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How to Grow Borage

Why grow Borage?

Borage (Borago officinalis) has been grown in Britain for centuries. It's an annual (it flowers and dies in the same year) but it will gently self-seed. Once you have it in your garden, this attractive and useful plant should appear every year. 

Honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees love borage flowers. The flowers give nectar over a long season. They face downwards so their nectar is not easily washed out by rain. The bee hangs under the flower and inserts its tongue between the stamens - so, both short and long tongued bees can gather nectar from this plant. Some bumblebees also buzz the flowers to generate a cloud of pollen. It collects on their bodies and they groom it off to feed to their young.

It's not only bees that like borage. It's young leaves have a cucumber-like taste and can be added to summer drinks such as Pimm's. Its sky-blue flowers can also be used as an attractive garnish in drinks, salads and desserts - mix the flowers with petals of Viola, Nasturtium and marigold for a colourful contrast.

Borage is a relative of comfrey so like comfrey, its leaves are high in potassium and nitrogen. Acting as a mineral accumulator, lifted plants can be added to the compost heap. Alternatively, add the leaves to a dustbin full of water - wait for the leaves to rot away and you have a free, if rather smelly, super food ready to dilute for fruiting and flowering crops.

Borage planting instructions

As early as February, you can start borage off indoors in pots/sectioned trays and transplant the plants out when the risk of frost has passed. Don't attempt to separate clumps when transplanting as the the seedlings are very delicate at this stage. It is better to sow the seeds directly though.


Prepare your chosen spot - make a firm, fine seedbed. Sow two or three seeds together with a light covering of soil. You can sow from March-May - an April sowing will give you flowers in about 10 weeks.

Sow a few times over the summer to give a succession of flowers. 

If you want to know more about Borage and other bee friendly plants, I'd recommend Plants for Bees: A guide to the plants that benefit the bees of the British Isles by Kirk and Howes. 

How to grow Borage - A picture of blue borage flowers with a bumblebee - Harry's Honey - Cheltenham

Height: Up to 60cm (23.5in)

Spread: Up to 45cm (17.7in) 

Hardiness and longevity: Hardy annual

Soil: Borage comes from the Mediterranean - it's a plant for well-drained soil and full sun.

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