How to grow: Acanthus

In gardening terms, however, A. spinosus is more rewarding, producing many more flower spikes. These bloom from June onwards, handsomely set off by the deeply cut, dark, shiny leaves and distinctive hooded bracts, which vary from white, to pink or purple. And it is highly attractive to bees.

In the wild plants thrive in dry stony areas, nourished by huge tap roots and flowering more enthusiastically the hotter the summer sun: my clump baked in 2003 and produced eight spikes, instead of the usual four.

Growing tips

Acanthus can cope with low temperatures as long as their tap roots are established and drainage is good. Plant in spring with a protective mulch for the first two winters. These huge roots mean clumps live for a long time without needing attention and are difficult to eradicate. Many gardeners have painstakingly removed a plant, only to see it grow back within two or three years from a broken section of root.

All acanthus tend to perform unevenly, even when grown in full sun, and some years they fail to flower at all. They tolerate deep shade, but produce fewer or no flower spikes.

How to propagate

The easiest way to increase your plants is by taking cuttings in late autumn and early winter. Sections of root laid on a seed tray of compost will sprout within weeks.

An acanthus grown in our climate only sets a few viable seeds per spike, which look like little wrinkled prunes. In the wild they’d be propelled 6m (19.2ft) or more when the capsule splits, but I’ve never seen it happen here. Harvest in late winter and sow in spring, using soil-based gritty compost. Cover the seeds with vermiculite; they should germinate within 21 days in temperatures of 15C.

Good companions

These imposing plants need a starring role, flanking steps or in the forefront of a border. Don’t allow them anywhere near your favourite smaller plants. The statuesque Crocosmia masoniorum has bronzy orange flowers and sword-shaped, pleated leaves and forms a strong, branching seed head in winter. Phlomis russeliana produces stiff stems of two-tone yellow flowers, followed by whorled seed heads. All three have good winter silhouettes, sheltering many ladybirds, that can be left until early spring without fear of flopping.

Where to buy

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, Priory Lane, Freefolk Priors, Whitchurch, Hants RG28 7NJ (01256 896533; Mail order available – send eight 1st-class stamps for a catalogue. Open by appointment.

Buy Acanthus spinosus from the Telegraph Gardenshop.


A robust and reliable perennial that provides an impact in any part of the garden with its tall sculptural flower spikes.

Family: Acanthaceae
Botanical Name: Acanthus
Common Names: Bear’s breeches
Foliage: Large glossy green, deeply cut leaves, up to 1ft across (deciduous).
Flowers: Bears tall pinky-white spikes of hooded flowers in summer, up to 4ft in height.
Flowering Period: All summer (July to September).
Soil: Any moist but well-drained, fertile soil. Best in chalk, sand or loam. Any pH.
Conditions: Likes full sun but will tollerate some shade.

Habit: Upright, clump forming.
Type: Herbaceous perennial.
Origin: tropical and warm temperate regions.
Hardiness: Most varieties are hardy in the UK once established.

Planting and Growing Acanthus

Needs very little care and attention once established. An ideal specimen plant for the middle of a flower bed or back of the border. Position in full sun or light shade.

Plant pot grown specimens between autumn and spring. Can be sited in a north, east, west or south facing aspect, either in an exposed or sheltered possition. Does not normally require staking except on very exposed sites.

Good as cut flowers and loved by flower arrangers.

Taking Care of Acanthus

Protect crowns for the first couple of winters in colder districts.

Pruning Acanthus

Cut down stems after flowering.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest free but young plants can be affected by slugs. Can be affected by powdery mildew.

Propagating Acanthus

Propagate by division in spring or take 3in (8cm) root cuttings in winter. Alternatively sow seed under cover in spring.

Popular Varieties of Acanthus Grown in the UK

There are a number of cultivars of Acanthus available from medium to tall height:

A. mollis has bold glossy green leaves and tall flower spikes of white, purple and green. Height to 3ft (90cm).

A. longifolius has dark green, deeply cut foliage and tall spikes of lilac flowers from early to mid-summer. Height to 2.5ft (75cm).

A. spinosus has prickly, deeply cut glossy green leaves topped by very tall flower spikes of white, purple and green in mid-summer. Height to 4ft (1.2m).

How to Grow Acanthus Plants in your Garden

Gardener’s HQ Guide to Growing Bear’s Breeches and Mountain Thistle

The common name for the Hardy perennial Acanthus is Bear’s breeches.

