Introduction to Growing Borage in Pots
Borage (Borago officinalis) is also known as starflower, bee bush, bee bread, and bugloss. It is a medicinal herb with edible leaves and flowers. Borage has the most delightfully colored bright blue color flowers in a star shape and is a pretty herb to grow. Borage is grown for its pretty flowers and it is a hardy annual with several culinary uses. The plant roots can draw trace elements deep from the soil making its leaves ideal for mulching purposes.
A Step by Step Guide to Growing Borage in Pots or Containers
Borage is a versatile annual herb that is very easy to grow in pots. Borage is an annual and readily reseeds once you have planted it in the garden. It is easily grown from seed started indoors or directly sown in the garden after the frost is past. Borage prefers a full sun location and once established does well on dry soils. If grown for culinary use, successive sowings of seed at 4-week intervals will result in a good supply of fresh foliage. It is also valued as an ornamental plant in the garden because of its attractive flowers and foliage.
Different Varieties of Borage Herb
There are different varieties of Borage to grow in your garden.
Common Borage (Borago officinalis) – It is the most common variety, the leaves are blue. Common Borage is the most familiar of the different types of Borage. Common Borage displays intensely blue blooms with contrasting black stamens.
Alba – (Borago officinalis ‘Alba’) – The flowers of this Alba Borage are white. It is also known as white Borage; Alba is a great choice if you’re looking for a plant with intense white blooms. Stalks of Alba tend to be a bit sturdier than common Borage and the plant usually blooms later in the season than its blue cousin. It blooms later in the season that blue types, with lovely white colour flowers. It is a bit sturdier than common Borage.
Variegata (Borago officinalis ‘Variegata’) – The leaves of this one are yellowy and mottled and the flowers are blue. This interesting variegated plant displays delicate blue Borage flowers and green leaves mottled with white. Flowers are blue, though not as intense as common Borage.
Creeping Borage (Borago pygmaea) – Creeping Borage is a sprawling plant with fragrant, pale blue blooms that appear from late spring through early autumn. As the name suggests, this variety sprawls. It has lovely pale blue flowers that emerge in late spring and stick around to late fall. While most Borage is annual, creeping Borage is a perennial with a short life.
Ideal Location for Growing Borage
The Borage plant prefers full sunlight but tolerates light shade. In the ground, Borage thrives in rich and well-drained soil. However, potted Borage plants do fine in any well-drained commercial potting soil. It will benefit from a well-dug planting location with added compost. It will grow in almost any type of soil, but the added compost will promote a healthy floral display. Grow Borage in the back or along the sides of the vegetable or herb garden to avoid getting pricked while you are harvesting other plants. Some type of staking or support system is occasionally needed when the plants are in full bloom.
Soil Preparation for Growing Borage in Pots
Borage is easy to grow in a variety of soil conditions however, it does like free-draining soils and so, a little preparation will ensure the best results. It prefers soil with a pH of 6.6, so test your soil and amend accordingly. Grow Borage in well-drained soil but moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter. Add aged compost to the planting bed and then turn it under to 12 inches before planting. It will grow in poor soil or alkaline soil as long as it is well-drained.
Borage Plant Spacing
Borage should be planted 15 inches apart.
Seed Germination Period for Growing Borage
Borage can be started from seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Borage seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days. Borage seeds will germinate in the soil in approximately 5 to 10 days when the soil temperature is at 70F. Dig in well-rotted organic matter into the soil before planting and soil should be firm but not compacted. Plant Borage seeds 1/4 inch into the ground and keeps moist. By around ten days you’ll see the plants pushing through. Thin out to one plant every 15 inches once they are 2 inches tall.
How to Sow Borage Seeds
Borage is a fast-growing plant. In the right conditions, you can harvest the Borage within 6 to 8 weeks of sowing. Begin sowing Borage seeds from early April onwards. Before sowing seed, weed, and rake over the soil. While Borage plants prefer rich well-drained soil they can grow in dry or poor soil. Whatever the condition of the soil working in organic matter such as homemade compost will help the Borage.
Sow Borage seeds as thinly as possible on the surface of the well-drained soil. Cover with a thin layer of well-drained soil and gently water. Following germination, once the seedlings are about 3 inches tall thin them out. Ideally, the Borage should be spaced 12 inches apart.
Process of Growing Borage in Pots
Step 1) Borage grows easily in containers or pots. Select a container 12 inches deep and wide or larger; Borage forms a taproot. It is incredibly easy to grow in containers.
Step 2) Choose a sunny and sheltered site with well-drained soil chock-full of organic matter, such as well-rotted animal manure or home-grown compost. Borage can be easily grown from seed after all risk of frost has passed, simply rake over the site to ensure its level and scatter seeds over the surface. Rake the soil back over the seeds and then water well. Thin young plants to a distance of 30cm and water in dry weather.
Step 3) Water Borage deeply whenever the top about 1 to 2 inches of potting media feels dry to the touch, then let the pot drain. Check during hot, dry weather, as containerized plants dry quickly, but be careful not to let the soil become soggy, which promotes rot. Borage in containers generally requires no fertilizer. If you decide to feed the plant, use a diluted solution of a water-soluble fertilizer.
Step 4) Avoid overfeeding, this often promotes lush foliage but few blooms. Borage tends to be pest resistant, but the plant is sometimes bugged by aphids. If you notice the tiny pests, spray the Borage plant with insecticidal soap spray. Pinch tips of young plants to keep Borage compact and bushy, and snip the plant leaves as needed for use in the kitchen. You can also trim the plant if it looks overgrown in the mid-summer season. Be sure to deadhead blooms as soon as they wilt. Otherwise, the plant will go to seed and blooming will end early. The plant may also need stakes to keep it upright.
