Borage experiences?

March 21, 2002

I am planning to plant borage clumps between my tomatoes and zuchinni plants. Hoping that will help repel the pests and give pretty blue color as well. Not sure about spacing and reseeding issues.

Since it's an annual that reseeds well, does that mean that by end of season, it will spread through my tomatoes and zuchinni? Does it tend toward invasiveness?

How close does the borage need to be to the tomato or squash to be an effective pest repellent?

Anything other experience to share about borage?

Comments (25)

  • bombus

    hi! i have not found borage to be invasive. it does reseed but the volunteers are easily identified and pulled out. my problem with borage is the hairs all over it make my skin itch so i need to wear gloves. it is a large (~3ft), hairy, sprawling plant that will need a bit of room. i've never tried, but it can probably be trimmed back to keep it more manageable. grows very easily here. the flowers are pretty, even if the plant is not, and bees love the blooms. i've never tried it as a pest repellent. hope this helps--happy spring! --bonnie

  • Jackie_Joy

    I plant borage near my tomatoes, but not in with them. I think Borage's claim to fame is it's abilty to lure bees to your garden and then these pollinate other plants.

    Now, tomatoes will pollinate all by themselves, and do not need bees to do it for them the way other plants, such as zucchini do...

    Borage is a useful herb, though...

  • taba

    Bombus - Good point about sprawling. Maybe it's not such a good idea to put a borage plant between a group of four tomatoes. If it's 3ft and scratchy, that will be a pain to work around. May be better on borders of 14 tomatoes and in one tuft in middle of 4 zuchini?

    Jackie Joy - I am planting borage because it supposedly deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms and generally increases neighboring plants' resistance to pests and disease. Attracting bees and wasps is good, too, but not a primary concern since that is never a prob here. In fact, lots more bees right in the tomatoes might be a pain during picking. Bees, wasps and mosquitos already love me for some reason. As I mentioned, I may end up putting the borage on ends of tomatoes instead of in middle of groups of 4.

    So can anyone tell me specifically how much space to allow horizontally for borage? Is it 2ft wide, 3ft wide?

  • roseluver

    Allow 3 feet for your borage. Also try planting french marigolds beneath your tomato plants. I never have tomato hornworms since I began doing this. It really works, and looks pretty also.

  • taba

    Thx arosegirl. I planted the zuchini today and added the borage between them with plenty of space. Will plant most of the remaining tomatoes tomorrow, and am going to try borage by some, marigolds by others. I also have dill on the other side of the garden to attract hornworms there. And a row of nasturtiums along the tomato bed. We'll see how all this works. If nothing else, it will be pretty.

    So when you say plant the marigolds "beneath" tomatoes, do you mean at the outside base of the tomato cage, or do you mean right around the base of the tomato vine? I assumme you mean around the base of the cage, but I just want to be sure.

  • Naomi

    Last year I planted a hanging wire basket with borage and burgundy basil in the top and tomatoes growing out of the bottom and sides. It required water 3x/day on the hottest days, but otherwise was a hit. From my perspective, the flowers look better from below.

    I used the blossoms in salads, ice cubes and herb butter.

    The stuff reseeded in the cracks of my balcony. I've left them.

  • MagicGarden

    I always thought that borage's claim to fame was that it shaded the ground really well, keeping the roots cooler.


  • taba

    Yes, shade is always good. But borage supposedly offers many greater (IMHO) benefits. Check out this companion plants article and the companion herb section of this second article.

    Can't wait to taste the flowers, too. Yesterday I walked into the room just as the Food Channel was finishing a recipe for borage fritters. May have to look that up on their site.

  • caitzs

    It can be invasive. If you're not regularly out weeding, it may well become a pest in your garden. I planted one three years ago, decided it was not pretty or useful enough to keep, and pulled it out after it flowered. I'm still pulling out seedlings. It has scratchy hairs, small flowers, and a messy sprawling habit. Though the flowers and young leaves are edible, the weediness and bad looks makes it one of my least favorite edible flowers. There are more useful plants out there that are better behaved.

