Think carefully before you remove rose thorns. While you do want to remove the thorns when the roses will be in a hand-held bouquet or worn on the lapel, if you are placing cut stems in a vase for display, removing thorns can shorten the life of your roses.
Thorns help the plant drink water, so if you do not remove them properly, any damaged, peeled, or torn skin on the stem will interfere with the amount of water that makes its way to the rose petals. You just need to take your time and use a proper dethorning technique to avoid injuring both the rose and yourself.
Thorn Removal by Hand
You can remove thorns by applying slight pressure to the sides to simply push them off the stem. You probably want to wear gloves to protect your hands.
Here’s another technique: Wear heavy gloves and grasp the stem between your thumb and fingers at the top of the length you want to clear. Pull your gloved hand down the stem, gently but firmly, to strip off the foliage and thorns as you go.
You can also remove rose thorns with a thorn stripper. This type of tool, available from many garden suppliers, strips the stem of leaves and thorns.
You can fashion your own tool 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 hold it just below the flower and close the jaws together around the stem. Don’t use too much pressure when closing the jaws of the stripper because you could damage or even sever the stem. Lightly drag the dethorner down the stem to pop off the thorns. It may take a bit of practice to get the hang of a thorn stripper, but after a few tries you’ll have a good idea of how much pressure is needed to remove the thorns.
Be aware that many rose experts do not recommend thorn strippers because they can so easily damage the stem.
Using a Knife to Remove Rose 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.
Removing Thorns for Compost
One time you do want to remove rose thorns and don’t need to worry about damaging stems is when you are preparing plant litter for your compost pile. After pruning dead or decaying canes from your rose bush, remove the thorns before tossing the old stems into your compost pile. Removing the thorns makes it safer for you to work, and exposing the stem also helps speed up the decomposition process.