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How does one propagate more comfrey?

 
Kevin MacBearach
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Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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I have three large patches of comfrey and want more. Should I just go in with a shovel and break some off? Is it a pretty hardy plant that I just need a little root for it to take off?

Kevin
 
Irene Kightley
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Kevin,

Providing your comfrey is well established, just dig in there with a fork and take off a few shoots. I've done this even in mid -summer and it's been OK.

Tread the mother plant back down and give it a good watering.

Transplant or pot up the shoots as soon as you can.
 
Isaac Hill
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Comfrey is the easiest plant to cultivate I've come across... except maybe amaranth...

You can dig up the whole plant, break off finger sized portions of the root and you now have as many plants as you do pieces of root. Put the pieces of root where you want new plants and water them in. That simple. You can also spread it by tilling it in, and once it's there it's pretty much there forever so be careful where you put it.
 
Shawn Harper
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I'd just like to add sometimes pieces smaller than finger size can propogate new plants... My parents niebors have comefrey in a lot of thier pots for othe plants because she cycles the dirt.
 
Brenda Groth
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totally agree with the above posts..I found that even the tiniest pieces of root, with or without leaves, will root, the larger ones will produce a largish plant the first year, the smaller ones will suffer a little the first year but will sprout some leaves and then they'll take off the second or third year..

it doesn't take much..remember NOT to put it where you might want to till or dig a lot or you'll move bits all over the place
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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If you decide you do not like where you plant it, it is possible to kill it.

One friend did this with a large patch of comfrey, by covering it with black plastic. I do not know how far beyond the plants he extended it, or how long the black plastic was there.

The next thing he did in that space was plant a pumpkin, and he had 50 (fifty) pumpkins on that 1 plant.

So you can change your mind if you decide you do not like where you planted it.

It is difficult to get rid of established comfrey, but not impossible.

I, too, have propagated comfrey from small pieces of root. I can't say exactly how small. I plant a bunch of little and large chunks , and most of them sprout and grow into fine plants.

I have also propagated it by leaving potted comfrey on the ground. The roots grew through the holes in the bottom of the pot and broke when I moved the pot, but resprouted.

Good luck.

Pamela Melcher
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Good to know I can start my own comfrey plants with the roots. One question though, isn't this a highly beneficial plant for the soil as well as other plants? Shouldn't it be encouraged for most situations? One reason I want a lot of it is because I have a couple cows that love it and I imagine them able to eat comfrey when the grass is dormant. I also hear chickens will eat it if you let it wilt a bit and it would be a great source of minerals for them.

How many comfrey plants in a given area, depending on what you want to use them for, is enough?
 
Eric Toensmeier
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Usually people ask the opposite. The very best way to get more comfrey is to run over your patch with the rototiller a couple of times. Every root fragment will sprout into a new plant. Otherwise the techniques people have already posted work just fine too.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Can you tell me more about comfrey and about its adaptability to warm places? Does it thrives only with water? Are there different varieties ?
I have heard about a dwarf type also...
Is there a more adapted comfrey to dry places?

I will get some roots from neighbours, but I did not find the plants growing as nice as when I was in France...

I also wonder how you put it with other plants:
on its own in a group or line (what I guess...), or can you mix it in vegetable beds?
Well, is it a close companion ...or a better distant companion just used for mulch and its tea leaves!?

Can it be used in the shade with trees?
 
Kevin MacBearach
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I don't know much about comfrey except that it's the first thing my cow will eat in the new paddock, even if the grass is long and lush he she still heads right to the comfrey. Each time it gets eaten all the way down, it comes back in a few weeks.

When we moved to this property this spring, there were three comfrey plants growing here. Two are growing next to blackberry patches and one is growing in the middle of a field. I think they like lots of moisture cause the one in the field is wilted a bit.
 
Ben Stallings
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:One question though, isn't this a highly beneficial plant for the soil as well as other plants? Shouldn't it be encouraged for most situations? One reason I want a lot of it is because I have a couple cows that love it and I imagine them able to eat comfrey when the grass is dormant.


In my experience comfrey doesn't tolerate regular mowing -- it can't compete with grass (at least the bermuda grass we have here!) unless it can get above it to shade it out. So in a grazing situation I would say you would need to rotate the cows in and out to give the comfrey time to recover.
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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When comfrey can grow above and shade the grass, it can outcompete the most fierce quackgrass, as I have witnessed. It could be cut 2 times to the ground in the summer and prevail and gain ground. This was in quite fertile soil.

