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Why Grow Borage in Your Garden

July 09, 2014

Why grow borage in your garden?
Top Reasons to Grow Borage in Your Garden
We really can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to have this fantastic seasonal plant gracing your garden. It may be a little bit prickly-fuzzy, but that’s easy to get past when you consider everything else this wonderful, easy-to-grow plant has to offer. If you aren’t already convinced to grow borage in your food or ornamental garden, consider all this generous plant has to offer:

honeybee on borage

Borage is a magnet for the beloved honeybee, which hits the flowers from dawn ’til dusk.

bumblebee on borage

Borage lures in bumblebees, wasps, hover flies, hummingbirds & many other pollinators.

tomato and borage flowers

Planting borage near tomatoes can help with pollination.
If tomato flowers are nearby, the bees will pollinate those too.

Tomatoes

Like the tomatoes they pollinate, borage itself is edible & tastes a bit like cucumber. Plus, the flowers make beautiful decorations. In fact, Robin’s wedding cake was covered in seasonal blue borage flowers. It’s the perfect “something blue” for the bride!

Borage flower & seeds

Once pollinated, borage forms tiny thistle-like seeds, which feed finches & other wild birds. Some fall to the ground to reseed your garden with borage for the next year.

black aphids on borage

Borage makes a fantastic black aphid lure trap. Aphids seem to go after one borage plant at a time. Once they set up shop on a plant, let birds like wrens & chickadees or wasps eat the aphids or yank out infested lure plants as needed.

So, to recap: Borage is bitchin’ because bees of all kinds can’t resist it. Borage is edible. Borage makes a great pest lure trap. Borage grows seeds that feeds wild birds.

Other reasons to grow borage: Once you plant borage, you will always have it. This annual plant will self-seed itself and pop up in other parts of your garden. We don’t consider it invasive because it is far too beneficial to become problematic. Plus, when a plant pops up that you don’t want, it’s simple to pull and either eat or feed to your compost pile.

If you dig up very young seedlings, it may be possible to transplant borage babies from one part of the garden to the others, but the big root on larger plants doesn’t forgive being dug up, and those plants may simply wilt to the ground if you try to move them around. If you buy a borage start of any size or that is already blooming, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t last long before giving up the ghost. It’s an annual after all. Really, growing it from seed is a great way to go! And, while its chunky root system may be simple, it is also powerful, which means borage will help break up soil creating more air and water pocket space.

And, who doesn’t want a true blue flower in their garden? Blues aren’t just popular with pollinators; human eyeballs love them too. Many blue flowers are actually tinted purple, but not borage. It’s truly blue. Sometimes, under stress, it will flush pink, but that’s more rare than common. Its pretty flowers are fun to dry and mix into your homemade herbal tea blends too.

Rumors (or are they truths?) about borage: You may have heard that borage deters tomato hornworm, and maybe it does. We’ve grown borage by our tomato plants for many years without a hornworm showing up once — but we have no proof that the borage is what kept the hornworm away. If you have experience with borage and hornworm, let us know! Also, Robin’s mom always says, “Borage for courage!” She claims this is based on the idea that borage was fed to Roman soldiers before battle to give them the guts to fight. Whether that’s true or not, we hope it doesn’t really require a lot of courage on your part to grow borage in your own garden. Try it from seed; it germinates readily and generously!

5 Comments

  1. Mary Price says:

    borage flowers turn pink after they have been pollinated, like pulmonaria. “a garden without borage is like a heart without courage” is the quote I am familiar with. I have also read that the plant accumulates calcium. when it gets bothersome (it can get quite large) I feed it to my chickens and yes, they love it

  2. […] plants nearby that pollinators love such as borage. (Get our free Pollinator Favorite Things handout for more planting […]

  3. Chris says:

    Thanks for the informative article. I started borage in my garden last year. I didn’t realize how late the plants could get, but I did enjoy the beautiful blue flowers and all the bees they brought. This year they did come back as you promised. However, they are all full of aphids now, which I never had before. Where did they come from?! Should I just not grow the borage at all so that the aphids won’t contaminate my other plants?

  4. Chris says:

    *”large” not “late”

  5. Borage is often grown as an aphid attractor. While doing this won’t guarantee that you don’t have aphids elsewhere in your garden, you can try building an isolated bed of borage to attract aphids away from other areas of the garden. And, you’ll be able to (likely) watch hummingbirds eat the aphids and feed from the borage flowers too!

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