The herb, borage, is a great addition to a wildlife or culinary garden. It is an annual but can self-seed very readily. Its appealing blue flowers are attractive to humans and to bees and butterflies and the leaves and flowers can also be used in the kitchen.

Growing borage:

Borage can be sown inside three or four weeks before the last frost date or direct sown as soon as risk of frost has passed in your area. When choosing a site for borage remember it will readily self-seed and can reach a height of around a metre. Be sure that there will be enough space for this plant and remember that it is likely to return year after year.

The tiny black borage seeds should be lightly covered over. They will cope with a poor quality soil very well and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. They can be placed in garden beds or will also work equally well in larger containers.

Once established, borage is a very robust plant and will not usually encounter any problems with insects or disease. Though you should be sure not to plant borage in too windy or exposed a position as its tall height means it is vulnerable to being blown over. In general this is a very unfussy plant that can thrive and become a wonderful addition to a low-maintenance wildlife garden or a herb garden area.

The young leaves and the flowers can both be used to impart a characteristic cucumber-like flavour to salads and drinks. A borage flower makes a pretty garnish for a summer salad or even on a cupcake. The flowers can also be frozen into ice cubes as a novelty for a party. You can pick leaves and flowers from the plant as needed.

When the plant comes to seed you can try to collect the seeds if you wish for use elsewhere in the garden or to control its spread, but since it self-seeds so readily you can expect more borage next year whether you collect the seeds or not.

Why grow borage in the garden?

Borage is a wonder-plant in the kitchen garden. It attracts beneficial bees who will then pollinate your crops. For this reason it is a fantastic companion plant for a whole raft of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, tomatoes and squash though really anything that requires bees and other pollinators will benefit from having borage planted nearby. Borage is also said to repel or distract many pests who might otherwise pose a problem in an organic garden.

Borage is pretty both in the garden and on the plate and has a mild but lovely flavour that is something like cucumber but with a touch more sweetness. Historically it has been used medicinally for a range of things. It should be noted that borage is not recommended for pregnant women and it is probably true that no one should consume it in excess. 

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Borago officinalis