Abundance for All!

Pamela Melcher
 
Rick Larson
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Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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I have a perfect bare spot in a rasberry patch, I am undecided to plant comfrey or just pile up some mulch in that spot. What do you think?
 
Ben Stallings
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Rick Larson wrote:I have a perfect bare spot in a rasberry patch, I am undecided to plant comfrey or just pile up some mulch in that spot. What do you think?


That depends on whether you want more berries there, or more comfrey. If you put comfrey there, berries will never grow in that spot. But if you don't have another comfrey plant nearby, this could solve that problem!
 
S Tarry
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Easiest way I have found of propagating comfrey is to tear off a leaf at the base of the stem and stick it in a pot with soil and keep it watered....a new root will grow out the bottom of the leaf stem after a few weeks. Eventually you will see new leaves growing out from the base of the stem and it will start to look like a regular comfrey plant. Saves the trouble of digging up comfrey roots.
 
A.J. Gentry
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Hello all.

I thought I heard in one of the podcasts that if you transplant anything the taproot is lost. I didn't jot down which podcast. I thought the conversation was trees... But I was curious if this applied to everything. Woody/nonwoody? Does that apply it comfrey too? Comfrey seems to propagate so easily. And establish so quickly in the new place.

A.J.
 
Johnny Niamert
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S Tarry wrote:Easiest way I have found of propagating comfrey is to tear off a leaf at the base of the stem and stick it in a pot with soil and keep it watered....a new root will grow out the bottom of the leaf stem after a few weeks. Eventually you will see new leaves growing out from the base of the stem and it will start to look like a regular comfrey plant. Saves the trouble of digging up comfrey roots.


I recently read this as well. I'm going to try it next spring.
I saw someone using the flowering shoot to root, but I'll have to try just a leaf like you recommend.
 
S Tarry
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Johnny Niamert wrote:
S Tarry wrote:Easiest way I have found of propagating comfrey is to tear off a leaf at the base of the stem and stick it in a pot with soil and keep it watered....a new root will grow out the bottom of the leaf stem after a few weeks. Eventually you will see new leaves growing out from the base of the stem and it will start to look like a regular comfrey plant. Saves the trouble of digging up comfrey roots.


I recently read this as well. I'm going to try it next spring.
I saw someone using the flowering shoot to root, but I'll have to try just a leaf like you recommend.


I have used the method I described above and it works well.
 
S Tarry
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A.J. Gentry wrote:Hello all.

I thought I heard in one of the podcasts that if you transplant anything the taproot is lost. I didn't jot down which podcast. I thought the conversation was trees... But I was curious if this applied to everything. Woody/nonwoody? Does that apply it comfrey too? Comfrey seems to propagate so easily. And establish so quickly in the new place.

A.J.


I haven't checked to verify that there is indeed a taproot growing from the comfrey I propagated in the method I mentioned but I can't see any reason why there wouldn't be. I think they were referring to trees and the more woody plants.
 
Matt Hunter
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I made a video of this process. I have videos of many permaculture things, as I'm traveling around the country on bicycle and visiting every permaculture type place I can find.

http://wanderingupward.org/2014/04/14/how-to-propagate-comfrey/
 
Roger Taylor
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A.J. Gentry wrote:I thought I heard in one of the podcasts that if you transplant anything the taproot is lost. I didn't jot down which podcast. I thought the conversation was trees... But I was curious if this applied to everything. Woody/nonwoody? Does that apply it comfrey too? Comfrey seems to propagate so easily. And establish so quickly in the new place.


Hi A.J,

There are other threads here which relate to growing trees from seed. And taproots are discussed. I'm pretty sure a poster goes into some level of detail about which plants do and do not have taproots.

Good luck.

Cheers.
 
Tom Harner
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Last year I planted 3 comfrey seeds, 2 of which germinated and were transplanted in the late summer. One currently looks goofy with one leaf sticking up out of the ground... the other is doing pretty well with about a dozen or more leaves... 10" across, 3-4" tall.

How long should I wait before I split this one up and spread it under my fruit trees?
 
Ivan Weiss
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I too like to spread comfrey everywhere I can on my five acres. In my experience, once the plant has flowered, it can be propagated from stems without disturbing the root. Cut off a nice-sized section of stem, cover it with some compost, or just a pile of wet leaves, and more often than not, it will root and produce a new plant.

