Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 119 Acanthus mollis

Common Names: bear's breeches, Grecian pattern plant, artist's acanthus Family: Acanthaceae (acanthus Family)
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bear's breech
Bear's breech blooms in late spring and early summer producing long stems upon with the flowers are arranged.


Bear's breeches is a very ornamental herbaceous perennial with large shiny dark green leaves. The plant grows in a clump about 5' (1.5 m) tall, with slightly less spread. The leaves can be up to 3 ft (1 m) long, with deep cuts, although there's quite a bit of variation among individual leaves. Each lobe is tipped with a soft (not sharp) spine. In late summer, bear's breeches blooms with creamy white to slightly pink or purplish flowers on dramatically tall, erect stalks held way above the foliage.


Acanthus mollis is native to the Mediterranean region of northern Africa and southwestern Europe.


Bear's breeches performs best in loose, average to rich soil. It tolerates moderately dry conditions once established. Light: Bear's breeches can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Bear's breeches does not tolerate constantly wet soil. Grow this perennial in well drained, but moist soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10. Propagation: Propagate with 2-3 in (5-8 cm) root cuttings taken in spring. Fresh seed will germinate in a month or so.


Acanthus stands out in a bed of ferns or hostas, providing contrast with its darker color, greater size, and complex texture. It is a stately specimen in a courtyard garden. Some of the dignity that seems inherent in this plant might stem from its use in the ornamentation of classical Greek artwork and Corinthian columns! Probably because of its classical background, or perhaps because of the sculptural nature of the plant, it imposes an air of formality. Certainly it deserves a place of honor on the grounds of your palace!

bear's breech
Bear's breech prefers climates with dry mild climates.


With bold textured large leaves, and a tall, imposing flower spike, bear's breeches makes a fine specimen planting in a mixed border or in a stand alone grouping of 3 to 5 plants. Beware, though - It will continue to expand and invade its surrounding area, and every little piece of root that gets broken off is likely to start a new plant.

Steve Christman 06/07/97; updated 4/25/06, 3/17/09, 5/24/12

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Acanthus species profiled on Floridata:

Acanthus mollis

( bear's breeches, Grecian pattern plant, artist's acanthus )

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