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Flower Arrangements from the Garden: Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus mollis)

Acanthus mollisWith tall flower spikes and handsome foliage, bear’s breeches is an outstanding evergreen perennial that makes a grand architectural statement in the garden or vase. The irregular flowers are white with purplish calyx lobes and are densely packed on the stems in mid- to late spring. The shiny dark green leaves are up to two feet long and are lobed or deeply divided. The size of the flowering stalks makes them suitable only for large arrangements, as cutting them shorter would ruin the proportions. The leaves are beautiful but unfortunately do not last well in the vase. Try pairing with hydrangea or agapanthus.

Cutting: Pick stems when all the flowers are open.

Conditioning: Dip stems in boiling water then give long drink in deep cold water.

Drying: Allow to dry in the vase or hang upside-down in dry warm room.

Cultivation:

    Size: 3-4’ H x 3’ W
    Light: Full sun to partial shade
    Soil: Rich, medium moist, well drained
    Hardiness: Zones 8-10
    Propagation: Seeds in spring, division in spring or autumn, root cuttings in late autumn or early winter.
    Care: Cut to ground level after flowering

Acanthus spinosus is a similar species but has spiny leaf margins. It is more cold hardy and tolerates heat and humidity better than A mollis but can be more difficult to work with because of the spines.

Recommended Reading:

Flowers: The Book of Floral Design
Tussie-Mussies: The Language of Flowers
The Complete Flower Arranging Book
Infinite Succulents