I’m currently of two minds about the comfrey plants I’ve grown from seeds only one or two months ago. On one hand, I like its uses; on another, I hate the irritable bristles.

When my friend first found out that I had interest in the comfrey because of its potential and use as a green manure and compost activator, she gave me some seeds. I was extremely excited and sowed quite a bit of them, since they’re not known for being very willing to germinate.

I tried various methods, and it seems as if the seeds are impartial to the media in which they’re sowed on for germination. However, the trick seemed to be keeping them constantly moist (which also makes them susceptible to fungus growing on the seed case, and in which case they won’t sprout), and also to keep the germinating temperature as hot as possible (I place the covered container under full afternoon sun for about four hours a day).

a) One of the smaller comfrey I have right now. I suspect it's the yellow-flower variety; they seem less eager to grow fast

Right now, I have about four to five plants after giving a few away, of both the purple and yellow flower varieties.

Once the seeds germinate, the hardest part is probably over. The plantlets will happily grow in moist soil and full sun to part shade. They rarely die from root rot or over-watering. All in all, the comfrey is an unfussy plant to have.

They grow extremely quickly though, and the bristles all over the leaves turn sharp and irritable to the skin quickly enough, so that there is a need to handle them with the utmost care, or with thick gloves to protect the skin. The root system is also very prolific and invasive, so making sure they are pot bound and kept off the ground soil is important if one doesn’t want a garden of comfrey and nothing else.

However, since I live in an apartment and can grow plants only in pots, I have no problems keeping them in check.

b) The root system of the plantlet in the picture above

For now, I’ve been using small pieces of shredded leaves to activate my pre-composting bin, and that’s about it. I plan to grow a few to flowering stages just for the flowers, to add to the colors of my garden. I’ll probably have to upsize their pots soon, though, since their root system can grow deeper than one meter down.

Care: Not too fussy about the soil mix, but keep it on the moist side
Fertilizing: Rumored to do well with high nitrogen fertilizers
Sunlight: Full sun preferable, but it will tolerate some bright shade
Propagation: By seeds (rumored to be reluctant to germinate); root cutting is preferable
Special care: Be careful handling the plant – bristles can be painful and irritating to the bare skin