Acanthus plants are European species prized for their exotic tropical-looking foliage. While many of the common acanthus plants do not thrive in hot, humid summer climates, we are finding many to be heat-tolerant. Since acanthus plants grow from root cuttings, plant them where you would like them to remain since moving the plant always seems to leave a few root pieces behind. Acanthus prefers to grow in partial sun conditions in rich soil and does not tolerate wet feet. Once established, an acanthus plant can tolerate some drought.
Read More About Acanthus
Although most people grow acanthus plants for their attractive, shiny, lobed leaves, they also produce a wonderful 2-6' tall spike lined with purple and white flowers. Acanthus is deer-resistant and pairs well with plants that highlight its unique foliar texture. Try combining acanthus with carex, iris, ferns, tradescantia, setcreasea, or selaginella.
Acanthus plants are native to woodlands and hillsides around Italy and Greece. The ancient Romans and Greeks revered the acanthus plant and incorporated the plant into their cultural history and architecture, decorating their Corinthian and Composite order columns, dentils, and friezes with carved acanthus plant leaves. According to Greek mythology, Acantha was a nymph who resisted Apollo's romantic advances and was turned into the plant as punishment. When you are ready to buy acanthus for your garden or home, check out our list of acanthus for sale below.
Since 1988, Plant Delights Nursery has been the choice of serious gardeners and plant collectors looking for the best and rarest perennial plants. We are pleased to have received the Perennial Plant Association Retail Award in 2011, the American Horticulture Society Commercial Award in 2002, and to have been selected as one of the Best Mail Order Plant Sources - Garden Design Magazine 2010. Welcome to our family of plant lovers!
Although some taxonomists have lumped Acanthus hungaricus into Acanthus balcanicus, we feel that there is a horticultural difference. Picture a tropical-looking, dark green, glossy, thick-leaf fern forming an 18" tall x 30" wide deer-resistant perennial and you've got an acanthus. Acanthus balcanicus v. hungaricus is topped in early spring with a 3' tall spike composed of purple, pink and white tricolor turtleheads...very unique! Plant this where you want it to stay. While it is easy to move, small root pieces that are left behind keep on giving and giving and giving... Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This charming little bear's breech suffers from a major identity crisis. Some "experts" consider Acanthus caroli-alexandri a form of Acanthus hungaricus, while others propose a possible hybrid between Acanthus spinosus and Acanthus hirsutus. Don't you just love those taxonomists? Regardless of its identity, Acanthus caroli-alexandri is unique among acanthus with its finely cut, black-green, deer-resistant foliage, making a small 18" tall x 2' wide rosette. In late spring, the clumps are topped with compact 3' tall spikes with the typical hooded, white-and-purple, spiny flowers...outstanding for texture and structure in the small garden. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This delightfully saucy acanthus has paraded in the trade for years as Acanthus spinosus, but is nothing like that species...i.e., it's missing the spines. It appears perfectly intermediate between Acanthus hungaricus and Acanthus spinosus and is probably a hybrid, hence we have assigned a cultivar name commemorating its widespread culture in Holland under the wrong name. The 1' tall x 2' wide mass of deeply incised, black-green, deer-resistant leaves makes a wonderful clump topped in late spring with 2' tall spikes of white flowers hidden by spiny purple hoods. Sunny, slightly acid to alkaline conditions are best and be aware that unlike vasectomies, cutting the translocation system (roots) causes more babies. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
In 2011, while Israeli nurseryman Moti Kopilovitch was visiting and discussing our acanthus selections, I explained that most Acanthus mollis we tried did not survive our hot, humid summers. Moti was kind enough to share seed of a form that thrives in Israel's hot, zone 10-11 climate and we are thrilled to share the plants with you. We planted several of this Acanthus mollis in the ground to watch, so we'll all grow them for the first time together. Acanthus mollis makes a 2' tall x 3' wide clump of broad, glossy-green, deeply indented leaves that goes into a midsummer lull but kicks into high gear with the return of cooler nights. The clumps are topped with 4' tall spikes of spiny purple and white flowers. Acanthus is propagated from root cuttings, so if you dig around a mature acanthus, you will create cuttings. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
I spent years lusting after the breathtaking variegated Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel', so finally, not only do we have it, but we have enough to share. This unusual selection of the European Acanthus mollis comes via a gardener in Tasmania. The bold-textured, dark green leaves with deeply scalloped edges are highlighted by an irregular border that emerges creamy gold, then changes to white as the leaves mature. The older leaves eventually lose most of the coloration. When the 3' wide deer-resistant clumps mature, they are topped with 5' tall spikes of true pink flowers...simply stunning! Acanthus 'Tasmanian Angel' must have some sun to survive...also a rich, moist soil is preferred. Bear's breech is an evergreen perennial at the southern end of its range. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Acanthus 'Morning Candle' is a new free-flowering selection from Holland's Dirk de Winter of New Generation Plants, that is reportedly a hybrid of Acanthus spinosus and Acanthus mollis. Unfortunately, most growers wouldn't know true Acanthus spinosus if it stuck 'em in the rear. We think this is more likely an Acanthus hungaricus x Acanthus mollis hybrid. For us, the 3' wide clump of deeply-scalloped green leaves has performed extremely well despite several weeks above 100 degrees F. The compact deer-resistant clumps are topped, starting in early May (NC), with 4'+ tall flower spikes of purple and white hooded flowers...very nice! We've found Acanthus 'Morning Candle' to still be free-flowering, despite all the new EU austerity measures. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We feel this import by Oregon's Chet Tompkins from a gardener in China is the finest acanthus on the market. Acanthus 'Summer Beauty' is a hybrid (probably Acanthus mollis x Acanthus spinosus) that grows well in our hot summers where Acanthus mollis fails miserably. The 4-6' wide clump of giant, glossy, dark green foliage is much more cutleaf than Acanthus mollis. In summer, the tropical-looking, deer-resistant clumps are topped with 6' tall spikes of white flowers surrounded by wonderful purple calyces...absolutely superb, and soon to be an industry standard! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)