Acanthus mollis

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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.

Plant details

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.

Getting started:

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.