The 5 Best Pruning Shears
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Pruning is a laborious task, but finding the right clippers will make the job so much easier. Given the wide range of blade materials and styles to choose from, the best pruning shears for you will come down to your gardening needs and budget.
Most hand shears have carbon steel blades that will stay sharp for ages, though they can rust and wear with improper care. Some steel blades have additional rust protection, like a hardened composition or nonstick coating, which is especially nice if you’re working with trees that produce sap or don’t want any additional maintenance. Another option you’ll see is a titanium coating, which is the gold standard for corrosion-resistance, though it can wear away when you sharpen your blade. And while stainless steel is the least likely to tarnish, it’s much more prone to damage if used on the wrong-sized branch.
There are four key blade styles to consider:
- Bypass shears: If you’re just starting out with gardening, these are often considered the pruners you should buy because they’re affordable and work well for making clean cuts on living vegetation. With two curved blades that “pass” each other when clamped down, they have a familiar scissor motion. They’re usually designed for soft-tissue stems, however, an electric version can handle thicker branches and take nearly all the pressure off your hands — though you’ll pay more for it.
- Anvil pruners: With more of a crushing motion— a sharp blade clamps down onto a flat lower jaw — an anvil-style pruner can get right through tougher limbs. The cuts are more jagged, though, so experts often suggest avoiding using them on living plants and instead reserving them dead branches.
- Ratchet pruner: If you want the functionality of an anvil pruner and want to comfortably power through difficult-to-trim branches or dead wood a ratchet shear is for you. Thanks to a special gear mechanism you can make a series of small cuts in the same spot without adding additional strain to your hands or wrists.
- Pruning snips: For the lightest of tasks, snips have micro-tipped blades and spring-loaded handles that make it easy and quick to make accurate cuts on leaves, to deadhead flowers, or get into tight spots like succulents.
Once you decide on a style, take note of the cutting capacity for the tool, as it can range from 0.25-inches all the way up to 1.2 inches.
Whether you’re managing an indoor garden or an entire orchard, the best pruning shears will be an invaluable tool in keeping things neat. Find your match below.
1. The Best Bypass Pruning Shears
With an incredible 4.7-star rating overall after more than 18,000 Amazon reviewers weighed in, these Fiskars shears are clear winners for their precise cuts and durable (yet inexpensive) design. The beveled blade is made from hardened steel and has a nonstick, rust-resistant coating to prevent wear. The coating also helps the blade glide through wood, preventing it from gumming up with sap. The shears have non-slip grips on the handles and can cut through stems with up to a 0.625-inch diameter and have a sliding lock closure. If you prefer a titanium coating and carbon steel, this pair of bypass shears are also an excellent option.
One helpful review: “We have lots of trees and shrubs on my property, so a good pruner is used a lot. These are comfortable to hold and use. They cut very well, even thicker branches. A nice clean cut on the plant to keep it healthy. After using, I spray a little WD-40 on the moving pieces and store. No issues the next time I need them. (If I cut pine and they get sappy, a little Goo Gone takes that right off.) The lock opens easily... and also locks closed easily as well. Highly recommend to fellow home gardeners!”
2. The Best Anvil Pruners
Another beloved gardening tool, these anvil shears have a 4.8-star average after more than 13,000 Amazon reviews. The narrow, pointed hardened steel blade makes them work well for cutting through thicker branches, as well detailed work, like trimming twigs close to a tree’s trunk, and there’s a sap groove to prevent sticking when working on sap-producing trees.
To aid in comfort, there’s a cushioned shock absorber to soften the cutting impact on hands and wrists, and the revolving handle makes it easier to get into difficult-to-reach spots, without twisting your hand. The pruners can cut through branches that are up to 1-inch thick, and have a thumb-locking mechanism to keep them secure between uses.
If you prefer the more rust-resistant titanium-coated blades, you may want to check out this pair of anvil shears, though they don’t have the same comfortable handles.
One helpful review: “This is the best pruner that I have owned in my 35+ years of gardening... I have used this pruner for probably at least 50 hours... After this time, the blade is still intensely sharp. When new, it was literally razor sharp. And it stays razor sharp for a surprisingly long time. For the average user with an average yard, if you don't hit a trellis wire or use it to cut roots in the dirt, it will stay razor sharp for several years, at least. This is pretty amazing.”
3. The Best Ratchet Shears
More than 1,700 reviewers gave these carbon steel Gardener’s Friend ratchet shears a five-star rating on Amazon because they can both clip through a 1-inch branch in one pass and make it easy to cut through wood that’s thicker in several goes, without having to realign the blade (or move it off your hand). Besides that ratchet mechanism, other highlights include what the brand refers to as “channel coating” to help prevent the blade from dulling; a soft, rubber handgrip to absorb pressure; and a sliding lock for safety.
One helpful review: “These almost go unnoticed while you are working. I have hand/wrist issues and when my last pair of big box pruners broke after less than a day, I decided it was time to really invest in a quality too. This past weekend I cleared the back third of my yard which had been taken over by honeysuckle and grape vines. After two solid days of using these, I had no pain or soreness to speak of. They became an extension of my right hand by the end of the first day. I would buy these again in a heartbeat!”
4. The Best Electric Bypass Shears
They are noticeably higher in price point than other tools on this list, but what you’re getting with your purchase of these electric shears is convenience and comfort, making them ideal for anyone with hand or wrist pain. With one pull of the trigger on the ergonomically designed handle, the carbon steel blades are able to cut through branches that are up to 1.2 inches thick with little to no effort needed on your end. Making them even more efficient is their cordless, rechargeable design. Besides a charging adapter to plug into an outlet, you’ll also get two lithium batteries that can each give you up to six to seven hours of use on one charge.
One helpful review: “These pruners are a huge labor saver, we get 5 hours of pruning done in about 1 hour. With no blisters. The batteries last 5 to 6 hours of continuous pruning. The tool is light and easy to maneuver, a real dream.”
5. The Best Snips For For Herbs And Micro-Cuts
These light-duty, scissor-like pruning snips have an impressive 18,000 five-star ratings, with many shoppers mentioning how perfect they are for both snipping herbs and deadheading rose bushes. The brand doesn’t indicate the cutting capacity, however, one reviewer mentioned that it’s ideal for stems 0.25-inches thick or less. Though they are very wallet-friendly, you won’t have to compromise on design features: besides their long-lasting and rust-resistant titanium-coated stainless steel blades, they have user-friendly, rubber handles that can safely lock together between uses.
One helpful review: “These are exactly what I needed for my gardening arsenal!! Nifty, small, sharp, precise, & comfortable to use. Perfect for harvesting vegetables, herbs, & flowers without taking out unneeded foliage, etc., as sometimes happens with larger pruners. Also perfect for working with bonsai & for grooming indoor houseplants. I was able to deftly remove spent flowers from my African Violets effortlessly without damaging new buds & blooms.”
Also Nice: A Pair Of Hedge Clippers
The serrated, 8-inch, stainless steel blades of these hedge shears grip branches and stems for clean cuts while trimming grass, climbing vines, and hedges, with up to 0.25-inch diameter, according to reviewers. A low-friction coating helps the blades glide through wood and prevents the blades from gumming up with sap. The long handles have shock-reducing bumpers and non-slip grips to make them easier to work with.
One helpful review: “Great shears. Lightweight and easy to use. Also easy to clean. I have only used electric hedge trimmers in the past, but this was a breeze. Nice cushioned handles and good strong cutting blades.”