Introduction to Thornless Roses:
There is not a rose grower anywhere that hasn't wished at some point that their roses did not have thorns. Usually it's during the more tedious processes of pruning and deadheading that we tend to forget ourselves, or get caught up in trying to get the job done that we inadvertently prick our fingers on one. One interesting little fact for you is technically, in the botanical world, those are really not called thorns, but rather "prickles". While the vast majority of roses are not thornless, there are a small number that truly are thornless, and considerably more that are considered near thornless roses.
What we will cover in this article for you is all the different varieties of roses that either have no thorns at all, or have minimal thorns at best. You will often find roses without thorns planted in convenient locations such as along walkways and other high traffic areas, to minimize the risk to passer-bys while still offering the beauty roses bring to a garden. Other common uses for these varieties are in children's and elderly gardens, where thorns might dissuade growers from even attempting to bring roses into their landscaping ideas. We will start off with varieties of roses without thorns first.
Varieties of Thornless Roses:
The following is a list of truly thornless roses that you could choose to grow in your garden:
Lady Banks Rose, Plantier, Legras de St Germain
Bleu Magenta, Chloris, Hippolyte, Kathleen Harrop, Tausendschon, Veilchenblau, Zephirine Drouhin
All of these roses are shades of pink, yellow, and white. Notice there are no red varieties in this list. Hippolyte is going to be the closest thornless red rose you can find. As you can see, you options are somewhat limited in the true thornless varieties of roses. Some of these varieties will also still form the occasional thorn here or there, and sometimes you will find small, fine thorns under some of the leaves.
Varieties of Near Thornless Roses:
Now if you can't find a variety on the list above that suits your tastes, the following is a list of near thornless roses you can choose to grow. With these there will be a few thorns, but they tend to grow on the older wood of the plant, leaving the new growth relatively thorn free and very easy to cut and manage. The list is as follows:
Aimee Vibert, Climbing Iceberg, Clotilde Soupert, Frau Karl Druschki, Alfred Carriere, Pure Perfume
Bride's Dream, Cardinal de Richelieu, China Doll, Climbing Pinkie, Complicata, Cornelia, Heritage, James Galway, John Clare, La Marne, Cecile Brunner, Mortimer Sackler, Outta the Blue, Paul Neyron, Reine des Violettes, Rose Marie Viaud, The Generous Gardener, Therese Bugnet, Tuscany Superb, Geoff Hamilton
A Shropshire Lad, Crepuscule, Crown Princess, Ghislaine de Feligonde, Golden Showers, JP Connell, Lady Hillingdon, Leander, Oceana
Again in this list, red roses are noticeably absent as the closest you are going to find will perhaps be the John Clare rose that is a deeper shade of pink ranging to a lighter red. Clearly you have a great many more options to choose from with varieties of near thornless roses. Several of the varieties listed in the yellow category are more of an apricot color, so that expands the list a tad further.
Planting Thornless Roses:
Once you've settled on your selections, the next step is trying to decide where to place them in your garden. While some varieties can survive in partial shade locations, roses in general produce the most blooms if you give them a spot that gets full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours each day. It is also very important that the location has well-drained soil and gets very good air circulation. Roses do not do very well if they are forced to grow in locations that stay damp for long periods of time, and you also risk inviting pests and diseases.
Before you begin digging your hole, I always suggest you keep a wheel barrow handy, along with a bag of organic mulch from your local garden center. As you dig up the existing soil, place it in the wheel barrow and mix it 2 to 1 with the organic mulch, before using it to backfill the hole.
If your roses came in containers, dig a hole that is roughly twice the size of the container and deep enough to maintain the same depth the plant has in the container. If you bought a bareroot plant, then dig the hole wide enough to allow the roots to fully extend outward, without having to coil them inside the hole. You want the hole deep enough so that the bud union is about an inch or two below the surface of the soil.
For bareroot planting, mound up a little bit of your soil mix in the center of the hole so that you can naturally lay out the roots, angling downward. Fill the hole about halfway with your soil mix and water thoroughly. Then backfill the rest of the way and water it again. This method will help prevent air pockets and ensure even coverage of the bare roots. You don't have to worry about this if you are planting a container rose.
Feeding Thornless Roses:
Your roses will typically be content with a single feeding at the start of the growing season, usually in early spring as the leaves begin to form. Many rose varieties will continue blooming all season long if you deadhead them and for these varieties you can give them two more feedings throughout the growing season. The second one would generally be given when the first bloom is just beginning to form, while the third would be given around the middle of the summer. Just make sure to follow the instructions on your fertilizer and always allow at least one month in between feedings!
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