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Acanthus mollis

Acanthus mollis

Common name bear's breeches
Family acanthaceae
Life cycle perennial (Z6-9)
Flowers purple/white
Size 4'
Light sun-part shade
Cultural notes ordinary garden soil
From seed Give 2-3 months cold, then germinate at room temperature
detailed seed-starting info below

bear's breeches
Glossy, interestingly cut foliage is quite attractive, and forms a tight cluster. Upright flowering stalks in summer carry rows of two-toned flowers to a striking effect. In ideal conditions, acanthus is reputed to spread rapidly by roots, but in our garden (in the Northern range of its hardiness zone) it hasn't posed a problem in the least. The plant keeps adding interest over a long season, with its flowers progressing upwards along the stalk, and fading to a tan color as they go. The pictures below were taken at the beginning (left) and end (right) of August.

Acanthus mollis
bear's breeches
Acanthus mollis
For years I tried unsuccessfully to retrieve seed from the smallish pods that form near the flower stalks; this year I found out why: true seed pods are much larger, ballooning to the size of a medium grape and containing several glossy fat lumpy seeds. I still got only a few.
bear's breeches

We left this plant behind in our Pennsylvania garden (and wish it well); we don't grow it in Houston.

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Seed-starting details for this plant

  1. Seed from '07 garden. Soaked 1d (discarded a floater), baggy 35F (9w) - 70F (100%G, 3d)

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