  • taba

    Caitzs - I mulch with lots of newspaper with straw on top, so generally don't have much problem with re-seeding or weeds. Will see if it turns out to be an issue with borage despite the mulch, I guess.

    My interest in the plant is primarily for beneficial properties, not beauty and definitely not edible flowers.

    Beneficial properties of borage:
    BORAGE: Companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. Deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. One of the best bee and wasp attracting plants. Adds trace minerals to the soil and a good addition the compost pile. Borage may benefit any plant it is growing next to via increasing resistance to pests and disease.

    Everyone - Thanks for the input. I ended up planting it between every third tomato plant, and among the zuchini. I allowed more space than originally planned in case it grows like crazy.

  • moonsaga

    i had some overwinter, and flowering already.... my toddler loves to pick and eat the flowers... when it goes to seed, be sure to look very closely as the seed is "born", it is very cool! all those hairs come in handy.... : )


  • Mommagee

    I had borage in my garden one year that I deliberately planted, and two more years that I deliberately had not! But the plants are easily identifiable if you don't want them back. I planted the original row because there's a Colonial homestead nearby with a Colonial vegetable/herb garden. They had this wonderful row of borage planted with a row of chamomile and the end result was simply stunning.Sad to say, it was less than stunning in my own garden and I haven't repeated the experiment. I've come to the conclusion that my beds are much too small. (The Colonial garden was probably the size of my entire property.)

  • MagicGarden

    Now that I have several months actual experience with my Borage plant, I can say that I really can't live without one although I may change my tune by next year. The flowers are LOVELY, and I love Naomi's idea of the hanging basket. Mine is fully the size of one of my tomatoes and it is managing to push everything aside. Luckily it is flanked by cilantro and calendula so it isn't actually hurting anything. It is waist high and the big black bumblebees can be seen on it from dawn to dusk. I heard someone on GW saying they clipped off the flowers for the foliage but I can't even imagine that... the foliage is ugly, frankly.

    Taba, update us on your success (or not) with it!


  • caitzs

    Yes, it tends towards invasiveness. It reseeds EVERYWHERE. I let one plant flower 3 years ago, and there are still many seeds coming up every year. I didn't think it was useful or pretty enough to keep it.

  • taba

    My borage is doing very well. Plants are 1.5'-2' tall and most are flowering. Although not stunningly beautiful plants, I think they are interesting and different in texture from the surrounding plants. The flowers are gorgeous when viewed close-up, but not as impressive from a distance.

    I will try eating the flowers soon. I keep forgetting to look for new young leaves and pick flowers for salads or lemonade. The plants may be too large for young leaves now unless they continue to sprout leaves.

    Here's two common recipes that sound good:

    Borage and Cucumbers in Sour Cream Dressing 3 long cucumbers salt 1/2 pint sour cream 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 1/2 teaspoon celery seed 1/4 cup chopped scallions 1 teaspoon sugar salt and pepper 1/4 cup young borage leaves, finely chopped Wash, score and thinly slice cucumbers. Salt lightly and let stand in a colander for 30 minutes to drain. Rinse and pat dry. Mix remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and toss lightly. Garnish with borage flowers or chive blossoms. Chill for 1 hour before serving.

    Candied Flower Blossoms
    (Good candidates for candying are borage flowers, apple or plum blossoms, lilac florets, rose petals, scented geraniums, and the violasviolets, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansy petals.) This would be a great accent for food gifts or special occasions.

    Items Needed:

    Rinsed and dried flower blossoms, separated from the stem
    1 extra-large egg white, at room temperature
    Few drops of water
    About 1 cup superfine sugar
    A small paint brush
    A baking rack covered with waxed paper

    In a small bowl, combine the egg white with the water and beat lightly with a fork or small whisk until the white just shows a few bubbles. Place the sugar in a shallow dish.

    Holding a flower or petal in one hand, dip a paint brush into the egg white with the other and gently paint the flower. Cover the flower or petal completely but not excessively. Holding the flower or petal over the sugar dish, gently sprinkle sugar evenly all over on both sides. Place the flower or petal on the waxed paper to dry. Continue with the rest of the flowers.

