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FAQ: Pruning Tools

When is the right time to prune?

Every plant, shrub, or tree has its own cycle that you should acquaint yourself with, especially for those that are prized parts of your garden or yard. But there are some general principles about when to prune that you can safely observe for most plants.

  • When it comes to dead or diseased parts of plants, they can be removed any time at all
  • Late winter through early spring is the right time for fruit trees, evergreens, deciduous plants, and most perennials
  • Spring blooming plants (e.g., lilacs, forsythia) should be pruned after they have bloomed
  • Roses that bloom once a year should also be pruned after flowering
  • Continual in-season pruning for healthy growth and additional blooms

What are the different types of pruning tools used for?

There are a variety of tools designed for pruning and the best choice for a given task depends on the material you need to cut. Here are the basic tools and what they are designed for:

... Hand Pruners are for cutting materials of about one inch or less in diameter.
... Loppers are for cutting materials 1-2” in diameter.
... Pruning Saws for cutting materials of 2” or more.
... Hedge Shears have long blades for even cutting.

How do Pruners and Loppers differ in application?

A pruner is a one-handed tool used for cutting stems and branches. Depending on the size of the pruner it will make cuts of up to about an inch in diameter. Pruners are convenient for gardening because you have a free hand while you use them.

Loppers are designed for two-handed operation and are used to cut branches and stems that are too big to be cut with a pruner. The handles on loppers are longer and they sometimes have a telescoping feature that provides two key benefits: 1) it gives the tool a longer reach, enabling you to reach up into trees, and 2) they give you greater leverage, which makes cutting tough materials easier than it would be with shorter handles.

What are the differences between Bypass and Anvil pruners or loppers?

Anvil pruners and loppers have a single sharp blade that closes against an “anvil” or blunt surface. Think of it like a knife cutting against a cutting board. Bypass pruners and loppers are more like scissors with two blades that pass by each other. Anvil tools make a blunt cut, often crushing the material in the process, and are typically used for cutting away dead material. Bypass tools make a cleaner cut and are the choice for living material. A good rule of thumb: Anvil for brute force, Bypass for finesse.

Bypass tools need to be kept sharp, since you will use them on the living part of the plant. If you find yourself cutting back dead material and want to cut it all the way back to the living part, make your first cuts with an anvil tool and save the bypass tool for the final cut. There is no point in dulling a sharp edge with dead material. Another reason not to cut dead material with a bypass tool is that the material will sometimes become jammed between the two blades (something that rarely occurs when cutting living, green material).

... Ratcheting pruner.

What is a “ratcheting” pruner or lopper?

For extra power, some pruners and loppers include a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to cut tough materials in stages. A 3-stage ratcheting tool will allow you to cut with 3 successive squeezes. The first cut locks into the branch, allowing you to release and squeeze again to increase the depth of the cut, then repeat a third and final time to complete the cut. Ratchet style hand pruners provide more leverage for smaller or weaker hands or for cutting bigger, tougher stems.

How helpful are tools with telescoping handles?

If you have trees or high shrubs, tools with telescoping handles are a great investment because they will keep you off ladders! Working on ladders is often precarious but it can be especially dangerous when you are moving the ladder around a garden or orchard where the ground varies in firmness and flatness.

... A pole saw (manual or powered) lets you accomplish a lot without a ladder.

Pruners, loppers, and pruning saws are all available with long and/or telescoping handles. The comfortable limit for how high you can work is the tool’s maximum length plus about half of your height.

Shop Our Selection of Pruning Tools

Browse our selection of pruning and cutting tools to identify which are the right ones for your use. We will continue to add new tools and brands so check back with us soon. You can also sign up for new product alerts and we will deliver them to your inbox!

Last updated: 7/14/2022


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