Comfrey Plant: The Ultimate Guides to Growing in Your Garden

Comfrey Blossom Blue

The Power of Comfrey Plant and its Uses for Healing.

The comfrey plant is a perennial herb with a long history of medicinal use. A native of temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere, it thrives in moist, shady environments. The leaves of the plant are known for their gummy texture. They have traditionally been used topically as a poultice or taken orally as an herbal tea to treat such ailments as sprains, bruises, and muscle aches. The word comfrey derives from the Latin for “to heal” or “to make whole” (com- + ferre). In medieval times, comfrey was believed to be able to cure broken bones, which led it to be called knitbone or boneknit.

Comfrey Plant in Garden

If you live somewhere along a riverbank or a lake, you can find abundant comfrey plants growing along the water. They grow naturally and without much care and maintenance, but they are also attractive enough to be a part of your outdoor, container, or wildflower garden. 

It grows in clusters, with large and pointed leaves that are dark green and bell-shaped flowers in various shades of blue, purple, and violet. 

These plants belong to the Boraginaceae family, and their scientific botanical name is “Symphytum Officinale.” For thousands of years, Comfrey plants have been grown for medicinal purposes, and they are more generally known as “Common Comfrey,” “True Comfrey,” “knit bone,” “knit back,” “bone set,” or “con sound” plants

Cultivation and History.

The history of Comfrey plants goes back to Ancient Greece, where they were grown as medicinal plants to make ointments, poultices, and salves. History has also known Comfrey plants as “slippery roots,” used back in 400 BC as an active way to stop heavy bleeding and as a remedy for bronchitis and other respiratory problems. 

As useful as Comfrey plants are, they are never used for culinary purposes as these plants contain poisonous compounds that can harm humans and animals when consumed. Safe for exterior application as ointment or salves, the leaves, stems, roots, or flowers of Comfrey plants should never be eaten or used in food preparation. 

Comfrey plants have always been native to European and Asian countries, but they can thrive anywhere with moist soil along riverbanks and lakes. Although they grow naturally under favorable conditions, Comfrey plants can also be seen in indoor planting arrangements and outdoor gardens.

Comfrey Plant - Symphytum

Types of Comfrey Plants. 

Multiple species of Comfrey plants can be found around the world, namely: 

–      Symphytum Caucasicum, referred to as Caucasian Comfrey plants. They are light blue, transitioning into a more profound, brighter blue color. 

–      Symphytum grandiflorum is commonly known as “large-flowered” comfrey, and they have large cream-colored flowers. 

–      Symphytum x uplandicum is most commonly known as “Russian comfrey,” They can grow up to 6 feet tall and have deep purple flowers. The name is quite misleading because this species is most common in the United States of America. 

–      Symphytum x uplandicum is also known as “Axminster Gold” because they are a hybrid species with large leaves that are banana-shaped and green and yellow. 

Propagation of Comfrey Plants.

Since these plants are quite easy to grow, propagation of comfrey plants is also straightforward. 

Once a grown plant goes dormant and stops producing flowers, the soil around the root must be removed carefully. This will expose the roots that are hidden under the ground. Trim off some of the pieces of roots, keeping them around 2- to 6-inches in length. In a new location, plant these trimmed roots so that they are at least 3-inches deep into the ground. The soil needs to be clay soil in a deep container or an outdoor garden. 

The soil needs to be kept moist constantly, although it shouldn’t be soggy, and there shouldn’t be any standing water. In a few weeks, the roots will start to spread under the ground, and the plant will begin to grow above.

Vibrant comfrey plant

Growing Comfrey Plants and Care Guide.

Comfrey plants can also be grown directly from seeds, but this needs to be done during the winter. This is because the seeds need a long and chilly winter to germinate, and it might even take around two years for seeds to germinate and grow into a plant properly. Therefore, it is much simpler, easier, and faster to propagate Comfrey plants from the roots of dormant plants. 

Because Comfrey plants naturally grow along riverbanks and lakes, they are also extremely easy to care for with very little attention. 

Pruning and Maintenance.

Comfrey plants grow extremely fast, so they must be pruned occasionally, so the leaves don’t become too overgrown. In fact, the leaves of these plants need to be pruned several times during the growing season. 

Besides, comfrey plants flower at least multiple times every season, and the flowers may also need to be plucked or trimmed several times so that they don’t grow a staggering amount and so that the flowers of your multiple plants grow at different times.  Sometimes, the stems of the comfrey plants need to be trimmed to encourage the repeat growing of flowers from the same plant. 

When a new Comfrey plant reaches its second year, it needs to be cut at 6-inches above the ground during winter, which is the dormant period for this plant, after the plant has flowered once. This pruning will encourage the plant to grow again into a new plant. However, this must be done only once in the second year and never after that for the same plant.

Blue Blossoms - Comfrey

Cultivators to Select.

For propagation, a dormant plant is the best option, especially a plant that has flowered several times before becoming inactive. This will ensure that a healthy Comfrey plant grows from the roots of the dormant plant and is also the quickest and easiest way to cultivate this plant. 

Light Requirements.

It grows well in full sun and partial shade, which is perfect for keeping them indoors and outdoors. These plants need at least three hours of direct sunlight daily, if not more. For the best results, it is better to plant them somewhere that the Comfrey plants would get a few hours of solid afternoon sunlight in warmer climates. 