    Let the flowers dry completely; they should be free of moisture. This could take 12 to 36 hours, depending on atmospheric humidity. To hasten drying, you may place the candied flowers in an oven with a pilot light overnight, or in an oven set at 150° to 200° F with the door ajar for a few hours.

    Store the dried, candied flowers in airtight containers until ready to use. They will keep for as long as a year.

    This article on borage gives interesting info on [how borage is and has been used as an herb and cooking ingredient]( This article explains [possible health benefits]( of borage. Not sure if I really believe all of it, but I am going to try borage flowers in lemonade and tea just for fun. Can't hurt and if it helps, well hallelujah.
  • douglasont

    I planted Borage for the first time. Yes it is a big plant but I am in the camp that finds it attractive, good texture plant and a bit architectural when it is young. The massive amount of blue flowers is an interesting effect.
    ps. watch for ants in the flowers.

  • Sunny_Sky

    One thing not mentioned about Borage is how beautiful the leaves glow under the nighttime moonlit sky. Also, the leaves make a refreshing and tasty, warm tea.

  • freki

    I've had borage before, and I'm only slightly warmer.. it grows quite large, and it is a large leaved plant, rather than multi stalked, so trimming it back is probably not an opiton. Haven't found it invasive here, I got a few volunteers the next spring, though.

    Mine grew about 5 ft high, and the stems were easily four inches around. Fall cleanup required a hacksaw.

  • ecalvert1+nospam_gmail_com

    I planted some in with my melons and squash this year. It's grown very large, but I'm just been picking off leaves that seem to be shading the other plants too much. It's putting out new clumps of small but very vivid blue flowers almost daily now, and has done a great job of luring beneficial predators and pollenators into my small garden. It's taken up quite a bit of room, but my cukes and squash seem very happy to vine right through it. My garden is now VERY dense, but the veggies seem to be benefitting greatly from squadrons of tiny wasps, tachinid flies, and lady beetles defending them from the baddies.

  • browngirl2468

    I purchased a borage plant from a local nursery a couple of weeks ago. The owner sold the plant to me for $2 instead of the standard $3.18 because leaves were browning.

    I pulled the brown leaves off and put the plant in the grown. Leaves are continuing to brown. Wish I could take a picture to show you the problem, but my camera is down.

    Any suggestions on what needs to be done? My garden is on the west coast, zone 10.

  • GardenMom13

    The bugs have always gotten to my borage before it has had a chance to grow. Sigh. Perhaps it was a defective pack of seeds or just a defective gardener? (jk)

  • vetivert8

    GardenMom13: if you're still following this thread; Borago officianalis often does best if you simply scatter it in the area where you want it to grow. You can grow other things there, such as lettuce, and it will come up between them. Thin out what you don't want. It can be useful as the base for a liquid fertiliser.

    It does best in a fairly well-fed soil, rather than an area that hasn't been fed any compost for a while. And sun to part shade. Keep it back from paths so that passing legs don't tangle with the bees.

    If you let it go up to seed it will happily self seed for the following year.

    It should be fine in zone 9b but note: it prefers the cool of winter/spring rather than the full blaze of summer. Perhaps planting in autumn would help you have a better strike of seed.

  • VallyOfTheWind

    Can anyone tell me how long it will take my borage to blossom if planting from seed. Planted seeds about a month ago here in N. GA. I am worried i have planted too late to draw the pollinating insects in (I have seen no signs of pollinators) and I am not looking forward to hand pollinating.

  • jordan_sessions

    My girlfriend and I planted Borage about a month ago. They sprouted and grew quite fast. but they look nothing like we would have expected. We purchased our seeds from seed savers and the package said Borage with a common picture on it. Can anybody help identify what it is i have planted in my garden.

  • greenman62

    looks like borage to me, but the leaves are yellow... not enough sun ? too much water ? or not enough nutrients... try epsom salts (magnesium)

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