I feed comfrey to cattle and hogs by the garbage can load. I use it for compost, mulch, and to make my own liquid fertilizers, either alone or combined with seaweed, or with other dynamic accumulators such as nettle and bracken. Good luck.
 
Tom Harner
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I'll try to propagate via stem cuttings... I feel much more comfortable cutting up the top than digging up the roots of my only healthy plant.
 
Bob Rez
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S Tarry wrote:
Easiest way I have found of propagating comfrey is to tear off a leaf at the base of the stem and stick it in a pot with soil and keep it watered....a new root will grow out the bottom of the leaf stem after a few weeks. Eventually you will see new leaves growing out from the base of the stem and it will start to look like a regular comfrey plant. Saves the trouble of digging up comfrey roots.



I tried starting the leaves and it worked great!
I think the bocking would still stay sterile from the leaf starts but I'am not for sure.
Anybody know if the leaf starts still stay sterile?



 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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Comfrey does not fix nitrogen. It is high in nitrogen, so mulching with comfrey will increase the nitrogen in the mulched soil, but it does not fix nitrogen.
 
Chris Badgett
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We've got so much comfrey at the current Organic Life Guru permaculture experimental garden, that we're turning it into comfy comfrey chairs. Seriously!

It propagated like crazy after tilling the garden a few seasons back.




 
Bob Rez
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Oops !
 
Eric Platt
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S Tarry wrote:...tear off a leaf at the base of the stem and stick it in a pot with soil and keep it watered...


I've never heard of this but i'm excited to give it a try! Thanks.
 
Bob Rez
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** Propagation of Comfrey Bocking #? with leaves **

My Agricultural Agent said the Propagation of Comfrey Bocking #? leaves would remain sterile as long as the parent plant was sterile.
 
Eric Platt
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Bob Rez wrote:My Agricultural Agent said the Propagation of Comfrey Bocking #? leaves would remain sterile as long as the parent plant was sterile.

Assuming it is a hybrid comfrey (Bocking 4, 14, etc.) it would stay sterile. If it was true comfrey (Symphytum officinale) than it would propagate from seed just like the plant you took the leaf from.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Brenda Groth wrote:totally agree with the above posts..I found that even the tiniest pieces of root, with or without leaves, will root, the larger ones will produce a largish plant the first year, the smaller ones will suffer a little the first year but will sprout some leaves and then they'll take off the second or third year..

it doesn't take much..remember NOT to put it where you might want to till or dig a lot or you'll move bits all over the place


From what I read before I was under the impression that it would grow much faster than that. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part.

Does anyone have any advice for helping comfrey grow faster? I could only obtain one small plant, from which I took root cuttings and planted them. The mother plant seems to be doing well, although I expected it to grow faster. Only a couple (out of about 20) of root cuttings have sprouted after months instead of weeks, so I guess it's not liking the conditions a lot. What could one do to set up a comfrey propagation patch or bed to push things in the right direction?
 
Kelly Smith
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:I don't know much about comfrey except that it's the first thing my cow will eat in the new paddock, even if the grass is long and lush he she still heads right to the comfrey. Each time it gets eaten all the way down, it comes back in a few weeks.

When we moved to this property this spring, there were three comfrey plants growing here. Two are growing next to blackberry patches and one is growing in the middle of a field. I think they like lots of moisture cause the one in the field is wilted a bit.


be careful to much comfrey can be bad for pregnant cows.
 
Tom Harner
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Juan Sebastian Estrada wrote:
Brenda Groth wrote:totally agree with the above posts..I found that even the tiniest pieces of root, with or without leaves, will root, the larger ones will produce a largish plant the first year, the smaller ones will suffer a little the first year but will sprout some leaves and then they'll take off the second or third year..

it doesn't take much..remember NOT to put it where you might want to till or dig a lot or you'll move bits all over the place


From what I read before I was under the impression that it would grow much faster than that. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part.

Does anyone have any advice for helping comfrey grow faster? I could only obtain one small plant, from which I took root cuttings and planted them. The mother plant seems to be doing well, although I expected it to grow faster. Only a couple (out of about 20) of root cuttings have sprouted after months instead of weeks, so I guess it's not liking the conditions a lot. What could one do to set up a comfrey propagation patch or bed to push things in the right direction?