Watering Requirements.

These plants grow best in moist soil with a lot of moisture. They like moderate watering daily; the soil remains moist but not soggy. Although Comfrey plants can withstand droughts and dry soil, they flourish the best when the plants are watered regularly as the top part of the soil starts to dry out.

Soil Requirements.

It grows best in rich and loamy soil filled with organic nutrients, but it can also withstand clay and sandy soil. Soil with a slightly acidic pH level is ideal for these plants, but they are also comfortable in soil with a slight amount of alkaline. 

Temperature and Humidity

Being native to European and Asian countries, they can withstand extreme heat and cold weather. This plant grows in winter and summer equally, but its dormant months are during late fall. Once frost arrives and the weather becomes cold, the plants can start to die and become dormant. 

As long as they are planted in moist soil, these plants can withstand any humidity range. 

Fertilizer and Feeding.

This plant prefers regular organic fertilizer but also prefer a generous amount of compost spread on top of the soil every spring. There’s no need to add special fertilizer or feeding to the plants because they can draw the necessary nutrients from the soil, namely phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Comfrey Blossom Blue

Common Pests and Diseases.

Fortunately, Comfrey plants do not have to worry about pest attacks or diseases. In rare conditions, the plants sometimes suffer from comfrey rust in the winter. Comfrey rust attacks the roots, weakens the flowers, and stops the plant from growing. Powdery mildew can also infect the leaves but is not very harmful. 

Managing Pests and Diseases.

Slugs and snails are sometimes known to chew through the foliage and the leaves of the Comfrey plants. They also lay eggs in the moist soil, which multiply in wet conditions and harm the plants. One way to avoid this is to leave the soil mulching for drier seasons, i.e., add mulch to the plants in summer. Mulching can also be avoided if the problem becomes too regular or harmful. 

Snails and slugs can also be manually removed from the stems and leaves by drowning them in soapy water. 

In moist weather and soil conditions, powdery mildew can sometimes attack the plants and cover the leaves in a white powder coating. This can be treated with a special milk spray diluted with water at a ratio of 1:10. One way to avoid powdery mildew is not to water the plants from the top, i.e., so that overhead watering doesn’t lead to excessive moisture.

Best Uses of Comfrey Plants. 

In history, Comfrey plants have always been used as medicinal plants. Its leaves and flowers are known to stop bleeding from external wounds and as a remedy for bronchial and respiratory problems. In addition, poultices made from Comfrey plants can be applied to external ailments.

If not directly consumed, leaves of Comfrey plants are often made into tea and consumed for internal diseases. High amounts of allantoin can be found in Comfrey plants which are said to increase cell growth rate. Applying an allantoin-enriched poultice of the Comfrey plant can heal external burns and wounds and promote healthier skin. 

In modern times, this plant is most commonly used in commercial cosmetics and medicines. In addition, the flowers, bright in color, are sometimes made into a natural dye. 

Comfrey Spring Blossom

Comfrey plants can be used as green manure, mulching, and composting in a container garden or outdoor garden. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is the comfrey plant good for?

A: This plant has always been used as medicine to heal wounds and burns and as a remedy for bronchial conditions. These days, Comfrey plants are used in commercial cosmetics and natural dyes. In gardening, these plants are great for mulching, manure, and composting. 

Q: Where is the best place to plant comfrey? 

A: It grows best in moist soil that is not soggy and in locations with at least three hours of sunlight daily. This plant can withstand extreme cold and warmth, but the ideal light requirement is partial afternoon sunlight.  They grow both outdoors on the ground and indoors in large containers. When planted outdoors, they create foliage over other plants and can also be planted in a wildflower garden or used as mulch for other plants. 

Q: Does comfrey come back every year? 

A: They are resilient plants, and they grow back every year. If you live in a severely cold region, these plants will become dormant during early fall and frost but eventually grow back. Each Comfrey plant can bloom several times every season and live for several years with minimum care and attention. 

Q: Is it safe to grow comfrey?

A: They are known to be poisonous for both human beings and animals, but only if they are directly consumed. No part of these plants is used in cooking or food preparation or eaten by living beings as they are considered harmful. 

However, these plants are well-known and even used in commercial cosmetics as medicinal plants. All parts of the Comfrey plants can be used to make salves, poultices, and ointments to treat external wounds and burns, and they are entirely safe to use. 

They are, therefore, safe to grow indoors and outdoors as long as they are not consumed directly and are kept out of reach of children and pets. 

Q: Is Comfrey an Invasive Plant? 

A: Comfrey plants are extremely invasive, especially if grown from seeds. Growing these plants from seeds takes as long as two years, but once they make an appearance, it isn’t easy to get rid of Comfrey plants when they have matured and grown fully. 

Q: Can Comfrey Plants be Grown in Pots? 

A: It is possible to grow Comfrey Plants in pots, but they need to be in deep containers because these plants grow deep roots. A 5-gallon bucket is an ideal container for developing each of these plants. 

Conclusion.

Although some consider Comfrey plants poisonous and harmful, these are great plants to keep at home or outside in a garden. In addition, Comfrey plants have many uses in medicine and commercial cosmetics that, make them very important plants to grow and cultivate.

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