A horticultural survivor from Ancient Greek and Roman times, Acanthus mollis is one of the great garden plants. It was so highly regarded in the ancient world that a motif shaped like an acanthus leaf was used to decorate the tops of Corinthian columns.
Common name: Oyster Plant
Botanic name: Acanthus mollis
Description: An evergreen, soft wooded perennial which grows in an upright clump to about 1 metre x 1 metre (3’x3′). The dark green, glossy leaves are lobed and toothed. Purple and white flowers appear on tall, erect spikes from November to January.
Best climate: Acanthus will grow in most areas of Australia, except for inland zones.
Best look: foliage plant planted in shady areas or under deciduous trees container or indoor plant cut or dried flower arrangements
Good points: dramatic and long lasting spires of purple and white flowers grows in sun or shade handsome, deeply cut dark green leaves almost indestructible
Downside: The leaves are very attractive to slugs, snails and leaf-eating insects. The explosive pods scatter seed over a wide area and the plant will grow from any piece of root, so acanthus can become a garden pest.
Care: Acanthus can be grown in sun or part shade, and prefers a deep, moist soil. Mulch well, and never allow the plant to dry out. Snail bait is necessary, particularly in wet weather. Remove dead leaves and spent flower stems.
Acanthus mollis is available at nurseries and garden centres. It can also be propagated easily by seed, root cuttings or division of an established clump.