Pruning Tools

Types,Tips and Tool Selection for pruning
Whether you have an overgrown rosebush or broken branches from the last wind storm, pruning tools make cutting branches and other foliage manageable. Pruning can enhance the appearance of a privacy hedge or protect a plant's health by removing diseased limbs or dead stems. Although flower shears work for some cutting jobs, eventually you will encounter larger branches or woody stems that require a good hand pruner. Pruning is heavy work and involves repetitive motion; finding the right tool is important. Trying to cut into a branch that is too big is frustrating, can damage the pruning tool beyond repair, and cause damage to the plant. Before you purchase pruning tools, consider the following:
         • What are you trying to accomplish by cutting back your plants?
         • What types of pruning tools are available for different tasks?
         • Do you tend to do more pruning in the summer or fall?
         • Do you know how to properly cut a branch from a tree?
         • Will you be pruning hedges and trees or mostly flowers?

Types, Pruning Tips and Tool Selection

Choosing from the variety of available pruners depends mainly on the job at hand. Smaller jobs, such as flower bushes and thin branches, can be tackled using a small hand pruner. Larger jobs, such as cutting through thick tree limbs are best accomplished with loppers. Learning a few pruning techniques will save stress on your wrist and will allow you to make cuts that keep your plants healthy, instead of opening up the bark to pests and disease. It is also important to know when to prune. Different flowers, shrubs and trees benefit from pruning at different times of the year.
Types: There are three basic types of pruners -- anvil, ratchet and bypass. They are differentiated according to the type of blade they have. Anvil pruners feature a single straight blade that uses a splitting action to cut down on a stem or branch. Ratchet pruners are similar to anvil pruners, except they feature a mechanism that cuts in stages. A bypass pruner acts like scissors and is the most popular type. The two curved blades of a bypass pruner make a nice, clean cut. Both hand pruners and loppers are available in these three blade types.
         • Use an anvil pruner to prune dry branches and stems
         • Bypass pruners work well on green and growing stems
         • Use bypass pruners to thin shrubs and trim woody perennials
         • Use larger tools, like loppers and saws, to remove large tree branches
         • Ratchet pruners work well for people who have problems with wrist strain or when cutting larger branches
Pruning Tips: Before pruning, decide what you are trying to accomplish. Shrubs need occasional thinning because older stems and branches become woody and grow fewer leaves. Trees need occasional pruning to remove unsafe, dead branches, to keep their shape and allow for growth of interior branches. Hedges require cutting to keep their formal, orderly appearance. Make cuts close to remaining branches, but do not cut too close to the trunk. Instead, leave the branch collar (the thick area where the branch meets the trunk) intact. Do not leave a long stub as the wound of the cut will not heal properly and can invite pests to work their way into the tree. In most cases, cuts are best made on an angle and not “straight across.”
         • Cut diseased stems back to where the healthy wood starts (while leaving the branch collar intact)
         • For pruning diseased plants, disinfect the blade between cuts with bleach and water (use a solution of 1 
           part bleach to 10 parts water, taking care to protect your eyes, hands, and sense of smell)
         • When cutting shrubs or trees, first cut off dead branches at the base
         • For shrubs, take care to cut just above the leaf bud on the outside of the branch
         • Get rid of branches growing at narrow angles to main-tain, vertical branches
When to Prune: Most shrubs and trees must be pruned during certain seasons, usually when they are in their dormant stage. If you wait until a shrub or tree has grown leaf buds in the spring, early pruning can damage the plant. Many trees, such as maples, should be pruned in spring or summer to avoid "maple sugar time," (January through early March) when they bleed sap freely. Prune spring-flowering shrubs and small trees, such as lilacs, rhododendrons or azaleas, after they flower or you risk damaging their blooms next spring. Pruning right after they bloom also protects next year's flowers as these plants form flowers during the summer months. When diseased or damaged wood is observed, you should remove it immediately, regardless of the season.  Each plant species is different and may require special pruning techniques, in general:
         • Prune shrubs that flower in the springtime after the blooms fade 
         • Prune shrubs that flower in the summer during the following spring
         • For rosebushes, prune after the last spring frost has occurred
         • Remove dead wood from trees in summer when dead branches are easy to see
         • Pruning a tree's form is best accomplished after leaves fall so branches can be seen
         • Trees and shrubs with large cuts may require a pruning sealant to protect against disease or insects.
Tool Selection: When it comes to selecting the right tool for the task at hand, consult the following chart to learn about the available types and their ideal applications.

Pruning Tool

Best Used For

Anvil Pruner • Dead twigs and branches
• Diameters of 5/8" or less
• Examples: rosebushes, hydrangea, butterfly bushes
Bypass Pruner • Live stems and branches
• Diameters of 5/8" or less
• Examples: rosebushes, raspberry bushes, lilacs, snipping flowers or herbs
Hedge Shears • Hedges and small shrubs, evergreens, and deadheading perennials
• Diameters of 2-1/4" or less
• Examples: any kind of hedge shrub
Lopper • Medium to large branches
• Diameters of 2-1/2" or less
• Examples: fruit trees, vines, nut trees
Pole Pruner • Dead wood out of trees
• Diameters of 1-1/4" or less
• Examples: any kind of tree
Pruning Saw • Medium to large low-hanging branches
• Diameters of 1-1/2" or more
• Examples: any kind of large shrub or tree
Tree Pruner • Smaller tree branches -- eliminates the need for a ladder
• Diameters of 1-1/4" or less
• Examples: any kind of tree


Grass Shears: Grass shears look like heavy-duty scissors and are used to trim grass around trees, flower beds and shrubbery.
Pruning Saw Blades: Pruning saws often come with different style blades to help you more easily attack a wide range of different branches.
Power Shears: More expensive than manually operated models, these shears operate using gas or electricity and make hedge trimming easier and quicker. As with any power tool, they can be dangerous to handle and create noise; operate with caution and follow safety procedures.