Thornless Rose Rankings

Just_One_Nerve_LeftJuly 22, 2014

I have been investigating roses lately and wanted to get some thornless roses. But "thornless," and "nearly thornless" is not very definitive when used interchangably and as many definitions of "thornless" as there are "thornless roses."

My hope is to use these plants next to a high travel/congregation area - aka my patio and path around the house. Basically, if my elderly grandparents or if children were to fall into the bush, I don't want them any worse for wear than if they had fallen into a lilac or azalea.

I know, a tall order asking for a rose to not have thorns.

I have a short list of roses that seem to meet this criteria, but since I expect all roses to have thorns, I want to know what I am REALLY getting into. HELPMEFIND/Roses and google searches seem to not like to take photos of the thorns on these thornless beauties so I am left feeling anxious about what they will grow into.

Anyway these are the ones that I would like feedback on.

1. Abracadabra
2. Ahimsa - Orient Silk
3. Annie Laurie McDowell
4. Smooth Prince (or Smooth series in general)
5. Zephirine Drouhin

Some side criteria I used to compile the list was fragrant, repeat bloom, fuller HT like flowers, and hardiness to 6A (ish) - My area is very turbulant as far as zoning maps go.

I checked out Heritage at the local rose garden and I just wasn't sold on the thornlessness of that variety.

I may go the Basye's Blueberry route which I hear is completely thornless if these roses are a bust.

Was thinking of Ranking them kinda sorta as follows.

0. Completely thorn and prickle free.
1. Very limited thorns, but essentially unnoticable unless you are looking for them hard. Nothing in areas where people are likely to interact with the plant (leaves/near flowers).
2. Some thorns lower on the plant, rare non-obtrusive thorns in interactive areas.
3. Heritage level of thorniness or more thorny.

If you have pictures or links that would be great also.

Sorry for being so demanding but I want to feel confident in my decision and feel that my assessment of these roses as being either 1 or 0 is an accurate assessment.

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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

As far as I can tell Annie Laurie McDonnell is completely thorn-free. Mine is a young plant and I'm not sure whether that's true of a mature plant also, but I've been told that it is.

I believe Zepherine Drouhin is also completely thornless.

I also have Reine de Violettes which shows no sign of a thorn anywhere,


    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:04PM
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jasminerose4u, California(9b)

I have Annie Laurie McDowell and Climbing Yellow Sweetheart. Both are truly thornless "bite free" roses (zero on your rating list). I'm told that even a thornless rose can grow a prickled cane every now and then. But so far, these roses are completely smooth for me. I am disbudding them, so they will climb and I can barely keep up. They want to bloom like crazy. I will watch this thread carefully, because I might want to replace another climbing rose I have that I thought was nearly thornless, but isn't.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 10:28PM
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Thanks everyone so much for the responses so far..... It is nice to get the confirmation that at least some these roses fit my stated needs.

Some others that I had researched that seemed to be genuinely prickle free for those interested.

Mrs. Dudley Cross
Jefferson Rose
Pink Gruss

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 12:33PM
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Thomas Affleck

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 2:21PM
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nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

I can vouch that Annie Laurie MacDonald is at least a 0 or 1 on your scale and it is lovely to run my fingers along its foliage. In my yard, what I think is Andenken an J. Diering (a pink climber from Rogue Valley) is as smooth as a baby's bottom, though HMF isn't listing it as such. I'm 80-90% sure of the ID from discussion here on GW.

