ABOUT THE PLANT
Description: Borage is a broad, bushy, and prickly annual that can grow up to 2 feet tall. The leaves are rough and oblong. The blue flowers, clustered and hanging downward, are on reddish stalks and have five bright yellow or black stamens that form a cone. The stalks and leaves become covered with prickly fuzz as the plant grows. The leaves and flowers taste a little bit crisp and salty, similar to a cucumber. Borage flowers attract beneficial pollinators like bees, wasps, and butterflies.
Origin: It is native to the Mediterranean region.
Usage: Borage flowers and leaves are used in tea for fever, cough, and depression. It also promotes sweating, helps to increase urine flow, and helps to prevent inflammation of the lungs. The leaves and flowers are both edible and can be used in savory recipes. They can be eaten raw in mixed green salads and added to soups and stews.
The oil from the seeds is used for skin disorders, including eczema, itchy rash on the scalp, and a type of skin condition called neurodermatitis. Adding a few drops of borage oil to your creams would help reduce wrinkles because it is rich in linoleic acid, allowing the skin to retain its elasticity.
In the garden, the uses of borage include repelling pests such as hornworms and cabbage worms and attracting pollinators like bees, wasps, and butterflies.
Interesting facts: Borage, as a flower essence, is for heavy-heartedness and lack of confidence when facing challenges. The remedy is said to bring courage to the talker, providing a condition of "buoyancy of the soul."
HOW TO GROW
General requirements: Borage will bloom more profusely in full sun but will still thrive with only a few hours of sun. It requires well-drained soil, moist but not soggy, rich in organic matter with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
In the garden: In late spring, after the last frost, sow seeds a half-inch deep, every 4 inches or so, in well-draining soil. Water the planting area regularly to establish the seedlings. When the plants are 6-8 inches tall, thin them to 12 inches apart.
In containers: Since borage can grow up to 2 feet tall, choose a sturdy container with a depth and width of at least 12 inches. Fill it with well-drained commercial potting soil and place the container where it will receive lots of sun. Sow the seeds directly in the container soon after the last frost in spring, or start the seeds indoors a few weeks earlier. Water deeply whenever the top 1 to 2 inches of potting media feels dry to the touch, then let the pot drain. Check often during hot, dry weather to see if plants need water, as containerized plants dry quickly. Borage in containers generally requires no fertilizer.
Transplanting: Start indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost. Sow the seeds ½ inch deep in well-drained potting soil. Remember that borage doesn't transplant well because of its long taproot.
When they are six to eight inches tall, and all danger of frost has passed, harden them off by moving them outside into a sunny spot for a couple of hours each day, and gradually increase the time they spend outdoors over the course of a week.
When they are ready to be transplanted, dig a hole in the prepared garden or container and carefully place one plant every 12 inches.
Leaves: To harvest borage, snip young leaves as needed before they grow their prickly hairs. The leaves do not dry well, so use them fresh.
Flowers: Use scissors to snip off the flowers before they have fully matured.
Seeds: To collect seeds, pick them off the plant when the flowers have withered and turned brown. Look daily to see if the seeds are mature enough to gather. There are usually 4 seeds per flower. They are ready to be picked if they are brown to black with a white tip. Do not pick them if they are showing any green color. They can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place for at least three years.
Common names: Borage, Starflower, Bee Bread, Bee plant, common bugloss, bee fodder, ox's tongue, and cool tankard
Latin name: Borago officinalis
Growth habit: Bushy, upright annual
Life cycle: Annual
USDA Zones: 3-10
Seeds per ounce: about 1500