care for borage plants in pots, ensure that the pot is big enough for it and its potential growth, as borage can reach heights of 3 feet. For borage, it is recommended to have a pot that is at least 12” in width and height, both. Make sure that the pot has enough draining holes to keep the soil well-drained, as borage prefers well-drained soil. Beyond that, borage is not picky about environmental conditions but requires watering every now and then and to receive sunlight daily.
Growing Borage Indoors
When growing borage indoors, ensure that the plant has enough room for growth. Since it can grow to heights of 3 feet tall, it will likely require a large pot or to be eventually transferred to a larger pot. It has a very long and sturdy taproot that will require room for growth and extension as well. This is why it's recommended to start with a pot that is at least 12" in depth and width. Borage can grow to a width of 2 feet as well, which makes it even more important that it has ample space for growth indoors.
Borage Companion Planting
Borage makes for a wonderful companion plant, as it is known to repel tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. It also attracts bees and tiny wasps that are known to be beneficial and friendly pollinators. Bees and wasps also known to repel garden pests. Borage helps other plants thrive because of these reasons. It notably makes a good companion plant for tomatoes and cabbages as it repels the pests that eat off of and kill them. By planting these vegetables next to borage, it helps protect them from such pests. As well as this, its bright blue flowers and foliage make an attractive addition to any garden.
Borage flowers are vividly blue and shaped like stars. They are said to have the flavor and scent of cucumbers and are completely edible. They can be used in decoration and are known for their unique shape. The stems in which they grow on, and their leaves are very fuzzy. Borage flowers have a dark blue to purple stamen that is shaped very distinctly as well, almost looking like a protruding rosette. Borage is self-seeding and varieties of it such as creeping borage are known for their ability to spread its foliage across significant amounts of land.
When harvesting borage, make sure to harvest its young leaves before they develop coarse hairs. This is because older leaves can be bristly which is not appealing for consumption but rather uncomfortable. Borage may be harvested easiest with scissors or shears but can also be harvested by hand-picking it. To harvest flowers, it is best to snip them with scissors as soon as they open. If the flowers have fully blossomed, it is likely that they have already propagated their seeds for the next season.
When to Harvest Borage
- When plant has matured, after about 60 days of growth
- When there are both old and young leaves present
- As soon as the flowers begin to open
How to Harvest Borage
Harvest borage when the plant has finally matured, after around 60 days of growth. It is easiest to harvest the leaves and flowers with scissors, cutting the young leaves as these leaves are likely less coarse than the older ones. Harvest the flowers as soon as they begin to open and blossom. This is when they will have the most flavor and aroma. Borage may be harvested through multiple ways, whether it be scissors or by using a hand-picking method. It is easiest to use scissors or shears to snip the leaves, stem, and flowers. To harvest it, cut the leaves as they mature and snip the flowers off of the stems as soon as they begin to open. You may also cut the entire stem if you plan on harvesting both the leaves and flowers, as the entire plant is edible.
Borage may be dried through each conventional method of drying herbs, whether that be by hang drying, oven drying, or by using a food dehydrator. To hang dry borage, cut the stem with the leaves and flowers still attached to it. You may place it in a paper bag to ensure that it retains its color through the drying process and tie it to a string. Hang it in a well-ventilated area and let it dry for two weeks in total. It may also be placed on a drying screen rather than hung to dry it. To oven-dry borage, place the leaves on a tray and preheat an oven to 180°F. Once the oven has heated, place the borage inside and leave the door open to keep good air circulation and prevent the leaves from cooking. It may take up to three hours for the leaves to fully dry, depending on the amount of moisture in them. To dry in a food dehydrator, preheat it at its lowest setting, likely between 95-115°F. Place the leaves in once it has preheated and wait until they are fully dry. This make take up to 12 hours, but it depends on the moisture levels of the leaves. It is important to keep an eye on them and check on them in intervals.
How to Dry Borage
Hang Dry: When hang drying borage, gather the stems with the leaves and flowers still attached. Place them inside of a paper bag, attach a string to it, and hang it in a well-ventilated area. It should be fully dry after two weeks.
Oven Dry: To oven-dry borage, place the leaves on a tray and preheat an oven to 180°F. Once the oven has heated, place the borage inside and leave the door open to keep good air circulation and prevent the leaves from cooking. It may take up to three hours for the leaves to fully dry, depending on the amount of moisture in them.
Food Dehydrator: To dry in a food dehydrator, preheat it at its lowest setting, likely between 95-115°F. Place the leaves in once it has preheated and wait until they are fully dry. This make take up to 12 hours, but it depends on the moisture levels of the leaves. It is important to keep an eye on them and check on them in intervals.
Types of Borage
There are four types of borage that are well-known. Among these, the names are common borage (Borago officinalis), Variegata (Borago officinalis), alba (Borago officinalis), and creeping borage (Borago pygmaea). Common borage is the most familiar and is known for its star-shaped blue blossoms. Variegata's foliage is slightly different in appearance, as it has distinctive leaves that are deep green and spotted with white. Alba, known as white borage, has white blooms rather than blue and usually blooms later in season than common borage. Creeping borage, much like its name, spreads its pale blue flowers and foliage across land quickly, self-seeding frequently. While most borage are defined as annuals that self-seed, creeping borage is considered to be a short-lived perennial.
Benefits of Borage
Borage has been used medicinally in the herbal community and outside of it, for centuries. Perhaps most interesting, it is used for those who suffer with adrenal insufficiency which is a hormone problem. Borage may be used to prevent inflammation of the lungs, to promote sweating, and increase urine flow in those with this condition. Borage is also used medicinally for more common ailments, such as fever, cough, and skin conditions. Borage seed oil contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which is a fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory effects. Perhaps this is why borage and borage seed oil are known for its positive effects on skin. Borage is even used in skin care products, such as creams, lotions, and serums. A quick search on the web can provide specific loved and name-brand products that have this herb in their ingredient list.
Additional Information on Borage Herb
- Borage Wikipedia Page
- Read the Best Practices for Planning Your Herb Garden!
- Learn About Hardiness Zones
Explore these Borage Herb Seed Varieties: