Hardiness: -15 degrees F, -26.2 degrees C
Herbaceous perennial native to Europe. True Comfrey is the original medicinal herb as detailed in all the ancient literature. There is a white/cream flowered type and a purple flowered type. This is the purple flowered type (very pretty, also very good medicine). The plant grows true from seed.
Compared to the Bocking 14 cultivar (Symphytum x uplandicum), this "true comfrey" (Symphytum officinale) has a balanced consitituent content, with good representation of healing alantoin as well as mucopolysaccharides and less concentration of potentially toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (most investigators agree that true comfrey is free of echimidine). This seed is from my own plants, and the identification is correct as "Symphytum officinale." And, its really good stuff.
Comfrey prefers a full to part sun position with rich, moist, but well-drained soil. Sandy soil is fine as long as the plants are watered consistently during the growing season. Sow the seed just under the surface and tamp in securely. Keep warm and moist until germination, which takes approximately 10 days in standard greenhouse culture. Germination may take as long as 30 days if you do not have a greenhouse. 30 days of cold/moist conditioning followed by planting in warm soil may improve the germination response. Grow the seedlings out in pots for about 3 months, then transplant to the garden. You can also direct-seed into a fertile bed once the soil warms up a bit in the spring. If you don't want the plants to spread, then cut them back when they make flowers, and mulch the crowns with the leaves. This will keep the seed from maturing and dropping, and will quickly improve the soil and contribute to the formation of large, healthy and happy plants. 10 seeds/pkt., Certified Organically Grown
No replacements on comfrey seed, as it is extremely easy to grow and highly viable. If for some reason you cannot grow it from seed, please order plants.
We had a number of reports of low- or non-germination on comfrey seed and enlisted the assistance of a randomly chosen customer to help us elucidate what might be happening. We sent him the comfrey seed he ordered (lot number 4955, harvested in 2008) and a free sample of comfrey seed (lot number 5493, harvested in 2009). We asked him to plant both lots of seed in the normal manner that he plants seeds, and this is the e-mail he sent back to us:
As requested I'm submitting a germination report for the comfrey seed that I purchased and the extra that you so generously gave me.
To begin with, I'm sixty years old and have been gardening seriously for about forty years now. While nowhere near an expert at least I'm nowhere near a beginner either.
Decided to start the seeds in pots rather than plant them in place in the garden which turned out to be a good thing what with the crazy weather this year. Probably my worst garden ever. I imagine I'll get
hungry this winter.
I still have not been able to build a greenhouse which I so desperately want but hope springs eternal and I hope to have one while I'm still agile enough to use it.
The report is a little flawed because, for some reason, I forgot to mark the quantity of seeds in batch 5493. It was either eight or nine seeds and for the life of me I can't remember which. The packages with batch number 4955 on the label each had ten seeds as stated.
I used a mix of clay and plastic pots with new potting soil purchased for the test. Pots were placed in trays on my porch as I had nowhere else to put them.
Both lot numbers performed similarly, no major difference between them. I must say that at one point I almost gave up and chucked the
pots as the quickest seed to germinate took twenty-one days and the slowest took thirty days.
I am puzzled by the lengthy germination time I encountered. I can see how someone that
was more of a novice than me might give up on the seeds if they hadn't seen any sign of germination after three or four weeks. I was beginning
to wonder myself, but had no other use for the pots or the space so left them alone.
As to the final germination results. I haven't been in school for many, many years and math was never my forte, so I hope you will forgive me for not giving you percentages of germination.
Lot number 4955. Twenty seeds planted. Seventeen seedlings obtained.
Lot number 5493 marked summer 09. Eight or nine? seeds planted.
Seven seedlings obtained.
So, to sum up. Seeds planted in pots outdoors in newly purchased potting soil. Kept moist by setting in trays of water. Germination in twenty-one to thirty days. No noticeable difference in germination
between the two lot numbers. Surprised at the number of weed and grass seeds in purchased potting soil. I usually have no need to purchase it
but wanted this germination test to be as fair as it could be.
It was an honor and a privilege to be asked to take part in this little study and I enjoyed myself greatly. Thank you, sir.
I do enjoy your catalog and your website, both are topnotch. I
have purchased from you in the past and will continue to do so in the future as I wade deeper into the waters of herbal medicine.
Thank you for your products, thank you for your consideration,
thank you for your excellent service, thank you for allowing an old man to take part in this test and be able to contribute something back to
the gardening world that he loves so much.
Richo's comment on the above. It was interesting to see that dry-stored seed that was a year old gave 85% germ and the newer seed gave between 77.7 and 87.5% germ--really no loss of germinability in a year's time, by the looks of it. The main reason we requested the help of JC was to find out what people were doing that would cause them to report zero germ when our experience was consistently 90% germ in 10 days in normal greenhouse culture. What we found out was the obvious--people don't necessarily have the facilities to give normal greenhouse culture, and that lack of same causes a delay in the germination response. Clearly, germination times are environmentally and temporally determined, so where you plant the seed and how long you wait is going to make a difference! As an aside, we also have learned that a cold/moist stratification for 30 days followed by planting in warm conditions will improve germination speed adn will enhance germination. Many thanks to Mr. JC and I hope all of you have great results with the true comfrey!