© RHS / Jason Ingram



Common name: Bear's breeches

If you have a wild area that needs leafy ground cover, or a dramatic floral statement in a large border, look no further than acanthus. It loves sunshine and well-drained soil, although it would be equally happy at the edge of tree canopies in some shade. Some species are tall and spread indefinitely, but others are compact, better behaved and so suit a small garden.


Acanthus form mounds of bold, eye-catching foliage. The leaves are deeply lobed, some are spiny, and they have long stalks; the hooded, spiny flowers which rise up on statuesque stems, are in muted shades of purple, pink, green or white.


Plant in a sunny position or in light shade in soil that is well-drained in winter.


It’s best to avoid deep shade and wet soil in winter; susceptible to slugs and snails; and to powdery mildews in very dry soils.

Did you know?

Once you plant an acanthus it’s best not to disturb it. They root deeply and any small pieces of root left in the ground will regrow.

Growing guide

Acanthus we recommend

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Useful advice

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Perennials: dividing

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