Wild Rhubarb

Acanthus mollis

Water Needs: Lots Sun Requirements: Shade Sun Requirements: Semi-shade Size: Medium


WILD RHUBARB, BEAR'S BREECHES, ARTIST'S ACANTHUS; Medium size sub-shrub native to the Mediterranean but also found in tropical and sub-tropical Africa and Asia. Leaf spread is up to 1.5m with flower spikes sometimes reaching 2m in height. Leaves are a glossy dark green, attractively shaped and large in size. Flowers are produced in summer. Flower spikes provide a striking contrast to the leaves with flowers of white and creamy grey, tinged with purple. Prefers dappled shade and grows best in rich, well-drained soil with ample water - but will also grow in full sun and ordinary garden soil. Looks good when used to fill gaps between shrubs, against walls or underneath trees. Tolerates minimal frost and some degree of neglect once established. Yellowing leaves may be removed when they appear. Clumps may be carefully lifted and divided in spring.

Questions and comments


The questions/comments section has been closed as of 1 Sept 2015

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Jan 03 2015, 07:15 AM
I am in Los Altos, CA. Yesterday I dug out bears breeches from friend's home. The leaves are green and healthy, but to my surprise, today all wilted. I have some in pot, some in ground in half shady area. How frequent to water? Will they come back or eventually die?
Jan 04 2015, 02:07 PM
Since eGardens is based in Cape Town, South Africa I am not familiar with the climatic conditions in Los Altos, CA (hot Summers, cool Winters I'd guess?). But this is a summary of what the Bear's Breeches prefers : deep rich well-drained soil, partial to full shade, protection from hot afternoon sun. It would probably go dormant in your hot mid-Summer, and also in mid-Winter if it gets really cold where you live. Everywhere I looked on the Internet were comments about it being extremely invasive and difficult to get rid of. This should work in your favour if you're trying to transplant it. I did see only ONE comment that Beare's Breeches does not like being transplanted. But MANY saying it was easily propagated from root cuttings. People say that even if you try to eradicate them, even leaving a tiny piece of the root in the soil will result in it sprouting again. So, I'd say be patient and just keep the soil moist until you observe new shoots. You can perhaps push a piece of wood into the soil to see how deep the moisture is penetrating, and adjust your watering accordingly. Also, one generally tries to minimise the amount of foliage (leaves) when transplanting as the roots will have been shocked by any trimming etc. and therefore not able to sustain nutrients to excessive leaf surface. Planting in semi-shade was correct, as was doing it in Fall/Winter but try to keep the pots in a shady or semi-shady environment too. A couple of days since transplanting is way too soon to expect results. I'd put my money on them coming back... Below is a website which you might find useful :

Sep 02 2014, 06:35 PM
Hello. Thank you for your great website! We live in Stellenbosch and I transplanted 8 big wild rhubarb plants today to a new area in our garden. I did this late afternoon to allow for recovery during the night. If they leaves remain hanging down, should I cut them off, or be patient and wait a while? Thank you for your time! Kind regards Izelle
Sep 03 2014, 09:49 AM
The plants will definitely suffer from root shock, especially as you say they are large. Removing the roots from the soil interrupts the flow of fluids and nutrients. But they should recover, given a little time (overnight would be too soon I think). It is standard practice to reduce foliage whenever transplanting shrubs, as the disturbed roots will not be able to sustain the original foliage. Personally I would remove the larger leaves, and leave the smaller, more recent leaves. But you might be lucky and find that all of the original leaves become erect. In my experience, Wild Rhubarb is very robust, grows in even poor soil, and spreads quickly (sometimes reappearing when I thought it had died off).
Sep 03 2014, 10:15 AM
Thank you Rod. I'm very happy this morning because most of the leaves are beautifully erect, yeah! Will cut damaged ones off and remove more like you suggest after a day or two. Have a good day.

Flower Information

Category: Perennials

  • Main Flower Colour: Whites
  • Purpose: Evergreen Plants, Greenhouses and Shade Houses, Swimming Pool Areas, Landscaping for Damp or Marshy Areas
  • Theme: Landscaping a Formal Garden, Landscaping a Western Cape (Mediterranean) Garden, Landscaping a Shade Garden
  • Main Plant Colour: Green
  • Planting Season: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring
  • Flowering Season: Summer, Spring


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