Pronunciation: (a-kan-thos)
Family: Oyster Plant, Bear’s Breech, ACANTHACEAE

Immortalized by the Greeks in the carved capitals of their Corinthian columns, the Acanthus species are hardy perennials, grown mostly for their handsome foliage. Use them in temperate gardens as a striking feature plant in semi-shade or in a sheltered courtyard — but lay plenty of snail bait! All manner of pests seem to find them irresistible.

ACANTHUS mountain thistle

Acanthus spinosissmus mountain thistle

Grow Acanthus from autumn divisions or from seed sown in spring at a temperature of 140C/570F. Germination takes about three weeks. Soil should be well-drained, rich and neutral in acidity. The satiny leaves vary greatly in shape according to species, but are all elegantly lobed and broadly toothed.

Early summer flowers of mauve and grey appear in spikes up to 2m/6ft tall, after which the plant dies back. Slow to establish, Acanthus spreads rapidly when settled in. Dead-head after blooming and water generously except when dormant.

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