Height: 90-120cm (3-4ft)

Planting: distance: 1.2m (4ft)

Features: flowers summer

Soil: deep, well-drained

Site: sun or partial shade

Type: herbaceous

Grown as much for its immense, glossy, dark green leaves as for its summer display of white and purple flowers, bear’s breeches is a magnificent border plant. The flowers make a striking show on their upright 45cm (1 1/2ft) long spikes and are suitable for fresh or dried flower arrangements.

Popular species

Acanthus mollis reaches a height of 90cm (3ft) and has mid to dark green leaves, broader and smoother than Acanthus sf)inosus. The white flowers have pink-purple bracts. Acanthus spinosus reaches a height of up to 1.2m (4ft), The spiny leaves are deeply cut and the white and purple flowers have green bracts.


Plant between autumn and early-spring in deep, well-drained soil in a sunny or lightly shaded site.

Propagation: Sow seeds in early spring in boxes of seed compost in a cold frame. When the seedlings show two or three true leaves, prick them out, 15cm (6in) apart, into a nursery bed. Grow on for two years before planting out into their final positions.

Alternatively, take 7.5cm (3in) long cuttings of the thicker roots between mid and late winter.

Pests and diseases: Trouble free.

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