Updated/Fact-Chacked on May 16, 2022 by John
Comfrey is a perennial flowering shrub with a lot of benefits to offer. If you are looking for reasons to grow this plant, you will easily find a dozen. While many people use it to beautify their gardens, in Japan, Comfrey is used as a traditional medicine to treat a wide range of illnesses including burns, bruises, muscle sprains, and joint inflammation.
Comfrey plants not only attract pollinators but also improve the health of your soil and the leaves are great for making organic fertilizer. While growing some plants can be quite demanding, growing comfrey is impressively easy. However, you have to look after this plant well lest it spreads all over the place.
That shouldn’t scare you because comfrey grows well alongside other plants. If you have been thinking of growing this plant, here is everything you need to know on how to grow comfrey.
So, what is Comfrey?
Comfrey is a herbaceous shrub that’s native to Asia, some parts of Europe, and North America. As a perennial plant, comfrey belongs to the borage family. This plant grows up to 5ft tall and produces clusters of blue, purple, and white flowers. Its roots are somewhat dark-skinned and its leaves are slender.
There are over 25 varieties of the comfrey plant species. But people only grow a few of them. These include the Russian comfrey(Symphytum x uplandicum) and the True Comfrey( Symphytum Officinale)
Uses of Comfrey in the garden
Comfrey is rich in potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and other micro-nutrients such as magnesium and calcium. What makes it stand out as a nutrient accumulator is its long taproots. They have a long reach into the soil that helps this plant to draw nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Once it draws these nutriments, they rise above the ground and amass in its foliage.
As a gardener, you can harvest its leaves and use them as green manure or fertilizer for other plants. Its roots can also help to split compact and hard soil in your garden. Its first growing leaves can also serve as mulch.
How to Grow Comfrey
Growing comfrey is quite easy because the plant is not only resilient but also demands a lot less attention.
Best location to grow comfrey
Before you select a location to grow comfrey, you should know that comfrey will regrow from any leftover parts of the plant. Therefore, growing directly into your garden may not be a good idea. The best way is to plant it in a raised garden or in pots. It also works well as a barrier against overgrowing grass. Wherever you chose to plant comfrey, you can be sure that it will keep regrowing for a long time.
Requirements for growing comfrey
Comfrey flourishes in full sun. An afternoon shade after a few long sunny hours favors the growth of comfrey even more. Its resilience means that this plant will thrive in a damp or dry area.
Comfrey adapts well. It grows in almost all types of soil. This plant’s taproots aid its growth in dry or wet clay soil. To get the best results, plant comfrey in soil with PH that’s between 6.0 to 7.0. It will also grow fast in moist and fertile soil.
How to Plant Comfrey
Buy some comfrey crown offsets or root pieces from your local nursery. Root pieces are slow to catch on than the crown offsets. The good news is that they both grow to be healthy and strong plants.
Since comfrey propagates easily, you only need a few crown offsets or root pieces to start. Plant your crowns or roots in spring for optimum performance. You may opt to start them in containers or plant them directly into the soil. Starting them indoors means you’ll have to transplant.
You may also choose to plant comfrey seeds. However, you’ll start by taking it through the stratification process. In simpler terms, you’ll have to mimic winter or cold conditions for the seed to germinate.
Put your seeds in moist potting soil. Vermiculite or wet soil should work perfectly. Place that in a glass jar or a container with a lid. You may add seaweed to aid fast germination. Refrigerate your seeds for 1 to 2 months.
Once they are ready, choose a location to plant your seeds. There are three options. Heated greenhouse, near a sunny windowsill inside your house or outside. Whichever location you choose, ensure that the soil temperature is between 15 to 27 celsius.
Comfrey seeds should germinate in 1 to 2 weeks in the right conditions. If you want to control the growth of comfrey, grow the seeds in a container or pot. The container you chose should not be anything less than 6 inches. Experts recommend growing comfrey in a one-gallon pot to eliminate space constraints.
You could sow comfrey seeds directly. The only downside is that they can take up to 24 months to germinate. This is because it takes a whole winter for the seeds to be ready for germination. With that in mind, you’d rather plant the crowns or roots.
If you prefer to plant comfrey in your garden, leave at least 2 ft in every direction. This will provide the plant with ample growing space.
Rotten or mushy crowns will disappoint you. Inspect your crowns thoroughly before planting. Start them in a container or pot and then transplant them into your garden. When planting crowns in a container, a 3ft depth is ideal. Place the pot away from the sun. A cool room is perfect. Keep the soil moist and allow the crowns to start forming leaves. Transplant them after the risk of harsh frost is gone.
Depending on the condition of the spoil, keep watering comfrey until it establishes itself. After your comfrey gets going you can stop watering it. Its long and strong roots will help the plant get water from the ground.
The comfrey plant is somewhat prickly. When you embark on harvesting it, wear protective gloves. As you harvest it, see to it that you leave a few leaves. The objective is to allow it to regrow.
Comfrey is undoubtedly one of the plants that you grow in your garden. It’s easy to maintain and comes with a host of benefits. Follow this guide to grow comfrey successfully.
Mary shares a passion for gardening with her husband John, though she is more focused on growing veg on their allotment at St. Margaret’s Allotments, Durham. Mary also works in the lawn care industry and manages the lawns for the Durham University campus.