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Plant Profile: Ethiopian Acanthus (Acanthus sennii)

AcanthusEndemic to the highlands of Ethiopia where it grows in dry forest margins, open hillsides, and along streams and river banks, this herbaceous perennial is rarely seen and is quite different from its more common cousin, Acanthus mollis. Stiff silvery green leaves grow on purplish black stems and are three inches wide. They have ruffled edges, spike-like teeth, and prominent silver veins. In late summer to autumn clusters of vermilion red flowers are produced in terminal racemes. The flowers are attractive but the plant could be used for its foliage alone. Where winters are cold, Acanthus sennii can be grown in a container and brought indoors in the winter.   The genus name Acanthus, comes from the Greek word akanthos meaning thorn or prickle and refers to the spines on the leaves of some species. 

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Clusters of vermilion red flowers are produced in late summer to autumn in terminal racemes.

Size: 3′  H x 3-5′ W

Light: Full sun but tolerates some shade.

Soil: Fertile, deep, medium moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones: 8-10 (colder with mulch)

Care: Plant in a protected place in the garden; cut back in late fall and protect the crown with mulch.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Root cuttings in winter

Companion plants: Miscanthus or other delicate grass; Geranium spp with lacy foliage.

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