It typically flowers from late spring and throughout the summer.

Description of Acanthus

Bear’s breeches and related plants may be either deciduous or evergreen. Acanthus are large plants of between 30 and 120 cm (1 to 4 feet) and are often used as border plants.

Acanthus have spiky leaves and purple flowers.

Photographs of Commonly Grown Acanthus Plants such as Acanthus mollis, Acanthus spinosus and Acanthus hungaricus

Acanthus mollis

Acanthus mollis by Endless Autumn.

Acanthus spinosus

Acanthus spinosus photograph by Leonora Enking.

Acanthus hungaricus

Acanthus hungaricus (Long-leaved Bear’s Breach) photograph by Patrick Standish

How to Grow the Acanthus Plant

It is best to plant Acanthus mollis and other members of the genus at a depth of 1/2 cm (1/4 inch), with a planned spacing of about 90 to 120 cm (3 to 4 feet) apart

This should be done after the last frost of spring or in the autumn.

Acanthus plants enjoy light and can be grown in full sunlight or in partly shady conditions.

The soil should be deep and well drained, ideally at a pH between 6 and 7. Acanthus plants are unlikely to survive in wet areas.

If growing the plant indoors, then it should be sown in late winter to early spring in peat pots. They require 20 to 25 days for germination at a temperature of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59°F).

Transfer outside in the early spring.

Caring for Acanthus in the Garden

Acanthus is a very easy plant to care for, it requires watering until flowering begins, but only when conditions become too dry. DO not overwater as plants do not like wet soils.

Acanthus Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Bear’s Breeches, Mountain thistle, Brank ursine.
Common Names: Acanthus mollis, A. spinosus, A. longifolius and Acanthus hungaricus.
Life Cycle: Hardy Perennial.
Height: 12 to 48 inches (30 to 120 cm).
Native: Europe, Western Asia.
USA: Zones 5 to 10.
Flowers: Late Spring and Summer.
Flower Details: Purple, pink, white. (Beware of spikes beneath flowers)
Foliage: Sharp spiky leaves. Variegated. Evergreen. Herbaceous.
Sow Outdoors: 1/4 inch (5mm). Following last frost or Autumn. Spacing 36 to 48 inches (90 to 120cm).
Sow Indoors: Use Peat pots. Germination time: 3 to 4 weeks. Temperature 50 to 60°F (10 to 15 °C). Sow in late winter, transplant outdoors following the last frost.
Requirements: Full Sunlight or light shade. Soil pH 6 to 7 for best results. Good drainage. Deep soils. Water during prolonged dry spells. Propagate by root cuttings in the autumn.
Family: Acanthaceae.
Closely related plants to Acanthus: Wild Petunia; and Black eyed Susan Vine.

Your Guide to Bear’s Breech

A good choice for a garden accent, a thriving clump of perennial bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis) has a bold, sculptural look—and when bloom time comes, it provides a strong vertical effect as well. Borne on arching stems, the dark green 2-foot-long leaves are attractively lobed; in some species, the leaf margins are spiny. Rigid Acanthus flower spikes rise to a height of 3 to 4 feet, set with tubular blossoms surrounded by spiny bracts (modified leaves).

How to Plant

In mild-winter regions, tuck transplants into the garden from fall through late winter. In cold-winter regions, wait until spring.

Propagate Acanthus plants by dividing the clumps. In mild-winter regions, do the job at some time from fall through late winter, in cold-winter regions, wait until spring. Note that any roots left in the soil will sprout, forming new clumps.

Growing Conditions

Where hardy, Acanthus mollis is almost too easy to grow. The roots spread rapidly underground, especially in loose, moist, well-enriched soil. Where summers are hot, locate bear’s breeches in partial shade; hot sun causes the leaves to wilt. In dry-summer regions, Acanthus plants go dormant if not regularly watered.

Pruning Tips & Plant Care

To save yourself the task of constantly fighting back plants, either allow them plenty of space or confine the roots with an 8-inch deep barrier.

Popular Varieties

The most commonly grown species of bear’s breech, Acanthus mollis, has shiny deep green leaves that are slightly lobed. White Acanthus flowers with purple-flushed bracts bloom from late spring to early summer. ‘Latifolius’ has larger leaves that the species, flowers less freely, and reputedly tolerates more cold.

