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Acanthus spinosus

Bear's breeches

Reader rating

From 7 ratings

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Key information

Flower colour

Lavender, White





Skill level


photo by Rob Whitworth, copyright GAP Photos (28061)

Plant details

A statuesque architectural plant, with handsome dark green leaves whose stylised shapes form the decorative detail on Corinthian columns, bringing a strong hint of classical elegance to the garden. The plants make large, mound-shaped rosettes of glossy leathery leaves, finely cut and each tipped with a ferocious spine. The flower spikes resemble tall foxgloves from a distance, with hooded two-tone flowers. Once established it is virtually impossible to move plants so correct positioning is vital. A dramatic plant for growing in gravel or grass, or at the back of a large border. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Family: Acanthaceae

Genus: Acanthus

Species: spinosus

Flower colour: Lavender, White

Foliage colour: Dark green

Feature: Flowers

Sun exposure: Full sun, Partial shade

Soil: Well-drained/light, Dry, Moist

Hardiness: Hardy

Skill level: Beginner

Height: 150cm

Spread: 60cm

Time to plant seeds: March to April

Time to divide plants: February to April

Flowering period: June to September

Reader reviews


Useful. I love these plants but mine are in too much shade and get swamped. I'm going to try to move them. They give the garden a really mediterranean feel.

Jeanne F

I have found Acanthus to be the most difficult plant to get rid of. I had it planted near the front of a mixed border of shrubs and paeonies where it looked lovely - for two seasons then I found it coming up all through the other plants over a radius of four or five feet. Because of the nature of the other plants it was not possible to dig it out easily and I have been trying to get rid of it ever since, by digging it out to a great depth,using glyphosate etc and it is still coming up. Plant with care is my advice.


I love mine..but I did plant it too close to the path, and it's a bit spiny! I will try to move it back a bit in the autumn.


I planted mine in full sun, but it does get a bit overshadowed by a buddlea. I flowered for the first year but not since. Is it because of the shade?

david carradice

i have one which is not in the shade but has not flowered for 2 years. it just seems to want to spread. how can it be controlled as i don't want to lose it completely.

Sue Keenan

Similar to Jeanne F, we inherited the plant and it is indeed very striking, but is situated in quite a small border and has become invasive. I tried digging it out last year but this year it is just as big. Would appreciate any guidance on how to reduce it.

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