Comfrey enthusiasts often tout comfreys utility while detractors vilify and discredit its effectiveness. Because of the over hype on both sides it is hard to get the true story on comfrey. Together let’s dispel the rumors and get the full story.
Comfrey is hardy, most people see plants as fragile and can only be planted during dormancy. Comfrey is the exact opposite of fragile. It thrives in most of the US, growing well in USDA Hardiness zones 3-9. Comfrey will grow in clay, sand, or loam. Wet or dry, sun or shade, it doesn’t seem to matter, comfrey thrives in almost all conditions. That being said comfrey isn’t a wonder plant. When planting be sure to give it every advantage. Water in thoroughly when planting during the growing season, depending on when and where you plant. For example planting in the deep south during the summer heat, comfrey will need shade for a significant part of the day as well as a steady dose of water at establishment. If you are planting in the north during a wet, dormant period you might be able to plant your comfrey nearly anywhere and walk away with little care otherwise.
Propagation and Uses:
Take a rototiller to comfrey and it only laughs and produces more plants the next year. Comfrey grows by root division so a rototiller chopping up comfrey root into a bunch more rootlets only makes more comfrey plants. While I don’t advise running a tiller thru your comfrey bed as a means of propagation, I have seen it done by accident. Dividing comfrey is as easy as digging up a plant root, cutting it into 1-2 inch sections and replanting. Understand a newly divided root can take some time to reestablish itself. Depending on the time of year it can take as long as a 1 or 2 months until freshly divided root emerges.
The US government says human ingestion of comfrey is against the law. Even after you take human ingestion off the table, comfrey is valuable for many things. Scraps, bites, and stings all can be helped by a comfrey application. Livestock and plants benefit from comfrey and their nutrient accumulation. Farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders in Europe have used comfrey as a large portion of their livestock feed for ages. Today my homestead fowl love eating comfrey: ducks, chickens, turkeys, and guinea fowl all have enjoyed comfrey as part of their staple diet.
Dig a shallow hole at least double the width of your root to be planted. Throw your comfrey root into the hole. Cover the hole with soil and water lightly. That is really how simple it can be to plant comfrey.
Most people won’t accept that as a “how to” for planting comfrey and if I hadn’t experienced it myself I won’t accept it either. It’s the most basic planting instructions ever! But yes it will work for comfrey because comfrey is an extraordinary plant. If you are skeptical lets go into a bit more detail and make sure your comfrey plants thrive in their new environment.
Whether Comfrey root is planted live or dormant doesn’t matter, it is still planted the same way. For best results select comfrey roots that are at least ¼” long (I have rooted comfrey rootlets that have been as thin as an 1/8” long but if given the choice try to plant ½” or larger). Planting depth is important. Plant your root a half inch deep or just below the soil surface. Planting any deeper can slow or hinder your comfrey to germinate.
Comfrey root as with all plants excels if given a proper environment to thrive in. Planting comfrey root in full sun in 100 degree weather into sandy soil during a hot, dry, and windy summer with little water isn’t going to make your comfrey root happy. Fall and spring is the best time to plant comfrey. If you need to plant during the summer or winter, it’s okay. In the summer find a partially shaded area and water in thoroughly during planting. Give your comfrey root plenty of water during the first few weeks of establishment. Remember comfrey roots can take up to 2 months to sprout depending on when you plant your comfrey root.
Spacing is another consideration, comfrey can get quite large. Give your comfrey plants 2-3 feet or space between each other for maximum leave growth. If you are chopping and dropping your comfrey leaves for animal feed or fertilizer this should be plenty of room in between plants.
Are you ready to plant comfrey in your backyard or homestead? Have any comfrey questions that we didn’t answer? If so we would love to hear from you. Ask us a question in the comments or email us any of your comfrey questions. And be sure to look for Northeast Edible comfrey planting video going up within the next few weeks.