As you’re tending to your garden through the spring and summer months, it’s important to make sure you’re using the right gardening tools. Hand pruners, also called pruning shears, are one of the most important pieces of equipment for beginners and experienced gardeners alike: You can use them to clip away dead leaves and stems, harvest fresh fruits and veggies in your garden and more.
SKIP AHEAD Best pruning shears | Benefits of pruning shears | What are the different types of pruning shears | How to shop for pruning shears
“[Pruning shears] make clean cuts, which is important because jagged cuts on plants can invite pests and diseases,” says Julie Bawden-Davis, the professional gardener behind Healthy Houseplants. “Clean cuts also look better, and plants will leaf out more quickly after pruning.”
To learn more about the types of garden shears out there and how to shop for them, we spoke to gardening experts about what to look for in pruners. We also included some of their recommendations for the best pruning shears on the market right now.
Our top picks
- Best anvil pruner: Gardena 8903 Anvil Pruner
- Best bypass pruner: Corona BP 3180D Forged Classic Bypass Pruner
- Best ratchet pruner: The Gardener's Friend Pruners
- Best lopper: Fiskars Bypass Lopper
How we picked the best pruning shears
We spoke to gardening experts about the different types of pruning shears and what to look for when shopping for one. Our experts recommended keeping the following factors in mind:
- Type of pruning shears: There are four main types of pruning shears (also known as pruners or garden shears): Anvil pruners, bypass pruners, ratchet pruners and loppers. We go more in depth on what makes each type unique and what they’re best used for below.
- Blade quality and sharpness: Each pruner has steel or titanium-coated blades for durability. Keep in mind you’ll need to regularly sharpen these with continuous use.
- Cutting capacity: This is the distance between the blades. Thin branches, small stems and twigs usually require a cutting capacity less than 1 inch, while thicker stems, branches and bushes require loppers — which are larger tools that require two hands — with a 1.5-inch cutting capacity or higher.
- Ergonomics: Look for pruning shears with an anti-slip cushioning or grip for safety and comfort.
- Safety features: Pruners will often have a safety lock that keeps it shut when not in use. Pruners may also have nonstick blades or a sap groove that can direct gunk away from the blades to prevent them from sticking together, which then reduces the amount of strain on your hands.
The best pruning shears to shop
Below are our experts’ favorite anvil, bypass and ratchet pruners and loppers, all of which include recommended features like safety locks, high-quality blades and ergonomic handle designs.
Best anvil pruners and garden shears
Fiskars 9115 Smooth Action Anvil Pruner
Fiskars is a favorite brand among the experts we spoke to. Ashlie Thomas, a professional gardener who runs the blog The Mocha Gardener, recommended this anvil pruner from the brand to “clip through small stems, branches, and twigs that are no bigger than 1/2 inch.” These pruners have a corrosion-resistant coating on their blades for more durability, according to the brand. Plus, the ergonomically designed soft handle grip can accommodate both right- and left-handed users, as detailed on Fiskars’ website.
Pruner type: Anvil | Cutting capacity: ⅝ inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Safety lock
Gardena 8903 Anvil Pruner
This anvil pruner from Gardena, which comes in three sizes, was one of Thomas’ top picks. It has a fiberglass-reinforced handle for durability and a nonslip coating on its blade for smooth cutting, according to the brand.
Pruner type: Anvil | Cutting capacity: 1 inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Safety lock
Gardener's Supply Company Anvil Pruners
Thomas also recommended these anvil pruners, which have a double-bevel blade that can cut through wood, and a rubber shock absorber that helps reduce stress on your hands and wrist, according to the brand. It also has a nonslip handle with a PVC coating and comes in two colors: orange and green. It’s ideal for hard-to-cut, tough, dry wood and best for those with small hands, according to Gardener’s Supply Company.
Pruner type: Anvil | Cutting capacity: ⅝ inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Safety lock; plastic storage holster; nonslip handle
Corona Compound Action Anvil Lopper
If you’re looking for a more forceful lopper with long handles for hard-to-reach spaces, Bawden-Davis recommended this option from Corona. Its 32-inch handles are made from durable fiberglass that have 8-inch nonslip foam grips on the ends for comfort and safety. Additionally, it also comes with a nonstick coated steel blade that’s resharpenable and replaceable.
Pruner type: Anvil lopper | Cutting capacity: 1.5 inches | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Nonstick blades
Best bypass pruners and garden shears
Okatsune Bypass Pruners
Made of high-quality Japanese Izumo Yasuki steel, these bypass pruners include a comfortable vinyl handle, and blades that are 2-inches long for a clean, precise cut, according to the brand. These pruners are “great for cutting through fresh green stems and branches,” Thomas says.