Step 5) Borage reaches heights of about 2 to 3 feet and the taproot is long and sturdy. So, potted Borage plants need a sturdy container with a depth and width of at least 12 inches. Although you can grow Borage from seed, most gardeners prefer to start with bedding plants, which are available in garden centers or specialty herb stores. If you are adventurous, plant Borage seeds directly in the container soon after the last frost in spring, or start the seeds indoors a few weeks earlier. Keep in mind that because of its long taproot, the Borage plant doesn’t transplant well. Starting the Borage plant in its permanent home can save you trouble down the road.
Caring for Container Grown Borage
- Borage is a low-maintenance plant that doesn’t require much care. Water seedlings regularly until the plants reach maturity. To prevent Borage from self-seeding in the garden, pick its flowers regularly before they can set seed.
- Plants in poor soil will benefit from periodic feeding with an organic fertilizer rich in phosphorus. This will help keep them in flower. Plants can be pinched or pruned, encourage branching, and keep them shorter.
- Once established, Borage plants need very little care. They will continue to grow and bloom in the summer and fall garden for several months.
- Borage is a good companion plant for many vegetable plants, including squash, tomatoes, and strawberries. It can deter many garden pests including tomato hornworms, Japanese beetles, cabbage worms, and moths. It can also improve the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby and stimulate the growth of strawberries.
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- Borage plant grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It tolerates a variety of soil conditions, including quick-draining sand and heavy clay soil.
- It is a low-maintenance plant that draws in bees and beneficial insects.
- Borage is easy to start from seed inside or out.
- Fresh blooms and small leaves of Borage can be used in a salad; large leaves are good in soups or cooked like collard greens.
- The Borage plant has very few pests or diseases.
- It doesn’t require fertilization and rarely needs watering once established. Harvest Borage flowers any time throughout the growing season.
How often do you water Borage Plants?
Borage requires even regular water until established. Once established the soil can dry out between watering. Like many herbs, Borage needs a reasonable amount of water. Keep the soil moist and be aware that Borage can’t survive drought conditions. Avoid overwatering.
Fertilizing and Mulching Requirements for Growing Borage in Pots
Borage does not require much feeding; avoid soil rich in nitrogen or plants may not bloom. Fertilize with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion to give flowering plants a boost. Plant Borage in soil that has plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Placing organic mulch around the base of the plant helps the soil to retain moisture. As the mulch breaks down it also enriches the soil, further benefiting the Borage. Mulching also helps to keep the Borage foliage off the soil. Foliage contacting the soil, particularly damp soil, can rot or become diseased.
How do you Prune Borage?
Pruning or trimming helps the Borage plant grow faster and stays upright. It doesn’t need pruning except in summer to keep it tidy. Deadhead if you want to keep the blooms coming and prevent self-seeding. Prune or pinch out new growth once the borage reaches about 6 inches in height. This encourages branching and helps to keep the Borage plants more compact and robust. Pruning back to half the plant’s size in midsummer encourages the Borage plant to produce fresh, tender leaves for a late harvest.
Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Borage in Pots
Borage plant is relatively problem-free, but there are a few things you might want to watch out for. Borage rarely experiences problems with disease or insect pests. If planted in soggy and poorly-draining soil, it may suffer root and stem rots. You might also notice leaf spots or powdery mildew disease, especially in humid weather. In general, these pest problems aren’t serious, although you can treat them with a fungicide if you like. Clean up all fallen plant leaves in autumn, especially if they’re diseased. It has a strong fragrance and repels most insects that might eat it. It is also deer and rabbit resistant.
Woolly Bear Caterpillar – Wooly bear caterpillars are not fussy and eat low lying foliage. If they’re on your Borage, they are probably on other plants as well. Use neem oil regularly to make plants undesirable.
Painted Lady Butterfly – The larva of this pest causes more issues than the butterfly. That said, they don’t generally do tons of damage. They stick to specific areas of the plant rather than damaging the whole thing. Use a natural insecticide or sticky traps to control them.
Flea Beetle – There are numerous types of flea beetles, but they all eat the Borage leaves, leaving little pits or holes. Remove all fallen debris in the fall to try and interfere with over-wintering. You could use a pesticide that contains sulphur or in the case of a bad infestation use Carbaryl.
Mildew – Mildew can affect your Borage plant. The best method to avoid it is to plant with decent spacing between them to allow airflow. Try to water towards the base of the Borage plant rather than on top of the foliage.
When and How to Harvest Borage
Harvest Borage leaves and flowers as they are needed. They have a refreshing, mild cucumber flavor and can be used to garnish salads, dips, and soups. Young plant leaves are best used fresh as plants do not dry well. Prune away the leaves or flowers as and when you need them. Fresh Borage leaves taste better than older leaves. Older leaves can also become prickly, making harvesting harder. Harvested Borage leaves are best used fresh.
Commonly Asked Questions about Growing Borage
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Can Borage be grown in pots?
Borage grows easily in containers. Choose a pot about 12 inches deep and wide or larger.
Does Borage come back every year?
Borage will bloom for many weeks if the older flowers are trimmed off, and you can push tattered plants to make a comeback by pruning them back halfway in midsummer. Healthy Borage plants shed numerous black seeds, so expect to see volunteers for 2 years after growing Borage.
How long does it take to grow Borage?
Borage only takes about 8 weeks to mature, so you can succession plant all summer long as long as you have 8 weeks before the first frost.
Does Borage need full sun?
Borage does tolerate some shade, so if you do not have a sunny spot you can still grow them.
How big does Borage grow?
The Borage plants can easily grow to be 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, so give them room to grow, and let them shade your partial sun plants.
Is Borage easy to grow from seed?
Growing Borage from seeds is easy.
Is Borage annual or perennial?
Borage is an annual, but readily self-seeds and thrives in full sun.
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