Comfrey

A versatile addition to any fruit tree guild, I use comfrey as a chop-and-drop living mulch and groundcover around my fruit trees. A medicinal herb great for pollinators that offers powerful soil enrichment, the chickens appreciate the prolific growth as nutrient-rich fodder.


Common Name: Comfrey, Knitbone
Scientific Name: Symphytum officinale
Family: Boraginaceae


A non-native that is relatively hard to find, comfrey has many functions for the permaculture forest garden.

A non-native that is relatively hard to find, comfrey has many functions for the permaculture forest garden.

Uses

  • Chicken fodder
  • Dynamic accumulator (K, P, Ca, Cu, Fe, Mg)
  • Groundcover
  • Honeybee forage
  • Living mulch
  • Medicinal
  • Nectary
  • Shelter plant for beneficial lacewings, spiders, parasitoid wasps

Medicinal Properties

Comfrey has a long history of medical uses, most notably for healing wounds and encouraging rapid cell growth.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Astringent
  • Demulcent
  • Expectorant
  • Vulnerary

Forest Garden Designing

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Plant Leaf Type: Deciduous
  • Layer Use: Groundcover, herbaceous
  • Flowering: April through June
  • Leaf Shape: Large, hairy, lance-shaped
  • Height: 3-5′
  • Width: 3-5′

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Light: Full-part sun
  • Shade: Tolerates light shade
  • Moisture: Prefers moist soil
  • pH: prefers slightly acid to neutral soil (6 – 7)

Propagation

  • Division

Maintenance

For use as a green manure or living mulch, chop the aboveground growth to the ground once it flowers. The leaves will decompose releasing nutrients to the soil surface mined from its deep roots. Repeat as needed throughout the season.

Comfrey is well known in permaculture practice for its use as a green living mulch.

Comfrey is well known for its use as a green living mulch.

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