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Pruner Shears: Choosing the Right Tools for Pruning

June 15, 2022

Are you using the right pruning tools?

Choosing the Best Pruning Tools

As a gardener, pruning is one of the top chores for keeping your landscape and garden beautiful and healthy. When it comes to pruning shears and tools, are you using the right ones? Here is a quick overview of what to use, and a pruning tool guide that can be handy for your current tool set, and for any gardener looking to purchase new pruners. Here is a quick pruning tool guide and basic pruning techniques for keeping your plants healthy and emphasizing key aesthetic features like leaves, bark, branch structure, flowers, fruit, or other desirable visual characteristics.

Suggested Pruners

Bypass Pruners/Shears
Bypass shears are similar to scissors, with two opposing blades. The blades glide across each other, creating a clean cut through the plant stem, shoot or branch. Depending on the type and hardness of the wood, they can cut branches up to an inch in diameter. Make sure your pruners are extremely sharp to insure a clean cut and to avoid compressing and damaging the plant tissue. It should take minimal pressure to make a cut and if you have to use both hands or struggle to slice through the branch, it’s time to sharpen your pruner blade.

Pole Pruners/ Bypass
When you can clearly see and control the cut, bypass pole pruners can be effective for branches up to an inch that may be too high to reach. Pole pruners should easily slice through branches as they have a levered cutting head that is managed by the pull cord. For thicker branches, most pole pruners come with a fruit saw also on the cutting head. It’s also a good idea to switch between bypass shears and fruit saws depending on the size of each branch.

Fruit Saw/Pruning Saw
A fruit saw is useful for cuts that are larger than those that can be removed with moderate pressure from one hand using bypass shears. Most home gardeners can get by with a fruit saw with a 6-8 inch blade. Fixed and retractable blade models are both acceptable, but some people prefer the firm grip of a fixed blade over the smaller profile of a retractable blade. Note: Most pruning saws, unlike carpenter’s handsaws, cut only on the pull, not the push.

Not Recommended for Pruning

Anvil Shears

Anvil shears use one blade and a flat opposing surface or anvil to “chop” through a branch. They have a tendency to crush cut. They are not recommended for live wood pruning because they crush branch tissue, making it difficult for the cut to seal properly. This can be an entrance for bacteria, fungus and bad critters.


Loppers have the ability to make ragged cuts that do not seal properly. The length of the handles and movement of the blades tend to crush cut, and create an entry point for pathogens.
Loppers should be used for cutting up wood that has fallen to the ground after pruning. If you absolutely have to use them, make sure and sharpen the blades.

Just a quick guide to help keep your garden looking good and healthy.