Pole pruners can range from simple scissor-type pruners mounted to the end of a pole to sturdy pole-mounted manual and battery-operated saws. When shrubs and trees grow large enough that you need a ladder to prune them with typical pruning shears, pole pruners can be a very valuable tool. They allow you to avoid—or at least minimize—potentially precarious work on a ladder. Instead, you can keep your feet on the ground and extend the pole upward to get the high branches.
Whatever the size of your project, there's the correct pruning pole for you. Older-style pole trimmers had wooden handles, and this style is still available usually as a bargain-level tool. But pole pruners with fiberglass handles will be lighter and more durable and thus are almost always worth the slightly higher price.
Below, we'll break down the ins and outs of each common type of pole pruners.
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Ropeless Pole Pruners
- Best for: Small branches
Several variations of ropeless pole pruners exist—some with handles fixed at roughly 6 feet long and others with telescoping poles that are adjustable between roughly 7 and 12 feet. Some models feature handles or other mechanisms that pinch the cutting jaws closed.
They are lightweight pruners that are inexpensive, simple to use, and perfect for beginners. They're best for pruning small branches up to 1 inch in diameter.
To use this type of pruner, you must raise the hook end up into the canopy of the tree to be pruned. Then, let the hook nestle right over the branch to be trimmed while keeping the tool stable with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant hand, pull down on the bottom of the pole to engage a cable/sliding mechanism, which scissors the blade around the branch to make the cut. When finished, simply release your pressure on the pole, and the cutting mechanism will spring open again.
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- Best for: Branches up to roughly 8 inches in diameter
A classic manual pole pruner has a curved pruning blade about 12 to 16 inches long mounted on the end of an adjustable pole. Models with telescoping fiberglass poles typically adjust from 8 to 16 feet. They range in price depending on features, but they're still fairly inexpensive.
The curve of the blade, combined with its very sharp teeth, makes it amazingly effective at cutting through green or dead wood, even when the pole is fully extended. The sawing action is primarily on the pull stroke. It's a bit of a workout, but these saws can cut through limbs up to about 8 inches in diameter relatively quickly. When the blade becomes dull, simply replace it with a new blade.
Many manual tree pruners come in sets containing two sections of fiberglass pole (or a single telescoping pole) and one or more cutting head. The heads are interchangeable, so you can switch from a saw to a pruner-type cutter, which is operated with a rope that closes the pruning jaw around the limb. Some pruners have combination heads with a saw and a pruner-type cutter in one unit. Saw heads typically include a hook at the base of the saw, which is handy to help you pull down loose branches, though the primary purpose of the hook is to keep you from pulling the saw out of the kerf. iI is often very difficult to control the saw from the ground, so a saw that slips out of the kerf will cause endless frustration.
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- Best for: Tall hedges
Electric pole trimmers are a cross between manual pole pruners and conventional hedge trimmers, and they're typically more expensive than the manual versions. Both corded and cordless models are available. Their blades are similar to traditional hedge trimmers, but here the motor and trimming head are mounted on the end of a pole to give you more reach.
Many have a limited range of adjustability and can expand up to about 8 feet long. The cutting head can be swiveled and locked in place, making it possible to trim the tops of tall hedges perfectly flat while standing on the ground. These extra features come with extra weight, so this trimmer is a bit heavier than a standard hedge trimmer.
This trimmer is best for trimming extra tall hedges without a ladder. It's not long enough for most tree trimming. And it can be dangerous to mount a ladder to use this tool, especially if you have a corded version you can trip on. There are other trimmers more appropriate where a longer reach is needed.
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- Best for: Fairly high and thick branches
Whether corded or cordless, electric pole chainsaws are great specialized tools for more extensive tree pruning work. With a two-in-one detachable pole and chainsaw, this is the perfect tool for hard-to-reach branches fairly high above the ground. These pruners are also great for cutting thicker branches that manual pruners can't handle. Thinner, smaller branches should not be cut with an electric chainsaw, as it is an aggressive tool that will also cause collateral damage and leave a jagged cut.
They are relatively heavy tools, so the extension poles usually max out at about 8 to 10 feet long. So from a standing position, they can give an average-height person a reach of about 15 feet.
If you don't do a lot of tree trimming, this product might not be worth the investment, as it can be pricey. But if you live on a wooded property, a pole chainsaw might be an indispensable tool.
Choosing Pole Pruners
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing pole pruners is the foliage you'll be trimming. Take into account the mature size of your trees and shrubs if they're still young, noting both how high they'll grow and how thick the branches will become. Pruners work best when used with species that are suitable for topiary pruning, such as boxwoods and arborvitaes.
Moreover, you'll have to consider your own height to decide how long of a pole you'll need, as well as whether you can manage a heavier wooden handle or a lighter fiberglass model. Cost can also be a factor. For instance, the manual versions are usually less expensive but will require more elbow grease on your part to get the job done.