Borage is a small herbaceous plant that exhibits an annual growing habit. With reference to the flower shape and pattern, it is commonly called 'starflower'. Indigenous to Syria, borage is now grown in most parts of the world.
It holds a specific place in cooking as well as in herbal medicine. Hence, you can imagine the versatility of this attractive garden plant. Being a self-seeding herb, new borage plants usually spring up in areas close to the original plantation site.
What is it?
The scientific name of borage plant is Borago officinalis. Taxonomically classified under the family Boraginaceae, you can identify this annual herb from the hairy stem and foliage. In fact all parts of the plant, except the rootstock, is covered by soft hair-like structures. At maturity, this plant grows to a height of about 2-3 feet.
The flowers are delicate and blue in color, with five petals. There are several cultivars of borage with varied bloom colors like pink and white. Traditional cultivation of borage is mainly done for culinary and therapeutic applications. It is used in both fresh and dried forms. The leaves and flowers are used in garnishing salads and decorating desserts.
In herbal medicine, borage is found effective for boosting metabolism, alleviating menstruation cramps, and treating respiratory infections. As of date, mass scale plantation of this plant is done for production of the seed oil.
This plant contains the highest percentage of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) than any other plant. Oil extracted from this herb is sold as starflower oil or borage oil. Very often, it is used for formulating herbal supplements.
Method of Growing
Planting and caring for this herb is not difficult. It can adapt in a wide range of growing conditions. Borage cultivators opine that it grows well even in poor soil, where other plants are hardly observed.
However, plants maintained in rich soil are found to be bushier than those planted in poor soil. As per land availability and personal preference, you can maintain borage indoors or outdoors.
- Select a planting location. They prefer full sunlight, although partial shade will also do. Plant them near protective structures where they will not be blown away by harsh winds.
- Soil condition required for maintaining healthy plants are nutrient rich, well-drained and water-retentive soil. However, if your garden soil is very heavy, consider making raised beds.
- Supplement organic matter and prepare soil before spring. As soon as spring arrives, sow seeds directly in garden soil. Do not cover borage seeds, as they need light exposure for germination. Lightly water them to induce quick germination.
- Leaving a space of about 1 foot between two plants is sufficient for growing in groups. Accordingly, thin out the young plants. Ensure that there are no competing weeds with your newly germinated plants.
- Water the plants on a regular basis. Once established, you can harvest the mature leaves. During summer, you can cut back the stem for promoting a bushy growth.
- Consider collecting your own seeds and use them for propagation. Borage seeds stored in an airtight container are viable for three years.
Some plants are benefited by growing in proximity to each other. With borage species, several cultivars including tomato plants, strawberries, and leafy vegetables are identified as the best companion plants. When grown together, the borage herb reduces the infestation of diseases to these plants and increases their yield.