Borage is a lesser-known herb with lovely blue flowers and a cucumber-like flavor. This unique garden plant is typically grown for its attractive flowers, but it’s also edible!
If you’re interested in adding this versatile plant to your garden, keep reading. I’ll show you everything you need to know about how to plant borage, including where to grow it, when to plant it, how much to water it, and more.
Growing borage is simple, it only takes a small amount of effort to be rewarded with plentiful blooms all summer.
All About Borage
Is it an herb, or is it a flower? Borage is both! It’s most often planted for its pretty blue, star-shaped flowers, but borage has a lot more to offer.
Both the leaves and flowers of borage are edible. They have a mild cucumber flavor that is slightly sweet.
Borage flowers are a unique way to add a bright pop of color to salads and other dishes. The leaves can be eaten fresh, like salad greens, cooked into soups and other dishes, or steeped to make tea.
Medicinal uses for Borage
Borage has been used medicinally for centuries to treat ailments such as cough, fever, eczema, pain, inflammation, and more.
Borage seeds contain high amounts of gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that may help reduce inflammation. Essential oil is extracted from the seeds to make supplements and ointments that are still used today.
Home gardeners may choose to use borage medicinally, but it’s more often used as a garnish or a flavorful addition to a variety of recipes.
It’s important to note that borage shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities. If you plan to use borage medicinally, talk to your doctor or health care provider first.
More Reasons to Love Borage
Not only is it a beautiful, edible, and medicinal garden plant, but planting borage attracts beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies. It adds trace minerals to the soil, which improves soil health. It even deters pests like hornworms.
One of the best reasons to love borage is that it’s so simple and easy to grow! I’ll show you exactly how to start borage below.
Growing Conditions for Borage
Borage plants are easy to please. They thrive in all kinds of growing conditions so learning how to plant borage is straightforward, even for beginners.
Borage does well in a variety of soils. It doesn’t need many nutrients to thrive so fertile soil isn’t necessary, though if you have fertile soil, that works too!
The most important thing to know about soil for borage is that it needs good drainage. If you have heavy clay soil, you can improve drainage by adding sand, organic matter like compost or crushed leaves, or a soil conditioner.
Borage prefers slightly acidic soil, but it can tolerate a soil pH range of anywhere from 4.5 to 8.5.
Borage does well in full sun to partial shade. For the most blooms, plant borage where it will receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you’re growing borage more for the leaves, partial shade works fine.
Borage does well in both hot and cool weather. The one thing it can’t handle is a hard frost so wait to plant it until after the last threat of frost has passed.
How to Plant Borage
Whether you have a green thumb or not, anyone can learn how to plant borage. This plant is untemperamental and easy to grow, even from seed!
Most home gardeners start borage from seed. Since it’s not a very common garden plant, it can be hard to find borage as starter plants. Seeds are usually the way to go.
Start borage indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost to give you a head start on the season, or plant it directly in the garden when the weather is right.
Starting Borage Indoors
When starting borage seeds indoors, it’s helpful to have some basic equipment. You’ll need a container to start seeds, some seed starting mix, and of course, borage seeds. If you don’t already have a good stock of seed starting supplies, here’s a list of some of my favorite tools to give you an idea of what’s out there.
How to Starting Borage Indoors
Fill your seed starting trays or small containers with seed starting mix. Sprinkle 1-2 borage seeds over the top of each cell. Cover the seeds gently to a depth of about 1/4 inch.
Water very gently so you don’t displace the seeds. I like to use a spray bottle at this stage because the fine mist allows you to add water lightly. Keep the mix moist but not soggy as the seeds are germinating. Sprouts will emerge in 7-14 days.
Thin seedlings to one per container once they’ve developed their first set of true leaves. Borage develops a long taproot similar to a carrot. It’s a good idea to pot them up into deep containers to give the roots plenty of room to stretch and grow.
Keep your seedlings watered and make sure they have plenty of light in front of a sunny window or with a grow light. Once the last frost has passed, it’s safe to start moving your seedlings outside.
Starting Borage Seeds Outdoors
Borage grows well in the ground, in containers, or raised beds. It’s ready to start harvesting about eight weeks after planting. Here’s how to plant borage directly in the garden.
Choose a sunny location and sprinkle your borage seeds over the soil. Sprinkle the seeds every 4-6 inches along a row with 24 inches between rows. Cover the seeds to 1/4 inch deep. Water gently and wait for sprouts to emerge.
When the sprouts are a few inches tall, thin the plants to one every 18-24 inches.
Caring for Borage Plants
Borage is an incredibly low-maintenance plant. With just a little care, plants produce plenty of tender leaves and beautiful flowers.
Water is most important when plants are first getting established. After planting seeds or transplanting seedlings, keep the soil moist by watering regularly until the plants are a few inches tall.
Once established, let the soil dry out a bit before watering again.
Borage doesn’t need a lot of nutrients to thrive, so fertilizer usually isn’t necessary. If your plants are happy and growing well, there’s no reason to add fertilizer.
If you have very poor soil and your plants aren’t looking great, adding fertilizer is a good way to give them a boost and help them grow strong and healthy.
Use a fruit and flower fertilizer like ArgoThrive and follow the instructions on the package to apply it.
Borage flowers, leaves, and stalks are best eaten fresh, so harvest only what you plan to use each time. Use sharp scissors to cut leaves and stalks as you need them. Borage flowers should be harvested right before or right after they’ve fully bloomed.
Regular deadheading encourages borage to keep producing blooms.
To deadhead borage, use sharp scissors to cut away flowers as soon as they begin to fade.
Ending the Season
Borage is an annual. Once the season is over, the plants will begin to die back. If blooms are left on the plant, they’ll drop seeds. This is an easy way to grow borage next season! If you don’t want a lot of volunteer plants, cut the plant back and remove all the flowers before they begin dropping seeds.
Wrapping up How to Plant Borage
Now that you’ve learned how to plant borage, you can enjoy some beautiful blue flowers this summer!
For more planting guides, visit the Seed Starting page on our website. There you’ll find information on how to plant many different flowers, herbs, and vegetables, along with plenty of tips and tricks. We’ve put together a whole collection of resources on everything you need to get your garden off to a great start.
Inspired to start your own herb garden? Then learn more about planting and growing specific herbs with our guides and info posts!