I've been growing comfrey for almost 2 complete seasons now... I'm getting between 10%-20% success rate for root cuttings. Planting ~50 root cuttings, there are 6 thriving plants, and ~4 struggling plants. Most of the remainder sprout but then die off as young plants. I had the same impression that comfrey would grow faster than it does from everyone saying how hardy it is... but after working with it for a while now, it seems to me that it grows like a villian in a 1980's horror film... slow and steady Jason Vorhees will chase you, never running, but with his unrelenting determination, eventually he will get you. So does comfrey grow and spread.

Trends I've noticed on my property using "True Comfrey" (Symphytum officinale):
*Comfrey plants thrive in wood chip mulch
*Comfrey plants thrive in dappled shade
*Comfrey plants thrive very NEAR wood chip mulch
*(Young?) Comfrey plants languish/die in high traffic areas that meet the above conditions (dogs and chickens have trampled several plants)
*(Young?) Comfrey plants languish/die in relatively dry microclimates
*(Young?) Comfrey plants languish/die in locations with uncovered soil
*I have only planted a few comfrey cuttings in the shadiest parts of my property and they all have suffered (2 still alive)... but all experienced one or more of the above factors as well.
*Mature comfrey makes better root cuttings... wait for it to flower
*The crowns almost always thrive when transplanted
*I clearly do not know how to collect and propagate by seed.


Obviously I don't have a ton of experience, but I too am struggling with building out my stock and thought that every bit of info might help. In fact, just writing this up has made me rethink how I plan to move forward.


 
Rose Pinder
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Juan Sebastian Estrada wrote:
Does anyone have any advice for helping comfrey grow faster? I could only obtain one small plant, from which I took root cuttings and planted them. The mother plant seems to be doing well, although I expected it to grow faster. Only a couple (out of about 20) of root cuttings have sprouted after months instead of weeks, so I guess it's not liking the conditions a lot. What could one do to set up a comfrey propagation patch or bed to push things in the right direction?


Last summer I planted a handful of comfrey roots into an apple crate. The roots were a mix of the size of my finger and a few that were more crown like of actual small plants (they came from small pots). The crate was in full shade behind a wall (so not dark) and was protected from the wind. Watered well, as needed. The comfrey outgrew the crate within half a season. I was growing them to propogate not for the leaves, but I reckon with more attention and feeding I could have gotten 3 harvests off the leaves.

A couple of points. If I wanted to establish comfrey quickly in the garden I might try this alongside direct planting. If you cut holes in the bottom of the crate the comfrey roots will eventually grow into the ground and when you move the crate new comfrey will grow in the ground. You can then also plant out the larger plants in the crate, plus divide them to replant the crate etc.

Much of that would be climate and situation dependent. For me it was providing shade, shelter and adequate watering that got the comfrey to grow fast, so would depend on to what extent I could recreate that in the garden.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Thanks a lot Tom and Rose for your great advice!
 
Tom Harner
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yea, it might be worth noting: I don't water my comfrey.
 
leila hamaya
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yes the not watering is probably why you are having low success rates. once the plants are established they are better at tolerating drought, but getting going the watering is crucial. also, like most perennials, the start off very slowly, then once they finally get really well established, take off like crazy fast. but it takes a few years till they get well established to grow so fast.

we have a lot of comfrey here, though i dont know what kind and i have been curious to figure it out. my best guess is its russian comfrey and one of the bocking sterile types. i cannot even find seeds on it, but maybe i miss them when they are there.

early in the spring i dug up and moved a large comfrey plant, because we were building a small shed in the area. even though i tried to get every last bit of it, it still resprouted off to the back of the area.

i often cut off the leaves and use them mulch, i have seen the leaves sprout roots while just being used for mulch. so totally that leaf thing is probably a good idea, probably key is to get the whole leaf, pull it off by hand, so it detaches from down deep where its connected to the main stalk. basically get the entire leaf, as deep down as you can pull from.

i dug up some earlier in the year to trade and to propagate new starts...i still have a few left and i worry about them doing that "comfrey tractor" thing...actually i think they have already sent roots out of the bottom of the pot and started rooting in the ground in the spot where i have the pots. if i wanted to have big batches of it in a lot of spots, that what i would do...transplant some roots into pots and then keep moving the pot to where i wanted it...

 
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