Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Acanthus Mollis

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch
Acanthus mollis flower (16/05/2011, Paris)

Acanthus mollis flower (16/05/2011, Paris)

Position: Flourishes in full sun to partial shade.

Soil: moist and well drained.

Flowering period: Late summer.

Eventual Height: 1.5m

Eventual Spread: 90cm

Hardiness: USDA Zone 7b-9a

Family: Acanthaceae

Acanthus mollis is an semi-evergreen perennial with a clump forming habit. It has obovate, deeply lobed, dark green leaves. In summer it bears 1m long racemes composed of white flowers with purple shaded bracts, often on purple stems.

A. mollis also known as Bear’s Breeches is native to south west Europe and north west Africa. It features in Greek mythology and was also used in stone carvings by both the Greeks and the Romans to decorate a wide range of architectural features, such as Corinthian and Composite order columns, dentils, and friezes. In Greek mythology Acantha was a nymph who resisted Apollo’s romantic advances and was turned into the plant as punishment.

Acanthus is derived fro the ancient Greek akanthos meaning ‘a prickle’ in reference to some members of the genus being spiny. mollis is derived from the Latin translating as ‘soft’, ‘tender’ or ‘velvety’.

Acanthus mollis flower (16/05/2011, Paris)

Acanthus mollis flower (16/05/2011, Paris)

This plant may be usefull to the landscape architect as an effective ground cover plant which tolerates a shady location. It provides dramatic flowering spikes during the summer months and has large bold leaves.

This plant will tolerate almost any soil conditions; it will be happy in acid, neutral or alkaline pH levels, in loam, sand or chalk in a sheltered or exposed location facing any aspect including shady locations.

Ecologically this plant will cater to pollinating insects such as bees.

Maintenance: Requires little to no maintenance, flower stems may be cut back after flowering. If the clumps become too large they may be split in spring or autumn. Powdery mildew may occasionally be a problem, generally under dry climatic cconditions.

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