Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Comfrey
Symphytum officinale

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Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Symphytum (sim-FY-tum) (Info)
Species: officinale (oh-fiss-ih-NAH-lee) (Info)

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

48 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Category:
Herbs

Height:
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

Spacing:
12-15 in. (30-38 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Danger:
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Purple

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer

Foliage:
Deciduous

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 32 photos.
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Profile:

13 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive bonehead On Nov 19, 2009, bonehead from Cedarhome, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

When it flops over, cut it back hard, it will come back again and again. I typically get 3-4 bloomings per season from mine. Great medicinal plant, and also good supplement for any grass eating animal.

Positive Rowan_linnea On May 30, 2008, Rowan_linnea from Isle, MN (Zone 3b) wrote:

My Comfrey patch flourishes here in zone 3b, Minnesota! No problems!
A couple of years ago, a well-meaning relative decided to rototill my side garden when I wasn't home... My one tall comfrey plant became over the years, a patch of about 10 plants. (this is my "Invasives" garden.. Black-stemmed peppermint, comfrey, egyptian walking onions and sedum as well as the comfrey!*grin*)

Positive creekwalker On Nov 28, 2007, creekwalker from Benton County, MO (Zone 5a) wrote:

I loved this plant. I had bought Comfrey seed, planted them in the spring and they never came up that summer. Two years later, I have this plant growing by my front door and I realize it is from the Comfrey seed I had planted before! It was beautiful but later in the summer when it got so big, it started collapsing and getting in the way of my door.

But I still wish I had another one!

Positive UpstateWomanNY On Aug 20, 2006, UpstateWomanNY from Port Jervis, NY wrote:

A friend of mine sent me a recipe to make homemade comfrey salve. Another friend sent me a small tiny plant in April 2005. Well, I got no flowers last year but did get enough leaves to make a very small batch of salve to give out as Christmas gifts. And I can say nothing but good of this plant when made of salve. I dropped a teakettle of boiling hot water on my stomach while making a thermos of tea for my husband. I had nothing in the house to put on it as it was 4 am in the morning. I grabbed the salve and put it all over my stomach. It took less then 5 mins. for the pain to go away but my whole stomach was dark red. By the time I got to the Dr. he said I had 2nd and 3rd degree burns. He could not believe I didn't end up in the ER. Of course he made me use an antibiotic covered for 2 weeks, but it wasn't doing anything so I starting using my salve again and within 3 days it skinned over and you can hardly even see a scar there. I have a huge plant this year and will have to probably use some for compost around tomato plants next year as I have way too much for making salve this year. But I can't say enough good about the comfrey plant.

Positive dbjccomfrey On Jul 6, 2004, dbjccomfrey from Norridgewock, ME wrote:

I've wanted to start growing comfrey for some time,reading anything and everything on its history of use. I have my first plant in the herb bed-because its growing fast, and also I decided to grow a comfrey bed all by itself, I will move it this week. I'm growing the comfrey bed for compost reasons and home medicinal purposes. Ive had the opportunity to use it on myself 2 weeks ago when I fell thru the rotted back deck{will be removed}and injured my leg with 3 good size areas of black and blue and scraping.I applied the poultice 2 nites in a row,on the 4th day the bruising was gone,most of the swelling, and only a little tenderness.Last nite I took a comfrey bath, and my skin and hair is very soft. This is one herb that deserves priority attention in my gardens.

Neutral CatskillKarma On Jun 18, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

This plant is very vigorous. Last year, my husband took roundup to an area of our yard that had been the previous owner's vegetable garden. They had seeded it with comfrey as a cover crop, then it had lain fallow for three years.The area filled in with a sprinkling of comfrey and a lot of other native wildflowers, grasses and weeds. The comfrey appeared to die off last fall, but came back vigorously in the spring. My husband then applied roundup in early spring. No other plants returned, just the comfrey! And that is in zone 4b where it should be only marginally hardy! I don't have a problem with this as I like the comfrey, but I can see that it might be invasive where less welcome. Lousy idea for a cover crop!

Neutral foodiesleuth On Jun 17, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

I have tried growing it from seedlings given to me by a friend. Mine have not fared too well....hers are gorgeous! She uses it as a border plant and when it starts getting rambunctious she pulls the strays up and chops them into the mulch pile to use on other herbs and veggies.

My friend is a hollistic physician and also uses it for medicinal purposes.

Positive Wingnut On Jun 16, 2004, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Beautiful, huge, dark green leaves that spring up seemingly out of nowhere in spring. I wouldn't call it invasive since it doesn't spread, but if you plan to put it in your garden, MAKE SURE it's where you want it because you probably won't get it out again.

Positive welshherblady On Apr 20, 2004, welshherblady from Isle of Anglesey,North Wales
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

Medicinal plant aka Knitbone.For humans and animals.
Excessive internal use not recommended.
Be advised by a medical herbalist before internal self treatment.
Can be used as a feed for your garden and also used to encourage breakdown of compost heaps.

Positive Michaelp On Nov 11, 2003, Michaelp from Glendale, UT (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have used Comfrey on myself and my children. It is also great for rabbits with digestive problems, such as bloat and diarrhea); the studies I have read show that one would have to eat or drink a great amount of this to get the bad effect they report.

