Thornless Roses: Learn About Smooth Touch Roses

By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District

Roses are beautiful, but almost every rose owner has gotten their skin pricked by a rose’s notorious thorns. Stories, songs and poems all contain references to rose thorns, but modern rose breeders have worked hard to create a thornless rose called a Smooth Touch rose.

History of Smooth Touch Roses

The roses known as “Smooth Touch” roses are a very interesting group of hybrid tea and floribunda thornless to nearly thornless roses. They were developed by Mr. Harvey Davidson of California, a hobby rose grower and breeder that sought to breed hardier and more disease resistant varieties of roses. By accident, Mr. Davidson discovered the key to thornless roses. His first thornless rose he named Smooth Sailing. Smooth Sailing was a creamy apricot rose that loved to bloom and load up with blooms. Within this rose was contained the remarkable gene that inhibits thorn growth! Mr. Davidson then developed more thornless roses by outcrossing and inbreeding of his roses.

Each year Mr. Davidson plants 3,000 to 4,000 rose seeds, about 800 of those actually germinate. Mr. Davidson keeps around 50 of those that germinate that look like good roses. He then focuses on five to 10 roses that have the unusual thornless and disease resistant traits. These varieties are given special attention and are considered the cream of the crop. These roses are then moved to the “graduate section” of his breeding program. The rose varieties that pass the quality control segment are sent to rose growers around the world for a testing period in various climates, and if they pass the various climate tests, are released commercially. This entire process can take five to six years to complete.

All of Mr. Davidson’s’ Smooth Touch® Thornless Roses are 95-100 percent thorn free. A few thorns may appear at the base of some of the canes; however, as the rose bush grows, the thornless gene kicks in and the remainder of the rose bush will then be thorn free. Smooth Touch roses are great for cutting and are wonderful repeat bloomers. They typically will need five to eight hours of good sun exposure for optimum performance but will tolerate less sun exposure with also fewer blooms. Their foliage is a strong green, which enhances the blooms nicely. Smooth Touch roses are treated just like the rose bushes that have thorns; the only difference is that they have are they are virtually thorn free.

List of Smooth Touch Roses

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Some currently available Smooth Touch Rose bushes names are:

  • Smooth Angel Rose – A very fragrant rich cream-colored rose with a glowing apricot/yellow center. She has attractive dark green foliage and will grow well in a pot or in the garden.
  • Smooth Velvet Rose – Smooth Velvet is fittingly named with very full, blood red blooms set against lush deep green foliage. Smooth Velvet will grow to over 6 feet high and is well suited as a large shrub or pillar climber and will also grow well on a trellis.
  • Smooth Buttercup Rose – Smooth Buttercup is a compact thornless floribunda, producing plentiful clusters of bright yellow flowers which have a light, sweet fragrance, certainly adding to her total charm. Smooth Buttercup is also an award winning rose bush that will bring much beauty to any rose bed. She carries a smile maker quality within her blooms to be sure.
  • Smooth Satin Rose – Smooth Satin has a splendid blend of apricot, coral and soft pink colors to her blooms that will vary depending upon the climate and temperatures. She is a hybrid tea style rose with delightful perfume like fragrance, her blooms come on singularly and in clusters set off by her rich green foliage.
  • Smooth Lady Rose – Smooth Lady is a good garden variety rose. Her blooms are a soft salmon pink set nicely against glossy foliage. Her fragrance is delightfully sweet.
  • Smooth Prince Rose – Smooth Prince is a royal rose indeed, with glowing cerise pink well formed and moderately full blooms, also a quick repeat bloomer that makes for an excellent cutting rose. Smooth Prince is a compact bush with shiny dark green foliage, grows well in a pot or in the rose bed or garden.
  • Smooth Delight Rose – Smooth Delight’s shiny dark foliage provides an excellent backdrop for her large soft shell pink blooms. Her buds open gradually to reveal a radiant yet soft apricot center. Smooth Delight’s blooms have reflex petals that have a delightful sweet rose fragrance.
  • Smooth Ballerina Rose – Smooth Ballerina has what are said to be soul stirring blooms with an explosion of color variations in each flower. Carmine red and off-white blooms, each with its very own unique color pattern, she blooms singularly as well as in clusters set against dark green foliage. She, too, has wonderful fragrance.
  • Smooth Queen Rose – Smooth Queen has beautiful yellow blooms with softly ruffled edges born in numerous clusters. She will continue to bloom throughout the blooming season with her blooms nicely set off against dark green foliage. Her fragrance is a light sweet perfume, very subtle and fitting fragrance. This rose bush is very compact variety.

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