Comfrey is one of the most useful mature plants you can grow. From improving soil health to attracting pollinators, this easy-to-grow shrub makes for a great addition to any garden bed.
Today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite herbs and how you can grow your own perennial herb comfrey plant and the many comfrey uses it has in your garden.
Let’s get started!
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What is Comfrey
True comfrey is a perennial medicinal herb that often grows in grasslands and along riverbanks. It is native to many parts of the world such as Europe and Asia, and it was likely brought to the US by immigrants from Great Britain for medicinal purposes.
The mature plants grow from 12 to 36 inches tall and 9 to 30 inches wide. The hairy leaves of the comfrey plant are large, pointed, dark green, and coarse. It can also bloom small bell-shaped flowers in the late spring that may be purple, pink, cream, or white in color.
This vigorously-growing common comfrey plant can be planted any time when the soil is not frozen. It thrives in partial to full sun and in loamy, well-drained, moist, and rich soils.
Comfrey is excellent at attracting pollinators like honey bees. It can also attract predatory insects, which can help keep pest numbers down and maintain the natural balance in an organic garden.
Planting and Caring for Comfrey
Planting comfrey is a relatively easy affair. They can be grown from comfrey seeds which can be started indoors or sown directly. Just make sure that your soil is no longer frozen.
You can also start with a purchased new plant you can transfer into the ground or a container garden. Alternatively, you can use comfrey root cuttings from existing comfrey plants to propagate it.
Plant comfrey a space of 2 feet in between. While it can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions such as clay soil or sandy soil, it thrives best in loamy soil with good drainage and a lot of organic matter. It grows best in slightly acidic to neutral soil pH but it can also tolerate slightly alkaline soil.
As long as the comfrey roots are intact, it can grow back in the spring. It can tolerate extremely cold and hot temperatures. It needs at least three hours of full sun on most days. They are also drought-tolerant when fully-established but they prefer moderate watering.
I love how fast it can grow. I can cut its fresh leaves completely down to the ground and have tall new plants complete with fresh lower leaves, upper leaves, and flowers in 3 weeks.
The Best Uses for Comfrey in Your Garden
It has a long history of use, especially medicinal use. It has been cultivated by the Greeks and Romans since around 400 BC to heal open wounds, bone injuries, lower back pain, joint pain, sore throat, low back pain, and more.
Today, apart from their healing properties, comfrey garden plants are also regarded for their many benefits. Did you know that comfrey can even help heal broken bones (before using any herb, always consult your Dr. for the best conditions for your particular situation.)?
It can do this because the plant contains allantoin and rosmarinic acid. However, its medicinal use is limited because of its toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which is toxic to the liver and carcinogenic and can cause severe liver damage when used incorrectly.
Here’s how you can use this plant to make your garden even more productive:
Fill Up Shady Areas
Comfrey is one of those wild plants that can thrive even in partial shade. If you have spots in your garden that you can’t decide what to put in, comfrey is the best way to go. Their lush green leaves are perfect for anchoring the shady areas in your yard.
Beef Up Your Compost
Comfrey leaves make for an excellent addition to your compost bin. You can cut up the greens from the plant and use comfrey leaves and the comfrey crown cuttings up to four times a year to add much-needed potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus to your compost pile.
Comfrey flowers come in a few colors, I am partial to the purple flowers and they are rich in nectar that can attract all sorts of bees and pollinators. Bumblebees, especially, are able to cut slits in the flowers which make the nectar more accessible for other insects.
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Use it as Mulch
Comfrey is an excellent mulching material for your garden. You can use prickly comfrey leaves, cut up, as surface nutrient-rich mulch. As the leaves decompose, it can enrich the moist soil surface and deep below. Don’t forget to add a layer of straw or grass clippings on top for added moisture retention.
Make Your Own Fertilizer
Fermented comfrey leaves make for an excellent natural liquid comfrey fertilizer. All you need is to add a bunch of chopped leaves into large containers with a hole in the bottom and weigh it down with a brick. Be sure to put a catch basin underneath to catch the thick black liquid produced over the course of a few weeks.
After a month or so, you can harvest the liquid fertilizer and put it in an air-tight jar. To use, dilute the concentrate with water with at least 1:15 ratio. Use it as foliar feed for plants like tomatoes.
Adding comfreys in your garden is not as complicated as it sounds. You can grow your own little comfrey patch filled with this healing herb that helps to fertilize the rest of your beds.
They will grow a deep roots system that will become green manure and help generate rich fertile soils for all your gardens going forward.
Whether you are making comfrey garden plant herbal tea with their dried leaves to fertilize your garden, throwing the hardy comfrey cuttings into your compost heaps, or mixing it in your soil, this is a homegrown, inexpensive addition to your garden you can’t overlook.
It sure beats the toxic chemicals and poisonous chemicals that used to be the norm for fertilizing a garden.
Are there any other plants that you enjoy cultivating in your garden?
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