Symphytum grandiflorum - dwarf comfrey

Excellent spreading groundcover.  Very persistent.

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Possible competitive effects in fruit/nut tree guilds?

Good day,I'm interested in using comfrey in a simple polyculture under fruit and nut trees for an urban savannah parkland.  The purpose of the comfrey is to suppress competitive vegetation (grass) while reducing maintenance.  Does comfrey compete with nut trees for moisture?  I'm thinking of a simple three party guild for broadscale parkland plantings:  comfrey, (native shrub - aronia, etc.), and climax tree (red oak, buartnut, heartnut, butternut).Thanks,Adam 

comfrey spreading

A few years ago I purchased a comfrey plant from our local farm coop (which, like most farm stores, still  seems to be selling mostly chemicals), and planted it near an Asian pear tree we have.  I was lucky in that this variety does not spread.  Regretfully I do not know the variety, but it makes me wonder if I still have the label which came with it somewhere, which may specify the variety.I think I  will try splitting off  some of the root system to have another plant which also will not spread, rather than risk buying another one and having it turn out to be a speading variety.Back in 1975 on another site I planted a purchased comfrey plant and it was the type which does spread, but it was near our compost heaps and it never was able to spread too far for some  reason ... maybe because there was lots of foot traffic nearby.

probably Russian comfrey

That's a form that doesn't spread, it has a page here on apios. I grow a bunch of it myself.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek -,

huge old patch

At Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia. Note it extends way back into full shade from full sun at front.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek -,


I love dwarf comfrey. I wish it would spread like that here in Colorado. Lusting after rain:( 


Buffalo berry doesn't want to grow here at all.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek -,


Because we consider it very drought-tolerant, for the east.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek -,

Some comfreys root under sheet mulch!

Some comfreys root under sheet mulch! Not sure which species it was but have seen two instances where comfrey was cut and used in sheet mulch, and new comfreys came up from the buried branches! Not good. Top-mulching with comfrey does not seem to have this result, we have done it for years successfully with Russian comfrey.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek -,

nice patch of dwarf comfrey under pawpaw

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek -,

dwarf comfrey vs. water celery

I have this species fighting it out with water celery (Oenanthe javanica) and bergamot (Monard fistulosa).  So far, it seems to hold its own, though this spring (April, 2010) I see water celery coming up through the comfrey a bit.  We'll see what happens.

great groundcover for shade

Dwarf comfrey is a dense groundcover of excellent quality. It also has beautiful flowers that are very popular with honeybees. It grows in part to full shade, in mesic to fairly dry sites.

Jonathan and I have grown this species for many years and are big fans. We recenty learned about Symphytum "Hidecote Blue" from Ethan Roland and trialed it this year. This hybrid form (perhaps a cross of dwarf comfrey and some other species) grows a lot faster than S. grandiflorum. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your scale. Dwarf comfrey spreads at about 12" per year, while "Hidecote Blue" spreads more like 24." Both are great choices for filling in your understory.

All the comfreys are assumed to be great soil builders and provide preferred egg-laying and overwintering sites for beneficial insects.

This species is highly dense and aggressive. I've never seen a weed come up through it, and our plants are under a Norway maple that drops thousands of seeds every year. Ours is coming up against a patch of water celery and I think the comfrey will "win" and suppress the water celery. Stay tuned to comments in this page to hear what happens. In terms of polycultures this species will not permit anything to grow in its same layer or lower. Any companions should be substantially taller, probably 4-5' or taller. And probably woody plants only, as even tall herbaceous plants like Baptisia may not be able to emerge in spring from the dense and early-emerging foliage of dwarf comfrey.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek -,

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