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How to grow borage

How to grow borage

All you need to know about growing and using borage, in our detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Sow

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do Sow in May

Do not Sow in June

Do not Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do not Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does flower in October

Plant does flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do not Cut back in June

Do not Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do Cut back in October

Do Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

Collect seeds
Collect seeds

Do not Collect seeds in January

Do not Collect seeds in February

Do not Collect seeds in March

Do not Collect seeds in April

Do not Collect seeds in May

Do not Collect seeds in June

Do not Collect seeds in July

Do not Collect seeds in August

Do not Collect seeds in September

Do Collect seeds in October

Do Collect seeds in November

Do not Collect seeds in December

Harvest
Harvest

Do not Harvest in January

Do not Harvest in February

Do not Harvest in March

Do not Harvest in April

Do not Harvest in May

Do Harvest in June

Do Harvest in July

Do Harvest in August

Do Harvest in September

Do Harvest in October

Do Harvest in November

Do not Harvest in December

At its best
At its best

Plant is not at its best in January

Plant is not at its best in February

Plant is not at its best in March

Plant is not at its best in April

Plant is not at its best in May

Plant is at its best in June

Plant is at its best in July

Plant is at its best in August

Plant is not at its best in September

Plant is not at its best in October

Plant is not at its best in November

Plant is not at its best in December

  • Plant size

    90cm height

    60cm spread

  • Spacing

    60cm apart

Borage, also known as bugloss and starflower (Borago officinalis) is an easily grown hardy annual flowering herb that comes from Mediterranean countries. Pretty star-shaped pure blue flowers are borne from early summer though to autumn, on spreading bushy plants 60cm high. Bees love borage and the blooms are some of their favourite flowers.

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Borage is an edible herb, and the attractive blooms are a popular garnish to summer drinks, particularly Pimms. The young leaves have a cool cucumber flavour and are ideal to add to salads and salad dressings. Borage thrives in a sunny spot and needs a well-drained soil. Because the flowers are so attractive to bees, it’s a useful plant to grow alongside fruit and vegetables to entice more insects to pollinate crops.

Borage is often one of the latest annuals to bloom, right up until the first frosts.

Bear in mind that borage leaves are hairy and can cause contact dermatitis in people with sensitive skin, so it’s a good idea to wear gloves when handling borage plants. Don’t consume the plant regularly or in quantity without consulting a doctor or qualified herbalist.

How to grow borage

Borage is an annual, which means it completes its life cycle within one growing season. It grows readily from seed which can be sown directly in the ground – no special equipment required. Borage can be grown in a border of annual flowers or is an excellent gap-filler in any bare spots between established plants in a border.

Growing borage: jump links

More on growing borage:


Where to grow borage

How to grow borage - where to grow borage
How to grow borage – where to grow borage

Sow the large black borage seeds directly where the plant is to flower, as it forms a deep root and doesn’t do well if transplanted. Choose a well-drained site that gets sun for at least half the day. If your ground is heavy and slow to drain, add fine gravel and mound up the soil, so water drains away more easily. Borage does best in soil low in fertility so there’s no need to add fertilizer or organic matter.

Although borage isn’t ideal for growing in containers, if this is the only option, then choose a large pot (at least 25 cm deep and over 30 cm wide), filled two-thirds with peat-free, general-purpose potting compost and one third coarse grit.


When to plant borage

Sow borage seed from mid spring, after the last frosts. A second sowing can be made in late spring. It’s best to sow borage seed where you want it to grow, as it doesn’t do well when transplanted.

Borage will self-seed if the faded flowers are left on the plant. Depending on your garden, this may be desirable in an informal border, but if seeding is likely to be a nuisance, deadhead spent blooms before the seed develops.


How to plant borage

Sow borage 5cm deep in moist soil, and thin the resulting seedlings to at least 30cm apart.


How to care for borage

Remove faded flower heads from borage plants to encourage more blooms to form. Once flowering has finished, simply dig up and compost borage plants – the mineral-rich leaves will help fertilise soils the following year. Do take off the seed heads before composting plants or you’ll end up with lots of borage seedlings all over the garden.


How to harvest and use borage

How to grow borage - how to use borage
How to grow borage – borage flowers used to garnish Pimms

Borage flowers make an attractive garnish and add a refreshing flavour to cold drinks and salads. They can also be crystallised to use as cake decorations. Pick the flowers when they have just fully opened. The cucumber-flavoured leaves should be harvested when young and used fresh, in salads, soups and other savoury dishes, or to add flavour to salad dressings.


Medicinal uses of borage

Borage has been used as an herb since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Recently, it’s been found to be a rich source of GLA (gamma lineoleic acid), used to combat various cancers as well as pre-menstrual syndrome. Borage or starflower oil can be bought in capsule form.


Growing borage: problem solving

How to grow borage - borage growing with broad beans
How to grow borage – borage growing with broad beans

Borage is generally trouble free and easy to grow. The young growth of borage sometimes becomes infected with blackfly, which makes it a useful companion plant to broad beans, as it can lure blackfly away from your beans.

Older borage plants can become top heavy and flop over. Ideally, support plants with short canes and string before they topple.


Where to buy borage online

Borage varieties to grow

How to grow borage - borage varieties to grow
How to grow borage – pygmy borage

Borago officinalis – the most common and widely available borage, with star-shaped blue flowers

Borago officinalis ‘Alba’ – this rarely grown variety has white flowers

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Borago pygmaeaPygmy borage is a low-growing, perennial variety, bearing attractive, small blue flowers from June to October