If you’ve read last month’s post on tree and shrub pruning, you know late winter and early spring are great times to prune. With the plants dormant and the temperature low, your trees and shrubs can heal from the prune without being exposed to diseases, pests, or mold.

No matter what time of year you choose to prune, it’s important to select the right tool for the job to avoid straining your hands and wrists or damaging the plant. Take into consideration the following:

  • Diameter. How thick is the stem or limb you’re trying to cut?
  • Height. Can you reach the cut? Will you need an extendable tool or a ladder?
  • Toughness. Is the plant soft or woody?
  • Strength. Do you have grip or mobility issues that will require extra assistance from your tool?

Tool Types


Pruners are one-handed tools intended for smaller cuts. Their ideal cut diameter is usually three-fourths of an inch and smaller, making them perfect for trimming flowers, shrubs, small tree growth, and thin vines. When dealing with smaller plants, it’s always preferable to use pruners rather than a larger tool to ensure the accuracy of your cut.


Loppers require two hands to operate and are equipped with thicker blades and longer handles, allowing them to take on larger cuts—up to two and a half inches thick. The extra handle length makes them a good choice for branches that are out of reach, and they’re frequently used in the maintenance of fruit and nut trees.

Pruning Saws

Pruning saws function much like workshop saws and come in a variety of styles. They can handle cut diameters up to five inches, though they’re also useful when cutting thin but tough stems. Use a fine-toothed pruning saw for thinner cuts and a coarse-toothed blade for larger jobs.

When using a ladder isn’t an option, pole saws should be used to reach high-up branches. 

Hedge Shears

Hedge shears, as the name suggests, should be used to trim and shape hedges, shrubs, evergreens, and some perennials. They can cut through stems up to two and a fourth inches thick, but they should only be used on soft, non-woody stems; cutting tough materials with hedge shears is a great way to damage the blade. 

Cutting Mechanism

Pruners and loppers are further divided by the type of cutting mechanism they use.

Anvil pruners and loppers operate using one blade that cuts onto a flat surface, like a knife on a cutting board. Using an anvil-style tool sacrifices accuracy for strong cutting power. Because they tend to crush the stem they’re cutting, they’re best used for tough dead or dry wood.

Ratchet pruners and loppers are a variation of anvil-style tools. They cut in several stages, using a ratchet mechanism to reduce the grip strength needed to make the cut.

Bypass pruners and loppers work like scissors, with two blades that pass each other to slice through the branch. As long as you keep their blades sharp, bypass-style tools create cleaner cuts, making them better for pruning live plants. 

If you’re questioning what type of tool is best for your job, don’t hesitate to contact your friendly experts at Land Concepts!