Ultimate Guide to Borage Flower Meaning, Symbolism, History, Cultural Significance, and How to Grow at Home

There are hundreds of flower species that are edible, but few are as widely eaten as the borage flower. These small blue to purple flowers aren’t just safe to eat, they also make wonderful decorations both in the garden and as a cut flower indoors. As an annual herb that grows well in many climates and conditions, they’re a fun addition to any garden or landscape. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about borage flowers and the plants that produce them.

Contents: 


Borage Flowers – The Essential Facts

Also known as starflowers, borage flowers are small purple, white, or blue blooms with a star shape. They are edible and are widely used in foods and drinks. They also have some traditional medicinal uses in herbalism, in addition to symbolizing courage and bravery.


About the Borage Flower

About the Borage Flower

Borage blooms are not the largest flower, but they are eye-catching thanks to the sharply pointed five-petaled star-shaped flowers. They have a rich history of meaning and use that dates back to the days of Ancient Greece. Borage flower benefits extend from the garden into the kitchen.

Family and Genus

Borago officinalis falls into the Boraginaceae family in the taxonomy of plants which includes similar flowering plants like Forget Me Nots and other herbs like alkanet and comfrey. 

The Barago genus includes five closely related species, of which Borage is the best known. Some of the Borago genus are perennial instead of annual, but they don’t all share Borage’s edible or medicinal characteristics. They do all feature similar bell or star-shaped flowers in blue, purple, or white. 

The borage plant that produces these small purple flowers is an annual herb. Its annual growth means that it dies back completely over the winter and must grow again from seed in the spring. Even in warm climates where winter doesn’t kill off the plants, they’ll naturally die off after a year or so of growth after flowering for a long period and spreading seeds. Borage sends up large curling spikes of individual flowers, with multiple blooms appearing at once. This gives you a chance to cut small bundles of the flower for mixing into a bouquet or for edible use.

Colors and Varieties

Borage Flower Colors and Varieties

Wild borage plants show off two distinct colors on the same plant. The flowers are closer to pink or magenta when they first open, then quickly transform into a rich purple to indigo blue color. 

Careful breeding has created a number of interesting cultivars commonly used in landscaping and garden designs. ‘Alba’ is a popular cultivar with pure white flowers, often producing thick clusters of the blooms on relatively short plants under 12 inches in height. ‘Varigata’ borage plants have light to medium blue flowers and white mottled leaves that complement the blooms.

Etymological Meaning

The name Borage has been claimed to be a corruption of early English words for courage, but it’s more confidently traced to Latin and Arabic words referring to the roughness of its leaves. All of the Borago family sport rough and hairy leaves, so it’s not surprising that the name comes from these references.

Native Range and Season

Borage Flower Native Range and Season

Borage is native to the Mediterranean, which is why it has such a long history of use dating back to Ancient Greece. It was spread widely by traders throughout the Medieval period as well, bringing it to most of Europe and much of the Middle East. Modern trade introduced it to the US and Asia as well, where it thrives in many areas as well. 

It has become naturalized in many of the cooler parts of Europe despite its Mediterranean origin since it is a prolific re-seeding plant that doesn’t mind dying off over the winter. It sprouts readily in soil temperatures above 60 degrees F, allowing it to come up relatively early in the spring.

Toxicity and Bee Friendliness

Despite being used for food and medicinal purposes, borage has low toxicity to humans and high toxicity to cats and dogs. It is a very attractive plant for bees and other pollinating insects. 

Most dogs and cats won’t readily eat borage, but you can always keep it out of their reach in hanging or raised plants if it’s an issue. Humans can avoid any toxicity issues simply by only making borage flowers and leaves an occasional treat rather than a cornerstone of their diet.


The History of Borage Flowers

The History of Borage Flowers

Borage flowers have been added to food and drinks for millennia because of their sweet scent and flavor. The leaves also enjoy nearly as long of a history of use thanks to their cucumber flavor. Historians like Pliny attributed borage to being the herb mentioned in the Odyssey that brings on forgetfulness when mixed into wine.


Borage Flower Uses

Borage flowers are used to decorate cakes or frozen into ice cubes to serve as decorations. They have a mildly sweet flavor often described as honey-like. They’re not usually dried for tea use since they’re so small it would be difficult to add enough to a brew to make a noticeable flavor. Borage flowers and leaves are sometimes used as herbal remedies for nervousness, irritated skin, or sleep problems.


Borage Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Borage Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Borage Flowers

Borage is not directly mentioned in Homer’s The Odyssey, but many contemporary historians like Pliny attributed the flower to playing a role in the story. There are also claims that Roman and Celtic warriors carried the flower into battle as a symbol of courage and bravery. It has been linked to Euphrosyne, the Goddess of Joy, by many ancient authors as well.

