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Acanthus

Acanthus (Bear's Breech)

While 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 also deer-resistant.


More Information About Acanthus

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.

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.

The common name of Acanthus is Bear's Breech...why in the world would someone name a plant after Yogi's britches? Well, according to plant taxonomy expert William Stearn, the name Bear's Breech comes from the medieval (Pre-Linnaean) latin name 'Acanthus sativus branca ursina' (Linnean name...Acanthus mollis) which means 'Cultivated Spiny Bear Bract', because they thought the curved bracts on the flower stalk looked like a bear claw. Over time people mis-pronounced or mis-translated the word 'branca' into 'breech', leading to the common name bear's breech. So technically, Bear's Breech should really be called bear claw flower...but it's too late to change it now.