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Acanthus mollis, known as bears britches is an excellent plant for the garden. It has deep glossy leaves which are large and deeply lobed and in the summer has a tall flower spike covered in small white flowers each with a purple bract. These last for some weeks.
Acanthus works very well in a Mediterranean style garden and is a common sight when travelling in the Mediterranean area. It is also a very stylish plant which would sit well in a more exotic, jungle style garden. It is also excellent in flower arrangements adding a dramatic touch.
Whilst happy in full sun its leaves are much glossier in light shade and the white/purple flower spikes lighten up a slightly shady area. After a year or two it will become a large clump so make sure you give it plenty of space when you are choosing a planting position.
Acanthus spinosus has smaller leaves and more flower spikes and so could be a better choice for your garden than Acanthus mollis.
Crocosmias make a good companiun plant for Acanthus as the flowers spikes are similar heights but the crocosmias add some vibrant colour to the display.
The flowers of Acanthus are excellent cut flowers and look particularly nice with vibrantly coloured flowers such as heleniums.
Acanthus growing guide
Acanthus mollis likes full sun or light shade. It grows in most soil types and once established grows quickly and establishes large clumps. Flowers spikes reach a meter or so in height.
The easiest way to propagate Acanthus is to wait until the clump is quite large and then divide the plant with a spade. Like all plants that flower late summer/autumn it is best to divide Acanthus mollis in the spring but you will usually be successful in the autumn if you divide the plant into large sections. The roots are large and fleshy and I often find even if I decide to move a plant altogether a new plant will spring up from remains of the roots that were left in the ground.
Acanthus are fully hardy and very easy to grow.