Comfrey or Symphytum officinale is a herbaceous plant native to Europe. Most gardeners grow this perennial herb in their garden firstly, because of its mauve-colored flowers that look beautiful when they bloom and secondly, because of the added benefits. The leaves of comfrey are used as mulch and are fed to cattle, sheep, poultry, horses, and other animals. It is an excellent weed barrier and soil conditioner. For all those who want to reap the benefits of this plant, given below are a few tips that will make your job easy.
Tips to Grow Comfrey
- Comfrey requires a lot of sunlight to grow well. Therefore, an area receiving good amount of sunlight must be chosen to grow this herb. If such an area is not available, it can also be grown in an area with partial or full shade as it can tolerate the deficiency well. However, it is preferable to choose an open area for planting.
- The herb has a deep root system due to which it fails to accommodate itself in shallow soil. It requires well-fertilized soil and that is why, addition of fertilizers must be done regularly to enrich the soil so that it can support the plant's growth.
- Even though the plant does not have specific pH requirements, it is better to grow it in soil with the pH ranging from neutral to acidic. A pH between 6.0-7.0 is best for comfrey.
- Avoid growing the herb in thin, chalky soil but if you have to do so, you can dig deep in the soil and place the cuttings. While placing the cuttings in clay soil it is better to plant them shallow, but if the soil is sandy plant them deep in the soil.
- The herb can be propagated using seeds, crown cuttings, or root cuttings. If seeds are used for propagation, you need to provide them a chilling period during the winters to trigger germination. Many times, seeds take more than 2 years to germinate. You can use crown cuttings instead of root cuttings if you want the herb to grow fast, but they are a bit more expensive than root cuttings.
- Root cuttings are usually 2-6 inches long. They must be planted horizontally, around 2-8 inches deep in the soil. When planting several cuttings, make sure to space them 3 feet apart so that they have sufficient space for growth.
- Planting must be done during spring in areas with cool climate; and during the rainy season in areas with warm and tropical climate.
- Root cuttings must be planted before September, whereas crown divisions can be planted till early October.
- Regular watering and fertilization of the soil with compost is necessary to support healthy growth of the plant.
- At regular intervals, prune leaves near the base of the plant to facilitate blooming because the plant would otherwise use all the nutrients to produce more leaves than flowers.
- The plant takes its own care once it has established well in the soil. It develops a root system that becomes dense year after year, becoming drought resistant.
- Pests generally do not cause any problem to the growing plant. Comfrey rust is known to affect the roots in Great Britain. However, it does not affect the plants growing in the United States.
- If the main intention behind growing comfrey is harvesting leaves, it is better to wait till the plant becomes 2 feet tall before making the first cutting. Early harvesting affects the plant's ability to bear flowers on time.
Comfrey has a great medicinal value and is very well-known for its healing property. Even though internal use of this herb is restricted, it is still used externally to treat skin infections, inflammation, cuts, skin burns, and sprains. So the next time you go to a nursery, make it a point to get a cutting of this herb to make a valuable addition to your garden.