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Spiny Bear's Breeches Acanthus spinosus

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
ah-KAN-thus spih-NO-sus
Description

Spiny bear’s breeches is a clumping perennial plant in the Acanthaceae (acanthus) family. It is native to Europe and the Mediterranean. The Greek word akantha means spines which refers to the toothy edges some leaves in the genus.  Spinosus means spiny and comes from the stiff spines found on the margins of the leaves that resemble that of the thistle.

This plant prefers well-drained soil in partial shade, with some protection from the afternoon sun in our hot southern climates. While it grows in a wide variety of soils it does not do well in wet soils. Slow growing, it can take some time to establish but once it takes hold, it spreads easily by seed and root cutting, making it almost impossible to eradicate out of a planting bed.

Its showy spikes of purple-white flowers that resemble snapdragons bring a pop of color to shady spots and make attractive additions to cut-flower bouquets. The large, spiky, arching leaves should not be ignored as they are what inspired the design of Greek Corinthian columns.

Use bear’s breeches as an accent or border plant in the landscape or in a cutting garden.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Slugs and snails can do damage.  

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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#purple#perennials#white flowers#weedy#cut flowers#spreading#summer flowers#spiny leaves#clumping#mid-summer flowers#partial shade tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#purple#perennials#white flowers#weedy#cut flowers#spreading#summer flowers#spiny leaves#clumping#mid-summer flowers#partial shade tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Acanthus
    Species:
    spinosus
    Family:
    Acanthaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe, Mediterranean
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Tolerates damage from rabbits.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Creeping
    Erect
    Spreading
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Irregular
    Lipped
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    Bracts
    fused petals
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    White snapdragon-like flowers surrounded by spiny pink-mauve-red bracts arranged in rows on showy spikes that are 3-4' tall. Blooms late spring to mid-summer.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Prickly
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Bear's breeches colorful deeply cut leaves make a bold architectural statement with its large (2'-3'), spiny leaves, which served as the pattern for the design on Greek Corinthian columns. They are arching, glossy, thistle-like leaves that emerge from a rosette in the center of the plant.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Cutting Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Rabbits
    Problems:
    Spines/Thorns
    Weedy