Positive scooterbug On Aug 17, 2003, scooterbug from Tellico Plains, TN (Zone 7b) wrote:

I have this plant on my hundred year old farm, the German immigrants who built this house were vegetarians and mostly self-reliant. The family says it has been here as long as they can remember, for over 80 years, and in the same spot.

I do not find it invasive. I have relocated some where I need something green growing. Easy hardy plant. It flops mid-summer, run the mower over and it comes up a 2nd time. If you mow it enough it will give up.

Comfrey has many beneficial uses for the Organic Gardener.

Positive gazp On Jun 27, 2003, gazp from Birmingham
United Kingdom wrote:

Grown from a very tiny seedling about seven years ago, my plant now approaches five feet in height. It hasn't invaded other parts of the garden, is almost indestructible, and is a fantastic plant for attracting bees!

Positive NancyD On Jun 19, 2003, NancyD from Waterloo, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

I bought one of these plants last year at a neighbourhood plant sale, can't say that I was real impressed the first year, but this year...it is wonderful. My plant is now almost 4 ft. tall and is not being invasive in any way. I guess time will tell. It might be because of my climate (cold winters). This is probably the healthiest plant in my garden this year. It is making quite an impressive showing.

Positive garbanzito On Jun 15, 2003, garbanzito from Denver, CO (Zone 5a) wrote:

Comfrey grows with little care or additional water in the protected microclimate of my Denver kitchen garden: midday sun only, bounded on one side by a large rosemary bush, and on the other by Chocolate Mint. It hasn't spread in three years, but only becomes more robust (it tends to fall over by midsummer, but can be cut back for a second bloom.)

Positive Stonebec On Jun 15, 2003, Stonebec from Fort Worth, TX (Zone 7b) wrote:

I have grown this plant for years in a pot to keep it from spreading. The pot is never placed on bare ground. I trim the root ball in late fall and keep only the younger, center core of the plant to overwinter. I have used the leaves for medicinal purposes in combination with other herbs as a salve. It worked quite well. I harvest and dry the leaves while they are still young. They can also be used fresh for wounds.

Negative lupinelover On Jan 27, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Make absolutely sure you really want the plant before putting it in the garden: it is harder to get rid of than thistle.

It is said to be a good plant to use as mulch for tomato plants. Since comfrey is no longer considered to be safe for consumption, this is something to do with it.

Neutral Baa On Feb 9, 2002, Baa wrote:

A large perennial from Europe and Western Asia.

Has ovate-lanceolate, mid-dark green, thickly veined leaves thickly covered in bristles. Bears tubular to almost bell shaped, dark violet/pink to white, pendant flowers borne on a coiled flower spike. Much loved by bees.

Flowers May-July

Loves humus rich, deep, fertile, neutral, well drained soil in a sunny position but will tolerate quite a bit of shade. Has a long tap root which can reach over 10ft long and once planted can be difficult to erradicate.

Many years ago it was a popular medicinal plant and has many common names such as knitbone and bruisewort. It's leaves were made into a liquid, oily substance which was used to heal skin inflammations. Fresh, young leaves were made into a poultice to reduce swellings, burns, very dry, cracked skin and cuts. This has been used for centuries and has some scientific fact.

Leaves and roots were also used for stomach ulcers, coughs, respiritory and digestion problems, and as a skin softener. Made into a decoction it was used to cure gum problems and was an effective mouthwash. A comfrey cold compress soothed eyes.

Fresh leaves can be boiled to make into a gold dye for cloth.

Young leaves and shoots can be washed and boiled as a vegetable and has a range of minerals and vitamins in small quantities.

The plant can also be chopped up and added to the compost heap, its quite high in potash. Liquid comfrey fertilizer is best when it is made from S. xuplandicum but S. officinale can also be used in the same way.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,
Amesti, California
San Jose, California
Willits, California
Denver, Colorado
Bithlo, Florida
Keystone Heights, Florida
Lakeland Highlands, Florida
Honomu, Hawaii
Chicago, Illinois
Farmersburg, Indiana
Galena, Indiana
Bossier City, Louisiana
Madison, Maine
Sandy River, Maine
Halfway, Maryland
Lexington, Massachusetts
Bay City, Michigan
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
East Tawas, Michigan
Owosso, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Woodland, Minnesota
Sedalia, Missouri
Nelson, New Hampshire
Ramblewood, New Jersey
Hilton, New York
Port Jervis, New York
West Kill, New York
Efland, North Carolina
Mountain View, North Carolina
Ashtabula, Ohio
Delaware, Ohio
Ashland, Oregon
Brookings, Oregon
Dover, Pennsylvania
Appleby, Texas
Austin, Texas
Belton, Texas
Briarcliff, Texas
Carrollton, Texas
Houston, Texas
Spring, Texas
Layton, Utah
West Valley City, Utah
Salem, Virginia
Wytheville, Virginia
Bremerton, Washington
Camano, Washington
Kalama, Washington
Lake Goodwin, Washington



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