Choosing the Right Pruning Tool for the Job

By Joan Neiman-Agapas, Master Gardener, SCMG

Have you ever tried to tighten a screw with a nail file?

Have you ever tried to hammer in a nail with the heel of a shoe?

Neither of those approaches are very effective in getting the job done.

The same applies to the pruning of shrubs & trees.

Selecting the correct tool, sized to the job at hand results in clean cuts, promoting better plant health.

First, a tour through the hardware:

Hand pruners– there are two types.

  • Anvil type has a single straight-edged cutting blade which closes   down onto an anvil (a bar of softer metal).  This action isn’t ideal, as it has a tendency to crush stems & split bark.
  • Bypass type has a cutting blades which pass on another & are most popular pruning tool for small jobs.  This scissor action makes a clean cut & won’t splinter the remaining branch.

Loppers – long handled prunes.  They hare heavy duty used for tackling thicker stem & branches.

Long Arm Pruners consist of a pole about 6-10 inches long equipped with a heavy-duty pruner at the working end. The blade is operated by pulling a cord attached to the bottom end of the pole.

A Folding saw has a blade that folds into a slot in the handle, similar to a pocket knife.

Hand Shears operate with a by-pass cutting action.

Matching Tool to Task

Hand pruners should be used to cut stems no thicker than your index finger.

Loppers are used for stems up to 1 inch in thickness.

A Pruning saw is used for branches thicker than 1 inch.

Hand shears are used for cutting large volumes of thin, sappy material.

Tool Care

Tools can’t do the job they were designed for if they are dirty, rusty or damaged. Clean all garden tools after use by wiping the exposed metal surfaces with an oily cloth. Store on a cool, dry place to keep them in good condition.

Protect Yourself

Wear gloves when performing any pruning tasks. 

Wear safely glasses if working over your head.

For more details about pruning, check out ‘The Pruner’s Bible’ by Steve Bradley.