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Common comfrey versus bocking 14 comfrey

 
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By no means am I an expert Gardener, but I have been at it for many years, and feel I'm as competent as the next guy.  It's more than a little frustrating to fail with a plant said to grow like a weed.  Out of more than a dozen cuttings I have planned only one grew. As luck would have it I accidentally planted an echinacea plant right next to it, so even though it lives, it doesn't get very big.
This spring I ordered one common comfrey and one Russian comfrey Crown root.  I figured they both died again, because it's been a while since I planted them.  Last night I discovered the original comfrey popping up.  I was so excited. Now I have to keep it alive.  It also gives me hope the other will emerge soon too.
Now I'm wondering why when people sing the praises of comfrey it's usually blocking 14.  Is it because it doesn't seed and you don't have to worry about spreading?  Or is it a better plant for other reasons?  I should have asked this before buying and planting them.  My thinking was maybe one will do better than the other in my hot dry climate.  I may regret it later. I had a hard time getting mint to grow, but once I did it took over.  Just seems like if I have a hard time getting it to grow with special attention, it won't spread on its own.  It's so dry here it seems like the seeds germinating on there own is slim.  Looking forward to learning more about comfrey. Thanks happy gardening.
 
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Personally, I like the fact that my comfrey produces seeds. But I have 10 acres for it to spread out on, and some very aggressive weeds keeping it in check. For people who have smaller growing areas and less aggressive weeds, it would probably take over.
 
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Jen - That is the reason that I've heard to prefer the bocking 14, is that it doesn't seed. I don't think it matters in dry, hot climates like ours. Reality is it's not going to grow in areas that aren't irrigated, so it's unlikely to take over, never mind that everything eats it. I suppose it could be a problem in the more riparian areas, like teasel is around here.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I'm glad I planted both.  The common comfrey is doing very well.  The common comfrey has become a mature plant.  It has huge leaves and seems to be doing well.  It seems to handle my hot dry area better then the Russian comfrey.  I can get away with watering it a few times a week.  I hope it will continue to grow and I can grow more in the future.  The Russian comfrey is a different story.  I thought it got a lot of shade, but unfortunately It got full afternoon sun.  It was growing beautifully, so I didn't want to move it.  It had about 4 tears of leaves, dark green, a beautiful plant.  I had to water it everyday.  One day it looked bad and the next it was dead.  I don't know if it was a gopher,(I have had a lot of gopher loss this year) or to much sun.  I just don't know.  I put a shade cloth up and kept watering because the stem looked green, and I was hoping it would regrow.  It didn't, but the other day a little leaf emerged.  Maybe with cooler weather coming, (I hope soon, but probably not) it will make it to maturity.  I can only hope.
 
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Hi Jen,   This is my first time growing (common) comfrey this year. I noticed that each time the sun would come out full force, it would often get limpy and sometimes look like it was almost totally deflated. Watering it would help somewhat after about an hour, but by next morning, it would be back to looking normal again. Having this happen many times, I would say that my comfrey likes a partially sunny location, but stresses it out too much in full sun.

Wishing your plant a speedy recovery and live to be a ripe old age.
 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:I'm glad I planted both.  The common comfrey is doing very well.  The common comfrey has become a mature plant.  It has huge leaves and seems to be doing well.  It seems to handle my hot dry area better then the Russian comfrey.  I can get away with watering it a few times a week.  I hope it will continue to grow and I can grow more in the future.  The Russian comfrey is a different story.  I thought it got a lot of shade, but unfortunately It got full afternoon sun.  It was growing beautifully, so I didn't want to move it.  It had about 4 tears of leaves, dark green, a beautiful plant.  I had to water it everyday.  One day it looked bad and the next it was dead.  I don't know if it was a gopher,(I have had a lot of gopher loss this year) or to much sun.  I just don't know.  I put a shade cloth up and kept watering because the stem looked green, and I was hoping it would regrow.  It didn't, but the other day a little leaf emerged.  Maybe with cooler weather coming, (I hope soon, but probably not) it will make it to maturity.  I can only hope.



Jen, the new ones aren't doing well either?
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Trace I planted so many. All over the place. In my garden, sunny, shade, both, in pots and in the ground.  Many came up and died almost immediately.  I was worried because when they arrived it was one of our super hot days.  I got them out of the mail box right away (I set it up to text me when they arrived). But it was 112 that day.
I'm not giving up.  My other one recovered twice, so I'm hoping once it gets cooler maybe I will have some come up and stick around.  
Thanks just the same. You are amazing.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I dug some up today.  All the roots I found were soft and squishy. Even in the barrel that I kept forgetting to water. I feel as though I have let you down.  Maybe I watered to much when I first planted it.  Last year I was sure I didn't water enough.  Pretty bad odds when I have planted many many roots and only managed to get two to grow, and one of those has been a struggle.
Last year I even bought a small comfrey plant rooted and growing, and it didn't last more then a couple of months.  The two I have now I planted early spring. They took forever to emerge.  So maybe the key for me is plant very early so it has a very healthy root system before it gets super hot 🥵.  Or maybe comfrey is the plant to keep me humble.
On the positive side my Russian comfrey now has 2 little leaves.  Maybe it will make it.  Thanks everyone
 
Trace Oswald
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It may be that your climate just isn't conducive to growing comfrey.  Your idea of planting very early when it's cooler may work.  Hopefully you can get a couple to grow.  Once they are established, you will have as many roots as you need to replant.
 
