Bear’s breech (Acanthus spinosus) is a herbaceous perennial with handsome, deep green leaves rising directly from the ground. Flower spikes up to three feet are rosy-white with flaring lips and purplish-green hoods. It flowers from mid-summer to early autumn. The blooms have spines below them, so be careful handling the flowers of this exotic looking plant. That said, the bloom stalks make good cut or dried flowers. It is native to Southern Europe. This plant is said to have inspired the design of the Greek Corinthian columns in fifth century B.C.
Bear’s breech like to be in part shade except in hot areas. Then it appreciates afternoon shade. It is hardy in zones five to ten.
Bear’s breech appreciates good, well-drained soil. You can make a good place to plant the Bear’s breech by tilling up an area in your flower bed to six inches deep. Then spread compost on the tilled area to a depth of three inches. Now till the compost into the dirt until completely mixed in. You are ready to plant your Bear’s breech.
Plant the Bear’s breech at least three feet from each other in the prepared ground.
Water weekly and deeply during the growing season. Monthly watering should be sufficient in the winter. Too much water in the winter will kill the plant.
Be sure to deadhead Bear’s breech by cutting the entire stalk of flowers off or it detracts from the look of the plant.
Side dress the plants with compost in the fall, and give a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 in early spring.
Mulch over Bear’s breech in the winter in colder climates to protect the roots from freezing. Remove the mulch in early spring when plants begin to green up so the Bear’s breech can get the sunlight it needs to grow.
These plants are often planted as specimen plants in flower beds, borders, and containers. It is considered both deer and rabbit resistant. They are, however, often bothered by snails and slugs. You can kill the snails and slugs by using the iron based bait in ES-Cargo. It is safer for pets and children than the older copper based baits.
Bear’s breech can be divided in the fall or spring. Cut the shoots that grow on the plant and start them in the early spring. Root cuttings may be done in late fall or early winter. You can sow Bear’s breech seeds directly to into the garden before the soil warms up.
You can also grow Bear’s breech from seed indoors. They can be started inside at any time of the year. Plant the seed one to a container and keep the soil at 50 to 55 degrees until the seed germinates twenty-one to twenty-five days later. You can then gradually raise the soil temperature and plant them outside in the spring.
Bear’s breech reseeds itself, forming large colonies. Plant them somewhere they can expand or dig the extra plants up regularly and move them to a more desirable place to grow.