The plant pruner's toolbox

October 9, 2015

Pruning cuts should always be smooth rather than having ragged edges, so sharp tools are essential for a job well done. The following tools can handle most pruning jobs in a home landscape.

The plant pruner's toolbox

1. Tools you'll need

Pruning sheers

Use a scissors action to cut through stems less than one centimetre (1/2 inch) thick. Light thinning and heading back, including deadheading of flowers, can usually be done with pruning shears. There are two styles, anvil pruners and bypass pruners. Anvil pruners have one blade that presses a branch against an "anvil", and cuts through it. Anvil pruners are often less expensive than bypass pruners, but if you use them, you run the risk of damaging a branch by crushing the cut edge, leaving an unattractive cut that is open to disease. Bypass pruners are generally preferred, because they have two cutting blades that work together like a pair of scissors to make a sharp, clean cut.


These are long-handled pruning shears that can cut through woody stems up to 2.5 centimetres (one inch) hick. They are the tools of choice for thinning branches from shrubs or for removing long suckers that often emerge from the bases of trees.

A pruning saw

This is needed to cut through woody tree limbs, or to prune shrub branches more than 2.5 centimetres (one inch) thick. This saw is also available in a long-handled version for cutting tree branches that are beyond a gardener's reach. Handle with care, because pruning saws have deep, sharp teeth.

Hedge trimmer

These make fast work of shearing plants. Hand-operated hedge trimmers are fine for small jobs, but if you maintain a large hedge you will find electric or rechargeable, battery operated models a true joy to use.

2. Handy tip: Shearing back

When you have a mass of plants that need deadheading, handheld hedge trimmers make quick work of the job. In midsummer, shear back petunias, Swan River daisy, sweet alyssum, and verbena by half their height.

Many groundcovers can be cut back with a lawn mower or string trimmer. A new flush of healthy leaves and often flowers will appear a few short weeks after trimming.

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