Acanthus Plant Care

Do you want tall eye-catching flower stalks in the garden? Then Bear’s Breeches might be what you need. It is a huge perennial plant with glossy green leaves and tall flower spikes.

Landscaping designers classify them as architectural plants and use the leaves as a motif in jewelry, reliefs, and moldings.

The flowers are gorgeous, but gardeners grow them for the foliage.

What is The Acanthus Plant?

acanthus plant

Acanthus mollis is one of the earliest cultivated garden plants from Southern Europe. The bracts form a long stem with green, purple, pink, and grey tints protecting the white flowers.

At the base of the Bear’s Breeches, you find the large shiny green leaves forming, and it is a herbaceous perennial that grows well in shade or sun forming clumps from tubers.

The stalks attract pollinators to the garden, and the name comes from the thorny-looking purple bracts.

Growing and Caring for Acanthus Mollis

acanthus plant

The Bear’s Breeches plant needs space of up to four feet to grow as they enjoy spreading out. The wide rosette leaves with arching form are deeply lobed, and the plant pairs well with airy plants and ornamental grasses.

The plant blooms in late spring to mid-summer for up to four weeks. Also, the bloom time depends on the zone you live. These are aggressive growers, spreading fast, squeezing out other plants.

You will need to keep them under control by placing them in a sunken border or bottomless containers on the ground.

Ideal Soil Mixture


Acanthus mollis thrive in rich soil with compost or organic matter. They can flourish in poor soil but need good drainage in winter. The Bear’s Breeches does not enjoy wet feer as it can lead to root rot, and eventually, it kills your plant.

Light Condition

acanthus lighting requirement

The Acanthus Bear’s Breeches plant grows best in partial shade to full sun. They need more protection from the hot afternoon sun in warmer climates but do well with a few hours of sun to produce those gorgeous blooms.

Watering Needs for Acanthus Plants

One thing you will love about growing Bear’s Breeches is that it is drought tolerant. You can provide them with regular watering. About an inch, a week is plenty enough. But as with most outdoor plants, it depends on how dry the climate is and if you received a lot of rain.

Temperature and Humidity

As you know by now, these plants spread aggressively but are hardy. You can grow them in warm temperatures but needs care in the first couple of weeks in winter using a thick layer of mulch. Provided with well-drained soil living in zones six and lower, continue this practice of using mulch with your outdoor plants.

Fertilizer For Dark Green Leaves

compost fertilizer

Compared to houseplants, the Bear’s Breeches growing outside does not need a lot of feeding. You can provide them with rich soil and an annual side-dress using compost. You can give them a balanced fertilizer in early spring to mid-summer if you want.

Pruning Bear’s Breeches

Growing Bear’s Breeches in hot climates, you can cut them back when finished blooming. Doing this helps encourage new growth. But if you live in cold winter areas, you can leave them standing to help protect the crown. You can wait until new development in spring and cut away the damaged leaves.

Propagating Best Done With Root Cuttings

Propagating Bear’s Breeches is quickly done using the following methods:

  • You can start growing Bear’s Breeches from seed if you find some in spring on the plant. You can germinate the seed indoors or grow it in the snow. But the process does take long before they bloom.

  • Another method is root cuttings to multiply your plant in spring or fall.

  • Lastly, you can divide, but the plant does not enjoy its long tap roots being moved. The best is to take a shovel and thrust it through the base of the roots in fall while leaving the plant in place. When spring arrives, you will notice new plants you can transplant.

Varieties of Bear’s Breeches

You can find the Bear’s Breeches plant in different varieties seen here to add to your garden collection.

Acanthus balcanicus var. hungaricus

Acanthus balcanicus var. hungaricus

The Hungarian Bear’s Breeches is an adaptable species that blooms later than other Acanthus mollis species. Another great thing is the plant is less susceptible to late winter frost.

Acanthus spinosus

Acanthus spinosus

The Spiny Bear’s Breeches is more adaptable than your Acanthus mollis with more thistle-like bracts.

Acanthus hungaricus 

Acanthus hungaricus

The Balkan Bear’s Breeches display white flowers to light pink flowers with purple bracts standing two feet tall in early spring to summer.

Acanthus Diseases & Pests

While insects do not bother this plant much, the leaf is susceptible to various diseases, with one main culprit, powdery mildew.

Provide your plant with enough air circulation and use a homemade fungicide to treat it. Insects that can cause damage are snails and slugs that hide out and feed on the leaves.

Another disease is leaf spot which can also become an issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Acanthus is a semi-evergreen clump-forming perennial with elegant hooded spikes with creamy-white buds and purple bracts.

These plants flourish in full sun to partial shade with well-drained soil and do not thrive in wet areas. You can grow them indoors but need to sow them in later winter to early spring in some peat pots.

The Bear’s Breeches are aggressive growers, and the stalks can grow up to 3 feet tall. Growing the seed can take up to 21 days to germinate inside.

You can buy the Acanthus at a local garden center or online. But you need not look too far as Plantly has different seeds available in this species to buy here. 

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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