Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Acanthus mollis

Tomorrow I'm going out to the nurseries on Long Island to select plants for a design project.  While there, I'm planning to pick up a few choice specimens for my own garden.  I have been enamoured lately with the Acanthus mollis (from the Greek 'akantos' = 'spine') or "Bear's Breeches"(I don't think they look at all like breeches, bear's or otherwise).  There is something just stunning about the size and unctuous color of the leaves and the tall spires of its flowers.  A semi-shade plant, I have read that it needs to be "protected from hot afternoon sun", although my sources do not tell me how long in the afternoon or how hot.  Oh well, I won't know until I try.

Here's the scoop on those ole Bear Britches:

Common Name: bear's breeches
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 3 to 5 feet
Spread: 2 to 3 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: White (sometimes pink)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium (the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I think)
Flowers: Showy Flowers
Other: Has Thorns (ouch!)

I think a big clump or two of Acanthus will give great texture and form in my garden.  Cross your fingers for this experiment....


  1. I love this plant, even have some photos of it growing in the Roman forum. I planted three in my zone 6 garden two years ago, but have yet to see a sign of anything emerging from the ground. Strange that our unusually mild winter may be what got them. Guess I'll know in a few more weeks.

  2. Looks like a gorgeous plant. Wondered why I hadn't seen it before until I read the zone rates. I'm zone 6 here so it is not in my area. You'll have to get photos this year to see how it's doing for you.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  3. I like these plants although in England they have a reputation for being rather invasive if one isn't careful. I saw quite a few drifts of them in Cornwall, I think they are the kind of plant that looks best en masse, rather than dotted amongst planting. My garden isn't big enough for big drifts of anything except weeds! Have fun with your bear's breeches!

  4. I love bears breeches, the glossy foilage is sumptuous and the muted dusky purple and white flowers are very statuesque. Quite susceptible to mildew over here after flowering though.

  5. Lovely architectural shape and tropical leaves. A few large leaved plants can look stunning in a smaller sized garden. I look forward to seeing what you do with it.

  6. Hi Michael - I just discovered your blog. If you do plant acanthus mollis, would you mind posting a follow-up on how it does? I've always been intrigued by the foliage, particularly for my side garden with afternoon shade. And, I love how often the foliage appears on classical antiques. Loi in DC, Tone on Tone

  7. Those leaves look so lush and generous, and I love the look of them en masse, there's something quite prehistoric looking about them. Very dramatic - I look forward to seeing how they turn out.

  8. One can easily see how these hardy leaves lent so much to architectural detail!

  9. The leaves always come through the winter (in Yorkshire, England) but the spires never develop. Maybe I should move them to a shadier spot. Do they mind being transplanted?