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Growing Comfrey for Garden and Farm
"Thank you for the great information on your website regarding comfrey and the multiple beneficial uses for it." -Chris, Oakland, California
YouTube video (10 minutes) about planting comfrey by Pacific Northwest Outdoors: How to Grow Comfrey.

USDA Hardiness Zones and Comfrey

Comfrey is a hardy, robust perennial good in Zones 3-9 so it can be planted everywhere in the United States except northern Alaska and the southern tip of Florida.

Though people do have success growing comfrey in southern Florida. Be sure to plant it in partial shade and not in full sun in hot climates.

"The Comfrey Bocking #14 grows quickly producing large leaves that are filled with nutrients. The cold won't hurt it as it is hearty down to minus 35 degrees and it loves the Florida sun." -South Florida Gardening, Hollywood, Florida, Zone 10

According to the "Eat Local Guide" of Sarasota, Florida, Zone 9: "Comfrey does well in Florida gardens, growing year-round. It is better grown in the ground than in a pot and needs to be cut back in January or February. You can start comfrey anytime, although it is best to start it in the spring."

Seasons to Plant Comfrey

Comfrey roots can be planted any time the soil can be worked. In most climates this means planting is good spring, summer and fall.

The best time to plant is in the spring or fall. It is better if some growth occurs in the fall before the leaves (but not the roots) are killed by frost but it is not essential. Freezing temperatures do not kill comfrey roots.

I have planted comfrey in the winter when the ground was not frozen and it did great. If planted in the winter in cold climates, the crown and roots remain dormant until early spring.

Invasiveness of Comfrey

Comfrey Bocking varieties such as #4 and #14 are not invasive. The seeds are sterile (will not grow). True or Common Comfrey is somewhat invasive from the seeds spreading. None of them have invasive roots.

If you want to change the location of your comfrey patch, it is difficult to dig up every bit of root. So you would probably have more comfrey sprouting even when you thought you had dug up everything.
Plant Location and Care

You can plant the roots all in one area. Or if you are short on space, plant 1 or 2 plants separately in locations where there is just a small spot. I have a comfrey plant growing next my barn where there is room for just it. It is very happy.

The photo to the right is a 3-month-old Russian comfrey plant that Jason in West Virginia grew from small roots.

Low Maintenance Plant

Comfrey plants prefer full sun or partial shade (no deep shade). The mature size is 3-5 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide. It prefers soil pH of 6-7 but it is not picky about this. It does well in most soils but prefers a rich soil with a lot of nitrogen.

Comfrey does not require much care. It is unusual for insects, viruses, fungi or bacteria to bother it. However, weak or stressed plants may get rust or mildew (fungal diseases). It does not seriously reduce plant growth so does not usually require control. But infected plants should not be used for propagation.

Comfrey is Hardy

Shoots start coming up in early spring. Flowers bloom late spring through all of summer. Leaves can take frost down to 15 degrees and still survive. Roots survive to -40 degrees.

It is very drought tolerant because it has deep roots. But it is better to water it if there is drought.

Keep well fertilized with manure and other types of nitrogen. It also can be fertilized with urine diluted 50:50 with water.

Plants Grow Larger and Deeper But Are Not Invasive

Each year the plant gets wider with a more extensive root system. Little plants grow closely next to it. Roots grow down 8-10 feet.

Plants live several decades before they go into decline. The better care given, the longer they live. If you divide your roots every few years, the plants are rejuvenated and live forever.

Planting Comfrey

Bury comfrey roots about 2-3 inches deep. In clay soil plant somewhat shallow; in sandy soils plant deeper. This is because sandy soils dry out faster than clay soils.

Space Russian comfrey plants 2-3 feet apart in all directions. Space True comfrey 1-2 feet apart.

It likes fast draining soil. Do not overwater. You can kill plants if the soil is always wet. Let soil dry out between watering. Comfrey roots rot if there is too much water.

