Acanthus spinosus flowers

Acanthus spinosus                    Family: Acanthaceae
(ah-KAN-thus speen-OH-sus)

Common name: spiny bear’s breeches

Zone: 6 – 9
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. Deeply lobed, shiny, deep green leaves have soft spines along edge. Thirty-inch tall (75 cm) spikes of white hooded flowers flushed with a touch of pink and clasped in deep purple calyces gradually open up along the spike starting in mid-summer through into autumn.


Special Notes: Native to the southeast region of Europe, eastern Mediterranean area, western Turkey and northeast region of Italy. Big, bold, beautiful plant. Attracts bees. May want some shade from hot afternoon sun. 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: This species of acanthus performs very well in our garden although its newly emerging leaves will sport a bright orange fungus growth if we have a cold, damp spring. This fungus does not do any damage to the leaves and disappears once the temperatures warm up and the weather dries out a bit.

Acanthus spinosus attracts much attention from our visitors to the garden in the summer for its spectacular display of botanical grandeur. And the bumblebees absolutely love the flowers, madly pushing with their back legs to get their fat, chubby bodies right inside the hooded blossoms.

Great Plant Pick 2006


Posted on April 14, 2014