Acanthus spinosus, another species that blooms from late spring to early summer, has finely cut, spiny-margined leaves and white blossoms with purple bracts.

Acanthus balacanicus has deeply lobed leaves with wide gaps between the lobes; it blooms profusely in summer, bearing white or pale pink blossoms with purple bracts.

Flower Colors

Find white pale pink flowers with showy purple bracts.

Acanthus Plant Care – How To Grow A Bear’s Breeches Plant

Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus mollis) is a flowering perennial that is often prized more for its leaves than for its blossoms, which appear in the spring. It’s a good addition to a shade or partial shade border garden. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow a Bear’s Breeches plant.

Bear’s Breeches Plant Info

The leaves of the Bear’s Breeches plant were used extensively in Greek and Roman art and, therefore, give off a distinct classical air. They were perhaps most famously recreated in stone as decoration on the top of Corinthian columns.

On top of the familiar shiny green leaves, Bear’s Breeches produces a striking 3-foot-tall spire of white to pink snapdragon-like flowers, topped by purple sheathes.

Care of Acanthus Bear’s Breeches

The wisdom of growing Acanthus plants in your garden depends upon how cold your winters get. The plant will spread via underground runners, and in areas with yearlong warmth similar to its native Mediterranean climate, it may very well take over your garden.

In climates with a colder winter, it will most likely be kept in check. It will keep its leaves in areas as cold as USDA zone 7. It will lose leaves but survive the winter in zones as low as 5 if it is mulched.

Acanthus plant care is fairly easy. It will tolerate virtually any soil type as long as it’s well drained. When it comes to light, the plant prefers partial shade. It can handle full shade, though it may not flower as well.

It does need frequent watering, and will wilt very dramatically if it dries out. Remove the flower stalk after the plants has finished blooming for the year. You can propagate Acanthus Bear’s Breeches by taking root cuttings early in the spring.

For the most part, Bear’s Breeches does not suffer much pest or disease issues. That being said, on occasion, slugs or snails may visit the plant to feed on its foliage. For this reason, you may want to keep an eye on these potential threats and treat as needed.

A horticultural survivor from Ancient Greek and Roman times, Acanthus mollis is one of the great garden plants. It was so highly regarded in the ancient world that a motif shaped like an acanthus leaf was used to decorate the tops of Corinthian columns.

Plant details

Common name: Oyster Plant

Botanic name: Acanthus mollis

Description: An evergreen, soft wooded perennial which grows in an upright clump to about 1 metre x 1 metre (3’x3′). The dark green, glossy leaves are lobed and toothed. Purple and white flowers appear on tall, erect spikes from November to January.

Best climate: Acanthus will grow in most areas of Australia, except for inland zones.
Best look: foliage plant planted in shady areas or under deciduous trees container or indoor plant cut or dried flower arrangements

Good points: dramatic and long lasting spires of purple and white flowers grows in sun or shade handsome, deeply cut dark green leaves almost indestructible

Downside: The leaves are very attractive to slugs, snails and leaf-eating insects. The explosive pods scatter seed over a wide area and the plant will grow from any piece of root, so acanthus can become a garden pest.

Care: Acanthus can be grown in sun or part shade, and prefers a deep, moist soil. Mulch well, and never allow the plant to dry out. Snail bait is necessary, particularly in wet weather. Remove dead leaves and spent flower stems.

Getting started:

Acanthus mollis is available at nurseries and garden centres. It can also be propagated easily by seed, root cuttings or division of an established clump.

Bear’s Breech

The lush, herbaceous evergreen grows six feet tall and three feet wide with deep green, deeply lobed, shiny leaves, a clumping growth form, and underground rhizomes that spread as the plant matures. Stunning flower spikes reaching three feet tall are white with purple and can be used in fresh or dried flower arrangements. The dramatic blooms last for a very long time, but the plant does not produce flowers every year. In the Southwest desert, bears breech becomes dormant in summer after it blooms and the leaves die to the ground. It leafs out again in the cooler weather. It is slow-growing when young and grows quickly when established. Use for bold accents in atriums, entryways, shady courtyards, and planters to provide a lush addition with its bold, tropical appearance. It can also be used as an understory plant for woodsy effects in shady corners. The plant is native to southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa. It is a common plant in Mediterranean regions, particularly in Greece, where it is adored for its blooms.

