How to choose pruning shears—experts explain

How to choose pruning shears | The Felco 8 bypass pruner, cutting a slender tree branch.
(Image credit: Pete Wise)

A set of pruning shearers is one of the most essential tools for a gardener to have in their arsenal. They don't take up much space to store, yet what they are capable of is vast. From pruning a tree to snipping deadheads from perennials, hand pruners are a quick way of tidying up the foliage in the yard with minimal effort.

Yet with so much choice to wade through, I appreciate that it can be overwhelming choosing a set of the best pruners for you. But this is where I can help. I've caught up with several experts to find out how to choose pruning shears when you next get the opportunity. They also make for awesome gifts (fyi).

How to choose pruning shears

1. Consider plant type

The first thing to consider when choosing pruning shears is the type of plant you need to prune.

"If you are pruning live, green plants then bypass shears are ideal because they provide a clean cut," Marek Bowers, sustainable garden designer and landscaping expert at Bolder Green, told Top Ten Reviews.

"If you are pruning dead or woody stems, anvil shears are better suited for tougher, thicker branches."

Image of Marek Bowers
Marek Bowers

Marek Bowers is a sustainable garden designer and landscaping expert. He is also founder of Bolder Green, a website that helps people create eco-friendly yards.

Morris Hankinson, Garden Expert at Hope Grove Nurseries, adds to this by explaining more about the different type of pruners you can get to suit the type of plant your pruning: "There are several types of shears to consider depending on your gardening needs, from bypass, anvil and ratchet ones.

 ‘Bypass pruners feature two curved blades that bypass each other like scissors that provide clean cuts with minimal damage to plants. Anvil pruners are better suited for deadwood and dry branches, using a single straight blade that cuts against a flat anvil, making them capable of handling thicker branches.

“Ratchet pruners are perfect for those with limited hand strength, requiring less force to cut through tough branches."

Image of Morris Hankinson
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the Founder and Managing Director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants.

2. What blade material do you prefer?

Another consideration when choosing pruning shears is the type of blade you need or prefer.

Marek says: "If you want middle-of-the-road durability and long-lasting sharpness, look for high-carbon steel or stainless steel blades. High-carbon steel blades stay sharp longer but may require more maintenance to prevent rust. Stainless steel blades are resistant to rust and easier to maintain." The Felco 6 Bypass Pruner, for example, have hardened steel blades which have a nice brushed finish.

"If you need a budget-friendly option then I recommend Teflon-coated or non-stick blades. These are affordable and help reduce friction, making cuts smoother. However, they might not be as durable as high-carbon or stainless steel blades."

"If you want premium quality, I would opt for Titanium-coated blades because they are highly durable, resistant to corrosion and stay sharp longer than standard steel blades. They are typically more expensive but offer excellent performance," says Marek.

Daniel Brooks, garden expert and the founder of BuyLawnTurf, adds: "Use shears that have reliable and string blades. Not only will this make then safer to use, but you'll save money on replacing them in the long run.

"Finding a set of sheers that have replaceable blades will make sure that you're able to upgrade them at any time, and keep them sharp."

Image of Daniel Brooks
Daniel Brooks

Daniel Brooks is a garden expert and the founder of BuyLawnTurf. The company is a specialist lawn turf and artificial grass and topsoil supplier. 

3. Think about handle design

Next think about handle design and comfort. If you will be using the shears for extended periods then opt for cushioned grips and ergonomic handles to reduce hand fatigue, says Marek. "Look for handles that fit well in your hand and have a comfortable grip." For example, our reviewer, Pete Wise, notes that the Fiskars Plus Smartfit Bypass Pruner P541's are especially comfortable for uses with small to medium-sized hands.

Daniel agrees with Marek. He told Top Ten Reviews: "It's important to find a set of sheers that are comfortable in your hand. Most pruning tasks can become laborious so making sure they're comfortable will be something you're grateful for later on."

Morris adds: “Some pruners feature rotating handles to also minimise strain.”

 

DeWalt 20V MAX Cordless Battery Powered Pruner

(Image credit: Future / Alex Temblador)

4. Consider safety features

One important factor with any gardening tools is safety features.

Marek told Top Ten Reviews: "Look for shears with a reliable locking mechanism to keep the blades closed when not in use." The Wolf-Garten Anvil Pruner RSEN, for example, have a metal locking mechanism.

5. Size and weight

When choosing pruning shears you should also think about the size and weight. 

Marek says: "If you have smaller hands or need precision choose lightweight, smaller shears that are easy to handle. On the other hand, if you need to cut thicker branches opt for larger, sturdier shears that provide more leverage and cutting power."

6. Maintenance

It's always worth thinking about how much maintenance your gardening tool is going to need before making a purchase. Marek says: "If you prefer low-maintenance tools then look for shears that are easy to clean and have blades that can be easily sharpened or replaced. As a general rule, stainless steel blades are generally easier to maintain."

Pruner being cleaned

(Image credit: Pete Wise)

7. Budget

"In my opinion Felco, Fiskars, Corona, and Bahco are the best brands known for their quality and durability," shares Morris. 

"While high-quality pruners can be a bit expensive, they are usually worth the investment for how durable they are and their performance. You should consider cost with how often you'll use the pruners and for what purposes."

The majority of pruning shears that I have seen range from anything between $20-70. As well as considering what Morris says, it would be worth having a think about any future yard renovations that could effect your usage of them so that you can weigh up the cost of investment at this time.

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy has been a writer and editor for 25 years, and has worked for some of the UK's bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Women's Health. Maddy is also a fully qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer, specializing in helping busy women over 40 navigate menopause.