Caroli-alexandri Bear's Breech
This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.Shop Available Acanthus
Item #: 5055
Zones: 6a to 7b, guessing
Height: 18" tall
Origin: Southeast Europe
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, spiny, white-and-purple flowers...outstanding for texture and structure in the small garden.
Acanthus require little in the way of maintenance. Remove spent flower stalks when they are no longer attractive, cutting them to the ground. Remove unattractive foliage as necessary. The foliage is attractive most of the year especially if there is adequate moisture in summer. Bear's breech is very drought tolerant but will deal with drought in summer by going dormant, returning in fall as soil moisture increases. So, irrigation in summer time dry spells will keep it in growth. Some species will continue to grow into late fall or winter if the weather remains mild, eventually being cut back by cold. The plants are not harmed by this enforced rest. They will return in spring unfazed.
It is best to choose a permanent location when planting. They tolerate transplanting but every piece of root left behind will grow a new plant. Indeed root-cuttings is a standard means of propagating. Once planted, they can be left alone to get better with each passing year.
Part day sun to very bright shade is best for Acanthus caroli-alexandri, Acanthus mollis, Acanthus spinossus, and similar Acanthus with lush soft leaves. Though drought tolerant, they will remain attractive all summer if not drought stressed, so avoid excessively dry sites, and irrigate if possible during dry spells. Remember that shade gardens are often dry due to the trees that provide the shade if the trees are ones that are very competitive in their water use.
The floral display of bear's breech is very dramatic. Flower spikes can be 5 to 6' tall depending on the particular species and are strongly vertical and persist for a couple of months. The effect is much like strictly upright spikes of the common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. Bear's breech would be worth growing even without its floral display because its handsome foliage is big, bold and lush and a glossy mid green and is an attractive addition to a garden.
Leaf Color: Green
Bloom Time: Spring
Container Role: Fillers