Pruner type: Bypass | Cutting capacity: 1 inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Safety lock
Felco 8 Bypass Secateurs
These bypass pruners from Felco — another popular brand recommended by Bawden-Davis — have a uniquely shaped ergonomic handle and an angled head that may be suitable for gardeners with larger hands, according to the brand. These also come with a sap groove and a rubber shock absorber that can reduce hand and wrist strain, as detailed on the brand’s website.
Pruner type: Bypass | Cutting capacity: 1 inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Sap groove; rubber shock absorber
Corona BP 3180D Forged Classic Bypass Pruner
Bawden-Davis recommended these Corona pruners in part for their durability. “You don’t want to fall in love with a pair of pruners only to have them fall apart after a couple of seasons,” she says. They have forged steel blades and a self-cleaning sap groove. They come in multiple cutting sizes including ½ inch, ¾ inch and 1-inch and have red handles so you can easily spot them among your plants.
Pruner type: Bypass | Cutting capacity: ½ inch, ¾ inch and 1 inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Sap groove
ARS Needle Nose Pruner
This pruner is lightweight — weighing just 3 ounces — and has sharp, elongated blades that are “great for reaching through tight places to snip off your plants,” according to Thomas. You can use them to harvest vegetables, fruits and fresh herbs, as well as clip flowers, she told us. Plus, they also have stainless steel blades, which can “minimize rusting over time,” she says.
Pruner type: Bypass | Cutting capacity: 1 inch | Blade material: Stainless steel | Safety features: Safety lock
Fiskars Bypass Lopper
This bypass lopper from Fiskars, which Bawden-Davis recommended, has 28-inch nonslip grip handles for more control, according to the brand. The blades also have a low-friction coating, which prevents them from getting sticky due to sap; it also allows for smoother cuts, according to the brand.
Pruner type: Bypass lopper | Cutting capacity: 1.5 inches | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Nonstick blades; shock absorbing bumpers
Tabor Tools GG11A Bypass Lopper
Another bypass lopper recommended by Bawden-Davis, this option has ergonomic and anti-shock rubberized grips for comfort. The lopper uses a compound action system, which relies on multiple pivot points to increase the force behind the blade for a more precise and powerful cut, according to Tabor Tools. It has a 30-inch-long design and replaceable blades, too.
Pruner type: Bypass lopper | Cutting capacity: 1.75 inches | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Shock absorbing grips; nonstick blades
Best ratchet pruners and garden shears
The Gardener's Friend Pruners
These pruners have an ergonomic design, lightweight aluminum frame and a replaceable blade. These also have a three-step ratchet mechanism, which lets you minimize resistance and make more cuts with minimal effort, according to the brand. Additionally, these come with a detachable oiled sponge to clean the blade.
Pruner type: Ratchet | Cutting capacity: 1 inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Safety lock; nonstick blades
Fiskars 6689 Ratchet Hand Pruner
This hand pruner, which Thomas recommended for those who lack hand or wrist strength, makes it easy to cut through branches since it can cut plant material in stages, according to Thomas. It also has a low-friction blade coating that helps it resist rust and prevent it from becoming sticky with sap, according to Fiskars.
Pruner type: Ratchet | Cutting capacity: ¾ inch | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Safety lock; low-friction blades
Corona Hand RP 3230 Ratchet Pruner
This ratchet pruner from expert-favorite brand Corona has nonstick blades for smooth cuts and easy cleaning. Its nonslip, molded handles are suitable for right- or left-handed use, though it’s best for those small to medium-sized hands, according to the brand.
Pruner type: Ratchet | Cutting capacity: ¾ inch | Blade material: Stainless steel | Safety features: Safety lock; nonstick blades
Fiskars Ratchet Drive Anvil Lopper
Another expert-approved Fiskars option, this lopper has a ratcheting mechanism that eases the amount of force needed to cut, according to Bawden-Davis. The tool measures 27-inches long and features a steel, rust-resistant anvil blade with a low-friction coating to prevent it from gumming up with sap.
Pruner type: Ratchet lopper | Cutting capacity: 2 inches | Blade material: Steel | Safety features: Low-friction blade coating
What are the benefits of using pruning shears?
Regular pruning is a necessary part of gardening to help your plants look good and stay healthy. Pruning shears are tools that allow you to cleanly cut off diseased or damaged stems (so you can drive away pests and diseases) and help prevent your plants from growing too full or long. Pruning shears can typically cut small branches, flowers, fruits and fresh herbs.
