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A picture of a Bear's Breeches

Bear's Breeches

Acanthus spp.

KotzitzSoori001 by Zachi Evenor (CC BY 3.0)

Full Shade
Moderate care
Light watering
Frost Hardy

H7-H5

RHS hardiness

-20°C

Minimum temperature

Expected size

Height
Spread

2m

Max

2m

1m

Min

1m

2 years to reach maturity

Flowering

  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

More images of Bear's Breeches

A pink and white Acanthus mollis flower on a plant
A close up of some purple and white Acanthus spinosus flowers growing at The Newt Somerset
A photo of Bear's Breeches
A photo of Bear's Breeches
A close up of some purple and white Acanthus spinosus flowers growing at The Newt Somerset

Bear's Breeches Overview

Acanthus is a genus with around 30 species of herbaceous, perennial flowering plants from dry rocky Mediterranean landscapes. Some are semi-evergreen and grown for their ornamental flower spikes and lobed, toothed, sometimes spiny leaves, which can reach up to 90cm long. They are fully hardy and the tubular flowers produce nectar so these species make great garden plants for attracting pollinators. The 3.5-5cm flowers have 2 lips (perfect for insects to perch on!) and are borne generally in ranks of 4, on upright, unbranched spikes, growing to around 1.2m high. One of the most well-known plants from this genus is Acanthus mollis, commonly known as Bear's Breeches. This common name is shared with multiple plants in the genus Acanthus.

Common problems with Bear's Breeches

Pests include snails. Diseases include powdery mildew, fungal and bacterial leaf spot.

How to harvest Bear's Breeches

To harvest flowers, cut the flower at the height of bloom and hang upside down in a cool, dark place to dry. If dried correctly they will hold their colour well and will last about a year before browning. Harvest seeds in late winter.

How to propagate Bear's Breeches

Cuttings

Take root cuttings in late autumn or early winter and keep moist.

Seed

Sow seeds in spring. Germinates in 3 - 4 weeks.

Tubers

Usually propagated from tubers and tends to form large, localized clumps which can survive for several decades. Divide clumps in autumn or spring.

Division

By seed or division in early autumn or spring.

Special features of Bear's Breeches

Drought resistant

It is tolerant of drought once established.

Attracts useful insects

Attracts useful pollinating insects such as bees and bumble bees.

Attracts bees

Popular with pollinating insects such as bees, these are large enough to push into the structural flowers.

Attractive flowers

Attractive, showy blooms.

Other uses of Bear's Breeches

Low maintenance flowers are often grown for cut flowers and for providing structure to beds and borders. Once established these are drought resistant and suits Mediterranean and gravel gardens