The 5 best pruning tools

You need the right tools to keep your trees healthy. Here are a few of our picks

By Allan BritnellAllan Britnell


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If a tree falls in the forest, you don’t want to hear it crashing through your cottage. Pruning helps keep greenery healthy and can prevent deadfall from doing damage. But you need the right tools for the job.


Japanese-style handsaws are particularly effective pruners, especially those that cut on both the push and pull strokes. This makes for quicker work and, more importantly, a cleaner cut, as long as they’re sharp. Compact folding models ($15–$40) are good for limbs up to about 10 cm in diameter, while a longer blade can do virtually anything a chainsaw can (albeit more slowly), with less damage to the trunk or other branches.

Hand pruners

Hand pruners, or secateurs, are designed for snipping branches up to about 2 cm across. There are two basic styles: bypass pruners, which work like scissors with one sharpened blade, and anvil-style pruners with one blade that cuts against a flat surface. The bypass pruners are best for most tasks as they make a cleaner cut, so plants heal quickly. A good-quality pair ($30–$50) with replaceable blades will last a lifetime. Anvil-style pruners ($20-$40) are better for less-precise jobs such as hacking back thicket and cutting deadwood.


Loppers ($30–$80) are essentially long-handled pruners designed to provide leverage for cutting thicker limbs, from about 2 to 4 cm in diameter, though some can tackle branches up to 7.5 cm. Those with telescoping handles provide more leverage and extend your reach by half a metre or so. As with pruners, you’ll want the bypass style for most jobs.

Hedge shears

Long-bladed shears ($30–$40) are used for trimming shrubs and hedges that aren’t too thick—and for creating elaborate topiaries should the mood strike.

Long-handled tools

There are pole-mounted saws, loppers, and even chainsaws available ($60–$100) for pruning branches as high as five metres up, though these tools can be awkward to use and may damage nearby foliage. Be careful that falling limbs don’t take out power lines (or you). Lots of out-of-reach work? Consider an arborist.

This article was originally published on April 16, 2009

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