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Arbor Gate's Picks
of the Month

Comfrey

June 8, 2018 Back to Picks >

Not all herbs are used primarily in cooking. With their culinary, aromatic, medicinal, economic, and purely decorative qualities, herbs are often referred to as “the useful plants.” Each month’s herb pick for 2018 will feature an example of the many and varied uses for herbs that can be grown in our region.

And in all cases, no matter what the herb, Arbor Gate Complete Soil and Arbor Gate Blend Fertilizer are recommended from transplanting throughout the life of the plant, whether in the garden or containers. Both will provide what your plants need: organic, well balanced, and enriched growing mediums, year around.

Comfrey is a classic example of an ancient herb with many good qualities other than culinary uses. Originating in the Caucasus mountains of Russia, comfrey can withstand temperatures of -40° F below zero without winter kill. It thrives in Africa in 120° F heat and, with 12 cuttings per year there, they hold the world record yield of over 140 tons per acre.

Comfrey can be planted spring, summer or fall, anytime the soil can be worked. In warmer climates such as ours (Deep South and Southwest USA) it can be planted and the leaves harvested throughout the year.

Comfrey has a centuries-long history as a medicinal plant. In fact, some of its ancient names were boneset, healing herb, knit bone, and others with healing connotations. Although its fresh young leaves were eaten raw in earlier times, it is now known that they contain an alkaloid that can cause liver damage, so it is best not to take comfrey internally.

Comfrey is a deep-rooted perennial herb with large leaves and lovely white, pink, or lavender flower spikes that can reach 2 to 3 feet in height. Its spreading habit, combined with deep roots, are considerations when choosing where to plant a young comfrey.

Grow comfrey in full sun or partial shade; propagate by root division. This historic herb is a fine source of greens for composting or for using as a mulch around nutrient-hungry plants. When the large plants are cut back for composting in summer, old branches are quickly replaced by a fresh flush of foliage, with blooms not far behind.