Depending on where you are in the gardening season, pruning shears can also provide extra benefits. “Clipping off a few leaves to do some basic trimming at the beginning of the season is very helpful,” Thomas says. For example, plants that produce a lot of branches like tomato plants need to be cut regularly so they have room to grow, Thomas told us.
In the summer, you’ll want to use your pruners to cut and harvest your leafy greens, and herbs here and there, according to Thomas. Around the fall when temperatures drop into the 60s and below, you can cut away plants that are going into dormancy or ones that have completed their plant life to allow fresh leaves and foliage to come through.
What are the different types of pruning shears?
The experts we spoke to listed three main types of pruning shears to consider — anvil pruners, bypass pruners and ratchet pruners — each with their own unique benefits. They also mentioned loppers, which are garden shears that are similar to pruners but require two hands.
Anvil pruners have one blade that pushes down onto a piece of metal or plastic underneath. Since these tend to crush when they cut, they’re best for cutting deadwood or making rough cuts on thicker, harder stems, according to our experts.
Bypass pruners are designed to cut living plant tissue and are best for making clean, precise cuts. They also help reduce the healing time after a cut thanks to their two curved blades, according to Bryan McKenzie, a landscape designer and co-founder of Bumper Crop Times. Bypass pruners can be great for polishing rough cuts from anvil pruners, McKenzie says.
Ratchet pruners are technically a subset of anvil pruners since they have one blade — however, they have a more “catch and hold” mechanism where you're able to “press down slightly and then press it again a few times to cut all the way through,” Thomas says. Ratchet pruners allow you to exert less force when cutting, which might be ideal for anyone with a hand injury or those who can’t use a lot of force.
To cut thicker branches, shrubs and bushes, experts told us you’ll need to use a lopper. Loppers aren’t technically pruning shears, though they resemble one another (and come in the same types listed above). Unlike a pruning shear, a lopper has a longer handle that requires you to use both hands. You can also use them to cut “hard-to-reach places such as elevated plant parts or in the interior of a plant where you might not want to reach your hands, as you could get hurt,” Bawden-Davis says.
How to shop for pruners and garden shears
Look for a pruner that can handle the job you’re attempting to do. In addition to buying the right type of pruner for your needs, our experts also recommended looking at blade quality, ergonomic grip and safety features.
The cutting capacity, or the distance between the blades, is important if you need to cut thicker stems and branches. Unless otherwise noted by the brand, hand pruners can “rarely cut stems and branches that are thicker than 1.2 inches,” McKenzie says. He noted that some models can handle up to 1.5 inches, but they aren’t as common — this is when a lopper (which has a higher cutting capacity, typically 1.5 inches or higher) will come in handy.
Blade quality and sharpness
Blade quality is one of the most important factors to look for when shopping, our experts told us “any blade will lose its sharpness over time and require sharpening, but low-quality blades can also deform [your plant] and make it impossible to restore the cutting ability,” McKenzie says. He recommended looking at the material the blade is made out of (steel or titanium-coated blades are typically good options) and checking reviews online.
If possible, try to hold the tool before purchasing. The pruning shear should have some heft and “feel solid in your hands,” Bawden-Davis says.
You’ll also want to look for sharp blades. “A sharp blade is very important because it's going to create that smooth, clean cut,” Thomas says. “If you have a dull blade, then you're going to be hacking away at it and that's going to be a strain on your hands as well.” She recommended using a pruner sharpener or any other basic sharpening tool to keep your blades updated.
Both McKenzie and Thomas recommended looking for models that emphasize comfort and have an anti-slip cushioning or grip. “You need to be able to grip the pruner comfortably, especially being in the garden when you're around water and so many different types of substances,” Thomas says. This also minimizes the chance of your shears slipping and injuring you.
Safety locks can keep a pruner shut when it’s not in use to prevent injuries. Some shears also have a sap groove, which is a small detail on the lower blade that directs sap away from the blades to prevent them from sticking together.
Thomas also recommended looking for pruners with handles (that you can attach to your wrist to help you keep track of them as you move around your garden), and bright-colored pruners (to ensure you’re not losing them among your plants).
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Julie Bawden-Davis is the professional gardener behind Healthy Houseplants and is the author of several gardening books including “Southern California Vegetable Gardening” and "Indoor Gardening the Organic Way."
- Ashlie Thomas is a professional gardener and founder of The Mocha Gardener.
- Bryan McKenzie is a landscape designer and co-founder of Bumper Crop Times.
Why trust Select?
Mili Godio is an editor at Select who has covered a variety of gardening and outdoor articles including garden hoses, indoor gardening kits and riding lawn mowers. For this article, she interviewed three gardening experts and researched dozens of pruners on the market that aligned with their guidance.
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