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Every gardener knows that hand pruners, or secateurs, are the one tool that is used almost every day. If you're looking into purchasing your first pair or searching for a pair with better function and design, it's important to consider a few things.
- What type of pruning do you need to do? Woody limbs or tender plant growth?
- What size are the plants you are pruning? Extendable handles on loppers are a must for cutting back small limbs or larger shrub growth.
- What operating style will best fit your needs? Anvil, bypass, or ratchet?
- How large are your hands and how much hand strength do you have? Pruners are available in different sizes, grip designs, and right or left-handed cutting actions.
To help you find the right pruners for you and for the tasks you need to accomplish in the garden, here are the best pruners on the market.
Best Overall: Fiskar PowerGear 2 Pruner
Sharp enough to snip away the most tender stem but heavy-duty enough to handle branches up to 3/4-inch thick, the Fiskar PowerGear 2 Pruner is a must-have tool. A modified gear and cam mechanism allows you to cut through branches easily without having to apply excessive hand pressure. And the bypass-style hardened steel blades have a low-friction coating that allows sap to roll off, reducing gumming and providing rust resistance.
The contoured handles are designed to reduce hand fatigue and the cutting action makes the pruners easy to use for those with small hands and less hand strength. Fiskar backs up the product with a lifetime guarantee.
Best for Light Duty: FELCO 2 One-Hand Pruning Shear
Felco pruners are frequently the top pick of horticulturists, thanks to their durability and variety of designs. More expensive than other brands, all parts of the Felco F-2 pruners are replaceable and backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
The hand pruners, with hardened steel blades, are designed with a sap groove to prevent sap from building up during use and causing the blades to stick. Well-suited to light pruning, the slim design gives the user easier access to hard-to-reach areas. The handles are made to fit comfortably in small to medium-sized hands and have a rubber cushioned shock-absorbing coating.
Best Ratchet: The Gardener's Friend Ratchet Pruning Shears
The ergonomic design of these ratchet pruners makes them comfortable for use by all but the largest hands and the leverage given by the three-step ratchet mechanism helps complete cuts with minimal effort.
Made from lightweight aluminum, the enclosed grip is coated with rubber to prevent slippage and is suitable for both left and right-handed users. The carbon steel blade is coated to prevent stickiness from sap. These pruners come with a spare blade and more can be purchased when the two you have become dull.
Best Heavy Duty: ARS HP-VS8Z Signature Heavy Duty Pruner
ARS is a familiar name in gardening tools and their heavy-duty pruner lives up to its name in durability and sharpness. Comfortable to use and easy to lock and unlock with one hand, the clippers work well on green and woody stems up to one inch.
The chrome-plated blades offer protection against rust and sap and are offset to maximize hand strength. Replacement blades are available and the ARS website has step-by-step illustrations of how to replace blades on all of their models.
Best for Arthritic Hands: Gonicc 8" Professional Premium Titanium Bypass Pruning Shears
If repetitive motions make your hands stiff after a long day in the garden, the Gonicc bypass pruners may reduce the aches. These pruners feature exceptionally sharp titanium blades that cut branches up to 3/4-inches in diameter. The scissor-like motion is smooth and leaves a clean cut. The frame is made from lightweight aluminum and the handles are covered with a cushion of PVC foam material for a comfortable and non-slip grip. The pruners have a lifetime warranty.
Best for Small Hands: Corona BP 4214D FlexDIAL ComfortGEL Bypass Pruner
If you have one or more gardeners who share tools, then the Corona Flex Dial Bypass Pruning Shears are a perfect choice. The adjustable grip fits small to large hands with just the turn of a dial between the blades and the grip is coated with a gel for comfort and a non-slip feel.
The dial adjusts the grip size and also changes the level of cutting power. Lower settings are best for small, fast cuts of new plant growth and the higher settings work best when cutting through large, woody branches.
Best Electric: Sun Joe Cordless Rechargeable Power Pruner
For light pruning with ease, the Sun Joe Cordless Rechargeable Pruner does a good job at removing branches up to a 1/2 inch with a clean, precise cut. Lightweight and cordless to prevent tangles and snags, cuts are made by squeezing a trigger on the ergonomic handle. A safety switch helps prevent accidental cuts.
An extra plus is the dual LED lights to help pinpoint the stem that needs to be removed. When fully charged, the battery allows up to 750 cuts. While not as powerful as manual pruners, this cordless model works well for those with limited hand strength.
