Plant disappointments – Acanthus ‘Whitewater’

I love a good variegated plant, so I had high hopes when I planted the variegated Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ last year. The tag, in part, read “This vigorous (3-4′), variegated Acanthus has striking, bold leaves with deeply cut white margins…”. Did they just say vigorous, variegated foliage up to 4 feet tall? I bought one immediately and planted it in the deer garden.

I knew it was in trouble when I saw it emerging this spring (May 1st), almost exactly one year after I had planted it.

Uh oh. The leaves were emerging almost completely albino with no green whatsoever. No green means no chlorophyll. And no chlorophyll means the plant will eventually die. Or, perhaps, the chlorophyll would develop later in the season? I wasn’t sure. You can see an old tiny green leaf from last year just to the right, underneath that gray stick.

Closer inspection didn’t make me feel any better.

Ugly brown blotches on the new leaves and, if you look closely, you’ll see a little black aphid on the leaf to the right.

Well, let’s see how the rest of 2021 goes for ‘Whitewater’. Here it is one month later.

As of June 2nd, no chlorophyll had developed on the albino leaves and the ugly brown blotches had spread (see top leaf). However, the old leaves from 2020 were still there to provide some sustenance. Hopefully, the plant will soon realize it’s mistake and put out a new shoot with normal, variegated leaves. One month later…

Arrgh! The rabbits mowed it down leaving only a few stubs, one old green leaf, and a bunch of dying albino leaves. We had a banner rabbit year in 2021. I ended up catching six of the little jerks (more on that in a later post). Maybe ‘Whitewater’ will still grow back normally later in the summer if it has enough energy left?

August came and went. No change. In fact, it looked worse. It was too depressing to take pictures of. Then, in September, this happened…

Finally! Though it was almost fall (picture taken on September 19th), some almost normal, lightly variegated green leaves emerged.

And, here ‘Whitewater’ is again, today on November 27th, 2021.

Much improved. Although it isn’t quite the vision of a vigorous, variegated beauty that I was expecting (do a web search to see how stunning Acanthus ‘Whitewater’ can be), at least now I have some hope that things will improve for this plant in 2022!

Week of 11/22/2021 to 11/28/2021: Low = 29°F. High = 60°F. Weekly precipitation = 0.75 inches (rain).

Garden chores accomplished: Minimal, sort of a lazy holiday weekend. Minor ivy pulling, took cuttings of various broadleaf evergreens, spot herbicide applications, worked on building a wooden frame for L’s new wall hydroponic system. 

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