What: The large, glossy, bright green leaves of Acanthus spinosus, commonly known as bear’s breeches, add drama to any setting, but its smaller more compact habit make it easy to fit into almost any garden. Each leaf is deeply cut along the margins giving an attractive laciness that softens the boldness of the large foliage. In mid-summer this acanthus produces equally dramatic, pagoda-like inflorescences, up to 3 feet tall. Each inflorescence is composed of tiers of hooded flowers in shades of light purple, pink and white. Each flower has a sharp spine, so be careful when handling them.
Where: Acanthus spinosus thrives in full sun to dappled shade, but is more compact and blooms better with more light. It will form long tap roots that help it survive drought. If these tap roots are broken, bear’s breech will sprout a new plant from the broken root. Water occasionally to regularly in full sun to keep a lush appearance or, if grown without summer watering, plants will go dormant in early summer.
Size: In 10 years, this acanthus will grow to be 1½ feet tall and 2 feet wide.
Care: Cut bear’s breeches to the ground once they have started to yellow, and fresh growth will appear in the fall. Occasional hard freezes can damage the winter foliage, cut back the damaged leaves and new growth will start again in late winter or early spring.
— Richie Steffen, Great Plant Picks