Jekkapedia: Borage

Borago officinalis


Borago officinalis, Borage

Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Borago

Attractive star shaped blue flowers. Mid green, oval, bristly, slightly succulent leaves. Culinary; flowers can be used in drinks and salads. Young leaves used in salads and soups. Seeds are high in GLA.
    Hardiness: H4 (-5 to -10C)
    Type: Annual
    Height: 60cm
    Spread: 60cm

    Borage can be seen at the herb farm in Jekka's Herbetum and is available to buy as both herb plants and online as herb seeds.

    Aspect: Full Sun
    Soil type: Sand, Chalk, Loam, Free Draining
    pH: Universal pH
    Habit: Upright
    Flowering colour: Blue
    Flowering time: Summer
    Uses: Culinary & Medicinal (Read Jekka's Guide To Culinary Herbs and Medicinal Herbs for more information)
    Attracts pollinators: Yes (Read Jekka's Guide to Pollinators for more information)
    Container suitability: No
    UK native: No
    Caution: Can cause liver damage if eaten in excess. The leaves can cause contact dermatitis.
    Grown from seed:

    Indoor Sowing: In early spring, into prepared plug trays or pots, cover with perlite.
    Outdoor Sowing: In early summer, when all threat of frost has gone, into a prepared sunny site. Thin seedlings to 60cm apart.

    Propagation: N/A
    Maintenance: (See Jekka's Blogs on Early Spring, Late Spring, Summer and Autumn maintenance)
    Harvest: N/A

    Borage has a long traditional use for treating fevers, catarrh, lung problems and as a tonic in nervous exhaustion and as a diuretic.

    The seeds contain an oil rich in fatty acids and have been used to help with menopause, premenstrual symptoms and in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. This oil has not been found to contain any the ingredients thought to be harmful to the liver.

    Caution: Recent studies have raised concerns that borage leaves contain chemicals which may cause serious liver damage. For this reason, home use is not recommended and some herbalists now avoid or restrict internal medicinal use of this herb.
    Please note: The information provided here is for educational interest only and is not intended to be used to diagnose or treat significant health problems. Any serious or long-term health concerns should always be discussed with a healthcare professional.

    See our blog for more information about the National Institute of Medical Herbalists

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    For information on growing herbs from seeds please see Jekka's blogs on sowing herb seeds, sowing your winter culinary herbs or how to grow vegetables.

    Jekka's "How to Grow Herbs" videos, includes Jekka's video on how to sow herb seeds  for an informative step-by-step guide to seed sowing. For a hands-on herb experience, where you will learn how to grow herbs, check out our Master Classes.

    Growing indoors? Check out Jekka's blog on indoor herb gardening for some advice.

    For seeds, try Jekka's Seed Club Subscription to regularly receive different sustainable culinary herb seeds for you to try. If you require pots or compost, see Jekka's Herb Kits that includes Jekka's Seed Sowing Kit. This kit contains all you need to sow a collection of herb seeds.

    For more information on growing herbs plants please see Jekkapedia, Jekka's blog or our FAQs page.

    Happy Herbs!

    At Jekka’s we sell herbs in 1 Ltr and 2 Ltr pots. These are established and hardy herb plants that are grown following organic principals and to survive the UK climate. Please read Jekka's blog that contains her top steps to growing on your herbs.

    There is also ‘Jekka’s Seasonal Tips’ series that covers growing and maintaining herbs in early spring, late spring, summer and autumn & winter. Together they form Jekka’s guide on how to grow herbs. For a hands-on herb experience, where you will learn how to grow herbs, check out our Master Classes.

    Our herbs are designed to be grown in containers or planted in the garden. Although some herbs will be quite happy indoors, most prefer being outside. Please see our indoor growing blog for more information.

    If you require pots or compost, we have developed Jekka's Herb Kits, which includes Jekka's "Grow On" Kit. These kits contain all you need to grow on your herbs.

