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, and plant parents can have varying needs when it comes to the tools they use.

Although it’s unlikely you’ll need every tool in the book, there are some tools more universal than others. In this three-part gardening tool series, we’ll dive into the most commonly used tools, starting with the types of pruners.

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

No matter if you’re an avid outdoor gardener, or only have a few houseplants, sooner or later you’re going to need a good pair of pruners. It’s a basic tool essential to gardening.

You’ll use your pruners to trim and shape your plants, cut live stems and flowers, and remove dead branches, stems, or foliage. Proper pruning can improve your plant’s fullness and health, and encourage it to grow in a certain direction or manner.

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

Types of Pruners & Their Uses

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

Bypass Pruners:

Bypass pruners have two curved blades, one sharpened on the outside edge, the other thicker and unsharpened. 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.

Anvil Pruners:

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

Unlike bypass pruners, anvil pruners feature a single straight cutting blade, that cuts through the branch and comes up against that flat edge, or anvil, of the other arm. Think of a knife slicing against a cutting board.

This type of pruner is best for dead branches, twigs, and stems. It’s not suited for live stems, as the anvil can crush the soft tissue of the living plant.

It’s also not suited for close, precise work because of the wider anvil section.

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.


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 opened and closed. 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 either 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, may be the best of both worlds. Titanium blades actually have a coating of titanium over steel. They’re usually lighter in weight and corrosion resistant. In addition, as you sharpen the blade over time, the steel underneath will come through giving you a strong cutting edge.

It’s good to note that 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 here is, that no matter which pruner or material you choose, you want it to be of good quality.


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 is 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.

Are you a lefty? Don’t worry, you haven’t been forgotten. Although not as plentiful, there are pruners designed for left-handed individuals.

When pruning, you shouldn’t work directly overhead. Not only do you chance branches falling 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.

Things to Consider

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

There are a few things to consider when purchasing pruners.


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.


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.

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

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.

I hope you’ll join me for the next two parts of this three-part garden tool series, where we’ll be delving into garden trowels and shovels.

If you have any questions or thoughts or have your own favorite style of pruner, let us know in the comments below.

And if you enjoyed this article on types of pruners – which one is best for you, feel free to share it with family and friends.


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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