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Acanthus mollis                          Family: Acanthaceae
(ah-KAN-thus MAWL-iss)

Common name: common bear’s breeches
Zone: 7 – 10
Height: 4 – 5 ft (1.2 – 1.5m)
Spread: 3 ft (0.9m)
Aspect: full sun; partial shade
Soil: fertile; moist; well-draining
Water: regular

Description: An herbaceous perennial with a clump-forming habit. Shiny, deep green leaves are jagged-edged. Three foot tall (90 cm) spikes of white hooded flowers clasped in deep purple calyces gradually open up along the spike starting in mid-summer through into autumn.


Special Notes: Native to the southwest region of Europe and northwest Africa. Big, bold, beautiful plant. Attracts bees. May want some shade from hot afternoon sun. In hot climates, this particular species is likely to go dormant in summer but re-appear when the weather cools. Be forewarned: plant this species where you would like it to remain because if any bit of root is left behind when plant is moved, it will come again. Propagate by fresh seed; divide in spring or autumn.


In our Zone 7a garden: Acanthus mollis is a surprisingly difficult plant to grow in spite of its given common name. According to Larry Hodgson in his book, Perennials for Every Purpose (Rodale 2000) this particular acanthus only grows well in a few specific areas. We must be in one of those tougher regions on the outskirts of its favoured growing range as the one solitary Acanthus mollis plant that continues to survive in our garden never gets above about three feet (90 cm) tall year after year and has never flowered.


Posted on April 14, 2013