Three Tips for Growing Comfrey Plus Recommended Varieties

Comfrey or Symphytum is a storied herb of medicinal value that has a long history of use.

While I'm not able to give advice on herbal use, I can tell you how to grow this plant.

Where to Grow

While many gardeners try to grow Comfrey out in the full sunshine, it does best when treated exactly like the perennial Brunnera. That is, in part shade in dampish soils.

If you grow it in the full sunshine, it will thrive in excellent soils that are well watered but will not do well in soils that are well-drained and sandy (dry soils).


'Axminster Gold'


The species plants will self-sow with abandon in decently drained soils and can become a bit of a nuisance.

Seed can be obtained and started in January for a planting out in late May. Plant several seeds to a 4' pot (give enough room to grow). Barely cover the seed. Keep soil temperatures at 70F.

If the seed is kept at 70F degrees soil temperature after 90 days in the crisper of the refrigerator (do not freeze) then it will germinate almost immediately.

Comfrey for Landscaping

Comfrey is a large plant not suited for small city gardens. The flowers are numerous in the early summer or late spring and attractive if short-lived. (several weeks).

The white-green variegated foliage varieties are quite attractive as is the green-gold foliage and if available should be grown in a slightly protected area out of the very hot sun to preserve the coloring.


Comfrey (S. officinalis)

Varieties and Use

S. officinalis is the comfrey of medicinal use and it is also used as a green manure and plowed down in the fall. It is often used in the 'old days' to line potato trenches as a source of minor nutrients for these tubers.

The leaves of this species are high in almost all nutrients and makes an excellent compost or liquid tea for containers and potted plants. 23-30 inches tall and spreading to weediness.

S. uplandica is the comfrey ancestor in the breeding of many of the modern variegated cultivars and a small note is that if you remove the flowers of this plant (not showy at all) the variegated foliage tends to stay better looking than if the plant is allowed to grow on naturally. These varieties also make excellent ground covers in the damp shade garden.

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These are some of the commonly available plants and I include these with the note that nurseries are now introducing more hybrids on a yearly basis. Grow these for their foliage and their flowers.

'Goldsmith' is 12 inches tall – dark green foliage edged with cream
'Hidcote Blue' spreader to 18 inches tall flowers are soft blue and white
'Langthorn's Pink' is a 5 foot tall plant with many pink flowers
'Rubrum' to 12 inches tall, flowers are a mid-red

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