Borage Flowers as a Tattoo

Like all flower tattoos, borage flowers tend to symbolize femininity and delicate grace. The small star-shaped flowers help reinforce this symbolism, as do the graceful and curving stems. Borage flower tattoos are often mixed in with other flowers for a bouquet design on the skin with a lot of personal meaning.


Suitable Gifting Occasions for Borage Flowers

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Borage Flowers

Borage flowers are hard to find on their own for gifting, but they are sometimes mixed into larger arrangements. With their symbolism of courage and bravery, they make an ideal flower to gift when someone is preparing for a surgery or other challenge. They can also help you send a message of support to someone who is struggling.


How to Grow and Care for Borage Flowers at Home

How to Grow Borage Flowers at Home

Growing borage at home is the best way to get a steady supply of flowers all spring and summer long.

Growing Zones

Borage thrives in zones 3 to 10 because it can handle both cool and hot weather. However, hard frosts do kill it and will limit its lifespan naturally in the winter.

Choosing a Container or Planting Area

Borage grows well in containers and hanging baskets, but make sure they’re at least 6 inches deep and 12 inches wide for a healthy plant. Stay on top of watering as well since containers can dry out quickly in full sun. Borage does well in mixed beds and most types of soils, making them good companion plants in all sorts of vegetable and flower gardens.

Soil, Light, Watering, and Fertilizing Requirements for Borage Flowers

This plant prefers full sun for the best blooming, but it also likes afternoon shade if there is intense summer heat in your area. Partial shade is fine as long as there is some direct light throughout the day. You’ll get less blooming with less light. 

Borage can handle almost any soil that’s not extreme in pH, but it does like moist soils that don’t get soggy. Rocky and sandy soils can be fine without amendment if you just water the plants regularly. 

Water seedlings and transplants every three to four days if it’s not raining regularly, then water only when the soil is dry. 

Borage doesn’t need any fertilizer in most cases and may not bloom well if nitrogen is added in particular.

How to Make Cut Borage Flowers Last Longer

Once you’ve cut your borage blossoms, you have a few options for extending their lifespan. Flowers you want to add to food or drinks can be gently wrapped in damp paper towels, tucked into an open plastic bag, and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Cut flowers for arranging or display should be put immediately into water and kept out of direct light and hot air drafts. It may help to refrigerate the borage flowers until it’s time to use them, wrapped like they were being kept for eating, to prevent wilting in a mixed arrangement.


Wrap-Up

Borage flowers don’t just please the eye with their star-shaped beauty, they also tickle the palate. These easy-to-grow flowers belong in every garden.


Borage Flower FAQ

Borage flowers and leaves are sometimes used as herbal remedies for nervousness, irritated skin, or sleep problems. The edible leaves are often used to decorate cakes or frozen into ice cubes to serve as decorations. They’re not usually dried for tea use since they’re so small it would be difficult to add enough to a brew to make a noticeable flavor. 

Borage flowers are edible and are widely used in foods and drinks. They also have some traditional medicinal uses in herbalism.

Borage flowers have a mildly sweet flavor often described as honey-like.

Despite being used for food and medicinal purposes, borage has low toxicity to humans and high toxicity to cats and dogs. Most dogs and cats won’t readily eat borage, but you can always keep it out of their reach in hanging or raised plants if it’s an issue. Humans can avoid any toxicity issues simply by only making borage flowers and leaves an occasional treat rather than a cornerstone of their diet.

Borage flowers are considered a very attractive plant for bees and other pollinating insects. 

The borage plant is an annual herb. Its annual growth means that it dies back completely over the winter and must grow again from seed in the spring. Even in warm climates where winter doesn’t kill off the plants, they’ll naturally die off after a year or so of growth after flowering for a long period and spreading seeds.

Borage flowers are not classified as an invasive species due to the fact they won’t compete directly with other native plants. 

Borage flowers prefer full sun for the best blooming, but also like afternoon shade if there is intense summer heat in your area. Partial shade is fine as long as there is some direct light throughout the day. You’ll get less blooming with less light. 

Water borage seedlings and transplants every three to four days if it’s not raining regularly, then water only when the soil is dry.


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We are a floristry, plant, and lifestyle city resource curated by a passionate team of horticulturists, floral & plant enthusiasts, budding designers, and intrepid urban gardeners. We're committed to showcasing the best in floral and plant design, sharing our experience and recommendations on the best blooms and greenery for every occasion, season, and living environment, and spreading our love of the enchanting world of flowers and plants.

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