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Kinds of Plants With Thorns

prickly-pear blossom image by Kurt Anderson from

Gardeners often use plants with thorns as barriers for property borders or to add ornamental interest to lawns and gardens. Choose thorn plant varieties according to your U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone, bloom and foliage color, intended use and general cultural requirements. Various thorny plant varieties grow well in American landscapes.

Prickly Pear

Prickly pears (Opuntia compressa) naturally occur in the Central and Eastern portions of the U.S. Winter-hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9, this cactus family member (Cactaceae) bears green, water-storing pads with sharp, needle-like thorns. Yellow flowers appear in June and July, sometimes featuring red eyes. Edible, red fruit matures in late summer or early autumn. Mature prickly pears form clumps ranging from 6 to 12 inches in height, with spreads up to 18 inches. This thorny plant likes dry, gravelly or sandy soils in fully sunny locations. Prickly pears planted in poor-draining or overly moist soils often rot. Gardeners often use the prickly pear in rock gardens, dry prairies and open woodlands.


The hawthorn tree (Crataegus coccinea) naturally occurs in North America's Eastern regions and generally performs well in USDA Zones 4 to 7. Mature hawthorns range from 20 to 25 feet in height with similar widths. This tree bears branches with sharp thorns and deep green, oval leaves that turn purplish-red or orange shades in the fall. This rose family member (Rosaceae) features odoriferous, white flowers in May, succeeded by deep red haw fruits. This thorny plant likes moist, well-drained soils in locations that receive plenty of sunlight. These trees tolerate pollutants and some drought conditions. Hawthorns often suffer from fireblight and cedar hawthorn rust. The hawthorn tree works well in open woodlands and thickets.

Devil's Walking Stick

The devil's walking stick (Aralia spinosa), also known as the Hercules club, features short, sharp thorns on its branches, stems and stalks. It also displays white flowers in July and August, followed by black fruits. Native to the Eastern U.S., the devil's walking stick grows well in USDA Zones 4 to 9. This Araliaceae plant family member ranges from 10 to 20 feet in height and 6 to 10 feet in width. The devil's walking stick likes moist, humusy soils in partly to fully sunny locations. Established plants tolerate many pollutants and drought conditions. Mealybug and aphid infestations occasionally occur. The devil's walking stick generally works well in woodland margins and shrub borders away from residential areas.

Cherokee Rose

The Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata) belongs in the Rosaceae plant family and performs well in USDA Zones 7 to 9. Native to China, this climbing shrub likes rich, moist loams that receive full sun. Mature Cherokee rose plants range from 6 to 20 feet in height and 3 to 6 feet in width. The arched stems bear sharp thorns and deep green leaves. White blossoms appear in the spring, giving way to orangish-red hips. Spider mites, beetles, leafhoppers and rose midges sometimes feed on the foliage. Gardeners often train the Cherokee rose to climb fences, walls and trellises.

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