More Information About Acanthus

Acanthus plants are European species prized for their exotic tropical-looking foliage. While many of the common acanthus plants do not thrive in hot, humid summer climates, we are finding many to be heat-tolerant. Since acanthus plants grow from root cuttings, plant them where you would like them to remain since moving the plant always seems to leave a few root pieces behind. Acanthus prefers to grow in partial sun conditions in rich soil and does not tolerate wet feet. Once established, an acanthus plant can tolerate some drought.

Although most people grow acanthus plants for their attractive, shiny, lobed leaves, they also produce a wonderful 2-6′ tall spike lined with purple and white flowers. Acanthus is deer-resistant and pairs well with plants that highlight its unique foliar texture. Try combining acanthus with carex, iris, ferns, tradescantia, setcreasea, or selaginella.

Acanthus plants are native to woodlands and hillsides around Italy and Greece. The ancient Romans and Greeks revered the acanthus plant and incorporated the plant into their cultural history and architecture, decorating their Corinthian and Composite order columns, dentils, and friezes with carved acanthus plant leaves. According to Greek mythology, Acantha was a nymph who resisted Apollo’s romantic advances and was turned into the plant as punishment. When you are ready to buy acanthus for your garden or home, check out our list of acanthus for sale.

The common name of Acanthus is Bear’s Breech…why in the world would someone name a plant after Yogi’s britches? Well, according to plant taxonomy expert William Stearn, the name Bear’s Breech comes from the medieval (Pre-Linnaean) latin name ‘Acanthus sativus branca ursina’ (Linnean name…Acanthus mollis) which means ‘Cultivated Spiny Bear Bract’, because they thought the curved bracts on the flower stalk looked like a bear claw. Over time people mis-pronounced or mis-translated the word ‘branca’ into ‘breech’, leading to the common name bear’s breech. So technically, Bear’s Breech should really be called bear claw flower…but it’s too late to change it now.

Acanthus Mollis ‘Bear’s Breeches’

Acanthus mollis, also known as ‘Bear’s breeches’, is a gorgeous, decorative garden plant. This striking perennial attracts everyone’s attention in the summertime with its dramatic purple-red flower spikes and shiny, dark green leaves. It is drought tolerant and can be planted in the shade too. Displays beautifully in groups as well as a solitary plant. Imposing when fully grown, it will make a very unique asset to any garden!

This plant is delivered to you as a pot plant. The diameter of the pot varies between 9 cm and 13 cm. The size depends on the stock we receive from the nursery. The plant is delivered to you in special protective packaging of approximately 10x10x30 cm in size. The actual height of the plant itself will vary during the season. We guarantee strong and healthy plants that will flower immediately.

Acanthus Mollis ‘Bear’s Breeches’ is a product from our specially selected garden Plants assortment. Acanthus Mollis ‘Bear’s Breeches’ can be ordered at throughout the whole United Kingdom. Orders above GBP149,99 will be delivered to you without any shipping costs. The packaging contains detailed instructions for use. This makes it easy to use for both the beginner as the professional garden lover!
When you buy Acanthus Mollis ‘Bear’s Breeches’ Plants at, you will receive guaranteed top quality garden products. We spend a lot of attention to the appearance of our Garden Centre products. So they can also be ordered to give away to a friend or relative (as a gift or present).
At last: Because we pay much attention to our Plants products, you can expect keen prices and outstanding service.
Buy Acanthus Mollis ‘Bear’s Breeches’ for only £ 3.99 excluding shipping costs (orders over GBP149,99 will be deliverd without shipping costs) throughout the whole United Kingdom!
Ordered today = delivered tomorrow!

Garden plants: Acanthus Mollis ‘Bear’s Breeches’

The characteristics of this product:

  • Name: Acanthus Mollis ‘Bear’s Breeches’
  • Short naam: Bear’s breeches
  • Latin naam: Acanthus Mollis
  • Alternative naam:
  • Alternative naam:
  • Category: Plants
  • Pieces/packaging: 1
  • Price: £ 3.99
  • Flowering period: June to September
  • Planting period: January to December
  • Expected height (fully grown): 40 – 60 cm to 60 cm and above
  • Place in garden: Full sun
  • Color of the flowers: Brownred

    This article with product code 3716 is rated with 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 391 reviews and is in stock.

    Code: A-0100-10015-B

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