Best Long Handled: Corona Compound Action Bypass Lopper
Long-handled pruners are most often called loppers and are used to cut woody branches from large shrubs and trees. These Corona loppers use a bypass action that can cut through branches up to 1.5 inches thick.
Sturdy but lightweight enough to maneuver easily, the fiberglass handles are 24-inches long with 12-inch non-slip foam grips. With a limited lifetime warranty, the high-carbon steel blades can be resharpened or replaced for years of sharp cuts.
Best Left Handed: Felco 10 Bypass Pruner
Whether you are an avid left-handed gardener or one forced into yard work, having comfortable and easy-to-use tools will make the task easier and using tools designed for right-handed people can cause hand injuries and sloppy work. Fortunately, some companies, like Felco, offer quality left-handed tools.
The Felco 10 bypass pruner makes precise cuts up to 1 inch in diameter. With an adjustment key, the pruner requires 30 percent less effort than other pruners. The blades can be sharpened and replaced for years of service.
The best overall pruners are the Fiskar PowerGear 2 Pruner (view at Amazon). The pruners are sturdy, sharp, and feature a modified gear and cam mechanism that allows the user to cut through branches up to 3/4-inch with ease. If you are left-handed and an avid gardener, spend a bit more for the Felco 10 Bypass Pruner (view at Amazon) for an excellent pair of comfortable pruners.
What to Look for in Pruners
Finding the right pruner for the job is easy if you understand how to use the three types of pruners: anvil, bypass, and ratchet.
Anvil pruners use only one sharpened blade that produces a crushing action to remove branches as it strikes a groove on the stationary base. They are best for dead branches but can crush soft green stems.
Bypass pruners make cuts with two sharpened blades. They are perfect for green branches and stems because they make a clean cut that helps prevent disease from invading the plant.
Ratchet pruners are similar to anvil pruners but have a mechanism that allows the user to exert less pressure on the handles while cutting larger branches. As the user squeezes the handles about halfway, the ratchet mechanism engages, releasing the handles to open wider so the user can squeeze again to finish the cut. Ratchet pruners are best for removing larger dead branches from woody shrubs.
The type of job you’re tackling will certainly influence the size of pruners you want to pick, but so should the size of your hands and how much weight you’re able to handle comfortably. Some are made specifically for those with small hands, and they come in a variety of materials, some of which are heavier than others.
Ease of use
Pruning can be a tough job, but the right pair of pruners can make the job easier. From those with ergonomic grips to special handles built for comfort, there are various factors that will affect how easy they are to use. Some are made specifically for people with hands that have been weakened by arthritis, age, and other factors.
Foam, gel, or easy-grip handles will help prevent hand fatigue. Choose a grip that is suitable for the size of your hands.
The best pruners have a locking mechanism that keeps the blades closed when not in use. While this feature is essential for safety, it can be frustrating if it engages while using the pruners. Choose a pruner with the lock near the blades rather than the grip to prevent accidental engagement.
The best blades are rust- and corrosion-resistant and coated with Teflon to help sap slide away to prevent the blades from sticking. Stainless steel blades do not rust, but they are difficult to sharpen and can break or bend on hard branches. Carbon steel blades are tough and strong and can be sharpened, but are prone to rust unless coated. Look for carbon steel blades that are coated with titanium (they will be gold in color) that provide strength and rust resistance.
The spring mechanism in pruners forces the blades apart after each cut. Look for a securely attached, heavy-duty spring that will withstand years of use.
What is the difference between anvil and bypass pruners?
Bypass pruners have two sharpened blades that are best for cutting through tender plant stems and small, green branches. Anvil pruners have just one sharpened blade that cuts by pressing into a stationary base. They are designed to crush and snap dry, woody branches.
How often should pruner blades be sharpened?
Professional gardeners sharpen their pruners every six to eight weeks. For the home gardener, once or twice a year should keep blades sharp. Chipped or bent blades should be replaced immediately. When it’s time to sharpen the blades, take the pruners apart and carefully clean each component. Sharpen the blades, reassemble the parts, and use a spray of lubricating oil on each of the moving parts, including the blades, to prevent rust.
How can I prolong the lifespan of my pruners?
As with any garden tool, cleaning and maintenance will prolong the usefulness of pruners. At the end of every gardening session, pruners should be wiped down with a damp cloth to remove dirt and sap that have accumulated on the blades and handles. The pruners should be stored in a covered, dry environment.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Mary Marlowe Leverette researched and wrote this roundup. She is a Master Gardener and has extensive personal and professional experience testing, reviewing, and writing about home and garden products. You can find more of her work on The Spruce.