Acanthus are easy-to-grow plants and do not require special care.  The planting season is in spring in a light, draining and preferably humus-bearing soil that is exposed to direct sunlight.  Given that the flowering period lasts from July through August, you can add some compost or a little sand at planting time in order to stimulate the growth of flowers to make them more beautiful.

Acanthus are blooming perennials of the Acantheae family native to Greek woods, thickets and hills, the Balkans, Romania and the Mediterranean basin. In history, Acanthus was immortalized through the Greek architects who grew it to decorate the Corinthian columns of ancient Greece. Today, Acanthus is grown to adorn edges or flower beds and they are also suitable for cultivation by the sea. Acanthus has evergreen or semi-persistent foliage. There are two well-known varieties : the prickly acanthus (Acanthus spinosus) and the soft-leaf acanthus (Acanthus mollis). An acanthus seedling can measure up to 5 feet (1.50 m) long and its dark green leaves are deeply lobed and may reach up to 2 feet (60 cm) long and 1 foot (30 cm) wide. The acanthus’ flowers are grouped into long flower scapes and are available in several colours: white, lavender or pink. The small leaves located under the flowers usually take on purple shades.

Conditions for growing acanthus

Acanthus are plants that adapt very well to hot regions and cannot withstand temperatures that are too low. They also need well-drained and light soil, but you can also give them extra fertilizer to stimulate their growth. Acanthus likes to be in full sun exposure, however, if you are in an overly warm region, it is best to place it in half-shade. When you put Acanthus in the ground, it is advisable to keep a distance of 3 feet (1 m) between each plant because they have strong roots that spread far in search of food. You can place them in limited spaces, such as between a wall and a path if desired.

To propagate Acanthus, you have two options. You can either sow seeds in spring between March and April, or take root cuttings. Seedlings can also be grown in-ground and under glass between May and July. Once 2 or 3 leaves have emerged, you can transplant the seedlings in the ground or put them in buried containers. Then you can set them up the following spring, keeping at least 31.5 inches (80 cm) between each plant. In general, acanthus takes at least 3 years before flowering, however if you resort to root cuttings to propagate them you can expect flowers after 2 years.

Maintaining your Acanthus

Acanthus are easy-to-maintain plants. Planting them does not involve any specific requirement. However, when you grow them, it is important to water your plants regularly during the summer especially in cases of high heat. It is also essential to monitor your plants in spring, as they can be attacked by slugs or snails. Thus, it is recommended to remove them regularly so that the leaves do not suffer too much from the damages inflicted by these little creatures that seem harmless at first sight. Acanthus are very resistant to diseases, although they can sometimes be subjected to some mildew attacks. You can remedy this by cutting off the affected areas. If, however, the disease is too widespread, it is best to cut down the plant permanently. You will obtain, later on, new and healthier foliage that will take over.

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Published in Ground cover by Alexander on 31 Aug 2011