Borage (Borago officinalis) is a charmer. Lovely blue star-shaped flowers nod down, beckoning one closer. I love its shade of blue. Bees, of all kinds, can’t resist it because the flowers are loaded with nectar and pollen. In fact, this source considers borage one of the top five plants for honey bees. Here’s an interesting fact: borage replaces its nectar very quickly once drunk by an insect. (Most flowers can’t do this.) That means it can offer nectar for nearly continuous bee traffic.
The Benefits of Borage
The leaves appear wooly from a distance because of all the “hairs” on the plant, (botanically these are trichomes). All parts of the plant are edible and have a mild taste of cucumber. Try small leaves in a salad. The flowers look gorgeous in a salad or a cold drink. Or try freezing them in an ice-cube. Candied flowers look beautiful on a cupcake.
Borage will help build your soil by adding trace minerals. A herb, the plant provides health benefits to people, traditionally used for relieving anxiety and stress. The seed oil is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a compound that helps balance essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids contribute to healthy skin and help strengthen the heart. Consumed in large quantities, borage could be toxic to your liver.
I grow borage in my vegetable garden because it is edible and it seems to fit. The flowers also attract bees to the garden, increasing vegetable pollination. Strawberries and borage prosper when planted together. It also complements tomatoes well, keeping the tomato hornworm away. Try it too near cabbage to keep the cabbage moths away.
Borage could also be great in other areas of the yard too, such as a flower garden, herb garden and wildflower bed. Any empty spaces in your garden? Consider planting its seeds. (In fact plants don’t transplant well.) Since the flowers are small, plant them en masse for greatest impact.
Borage is easy and cheap (just the price of a seed packet) to grow. An annual, it will grow best in full sun or partial shade. Plant the seeds a few inches apart in average to fertile soil. Once a plant has grown to a few inches, you can thin the plants to 6″-12″ apart. Once it is grown (it will reach 1’-3’ high), it is drought tolerant. And it will self-seed (but not obnoxiously so). Plant in late spring after your frost date. And because borage will bloom all summer long, you can enjoy its benefits all season.