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The Plant Guide

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Bear’s breeches

Acanthus mollis

ah-KAN-thus MAWL-iss

Acanthus mollis is prized for its bold clumps of shiny green leaves topped with striking, 3-foot-tall spires of white flowers which are clasped by showy purple bracts. This is a great plant for an eye-catching structural element in a part-shade border.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsA strong architectural accent, it is best placed at the rear of the border.

CareBest in deep, rich, well-drained soil. Plants need protection from hot afternoon sun. Hardy and evergreen to Zone 7.

PropagationSow seeds in spring, divide plants in spring or autumn, or take root cuttings in late autumn or early winter.

ProblemsPowdery mildew, fungal and bacterial leaf spot.

  • Genus : Acanthus
  • Zones : 10, 11, 7, 8, 9
  • Plant Height : 3 to 6 feet
  • Plant Width : 3 to 6 feet
  • Bloom Time : Early Summer, Summer
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Fall Interest
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Maintenance : Low
  • Moisture : Medium Moisture
  • Plant Type : Perennials
  • Characteristics : Showy Foliage
  • Flower Color : White
View Comments


  1. Poest 10/05/2015

    I live in Westchester County, NY. My Mollis is very big and vigorous, planted about 4 years ago from nursery 1 gallon container. It is approximately 3+ feet wide and 3+ feet tall and the leaves are very large. It has never bloomed. It was planted on the south side of the house. Am patiently waiting for the blooms.

    1. carlottabrainard 06/21/2016

      Really!? Are you zone 5 or 6? I live in Fairfield county and would love to grow this but the zone stops me.

      1. Poest 06/21/2016

        I am in Zone 6, and my Mollis is gigantic but has not yet flowered. But my Hungericus longifolius Acanthus is at this time in the midst of just beginning to flower. Two plants with 3 stalks each. The Hungericus is much more hardy with narrower and more toothy leaves. A fine plant and
        neither species seems to be bothered by pests.

      2. Poest 06/21/2016

        You might try to find the A. hungaricus species. It is rated Zones 6 to 9. If you are zone 5, site it on he south side of the house where it is sheltered. Cover with 12 inches of fall leaves and it will most likely be OK. Another species, A. spinosus is rated Z5 -9, it also has large leaves - to 3 ft - and with spines. According to my "A-Z encyclopedia of Garden Plants" spinous and hugaricus look similar in appearance.
        The Mollis' leaves are fatter and with round lobes. Hope you find this helpful. I live in Hartsdale, NY, and I would assume if you are not too high in elevation we would be in about the same Zone. Good luck, they are fine plants to have!

      3. user-7008973 10/31/2017

        I am in zone 4. If you try and have success, maybe I will too

    2. marcyincny 06/28/2016

      I don't how similar they are but I have a clump of A. spinosus here in Syracuse. It's done well and I'm online looking for tips on how to transplant the smaller plants. I'm sorry to say it took several years for it to bloom. There doesn't seem to be a lot of reliable info about them. Contrary to what I've read, I have a deer who took a liking to it last fall and mowed it down. I had to spray it with repellent this spring.

      Good luck.

    3. hemlockwoods 09/19/2016

      Mine was stunning this year but it was 4 years of waiting for it. Well worth it.

      1. Poest 09/19/2016

        Happy for you - still waiting for my Mollis to bloom, but my Hungaricus bloomed beautifully!

  2. gp1910 07/10/2017

    It is now July; the plant flowered in May and now the leaves are turning yellow. Does any one know of a good companion plant that can fill-in the gap until my Acanthus Mollis puts out new leaves and new flower spikes? I live in zone 11.

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