Fertile Growing Holes

If you do not have good soil or you want to improve on good soil, try digging fertile holes. Dig a hole about 1-3 gallons in volume for each plant.

Add some good topsoil. Then add manure, compost, Rock Phosphate, Azomite, and/or Kelp. Add Dolomitic Limestone (dolomite lime) if your soil is acid. Mix thoroughly, and water well.

You can also add cut comfrey leaves as a fertilizer. They decay and create good compost for the growing plants.

The photo to the left is a comfrey plant as it first comes up early spring.

Growing Comfrey in Pots

Comfrey will grow in pots (at least 3 gallon), containers such as plastic tubs, or 5-gallon plastic buckets but they do better when not grown in a pot. They have deep roots so prefer growing in the garden where they get more nutrients.

The containers need drainage holes in the bottom. Add fertilizer to the potting soil. Comfrey especially likes nitrogen. Take care of your comfrey the same as any potted plant.

"The True Comfrey that I ordered earlier is now potted and doing well. I had kept it in the fridge for about a month, but it did not seem to suffer any ill effects. Thank you!" -Cat, Augusta, Kentucky

The second photo is from Cat.

"I will have a large 10 gallon pot, filled with compost, some local dirt, and composted manure, waiting for it for its first home. Then when it grows bigger in a couple months, I will have ready it's permanent place in the ground ready for it. I hope it does as well as I feel it will. I have been gardening for years and still wonder why I have not heard of this wonderful plant before, and it's wonderful uses in the garden." -Arthur, Breckenridge Hills, Missouri

The photo on the right is Russian Comfrey #14.

"Such happy little plants! Been trimming it back several times to keep it small in the pot till spring." -John, White Cloud, Michigan

Hardy Comfrey in Containers

"I wanted to share with you the great experience I have had with your comfrey roots that I ordered from you last year. We are trying to establish a mini-farm, and I was not able to plant the roots directly into the ground so I opted for some 3-gallon planting containers. They were there a lot longer than I wanted them to be but they grew big and tall."

"Well weeks went by, and I realized that my raised beds were not going to be in place before the winter so out of desperation I just planted some of these comfrey plants into the clay soil in front of a barn under construction with 6 plants still left in their containers."

"Winter came, with lots of traffic around the barn, and all the rain, snow and freezing cold weather. I am happy to report that when March arrived, ALL the comfrey plants were wonderfully brought back to life and are THRIVING. Thank you for a truly hardy and wonderfully useful plant."
-Soilfully, James Chapman, Judson Farm, Culberson, NC

Dividing Mature Comfrey Plants

Plants are mature at 2 years or older and continue to expand slowly every year. So once a plant is large and well established you can divide it into more plants. It is a hardy plant and almost all transplants survive.

Divide by pushing your shovel vertically all the way through the plant in the middle of the crown (this photo). Take half of the crown with the roots. Divide the roots into 6-8 inch pieces and plant elsewhere.

Or drive a shovel horizontally through the leaf clump about 3-4 inches below the soil surface. This removes the crown. Divide it into 6 inch pieces preferably ones with growing buds.

Planting Divided Comfrey Roots

The original plant quickly recovers. Larger pieces grow larger plants more quickly. You can cut roots into any size you want.

Plant each piece with the growing points (leaf buds) just below the soil, about 2-3 inches deep.

Only divide plants that are strong and healthy. Do not propagate plants with rust, mildew or other problems.

When you divide them do not drop any pieces where you do not want comfrey growing. Or you may have it in places you do not want it. They even re-root in a compost pile.

Plant a Patch of Comfrey, or Add to Pasture

This photo is a Toggenburg goat in a pasture of Russian comfrey and other plants. You can grow it alone (monoculture) or with any other plants (pasture, orchard, field, etc).

Rotational grazing is a good method to use so plants have time to rebuild before they are eaten again.

Another method is to have an area with comfrey that the grazing animals can not reach. Then you cut the comfrey and bring it to the animals. I do that too. I put it in a hay rack since goats do not like it on the ground.

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