Commonly called bear's breeches, this plant is grown for its glossy, large-leaved foliage that can be jagged or spiny. Also called acanthus, it bears spikes of tall geometric flowers with white petals and prickly purple bracts in late spring into early summer. Fun fact: The acanthus leaf motif was incorporated in the design of the crowns on Corinthian columns; this architectural detail can still be seen adorning pillars today.
Acanthus Care Must-Knows
Acanthus thrives in rich, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter; the soil needs to be evenly moist and well-drained. It will not tolerate wet roots, so make sure to plant it away from areas with standing water. Ensure your plant's happiness by amending the soil with compost before planting.
Give acanthus full sun to ensure the best-looking foliage and flowers and to prevent any foliar diseases like powdery mildew. However, in warmer climates, this perennial can struggle in the hot afternoon sun and would benefit from planting in part shade. While you may sacrifice a few flowers in part sun, the plants will perform much better.
Acanthus will spread aggressively by sending up new shoots from its creeping roots. Because of its large size, acanthus can easily outgrow smaller, more delicate plants and can be difficult to control. When digging it up, if there are any small pieces of roots left in the soil, they can become new plants. One trick to help keep it under control is to plant acanthus in a bottomless container in the ground so the roots can keep growing outward.