Double, pink blooms of thornless rose 'A Shropshire Lad'

Thornless varieties of plants

Roses, hollies, blackberries and mahonia have sharp thorns - here are some thornless varieties for your garden.

Some of our most beautiful garden plants, including roses, hollies and mahonia, have prickly thorns.

Prickly plants can make useful burglar deterrents if grown up the house or as a hedge, but if you have areas in your garden where lots of people walk past, or where children play, you might want to avoid anything sharp.

Some of our most beautiful garden plants, including roses, hollies and mahonia, have prickly thorns.

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Prickly plants can make useful burglar deterrents if grown up the house or as a hedge, but if you have areas in your garden where lots of people walk past, or where children play, you might want to avoid anything sharp.

Thorns can also making picking tricky on crops like gooseberries and blackberries.

Happily, it’s possible to find thornless varieties of some of the best-known plants. Here are some of the best.

Prickly plants can make useful burglar deterrents if grown up the house or as a hedge, but if you have areas in your garden where lots of people walk past, or where children play, you might want to avoid anything sharp.

Hollies

Hollies provide useful evergreen structure in the garden. Discover 10 hollies to grow. Not all hollies have thorns on their leaves – some have smooth edges, including Ilex ‘J. C van Tol’, Ilexaltaclerensis ‘Lawsoniana’ and Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ (pictured).

Smooth, yellow edged leaves of holly 'Golden King'
Smooth, yellow edged leaves of holly ‘Golden King’

Roses

Most roses are thorny but some are virtually thornless, making them easy to tie into their supports. They include Rosa ‘The Albrighton Rambler’, ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’, ‘Roald Dahl’ and ‘A Shropshire Lad’ (pictured).

Double, pink blooms of thornless rose 'A Shropshire Lad'
Double, pink blooms of thornless rose ‘A Shropshire Lad’

Mahonia

Mahonias bear bright yellow, scented flowers in the depths of winter, when little else is in flower. Their evergreen leaves are thorny. Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’ is a recent introduction that has spine-free leaves. It’s a compact shrub that does well in a pot or in a sunny border with moist soil.

Spine-free, elongate leaves of mahonia 'Soft Caress'
Spine-free, elongate leaves of mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

Blackberries

As anyone who has picked wild blackberries knows, they have spiny stems that have a habit of sticking to your clothing and scratching you hands. However there are several varieties of thornless blackberry available, including ‘Oregon Thornless’, ‘Silvan’ and ‘Loch Ness’, pictured. Thornless varieties can throw up thorny suckers – cut these back to below ground level. Find out more in our Quick Tips video.

Easy-picking fruit of thornless blackberry 'Loch Ness'
Easy-picking fruit of thornless blackberry ‘Loch Ness’

Gooseberries

Gooseberries have very sharp thorns that can make picking tricky. There are no thornless varieties, but you could try growing a jostaberry – a tasty cross between a blackcurrant and a gooseberry. One large, vigorous bush will produce a generous crop of large, tasty, juicy fruits that are perfect for jams and crumbles.

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Wine-coloured jostaberry fruit - a gooseberry/blackcurrant cross
Wine-coloured jostaberry fruit – a gooseberry/blackcurrant cross

Cacti

Cacti come in many shapes and sizes and are low maintenance plants for a sunny windowsill. They have sharp thorns, however, and need to be handled with care, especially when repotting – find out how to repot a cactus. Gymnocalycium denudatum has harmless spines that are flattened against the plant.

Cactus Gymnocalycium denudatum with its long spines growing flattened against itself
Cactus Gymnocalycium denudatum with its long spines growing flattened against itself

Some of our most beautiful garden plants, including roses, hollies and mahonia, have prickly thorns.

Prickly plants can make useful burglar deterrents if grown up the house or as a hedge, but if you have areas in your garden where lots of people walk past, or where children play, you might want to avoid anything sharp.

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