    If you think your herbs need a little more attention we always recommend an environmentally friendly solution, and these are Jekka's top three:

    • Maxicrop liquid seaweed: 'Feed on Fridays' as Jekka always says for all round good plant health.
    • SB Invigorator: a safe and effective insecticide and fungicide to help control a wide range of pest species
    • Epsom salts: the horticultural equivalent of what you put in your bath that will top up the plant's magnesium and stop orange leaves.

    Please note, the compost in Jekka's Kits will have enough natural food for approximately 6 weeks.

    For more information on growing herbs plants please see Jekkapedia, Jekka's blog or our FAQs page.

    Happy Herbs!

    One of our three core roots is that we are Environmentally Conscious and for the past 30 years all the herbs grown at Jekka’s have been raised following sustainable, environmentally friendly and organic approaches resulting in a remarkable biodiversity at the herb farm.

    Our herb seeds are also untreated and can be used to grow organic herb plants. Our seeds are hand packed into gassine bags, which are fully recyclable, compostable and biodegradable. These bags are then put into beautifully illustrated paper seed packets. Therefore, our environmental footprint is small.

    Want to know more? You can read more about our sustainability approach to growing herbs in one of Jekka's Blogs. See also:

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    Guide to Jekkapedia

    Everything you need to know

    For herb plants, please see our Looking Good List for availability. You can organise a Farm Collection, collect at one of our Open Days or during a Herb Experience. Please use our online webform or email your list directly to us (

    We no longer offer a general mail order service for our herb plants but we do offer a limited selection of Jekka's Culinary Herb Boxes.

    The Botanical Name is known throughout the world. It includes the genus and the species plus in some cases the cultivar. For example Agastache is the genus, rugosa is the species and Agastache rugosa ‘Golden Jubilee’ includes the cultivar.

    The Common Name is the name by which the herb is commonly known, for example thyme, sage etc. But please be aware that common names are often colloquial and relevant to the area in which you find them.

    The Plant family is the group of plants which is more comprehensive than the genus.

    Want to know more? Read Jekka's Blog containing tips for understanding herbs.

    - Annual a plant that lives for just one season (see Jekka's Annual Herbs).
    - Biennial a plant that produces leaves in the first season and flowers in the second, then dies (See Jekka's Biennal Herbs).
    - Climber/Vine a plant that cannot grow without the support of other plants or structures.
    - Deciduous a plant that drops it leaves in winter.
    - Evergreen a plant that has leaves all winter (See Jekka's Evergreen Herbs).
    - Herbaceous a plant that dies back into the ground in winter, becoming dormant, before reappearing in the spring.
    - Monocarpic a plant that dies once it flowers; it can live for a number of years before flowering.
    - Perennial a plant that lives for a number of seasons, most flower annually once established (See Jekka's Perennial Herbs).
    - Partial Evergreen a plant that holds some leaves throughout the winter.
    - Shrub a woody stemmed plant that usually freely branches from the base.
    - Sub-shrub a small, short, woody shrub, especially one that is woody only at the base.
    - Sub-tropical a plant that can only survive in a warm, damp climate that does not drop below 10°C at night.
    - Tree a woody plant that usually has a single stem.
    - Tropical a plant that can only survive in a warm, damp climate that does not drop below 15°C at night.

    Recommended planting position in the garden or where to place a pot, e.g. sun, partial shade etc.

    Plants grow in many shapes and forms:

    - Upright: a plant that is very straight.
    - Clump: a plant that grows in a neat compact shape.
    - Bulb: a plant that dies back into a bulb.
    - Mat forming: a plant that grows low to the ground and makes a neat mat.
    - Creeping: a plant that grows along the ground and produces roots at intervals.
    - Bushy: a plant that, in the main, tends to be a shrub which makes a bush-like shape.
    - Arching: a plant that grows upright then the growth arches, ideal for growing over a wall or in a container.
    - Prostrate: a plant that lies flat on the ground.

