An arresting, vivid shade of blue will be the first cue that you have stumbled across the herb borage (Borago officinalis). Closer inspection reveals tall, hairy stems and leaves with nodding stalks of star-shaped blooms. Celtic warriors were said to drink an alcoholic beverage laced with borage to lend courage before battle, and it served as a home remedy in olden days for a variety of common ailments. Grow this herb for its beauty and edible properties. As with all herbs, take care to consult your physician before using borage medicinally.
Reaching a height of up to three feet, borage grows in clumps of many slender, hairy stems covered with leaves just as hairy. Five-petaled, star-shaped blooms with five alternating small sepals form clusters at the terminus of stems or at leaf nodes. A spectacular shade of bright blue is the common bloom shade, but pink and white flowers have also been documented.
Native to Europe's Mediterranean climate, borage prefers moisture but will tolerate periods of dry weather. Full sun or partial shade is desired. Although an herbaceous annual, borage will set its own seeds if left to maturity and should overwinter in areas with moderate winter temperatures.
Easy to sow by seed, start borage indoors or outside once the frost date is past. Sow seeds in a rich, light growing medium at 15 inches apart and at a depth twice their height. Seeds germinate within two weeks. At this time, thin seedlings to a distance of 2 feet for optimum mature growth.
Borage is a carefree, prolific herb that thrives with little to no special attention. Provide extra drainage by amending planting soil with organic matter, such as composted pine bark, prior to planting. Apply extra water if borage shows signs of drought stress. If you desire plants the following season, allow borage to go to seed and it should provide volunteer plants next year.
If you have grown your borage organically, its pretty flowers are edible and taste like fresh cucumber. The leaves have also been used to flavor drinks or spice up salads, but when taken in large quantities, these plant parts may work as a diuretic.