Anyone who appreciates pollinators develops a love for pollinator plants. Although the most famous pollinator plant might be milkweed, an essential plant for the survival of the endangered monarch butterflies, many other plants also help butterflies, bees, wasps and other pollinators.
Every gardener I know has a different favorite pollinator plant. The “favorite” treatment is purely personal and doesn’t carry any judgment. My personal favorite is borage, and I love it for the pretty flowers.
What Is Borage?
My favorite pollinator plant is borage, but it’s an herb some people have never seen or heard of. What is borage? Borage is a fast-growing annual herb. Its flowers are a bright, vivid blue and they smell and taste good. Some claim they smell and taste like cucumber. The blossoms are so striking that many gardeners start growing borage as an ornamental.
The plant melds well into veggie beds and is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. It’s reputed to stop even supposed to keep hornworms away from your tomatoes and also improves their flavor.
Why Start Growing Borage?
Though not famous like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, borage has a lot of exceptional attributes. Ask 10 gardeners why they are growing borage, you are likely to get 10 different answers. In addition to helping pollinators, borage is a medicinal plant used to treat a wide variety of ailments.
I will admit right up front that I started growing borage because I adore its vivid blue flowers. They are shaped like stars and are suspended in clusters. The blossoms are edible and lend points of color and mild cucumber flavor to salads. I might also add that it is extremely easy to grow, requires little maintenance and – in my garden – reseeds itself like anything. Only a few years under its spell did I discover that it was a favorite pollinator plant of bees and butterflies.
Borage, the Bee Magnet
To say borage is a favorite pollinator plant of bees is something of an understatement. I learned this from my friend and garden mentor Jeri, who pointed out that each of my borage plants was swarming with my neighbor’s bees.
After that, I watched my borage plants more carefully. Both honeybees and bumblebees rub up to its rich nectar, and I’ve seen more than a few butterflies come to the flowers as well. The fact that it blooms from spring to fall means that pollinators have a long season of borage nectar each year.