Plant DetailShow Menu

Similar but less problematic plants:
Antirrhinum majus Antirrhinum majus
Acanthus mollis is often confused with:
Acanthus spinosus Acanthus spinosus
Antirrhinum majus Antirrhinum majus
Smallanthus uvedalia Form
Native alternative(s) for Acanthus mollis:
Agave virginica Agave virginica
Aquilegia canadensis Aquilegia canadensis
Penstemon digitalis Flowers
Smallanthus uvedalia Form
Plants that fill a similar niche:
x Heucherella Heucherella
Eryngium planum Eryngium
Betonica officinalis 2 lipped purple red flowers
Acanthus mollis has some common insect problems:
Slugs & Snails on Ornamental Plants

Acanthus mollis

Phonetic Spelling
a-KANTH-us MAW-liss
Description

Bear's breeches is a clumping herbaceous perennial in the Acanthaceae family native to Europe and Africa with large attractive leaves and showy flower spikes. The name Acanthus comes from the Greek word "akantha" which means spine in reference to the toothed edges of the leaves of some members of this genus.  The species name molis means soft hairs. 

The glossy leaves are large and deeply lobed making the plant attractive even when not in bloom. The leaves were used as the model for the Corinthian leaf motif in ancient Greek and Roman architecture. Show stopping spikes of two lipped tublular white flowers with purple hoods appear from late spring to mid-summer and resemble snapdragons.

It grows to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide but reaches 5-6 feet tall when in bloom. . The plant spreads by rhizomes and is best grown in an area with root barriers to prevent unwanted spread.  A thick layer of mulch will protect roots from cold winter temperatures. Propagation through root cuttings or division in the early spring but growing from seeds also works.  

Bear's breeches prefers fertile well-drained soils but is tolerant of most soil types except wet ones. It will grow in full sun to partial shade and will do better with some shade in hot climates to prevent leaf scorch. It may go dormant in summer if not irrigated but is drought tolerant once established.

Use this plant in the back of the border, in a container or an area surrounded by pavement like a patio, pool, or walkway. Attractive in small groups, or a single specimen can lend its stately form to an English garden.  The showy flowers work well in a cottage or cutting garden. 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Snails and slugs are occasional problems.  Powdery mildew is an occational diseaseBe sure to plant it where you want it as it is difficult to get rid of once established.  They can spread aggressively under ideal conditions, root barriers such as those used for bamboo can be used but is shown to be invasive in some areas of the US.

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Rue Ledan'
'Rue Ledan'
Tags:
#thorns#showy flowers#drought tolerant#specimen#weedy#showy leaves#large leaves#cottage garden#fast growing#aggressive#spines#glossy leaves#large flowers#prickly#poolside planting#English garden#cutting garden#clumping#flowers late spring#flowers mid-summer#dried arrangements#flowers early summer#border back#walkway planting#small group plantings#patio planting#HS302
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Rue Ledan'
'Rue Ledan'
Tags:
#thorns#showy flowers#drought tolerant#specimen#weedy#showy leaves#large leaves#cottage garden#fast growing#aggressive#spines#glossy leaves#large flowers#prickly#poolside planting#English garden#cutting garden#clumping#flowers late spring#flowers mid-summer#dried arrangements#flowers early summer#border back#walkway planting#small group plantings#patio planting#HS302
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Acanthus
    Species:
    mollis
    Family:
    Acanthaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe, Africa
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Green oval capsules
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    2-inch tubular flowers are surrounded by green or purplish spiny bracts and occur on a 1-2 foot spike. The flower is 2-lipped with the upper being purple and forming a hood over the lower 3-lobed lip which is white with purple or rose-colored veins. Spiny purle red bracts surround the flower. Blooms May to July.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Shape:
    Pinnatifid
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves form a mounded basal cluster of deeply lobed and cut, shiny dark green leaves. They are up to 16 inches long and 10 inches wide on a long stem.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Pool/Hardscape
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Cutting Garden
    English Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Problems:
    Weedy