Just a caution about Reine des Violettes - if it's the real RdV then it is thornless. Apparently there are some closely similar roses being sold as RdV that are substantially thorny - a 3 or more. I planted my RdV thinking it would be thornless and it really isn't, so you might want to check it out in person if at all possible.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 2:50PM
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Jasminerose4u - if you are looking for a thornless climbing rose that will grow in zone 8 (it would like to be on a South facing wall, if possible), you might take a look at banksia lutea. Completely, absolutely thornless. It is a once bloomer, but in my zone 9 climate it blooms for at least 9-10 weeks, and sometimes longer. Also disease free.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 2:50PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Picked up a potted Smooth Angel this Spring, thinking a rose for our odd-shaped second story deck should be as thornless as possible to prevent a hazard. Asked about it & the other "Smooth Touch Roses" then, but no one growing any replied. Bred by Harvey D. Davidson of Western Sun Roses, think the first of these came out in the late 70's (Smooth Sailing). The names of all his roses begin with "Smooth", so you can use the Search/Lookup tool at Smooth Angel garnered the most favorite votes at 36, yet there are no ratings nor comments for it, and few for the others. Researched them a few months back to find more details & glad to give a rundown of what turned up if you're interested.

Just went out to check Smooth Angel & found no - 0- thorns on this currently 2x2' example. Rich perfume & an old-fashioned bloom form drew me to this one, along with a vanilla hue tinted with apricot. Very pretty! It's churned out a new set of blooms every 3 weeks so far, they open slowly & last a week & more on the bush before shedding their petals cleanly, another plus especially for an ivory rose. Much enjoying this rose & looking to add more from this line. Saw Smooth Velvet at the same time - strong damask perfume & full rich red blooms - but chose Smooth Angel to show up in all lighting for the evening use the deck receives.

If you're up to the task, you can plow through the advanced search at helpmefind by thornless habit. The link below should show the results of that search. If it doesn't show a list of roses, but an Advanced Search screen, choose "Habit" & then "Thornless" (3rd from the bottom in the grey area after short/medium/tall) from the list that shows in the window that opens. Click continue which loads the info & then click search. (Following the link showed me the results list once & another time directed me to the Advanced Search, perhaps because both windows are still open at the moment on this laptop. I'm interested in this trait, too!)

Here is a link that might be useful: Thornless (or nearly so) Roses

This post was edited by vasue on Wed, Jul 23, 14 at 15:56

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 3:33PM
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seil zone 6b MI

Cynthia is correct, the real RdV is totally thornless but the copy cat one isn't. So you need to purchase it from a very reputable source that will have the correct one.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:27PM
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In over twenty years of "being intimate" with Annie Laurie McDowell, I have found ONE prickle on the large plant on HMF. None others, anywhere. I regularly find hooked prickles on my enormous Banksiae double white. I grew an old, virused ROYAT Reine des Violettes for years. It was the correct one and it occasionally threw prickled canes. I got to inspect the 'found' rose we determined was Cl. Yellow Sweetheart. It had no prickles on it anywhere, nor have any of the plants produced from it I have seen, including mine. But, I expect to find one, eventually. Renae has never been prickly in my observation of nearly thirty years, but it has sported to a thorny, single climber. As soon as someone guaranties you total freedom from prickles, that plant is going to bite you in the rear. Kim

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 10:11PM
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Kim - just curious - does your SSY bush have any prickles on it? My large old one does not.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 10:44PM
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Hi Jackie, no ma'am, no prickles on Schmidt's Smooth Yellow so far. We'll see how that holds up as a budded plant now that it appears to have taken on Pink Clouds. Kim

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 11:01PM
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jasminerose4u, California(9b)

Thank you for the suggestion, Jackie. However, I live in a small 2 bedroom, zero property line house and I'm afraid the beautiful Banksia Lutea might consume it. I really like my Iceberg hedge which has only a few, small thorns and blooms even though I have it in the shadiest of locations. I was considering the climbing version, but as per Kim's article, linked below, the taller versions of iceberg have more prickles. Just how thorny is climbing iceberg, Kim? Great article, by the way. It made it clear as to why most climbers have thorns and made me appreciate my Annie Laurie McDowell and Climbing Yellow Sweetheart that much more. I agree with you too that Iceberg is a great rose. It can look like snow on a hot day.

