Russian Comfrey/Symphytum x Uplandicum
R ussian Comfrey is a hybrid of the Common Comfrey (S. officinale) and Prickly Comfrey (S. asperum); a variegated-leaved cultivar is also available. At 2m (6ft) tall, it is not a herb for pot culture, but is a good herb for the back of a patio border, where it can give height and form to a display.
This herb has oblong hairy leaves and bears flowers of pinkish-purple in late Spring. Loved by bees, this is an ideal plant for the larger garden where a ‘wild’ effect is desired. The large leaves are excellent when used as a mulch; laid flat on the ground, they suppress weed growth and fertilize the. The leaves may be harvested in the plant’s first year, but from the third year on, the crop is greatly improved. Better leaf growth is obtained if the flowers are removed.
This plant is fully frost-tolerant and will survive most climactic conditions experienced in the UK.
Best leaf production occurs if the plant is grown in full sun; however, Russian Comfrey is not too fussy and will spread happily into all parts of the border.
If grown in well-prepared soil, Russian Comfrey will find enough moisture; plants growing in poor soils may need supplementary water, especially if the plant is not fully established.
As a tough perennial, Symphytum x uplandicum has no need of additional humidity.
A scattering of a proprietary feed in Spring will help the Russian Comfrey, although plants in good garden soils should not require any additional feed.
Dig up, divide and replant this herb every 4-5 years; be stringent about removing any roots which appear outside the plant’s allocated space. Like all Comfrey, this example has spreading – roots; it is wise to plant it within a bottomless container to prevent it from overwhelming the rest of the border. An old metal bucket is ideal.
Skin conditions: Comfrey is rich in Allantoin and many vitamins; much in favour in the 1970s, its popularity suffered when research showed it to be carcinogenic. Further investigation revealed that this only occurred when vast quantities of Comfrey were tested on immature rats; when used externally, in ‘normal’ amounts, Comfrey presents little risk to humans. It remains an excellent ‘heal-all’ herb for skin conditions and is much used as a poultice. Comfrey is also an excellentand mulch herb for the garden.