Plants

Borage

Borago officinalis

Verena Schmidt Verena Schmidt

With its blue star-shaped flowers, borage can outshine even the most showy of perennials. Here’s the correct way to plant, care for and harvest this healing plant and herb.

Growth type
  • one year old
Growth height (from)
from 60.00cm to 100.00cm
Growth characteristics
  • upright
  • horst-forming
Flower color
  • purple
  • blue
Flowering time (month)
  • May to July
Flower shape
  • Cyme
  • Uniflorous
Flower characteristics
  • lightly fragrant
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • elliptiques
  • oval
Sheet properties
  • fragrant
  • Rosette
Fruit characteristics
  • Self-seeding
Light
  • sunny to semi-shade
Soil type
  • sandy to clayey
Soil Moisture
  • moderately dry to humid
ph value
  • alkaline to acidic
Lime compatibility
  • lime-tolerant
Nutrient requirements
  • nutrient-rich
Humus
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
  • Leaf ornaments
  • medicinal plant
  • Nectar or pollen plant
Climate zones according to USDA
  • 6
areas of life
  • FR2
  • FR3
Use
  • Single position
  • Group planting
Garden style
  • Pharmacy Garden
  • cottage garden
  • natural garden

Origin

Borage (Borago officinalis) is a herbaceous plant of the Borage family (Boraginaceae). Its other name, starflower, refers to the shape of its blooms. Borage originally came from Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, from where it travelled from Arabia to Spain in the 8th century before spreading across Europe. This herb and its attractive flowers are now often seen in cottage gardens.

Growth

Borage is an annual, growing to between 24 inches and 3.3 feet in height and forming broad upright clusters of flowers. This herb and healing plant has fleshy roots that are brown on the outside and white on the inside. The plant’s firm upright stalks, which contain plenty of water, branch out slightly towards the top. The stems and leaves are covered with small, stiff hairs.

Leaves

Borago officinalis stands out with oval to elliptical leaves that are soft, juicy and dark green in color. Typical are its brushy hairs and its strong cucumber-like smell. The leaves are between 3.94 and 5.91 inches long, becoming hard and tough as they age. The bottom leaves are arranged in the shape of a rosette.

Flowers

From May to July, flowers of up to 1.18 inches in size appear in loose inflorescences at the end of the Borage’s stems. They are bright blue to purple and feature dark blue stamens. The color of the flowers changes based on the pH of the plant’s cell sap. The whole herb has a smell of cucumber and attracts countless bees and other insects during its flowering period.

Borage flower

Borage flowers have five fused sepals, and its petals range from blue to violet

Fruit

Dark brown eremocarps grow to around 0.2 inches in size.

Location

Borage requires a sunny to partially shaded location in the garden.

Soil

Borago officinalis will generally do well in all garden soils. Ideally, the soil should be nutrient-rich and moist yet permeable.

Planting

You can sow Borage direct outdoors from April to June. As this plant germinates in the dark, the seed should be well covered with soil. Also make sure to leave 14 to 18 inches between rows to guarantee sufficient airflow between the plants at all times. If Borage is planted too close together, it may fall foul to mildew. To ensure that Borago officinalis doesn’t overrun other herbs or smaller plants, you should ideally plant this herb outside your herb bed. To harvest young leaves over a longer period, you can carry on sowing until summer. Another tip: Borage looks especially lovely when combined with violet or yellow shrubs such as phlox, calliopsis (Coreopsis) or marigold (Calendula).

Borage in the flower bed

Borago officinalis like to self seed, and lures insects with its bright blue flowers

Care

After germination, keep borage moist and free from weeds. The herb can be occasionally fertilized with compost. Otherwise, no further special care is necessary. Practical tip: Wearing gloves while caring for this plant can protect you from an allergic reaction to its bristly hairs.

Harvest and Conservation

You can harvest velvety soft young Borage leaves as needed all year round, which can then be used fresh in salads. With their fresh, tart, cucumber-like flavor, they taste great in dips, egg dishes and soups. The leaves can also be preserved in vinegar. Borage is also one of the seven herbs used to make Frankfurt’s famous “green sauce”. Tip: It’s best to pick Borago officinalis shortly before use. The blue flowers of this herb are also edible, and can be used to decorate salads and cheese platters as well as summer drinks. When using Borage, it’s best to enjoy its leaves in moderation as they can become toxic when very large amounts are consumed.

Borago officinalis flowers

The blue, star-shaped flowers of Borago officinalis taste great in salads and dips

Healing Properties

Borage contains plenty of tannic acids, saponins and mucilages. Borage tea, which has blood-purifying and expectorant properties, was used to treat diseases of the airways inflammation in the mouth. New research has shown that Borage oil can help with neurodermitis.

Varieties

The “Alba” variety is a type of Borago officinalis with white flowers.

Propagation

Borage is easiest to propagate via sowing seeds. The plant is also a voracious self-seeder: it usually appears anywhere in a garden where it has been grown previously. If you’d like to grow Borage in a more organized way, you can also collect the seeds, dry them and store them in a dry place for next year.

Diseases and Pests

If grown too densely, lice and can befall Borago officinalis. If Borage is too dry, the herb will wilt quickly.

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