Here is a link that might be useful: Poor Old Iceberg by Kim Rupert

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 2:12AM
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Thank you, Bonnie. Cl. Iceberg is not as thorny as Marilyn Monroe, but it has sharp prickles. Look at the more vigorous, larger Icebergs in your garden and around your neighborhood. Notice the thornier plants and they will probably be not quite as thorny as the climber. I'm sure you have seen the ones which are more dwarf and bushy, then the ones with the thick canes and much greater height. Those are the partial mutation to the climber and will give you a good idea about the prickles. Kim

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 3:14AM
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jasminerose4u, California(9b)

"Just One Nerve Left". I found this old thread on thornless roses that you might be interested in. Ahimsa (aka Orient Silk) on your list is mentioned there as completely thornless.

Thanks Kim for your answer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Thornless thread on the GW

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 8:51PM
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muscovyduckling(Melbourne, Australia)

I like to use the Peter Beales Classic Roses website for things like this. You can choose to search by thorniness, and they have a category for 'No Thorns' and 'Not Many Thorns' or similar. Then next to each rose, if you click on them, they have a thorniness rating from 0 to 10, with 0 being smooth roses like Zeffy and 10 being some hard-core rugosas.

I only have a few 100% thorn-free roses, including Zephirine Drouhin and her sports Kathleen Harrop and Martha, Reines des Violettes, the banksia roses, and Renae (can't get Annie Laurie McDowell here in Oz, so I must settle for Renae). I'm pretty sure the Hybrid Musk rose Nur Mahal is totally smooth too. The other roses I have with hardly any thorns are all Noisettes and Chinas, and I don't know how they would go for you in zone 6, but I can tell you about them if you would like.

Other than that, a couple of my Austin's have hardly any thorns at all - somewhere between 0 and 1 on your scale - Windermere is a good example. I am also told that the Delbard climber called Nahema is almost smooth (DA's Heritage is one of its parents, which is not particularly thorny for me, so that figures), it's also very fragrant, repeat blooming, and has very double blooms, so it may be worth looking into. (I certainly will be!).

This post was edited by muscovyduckling on Fri, Jul 25, 14 at 3:34

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:20PM
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I am pretty dang impressed! Some great information and resources!

Thank you for helping me with your life experiences with these roses and the recommendations. I'll be doing some digging about them, and probably making a large order come spring if I can wait that long heh.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:48AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

My new last year Raspberry Cream Twirl (a climber) has nice smooth canes and has been very happy and blooming well here.

Renae is smooth as well but taking a bit longer to grow than CL Yellow Sweetheart so far. But that is also due to location and soil differences I think.

My RdV has prickles like a raspberry plant. Grandmothers Hat I can not remember finding any thorns but she is back in a bed and I try and stay out.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:44AM
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Grandmother's Hat is an excellent example of a rose which is often prickle free, suddenly throwing very prickly canes. Super Jane, the sister of Annie Laurie McDowell, is also similar. Describing it, Jimofshermanoaks, who named it for his wife, said, "usually very smooth, but occasionally rather prickly". I loved his sense of humor! Grandmother's Hat does that frequently. Ironically, many of her self seedlings are nearly mossed. Kim

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Patricia43(z8 AL)

Reine de Violettes was thornless for me. Crepuscule x3 were thornless. One of four grew thorns but at an elderly age, not an abundance. Heritage was completely thornless for me. I had 3, one of my first roses and neither ever had a thorn. Grandmother's Hat (for me) had prickles, no thorns. Zephy D had a few prickles, only on very old canes as she aged (you know like an older man who needs the ear hairs pulled). Lady Banks thornless for me. I have had Fortuniana plants that were completely thornless and some that were virtual spines. Renae is smooth. That's all I know and it's very little.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 7:32PM
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I wanted to thank everyone for their first hand experiences and feedback/knowlegde shared.

I have ordered up a few roses to get me started (Annie Laurie McDowell and Zephine Drouhin) and will be adding more probably next spring.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 12:09PM
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