Flowering plants could be key additions to a beautiful and productive home garden. But some of these versatile plants also have thorns, designed by nature to protect them from predators that might otherwise decimate their flowers, fruit or foliage. Thorns are usually no problem for a careful gardener, but it can be handy to identify in advance those with this pure protection.
When you think of plants with thorns, the rose (Rosa sp.) May be the very first to come to mind. There are lots of different types, but most grow with thorns in their stems. Examples include the Japanese shrub rose (R. rugosa), a bushy, 4- into 6-foot-tall, thorny plant with many fragrant, single flowers in various colors. Some cultivated roses are old varieties called European or heirloom roses (R. sinensis), while others are hybrids that are usually grafted onto sturdy root stocks. These contemporary roses comprise climbers, with long canes that require support, hybrid teas, miniatures and shrub roses. Most roses are acceptable for civilization in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, based on the number, even though they may be grown as annuals in colder regions.
Several types of flowering vines utilize thorns as a climbing aid. Bougainvillea plants (Bougainvillea sp.) Make up a South American group with several species, all with thorns along their 15- to 40-foot vines. They have inconspicuous white flowers surrounded by colorful bracts, with many available colors based on the cultivar. Bougainvillea is appropriate for USDA zones 9 through 11. Some vining plants mix showy flowers, edible fruit and thorns on their long, thick vines. The black raspberry cultivar “Bristol” (Rubus “Bristol”) is a good example, with vines that reach a span of 4 or 5 feet and attach fences or arbors. It has clusters of white flowers that attract butterflies, followed by creamy raspberries in the summer. This raspberry grows in USDA zones 4 through 8.
Quite a few flowering shrubs also have thorns on their divisions. The flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) has showy pink, white or red flowers in spring and grows 2 to 5 feet tall, depending on the cultivar, with many thorns along its branches. It is most appropriate for USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. The chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is another kind of thorny, flowering shrub. Suitable for civilization in USDA zones 6 through 9, it rises around 25 feet tall and broad, and handles itself in spring with fragrant white flowers, followed by small but sweet plums. A dense shrub with ample thorns, it makes an attractive but impenetrable barrier plant.
Several plants categorized as succulents are covered in thorns but also have attractive flowers. Aloe plants (Aloe vera) are in this category, with thick, sword-like leaves edged in sharp thorns, frequently called “tooth” Mature plants bloom in summer, forming long stalks covered with yellow to orange blossoms. Aloes could be grown outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12, plus they do well elsewhere since houseplants. Several members of the genus Euphorbia are notable for their blossoms and pointy spines or thorns. The crown of thorns plant (E. milii) is a bushy instance that could reach a height of about 3 feet and has slender, fleshy divisions covered in sharp, black, 1/2-inch-long thorns. It’s attractive flowers in pink, yellow, orange or white, depending on the range. The plant does well outdoors in USDA zones 8 through 11 and makes a good houseplant elsewhere.