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Vs. Bocking #4!!!, aka :the clear winner. aka: what I have, hahaha.

Jen, maybe try #4. I have lost two "crops" of #14 (I didn't take good care of them at all but I'm not on trial here) but my #4 is going strong. I live in the land of the dull brown-orange dot too and it's working for me.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Just to clarify is blocking #4 common comfrey and blocking #14 Russian comfrey?  The person I bought it from called them common and Russian.  The common one that is supposed to create seeds is what is actually growing.  I don't really care which one I get to grow.  That's why I tried both.  I do have to say the Russian comfrey is a more beautiful plant.
 
Trace Oswald
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Bocking #4 and #14 are both sterile and don't produce viable seed.  Common comfrey produces viable seed.  Bocking #4 is the kind I sent you.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thanks.  I like to know what I grow.
 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:
Now I'm wondering why when people sing the praises of comfrey it's usually blocking 14.  Is it because it doesn't seed and you don't have to worry about spreading?  Or is it a better plant for other reasons?



The Bocking 14 is said to be selected for having the highest density of "stuff" in it, thus the most potential for medicinal uses,
while Bocking 4 was selected for having much less "stuff" in it, making it the variety you can put occasionally into your salad without poisoning yourself.

 
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I grow Bocking #14 which, as others have pointed out, is a sterile cultivar of Russian Comfrey. It grows exceptionally well here in south Wales, even in a spot that experiences very dry periods and extremely wet periods. It is under a silver birch tree, next to a large laurel hedge (both of which take a lot of groundwater) and on a steep slope. In the winter, due to our climate, we often have daily rain for months on end and so the ground becomes very wet.

Interestingly, we also have Common ("English") Comfrey growing in the garden. It is in a similar location, although a little more shaded by the laurel. The Common Comfrey is far smaller than the Russia Comfrey despite, to my best knowledge, being here for many years (as opposed to ~1 year for the B#14).

I've also grown B#14 in Cambridgeshire where the climate is much drier, often without rain for several months over the summer. It is far less successful there, although it is surviving and slowly spreading.

This is the first time that I've heard of other Bocking cultivars.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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A few more leaves emerge.  The Russian comfrey my come back yet again.
Does your common comfrey lay close to the ground?  Marigolds were leaning over the comfrey so it looked like it was coming out of the middle.  I pushed it back so maybe the comfrey will straighten up.
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I'm trying to do some comfrey growing too in NorCal. What I put into the ground is long dead. I never saw any sprouts of any kind, from lack of watering or soil.

So I took to potting most of the rest. They didn't seem to like being 2 in a single gallon pot. Most of doubles seem to have "eaten their twin." The ones that I haven't roasted are looking not terrible. But the heat isn't being kind to anything. I'll have to stick them carefully in the yard for shade.

I've got 1 in the ground. It looks good, small. I hope it's just putting more roots in.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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This is what I keep seeing where I have put the comfrey.  I keep going back and forth. It's comfrey, it's not.  It doesn't look like it is, but it has popped up in several different places I have put comfrey roots.  In this pot there is a mint plant, pumpkin seeds and comfrey roots. Nothing else.  The pot was newly filled when I got the comfrey.  There is rotten wood in the bottom, and some wood chips in the center.  
They are the strangest things.  They come up white and usually die in a day or so.  The only comfrey I have gotten to grow came out as a small leaf.  I thought maybe it's upsidedown, but what are the odds that everyone was upsidedown?  I just don't know. It's a mystery.
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Jen Fulkerson
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The white things in the other photo are mushrooms.  I saw one the other day with the cap on it.  I have wood in the bottom, and a layer of wood chips in that pot.

Not only do permies love comfrey, but apparently toads do too.  I went out to water after work in the dark, not unusual for me, and there is a little toad in the comfrey.  It didn't even leave when I watered.
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:This is what I keep seeing where I have put the comfrey.  I keep going back and forth. It's comfrey, it's not.  It doesn't look like it is, but it has popped up in several different places I have put comfrey roots.  In this pot there is a mint plant, pumpkin seeds and comfrey roots. Nothing else.  The pot was newly filled when I got the comfrey.  There is rotten wood in the bottom, and some wood chips in the center.  
They are the strangest things.  They come up white and usually die in a day or so.  The only comfrey I have gotten to grow came out as a small leaf.  I thought maybe it's upsidedown, but what are the odds that everyone was upsidedown?  I just don't know. It's a mystery.



Those white things are mushrooms. Congrats you got mycelium! :D I don't know what kind, but I got some of those too.
 
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