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By: Marko Vuorinen
You've probably heard the phrase: every rose has its thorn. Too many, thorns symbolize the danger that lurks behind the beauty of the roses, and all sorts of myths try to explain the presence of these dangerous little daggers on rose stems. Greek myth suggests that Cupid shot arrows into the roses accidentally after being stung by a bee and it was the sting from his arrow that caused the thorns to take root.

Don't despair if these little daggers are a thorn in your side. With a little care and some patience, you can remove those pesky thorns for a nice smooth stem on your rose.

Thorns do actually help the plant drink water, so it is important that you remove them properly and do not inflict excessive damage on the stem. You need to take your time and practice a proper dethorning technique - otherwise you and the rose will be injured in the process.

Carelessly removing thorns will damage your roses in the long run. They will not last as long as they should and any peeled or torn skin will hinder the amount of water that makes its way up to the petals. Proper dethorning takes practice and patience.

You can remove thorns right on the plant, or you can wait until the stem is cut and do it then. It is best to try and remove thorns on the cane when it is quite young and before the rose blooms if you know that the stem will be cut at some point in the future for display or for the creation of a bouquet. You can remove thorns by applying slight pressure to the sides to simply push them off the stem. You can use this same procedure with cut stems.

Removing thorns by hand is a tedious task, and with some roses, the thorns grow so close together that it is almost impossible to push one off without stabbing yourself on another one. That's where a dethorning tool can come in handy.

You can purchase a specialty product like a thorn stripper. This type of tool strips the stem of leaves and thorns. You can also fashion your own with some metal strapping from your local hardware store. If you do make your own, be sure to file the edges that touch the flower so the stem is not torn excessively in the dethorning process.

To use a dethroning tool, you simply hold it just below the flower and close the jaws together around the stem. Be sure that you don't use too much pressure when closing the jaws of the stripper because you could damage or even severe the stem. Lightly drag the dethorner down the stem. The thorns should pop right off. It may take a bit of practice to get the hand of a thorn stripper, but after a few tries you should have a good idea of how much pressure is needed to remove the thorns.

You can also remove thorns with a knife. All you need to do is scrape the stem of the rose with a sharp floral or small pairing knife. If you are removing thorns from the cut stem, then you might consider only removing the thorns and leaves that lie below the water level.

You want to think carefully about whether or not you need to remove all the thorns from your roses. It is important to remove rose thorns when the flowers will be in a hand held bouquet or worn on the lapel. When placing cut stems in a vase for display, you should remove the thorns that will be below the surface of the water, but you don't need to take off those that will be above water level. Removing thorns can shorten the life of your roses so be sure that you aren't over dethorning your blooms.

An important time to do some dethorning, though, is when you are preparing plant litter for your compost pile. After pruning off any dead or decaying canes from your rose bush, you should consider removing the thorns before tossing the old stems into your compost pile. Removing the thorns will make it safer for you to work and exposing the stem in this way will also help sped up the decomposition process.

Marko Vuorinen
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