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Symphytum officinale (Common Comfrey)

Common Comfrey, Alum, Backwort, Black Root, Blackwort, Bohemian Comfrey, Bone-Set, Bruisewort, Comfrey Consound, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Knit-Back

Symphytum officinale, Common Comfrey, Alum, Backwort, Black Root, Blackwort, Bohemian Comfrey, Bone-Set, Bruisewort, Comfrey Consound, Gum Plant, Healing Herb, Knit-Back

Symphytum officinale (Common Comfrey) is a coarse, spreading perennial forming a clump of long, elliptic, dark green leaves, 10 in. long (25 cm). In late spring to early summer, nodding, tubular bell-shaped, purple, pink or cream flowers appear in drooping clusters. Comfrey has a long history as a medicinal herb and has been grown in herbal gardens since the 12th century. It was used as a poultice to help the healing of broken bones and became known as boneset. Today, it is also used in perennial borders, as a ground cover, or on banks of streams and ponds. A most suitable plant for moist areas in sun or dappled shade.

  • Grows up to 1-3 ft. tall (30-90 cm) and 10-30 in. wide (25-75 cm). Because it spreads rapidly, give it some space. Once established, Comfrey can be very difficult to dig out.
  • Thrives in full sun or part shade in moderately fertile, moist, well-drained soils. Appreciates some afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Drought tolerant once established.
  • Excellent choice for herb gardens, woodland gardens, cottage gardens or wildflower gardens where it can form attractive colonies over time. It makes a good groundcover but can become invasive, so site with care. Planting in containers may help limit its spread.
  • Easy to grow, deer-resistant, disease and pest free, clay soil tolerant.
  • Cutting back stems promptly after flowering may encourage a possible rebloom and neat, young foliage.
  • Propagate by division of fleshy roots in spring. Propagate by root cuttings in early winter. Propagate by seed sown in pots in a cold frame in autumn or spring.
  • Ingestion may cause severe discomfort
  • Native to Europe, Asia.
  • Find where this species is invasive in the United States.
  • Discover beautiful U.S. native plant alternatives.

Requirements

Hardiness 4 - 8
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Herbs, Perennials
Plant Family Boraginaceae
Genus Symphytum
Common names Comfrey, Alum
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early)
Height 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Spread 10" - 3'
(25cm - 90cm)
Spacing 24" (60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Poorly Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United Kingdom
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Clay Soil
Garden Uses Ground Covers, Patio And Containers, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles Prairie and Meadow, Informal and Cottage
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Symphytum ‘Rubrum’ (Red Comfrey)
Symphytum caucasicum (Caucasian Comfrey)

Recommended Companion Plants

Euphorbia palustris (Marsh Spurge)
Malus × robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ (Crabapple)
Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ (Cranesbill)
Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

Native Plant Alternatives to Symphytum officinale (Common Comfrey)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 4 - 8
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Herbs, Perennials
Plant Family Boraginaceae
Genus Symphytum
Common names Comfrey, Alum
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early)
Height 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Spread 10" - 3'
(25cm - 90cm)
Spacing 24" (60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Poorly Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United Kingdom
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Clay Soil
Garden Uses Ground Covers, Patio And Containers, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles Prairie and Meadow, Informal and Cottage
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Guides with
Symphytum (Comfrey)
Not sure which Symphytum (Comfrey) to pick?
Compare Now

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