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Updated September 2022
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Buying guide for best pruning shears

A snip here, a cut there, and slowly you regain control of those plants that are always fighting to take over your yard. That's why a good pair of pruning shears are an essential part of any gardener's arsenal. But what makes one pair of pruning shears better than another, and how do you find the right ones to fit your needs? The good news is, you've come to the right place to get the answers you need.

Here at BestReviews, we strive to help consumers make smart buying choices. We test items in our labs and out in the field. We speak with experts and tabulate opinions from customers. What's more, we never accept free products or other incentives from manufacturers, so you can be sure we're not biased in favor of any particular brands. We use this information to create our reviews and detailed guides.

Read on to learn all you need to know to find your perfect pair of pruning shears. When you’re ready to make a purchase, skip up to the top of this page to see which pruning shears we recommend.

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To reduce wrist strain and hand fatigue, look for ergonomically designed pruning shears, particularly if you spend a lot of time gardening.

Pruning shears: basic information

Pruning shears are every gardener's friend, but if you're yet to acquire your green thumb, we'll tell you all you need to know about these essential gardening tools.

  • Pruning shears are handheld blades designed for cutting plants. They’re a bit like scissors for your garden.

  • Other names for pruning shears include pruners, hand pruners, and secateurs.

  • You can use your pruning shears for pruning (cutting back dead or overgrown stems or branches to encourage growth), taking cuttings, shaping plants, removing dead or damaged foliage, and a variety of other garden tasks.

  • The best kind of pruning shears for you will depend on how you intend to use them. Keen gardeners may find they need a couple of different pairs.


Types of pruning shears

Anvil pruning shears

Anvil pruning shears have a dull, flat bottom plate and a sharp top blade that cuts against it.

Although they're quite powerful and can often cut through tough branches that bypass shears would struggle with, they tend to crush rather than cut. This can damage the plant fiber, so they're recommended for cutting hardwood and deadwood rather than live plants.

Price: Most anvil pruning shears cost between $10 and $50. You can find plenty of good options around the $20 mark.

"Some pruning shears have blades coated in Teflon or a similar nonstick material to help avoid the buildup of sap and other sticky substances."

Bypass pruning shears

Bypass pruning shears are the most popular and probably the most versatile type of pruning shears on the market. They have two curved blades that slide past one another as they close, giving sharp, even cuts that don't damage the plant's fibers.

You can use bypass pruning shears to cut green wood, dry wood (as long as it's not too tough or thick), and small plants.

Price: You can find basic bypass pruning shears that cost less than $10. High-end bypass pruning shears can cost over $50.

"As a rule, the closer the blades pass one another when opening and closing, the more effective they are at cutting."

Ratchet pruning shears

Ratchet pruning shears have a special mechanism that makes it easier to make big cuts. With ratchet pruners, you can make cuts incrementally by squeezing, releasing the handles, then squeezing again without releasing the blades.

They're perfect for cutting through thick branches. Ratchet pruning shears are also great for people with limited wrist or hand strength.

Price: You can find some good, basic ratchet pruning shears for around $15 to $20. High-end options can cost as much as $40 to $60.

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Did you know?
You can find pruning shears with rotating handles designed to help reduce wrist and finger fatigue.

Considerations for selecting pruning shears

Which hue for you?

Pruning shears are available in a wide range of colors and patterns.

However, it's usually just the handles that are colored. First and foremost, of course, you should choose a quality pair of pruning shears, but color does hold some importance.

For example, it may be much easier to spot a dropped pair of pruning shears if they are brightly colored. Plus, a cheerfully patterned pair of pruning shears is just pleasant to look at.

"Some pruning shears have a wire-cutting notch on the blades, close to the handles, so you can snip through wires without dulling the blades."

Are the pruning shears the right size for you?

Size is important with pruning shears. They're designed to be held with one hand only, so if your pruners are too large for you, they can be awkward to use. This holds especially true for shears that open extra-wide to cut large branches.

If you have particularly small hands, you may require a compact pair of pruning shears. The only issue with extra-small pruning shears is that they're not usually up to heavy-duty jobs. They’re better-suited for use with potted plants, herbs, flowering plants, and small shrubs or saplings.

Most people of an average size will find most pruning shears comfortable to use.

"Look for pruning shears that have an adjustable bolt. The bolt allows you to fine-tune blade tension for more effective cutting and improved action."

Are the pruning shears a comfortable weight for you?

Select a pair of pruning shears that won't feel too heavy in your hand, even after long gardening sessions. Overly heavy pruning shears are more likely to cause hand fatigue and wrist strain, especially if you only use them occasionally and therefore aren't regularly building up your hand strength.

We've seen very light pruning shears that weigh as little as three ounces and hefty models that weigh up to 14 ounces. Of course, everyone has their own idea of what's heavy, so look at the weight of any pruning shears you're considering and decide for yourself.

Remember that lightweight models may not be as sturdy and durable as heavy models, so you must find a pruner that is both a comfortable weight and well-built.

"Pruning shears with long blades are perfect for pruning roses and other thorny plants, since you could injure yourself using your fingers to move stems or branches out of the way."

What materials are the blades and handle made of?

Most pruning shears have blades made of steel, but some are made of titanium or have a titanium coating to prevent rust and tarnishing. Shears with blades made from hardened steel or titanium are less likely to get nicks or to dull quickly.

Pruning shear handles are most commonly made of plastic or metal, but a few are made of wood.

Some pruning shear handles are padded with foam for increased comfort. However, this padding isn't especially durable and is usually the first thing to get damaged.

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Did you know?
The best pruning shears should have a string spring or piece of coiled metal between the blades that pushes the handles apart when you relax your grip. Otherwise, you must manually pull the handles apart between each cut.


  • Look at the construction of your chosen pruning shears. Those that use nuts and bolts to secure parts in place are preferable to those that use rivets, since it means you can replace the blades if they should get damaged or worn out.

  • Consider pruning shear safety. Always opt for a pair of shears that have a locking mechanism to keep the blades shut when not in use.

  • Set yourself a budget. While you can find some very inexpensive pruning shears, avid gardeners may want to spend a little more to get a pair that will last many years to come.

  • Always clean the blades of your pruning shears after use. Certain substances, such as resinous sap, will damage the blades, so giving them a quick wipedown after each use will make them last longer.

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While pruning shears are supposedly suitable for either left-hand or right-hand use, in actual fact, most standard models are easier to use with your right hand. You can, however, find dedicated left-handed pruning shears for all you southpaws out there.


Q. What should I do if the blades of my pruning shears go dull?

A. The majority of pruning shears have blades that can be sharpened, so there's no need to throw them away or replace the blades as soon they go dull. You can either sharpen the blades yourself with a hand file or knife sharpener, or you can get a professional to do the job for you. Many hardware stores offer blade-sharpening services.

Q. Can pruning shears cut through thick stems or branches?

A. Pruning shears are designed for cutting through relatively thin plant stems and soft, slender branches. Most pruning shears can't tackle anything with a diameter of more than an inch, and even then it can be quite challenging to cut through. If you need to deal with bigger branches, you may need to invest in some large, two-handed garden loppers.

Q. How should I store my pruning shears when not in use?

A. Once you've finished using your pruning shears for the day, wipe them down (especially if you've been cutting plants with resinous sap), and make sure they're completely dry before you stow them away. Keep them somewhere dry, such as a tool shed or garage. For safety reasons, always store your pruning shears with the blades closed and locked.

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