Pruning is the practice of removing dead branches, damaged or diseased stems by means of hand pruning tools to help plants redirect their energy for more efficient growth. Gardeners often use pruning to eliminate spent growth from previous seasons, helping to stimulate the plant’s next growing cycle. Pruning is also used prevent plants from growing too large for the space they’re planted in and to train them into aesthetically pleasing shapes. With the correct use of pruning tools plants recover quickly from pruning as clean cuts remove the risk of fungus, mites and insects from entering a plant.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips

Hand Pruning Tools
The most common hand pruning tools are anvil or scissors-action bypass type pruners that will cut most small, thin and medium sized stems and branches. For tougher or thicker stems, a pair of long handled lopping shears are the best choice. Pruning saws of folding, bow or curved shapes and types are recommended for very thick branches. All pruning tools must be sharpened regularly to maintain their effectiveness. Cutting tools must also be disinfected after being used to stop healthy branches from becoming contaminated.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Overview

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Safety First
Pruning tools have sharp edges, pinch points and in some cases add additional electrical hazards. It is recommended that professional tree services trim branches or trees within 10 feet of power lines. When pruning manually, wear protective gear, such as goggles, head wear, boots, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and pants at all times. Review and understand information from the pruning tool instruction manual provided by the manufacturer, with particular attention given to safety procedures. Inspect hand pruning tools to determine it they are functioning properly.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Safety First

Quality is Critical
Quality is critical in cutting tools. Any edge tool works best when made out of high quality tool steel. More expensive hand pruning tools will have more accurate adjustments and higher quality machining. Stick to well established brands that have replacement parts widely available.


Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Quality

Durability and Maintenance
Pruning tools cannot be treated preciously. They will get thrown into a gardening bag, wet and dirty, blades covered in sap. A good hand pruning tool can last for decades, but may require maintenance. Beyond sharpening blades or teeth, occasionally small repairs or replacement of components may become necessary. Pruning tools made of durable materials are also designed to make swapping out new parts relatively easy.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Durability and Maintenance

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Blade Types
The best style of blade on a hand pruning tool will depend on the planned use. Bypass scissor blades cut past each other and produce the cleanest cut. They are the best all around type that can handle most pruning tasks. Anvil blades meet and tend to crush old or dry plant parts. Shapes and sizes of blades themselves also vary by use. Longer, heavier blades are better for covering larger areas; thin, sharp-tipped blades are good for pruning more delicate plants.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Blade Types

The right pair of hand pruners are those that are comfortable enough to stand up to a long day of repetitive movements. Easy-to-grip handles won’t slip when wet, cause cramps or blisters and right-handed as well as left-handed pruning tools are available from most quality brand manufacturers.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Handles

Locking Mechanism
A quality lock keeps spring-loaded hand pruning tools shut when they are not in use. A reliable, easy-to-use style is important versus an unreliable lock that causes blades to accidentally seize up or spring open. Some common styles are latch, dial, and squeeze locks. What type of locking mechanism to choose is a matter of personal preference. What matters most is reliable engineering.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Locking Mechanism

Felco – High Quality Hand Pruners
The most popular of all-purpose hand pruners are manufactured by Swiss company Felco. Their pruners are popular for durability and versatility. The brand sells replacement parts, neatly identified on schematics for all of their models. Felco sells left-handed versions and other styles, including compact models which are a better fit for small hands. There are less expensive pruners on the market, but the long lifetime one can expect from Felco products makes the investment worthwhile.

Pruning - Tools & Tips - Quality is Critical

Corona – Less Expensive Hand Pruners
For a fraction of the cost for performance, Corona hand pruners are sharp enough to slice through spindly stems and thick branches swiftly and efficiently. Put to the test, these pruners however don’t move as smoothly and cut as clean a slice as high end brands do. Putting aside non-replaceable springs, plastic locking mechanisms and blades that are subject to rust, Corona pruning tools are the best pick for the budget minded gardener.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Less Expensive Corona

Floral Pruning Snips
Floral pruning snips are very light and razor-sharp floral shears with a long blade, specially designed for cutting flowers, herbs, and deadheading. The pointed, thin blades are ideal for harvesting delicate plants and they are designed to reach even the tightest spaces, like stems inside bundles.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Floral Pruning Snips

Long Handled Loppers
To prune large plants with thick branches, a long-handled lopper is the ideal hand pruning tool. Different blade types are available for heavy duty loppers. The most commonly used blade types for loppers are bypass and anvil blades. Bypass blades produce clean cuts on living branches and their action is comparable to scissors. Anvil blades produce rough cuts and are used for dead branches with an action similar to a knife and cutting board. For gardeners with limited arm strength, ratcheting loppers are also available. They are designed to take some of the pressure off of the user when trying to squeeze their way through thick, stubborn branches.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Loppers

Hedge Pruning Shears
Hedge shears are both lightweight and durable to reduce strain on arms and make trimming easier. Some models feature a non-stick plating over steel blades to keep them honed and rust-free for easier cuts. Hedge shears can cut branches up to a half-inch in diameter. Some models, however, feature limb notches to extend this dimension. Hedge shears are designed with either straight blades for small shoots and soft branches, wavy, or serrated blades, for tough foliage and thicker branches. Most shears have a length of between 20 and 25 inches. Longer types are typically more powerful and provide a stronger cut. Telescoping handles provide optimal versatility because the total length  is adjustable to accommodate the task at hand.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Hedge Pruning Shears

Hand Pruning Saws
A pruning saw is a tool with the same sharp teeth as saws used for cutting lumber. Pruning saws, though, are intended for trimming live shrubs and trees. There are many types of pruning saws in different sizes and shapes, featuring hard-point, heat-treated teeth each intended for a particular type of branch or stem. Popular are saws with either fixed or curved folding blades, designed for efficiency and portability.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Pruning Saw

Compound Pole Pruning Saws
Compound pruners incorporate a saw mounted on a telescopic aluminum alloy or fiberglass pole and a pruner blade in one cutting head. The advantage of a compound pruner is that the tool is immediately available to switch from pruning to sawing. The telescopic pole saw is ideal for pruning branches at heights of up to 25 feet without ever climbing a ladder. The disadvantage is that the saw can get in the way when only the pruner is used.

Hand Pruning Tools & Tips - Pole Pruning Saw

Check out the various pruning tools at Nicholas Alexander, Vernon’s New Home and Garden Center of Choice!