    This indicates the average spread and height that the plant will achieve in its life. It helps to know this when positioning plants in the garden. Bear in mind, that height and spread vary in definition according to the following plant types:

    - Annual: this is the spread to which it will grow, and the height when in flower during the year.
    - Biennial: this is the spread in the first year and the height of the flower in the second year.
    - Herbaceous perennial and perennial: this is the spread the plant will achieve after a number of years once mature and the height when in flower.
    - Shrub/evergreen tree: this is the average spread and final height after a number of years of growth.

    All ratings refer to UK growing conditions and are based on the Royal Horticultural Society hardiness rating. The minimum temperature range, in degrees centigrade, are shown in the brackets below:

    - H1a (15°C minimum): Under glass all year.
    - H1b (10°C to 15°C): Can be grown outside in summer.
    - H1c (5°C to 10°C): Can be grown outside in summer.
    - H2 (1°C to 5°C): Tolerant of low temperatures but will not survive being frozen.
    - H3 (-5°C to 1°C): Hardy in coastal and relatively mild, sheltered parts of the UK.
    - H4 (-10°C to -5°C): Hardy through most of the UK.
    - H5 (-15°C to -10°C): Hardy in most places throughout the UK, even in severe winters.
    - H6 (-20°C to -15°C): Hardy in all of the UK and northern Europe.
    - H7 (-20°C and below): Hardy in the severest European continental climates.

    The soil is the engine of your garden, so it is important to know its condition before you start planting. Good plant growth is not only dependent on how much you feed the soil but it is also dependent on the structure of the soil. Soil can vary from acidic (pH 3.5) Sphagnum moss peat to alkaline (pH 8.5) Fine loam. Most herbs will tolerate a range of between 6.5 and 7.5 pH which is fairly neutral. There are always exceptions, for instance Rumex scutatus, Sorrel, will tolerate acid soils.

    The pH of the soil refers to its acidity or alkalinity. It is a vital factor in the plant’s ability to obtain, via its root system, all types of plant foods and essential chemicals. For example, an alkaline soil can produce stunted plants with yellowing leaves. This is because the minerals, especially iron, have become locked up in the soil. At a neutral pH of 7, most of the essential chemicals and plant foods become available to the plant so producing healthy plants.

    The following 4 basic soil types are the most suitable for growing herbs:

    - Clay 6.5 pH: This soil is composed of tiny particles that, when wet, stick together making the soil heavy and difficult for the roots to penetrate and in summer, when dry, sets rock hard. Even though it can be rich in plant nutrients, because of its characteristics it is improved by working in extra well rotted leaf mould or compost. This will improve the structure and allow young plants to become more easily established.
    - Chalk 8.5 pH: This soil is light with lumps of flint or chalk, well drained and often shallow. It has a high pH making it very alkaline. It is possible to increase the nutrient content by adding loads of compost but it is difficult to lower the pH. A large number of herbs will tolerate chalk. However, considering the characteristics of this soil, to give it depth and help it retain moisture it may be easier to grow the herbs in a raised bed.
    - Loam 5.5–8.5 pH: This is often considered the ultimate garden soil in which most herbs will grow. There are various types of loam depending on the content of clay or sand. A sandy loam is the best soil for growing the largest range of herbs as it is rarely waterlogged in winter, is dry in summer and it is naturally high in nutrients.
    - Sand 4.5 pH: This soil feels rough and gritty when handled. It is very free draining, which means that the plant’s nutrients are quickly washed away. A plus point to this soil is that it is quick to warm up in the spring so sowing and planting can be started earlier than in clay soils. To help it retain moisture it needs to be fed in winter with leaf mould to retain moisture and with well-rotted manure for an extra source of nutrients.

    Checking the pH of the soil
    To test your soil buy a soil testing kit from any good garden centre or store. The majority of amateur soil testing kits are very simple and rely on colour rather than a numerical scale. Acid soils turn a solution yellow- orange, neutral turn it green and alkaline turn a dark green.

    Want to know more? Read Jekka's guide to soil.

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