Shrubs That Scratch

Shrubs that produce thorns as self-defense can inflict pain upon any trespasser. This type of shrub poses certain dangers to the gardener. Regular maintenance like pruning can cause problems when removing the spiky branches. Thorny shrubs are hazardous to children and pets. Thorns can also collect garbage blowing around in the wind. Thorny bushes planted under trees and windows can deter intruders. Pick a shrub that matches your landscape and supplies good security for your property.

Scotch Rose

The scotch rose (Rosa spinosissima) or Altai rose grows bright green leaves that are 1/2 to 1 inch long. Varieties of the scotch rose can grow low like a ground cover to a 3- to 4-foot-tall shrub. This rounded shrub produces 1- to 2-inch flowers in white, yellow or pink. The flowers are on short stems along the branches in May and June. The scotch rose is one of the thorniest rose bushes.


Silverthorn (Elaeagnus pungens) is also call thorny elaeagnus. The glossy, grey-green leaves are silver underneath. This evergreen shrub produces small, highly fragrant white flower clusters during the winter and early spring. In late spring, red edible fruits appear and are very popular with birds. Silverthorn is used as a hedge or mass planting. A single shrub can grow 10 to 20 feet tall and spread 10 to 15 feet wide. This is an aggressive, thorny shrub that spreads quickly.

Common Sea Buckthorn

Common sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) grows 20 feet tall and spreads 30 feet. This rounded shrub grows 12 to 18 inches per year. It produces ornamental yellow fruit that hang on the branches throughout the winter. This shrub is cold hardy, withstands drought and is salt tolerant. Common sea buckthorn shrubs are male and female. Both types are needed to produce fruit on the female shrub.

Silver Buffaloberry

Silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea) is a deciduous shrub that grows 3 to 18 feet tall and 4 to 8 feet wide. The silver leaves are 1 to 2 inches long. White flowers are produced in the spring followed by edible red berries. Silver buffaloberry grows rapidly in good-draining soil. Plant this shrub in sun to partial shade and in dry to moist soil. Silver buffaloberry tolerates poor soil, salt and wind. It is also drought tolerant.

Keywords: scratchy shrubs, thorny bushes, spiky plants

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.