Acanthus (Bear's Breeches) Acanthus mollis, A. Spinosus
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Plant Information Type: perennial
Propagation: seeds, division
Light: full sun, part shade
Flower Color: shades of blue
Bloom Time: late spring / early summer
Height: Up to 5 feet
Width: three feet or so
Soil Requirements: well-drained
Uses: accent plant
The large, distinctive leaves of this plant were immortalized in the Fifth Century B.C. in the design for the capital of the classic Greek Corinthian column. The lustrous, dark green leaves are up to a foot wide and two feet long, and the lush growth remains green year-round in mild climates. Leaves are tipped with thorns, and should be handled with gloves. Stalks of handsome, pale lilac and white flowers appear in early summer, and can reach a height of four to five feet. Flowers can be cut for indoor arrangements or dried, although the colors fade. Bear's breeches makes an excellent low-maintenance accent plant.
This fast-growing perennial is comfortable in sun or shade, but will appreciate protection from strong sun in very hot climates. Place the plants three feet apart, and contain the roots if possible - they can be quite invasive. Acanthus grows in most any soil, but good drainage is very important, and overwatering is usually fatal. Plants are relatively drought resistant.
Plants started from seed in the spring will take about three years to bloom. Fall root divisions will take two years to bloom. Plants should be divided after three to five blooming seasons in either spring or fall.