(In progress) Purple-flower comfrey

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The main stem is about 7mm thick or so

I can’t really remember when it was I last sowed my purple-flower comfrey seeds, but at the moment, I have one adult plant which is still growing, and one baby seedling.

I’ve noticed that plants from temperate zones seem to have yellow leaves when they grow in Singapore’s tropical climate, no matter if the plant is healthy. I’ve had the same experience growing borage, where, even though the plant is pest-free, sturdy and healthy, leaves take on an almost-sickly yellow after some time. I’ve been told by a friend that his temperate plants are also like that. So…

Upsized to a six-inch pot

Anyway, I’ve just upsized the pot of my adult comfrey, and am waiting to let it get root-bound again before I again upsize the pot. I plan to try growing some comfreys to flowering stages, to see if I can, and also because I like the flowers.

Even at the size it is now, however, its main stem is really thick. It’s quite heartening to see, since I may one day sacrifice an adult plant to chop up its roots to propagate.

Now, to wait for my yellow-flower comfrey seeds to sprout…

The yellowing leaves so typical of temperate plants in our tropical climate

New leaves always grow out healthy and green though

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(Growing conditions) Comfrey

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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

(Germination) Seed primers

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Ever bought so many seeds from trusted and reputable sources with high hopes of them germinating, but after many days, the seeds remain dormant and even grow fungus? And ever wish you knew exactly what was wrong even after reading and reading the germination instructions and wondering what was missing?

I sure have.

Friends have given me many types of seeds. I’ve joined in mass orders where the seeds bought are from sources which have typically allowed for high germination rates, or easy germination. Yet, the seeds don’t sprout for me, no matter what I do: putting them in a closed container on top of the fridge to add warmth; putting them in closed containers in direct sunlight; heating them up using tealight candles before sowing them. Nope, nothing works.

Then, I was advised by people on Folia to try out seed primers.

If you do a Google search, you will simply get a minimal number of links to sites which provide sale of seed primers, no matter whether in machine form, or in pre-treated paper form. But what do these do?

The FineBushPeople website gives the clearest explanation of what they are: Many wildflower seeds are dormant and need very specific conditions for germination. The smoke seed primer solution contains a combination of natural substances that overcome dormancy and stimulate seed germination. The degree of germination success varies with the species, but on average, treated seeds give at least twice the number of seedlings that untreated seeds do.

So well, I just got my seed primers, and am currently testing it out on twenty-five seeds of four species, all of which I’ve had no luck germinating using any of the traditional and typical methods. These seeds were given to me about a year back and have been kept in the fridge.

I added 12.5ml of water to 1/4 of the seed primer disc and have soaked the seeds in it. Tomorrow, I will sow them in pure vermiculite moistened with water and sealed in a clear container.

I shall update when/if I get any action from the seeds.

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