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Genus Acanthus (Bear's breeches)

Acanthus Acanthus mollis Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
ah-KAN-thus Common Name: Bear's breeches
Plants in this genus are native to rocky, dry sites in the Mediterranean. Vigorous and bold, these architectural plants are grown for their striking foliage and flowers. Dark green oblong to lance-shaped leaves reach to 36 inches long. Flowers are borne on 4-foot-tall racemes with spiny bracts and sepals in combinations of white, green, yellow, pink, or purple. 
Noteworthy characteristics: Flowers are good for cutting and drying.
Care: Tolerates most any soil in sun or part shade, but they prefer deep, fertile, moist but well-drained, organically rich soil.
Propagation: Sow seeds in spring, divide plants in spring or autumn, or take root cuttings in late autumn or early winter. Sow indoors in full or filtered light. Outdoors, sow in any soil in sun or part shade.
Problems: Powdery mildew, fungal and bacterial leaf spot.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Acanthus

Acanthus mollis Acanthus mollis
(Bear's breeches)
(5 user reviews)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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.

Acanthus mollis 'Tasmanian Angel' Acanthus mollis 'Tasmanian Angel'
(Bear's breeches)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

With their white margins and mottling, the jagged leaves of 'Tasmanian Angel' are a real showshopper, and in late summer, 3-foot-tall, pink-and-cream flower stalks heighten the effect. The variegation may be less pronounced as the leaves age, but the plant still draws the eye. Use it as a multiseason container specimen or as a bedding plant. -Allan Armitage, Plants to know and grow, Fine Gardening issue #119