Types of Pruners – Which One Is Best for You?

When it comes to gardening tools, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Whether indoors or outdoors, every garden is different, which means, your tool needs will be different.

But, there are some tools that just about every type of gardener will need. And a good set of pruners is one of them.

Want to learn more about the basics of gardening? Then check out my post on the subject. There are some helpful tips in there.

Pruners are a basic tool essential to gardening.

Four types of pruners for both live branches and dead branches laid out in a half circle.

You’ll not only use your pruners to trim and shape your plants, but you’ll also use them to cut live stems and flowers, and remove dead material. Proper pruning can improve your plant’s fullness and health, and encourage it to grow in a certain manner.

Types of Pruners & Their Uses

There are three basic types of pruners: bypass pruners, anvil pruners, and ratchet pruners.

1.    Bypass Pruners

Black bypass pruner
Image by Arturs Budkevics from Pixabay

Bypass pruners have two curved blades. One blade is sharpened on the outside edge. The other blade is thicker and unsharpened.

With bypass pruners, the blades bypass each other, just like a pair of scissors.

This type of pruner works really well on live stems because they make a nice, clean, precise cut. Which is what you need if you don’t want to damage your stem or branch.

Bypass pruners are the most popular type of pruner. If you have to choose one pruner, a bypass pruner is your best bet.

2.    Anvil Pruners

Anvil pruner still in package that states purpose for dead stems.
Anvil Pruner

Unlike bypass pruners, anvil pruners have a single straight cutting blade.

This edge cuts through the branch and comes up against the flat edge, or anvil, of the other arm.

Think of a knife slicing against a cutting board.

Anvil pruners are best for dead branches, twigs, and stems. They’re not suited for live stems, because the anvil can crush the soft tissue of the living plant.

Nor are they meant for close, precise work because of the wider anvil section.

3.    Ratchet Pruners

Ratchet pruner still in package.

Ratchet pruners are similar to anvil pruners, except they have a mechanism that performs the cutting action in stages.

This type of pruner works well for people with wrist issues.

Pruner Blades

The blades are workhorses of your pruners. So, you want a pruner with good quality blades.

Tip: When it comes to bypass pruners, you also want to check how closely the blades pass each other when they open and close. The closer they pass, the better.

A pair of blue pruners sitting amongst flowers.
Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay

Generally, blades are made from hardened steel, stainless steel, or titanium.

Hardened steel is the toughest and most durable type of blade. However, it can stain and rust more easily.

Stainless steel is a little less dense than hardened steel, so it will need sharpening sooner. However, it is less resistant to corrosion.

Titanium, on the other hand, is the best of both worlds. Titanium blades have a coating of titanium over steel. They’re usually lighter in weight and resist corrosion. Additionally, as you sharpen the blade over time, the steel underneath will come through giving you a strong cutting edge.

With anvil and ratchet pruners, the anvil part is usually made of a softer material than the cutting blade. This is to help prevent the cutting edge from being damaged when striking the anvil.

The main takeaway is, no matter which pruner or material you choose, you want it to be of good quality.

Ergonomic Pruners

Ergonomically designed pruners with a red handle
Image by Alexei Chizhov from Pixabay

Pruning can be tiring work for the hardiest of hands, let alone if you suffer from wrist issues such as arthritis or carpal tunnel.

Luckily, there are ergonomically designed pruners. This type of pruner has features such as cushioned or rotating handles, angled blades, or even horizontal inclinations. All of which are designed to lessen the pressure and strain on hands and wrists. If you have wrist issues or concerns, it’s worth looking into this type of pruner.

And if you’re a lefty, don’t worry. You haven’t been forgotten. Although not as common, there are pruners designed for left-handed individuals.

Lastly, when pruning, you shouldn’t work directly overhead. Not only can a branch fall on your head, but this position can also be straining for the shoulders and arms. Keep your wrists straight, and wear gloves, especially when working with sharp branches or thorny plants.

Other Pruner Considerations

Silver pruner cutting red flower
Photo by Marco Verch / CC BY

There are a few things to consider when purchasing pruners.

1.    Purpose

First and foremost, consider what you’ll primarily be cutting. For example,

  • Will it be flowers, shrubs, or branches?
  • Are you looking to keep your live plants trimmed and shaped?
  • Or is your main goal to clean up dead branches in the spring and fall?

Once you know your primary purpose, you can pick the type of pruner best suited to your goals. Packages will often say what type of work the pruner is designed for.

2.    Comfort

Next, think about comfort. Pruners are not a one-and-done item. This is a tool you’ll be using repeatedly and perhaps for extended periods of time in one session.

Before purchasing, try the pruner in your hand to get a feel for the grip. If you have strength or mobility issues, think about weight and design. You don’t want to fatigue your hand with something too heavy or bulky.

3.    Quality & Cost

Most pruners have a mechanism that allows you to keep the handles locked together when closed. Pick one that’s easy to open and close and one that stays in its open or closed position.

Pruners also have a spring between the handles that pushes the handles apart when you relax your grip. Chose one whose spring is tightly attached.

Cost can vary, and although you don’t need your pruners to break the bank, you’re better off spending a little extra for a good quality pair, than opting for a cheaper one that has poor design and quality.

Care and Maintenance of Your Pruners

Let’s wrap up by talking about care and maintenance. To help your pruners last, keep them clean and sharp. When done with them, make sure to wipe off any dust or debris.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t leave your pruners lying out in the rain. To help keep parts lubricated, you can spray a solvent, such as WD-40, on them. This includes the blades, locking mechanism, and spring.

If your pruner allows tightening of the blades, tighten them on a regular basis. Over time, the blades will start to loosen and bypass pruners won’t be as effective.

I hope this gave you a little insight into the types of pruners and their functions. The main thing to remember is that pruners are an essential tool. For this reason, it’s important to choose a pair that will last for the long haul and suit the majority of your needs.

If you have any questions or thoughts or have your own favorite style of pruner, leave a comment below.

And if you enjoyed this article on the types of pruners feel free to share it.


Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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