Pick a Proper Pair of Pruners

08 Mar

Bypass-style pruners (such as these from Felco) are the better choice for hand pruners when it comes to producing clean cuts and healthier plants.

Spring is here, and that means there’s a laundry list of stuff to do that’s a mile long to prepare for our gardens and clean up after winter. Here’s another thing to add to that list: buy yourself a decent pair of pruners this spring and it will make your vegetable harvesting, flower picking, and woody plant pruning life a lot easier for you and a lot healthier for your plants.


There are four main reasons why you’d want to prune your plants:

Restricting the growth of plants is sometimes necessary, especially in cases when trees or shrubs are planted in locations that are too small for their mature size. But some perennials and vegetable plants, like zucchini, also benefit from some size-motivated pruning. Hedges also require special attention to form and shape control.

Plant health is enhanced and ensured with proper pruning. It’s important to prune out any dead, diseased, or dying branches or foliage that might carry disease or otherwise steal nutrients away from healthy growth (be sure to sanitize your pruners after pruning diseased plants with a spritz of bleach water). This is true for woody plants (trees and shrubs), and herbaceous plants (flowers, herbs, vegetables, etc.) alike.

Plant quality is enhanced with proper pruning, too. More is not necessarily better, as is the case for perennial flowers like roses, and more. Pruning out smaller, weaker flowers allows that energy to go towards supporting larger, healthier flowers. This is better for the plant and better for enjoyment. The same holds true for fruits and vegetables; pruning out those suckers on tomato plants, for instance, allows for healthier and more robust fruit production.

Pruning plants when they are young encourages proper form as they mature. In other words, plants can benefit from being trained early on to grow where we want them to; doing so when the plants are young eliminates problems later. This is especially true for woody plants, and for special cases like espaliers, proper pruning is indispensable.


But pruning needs to be done with the proper tools, or you risk injuring the plant and creating a situation that encourages disease. There are two basic kinds of pruners available: bypass pruners and anvil pruners. Bypass pruners should be the only kind of pruner you purchase, and here’s why:

These are anvil pruners. Don't buy them.

Anvil pruners act like an ax or a knife, where there is a single flat surface upon which a blade lands and cuts. The problem is this only works well if the blade is perfectly sharp, and in gardening situations it is very difficult to keep a blade sharp enough on an anvil-style pruner. The duller the blade gets (which doesn’t take long), the harsher the cut is to the plant. Cuts become more rough and stems can be smashed more than cut cleanly. Even if you don’t see it, it’s happening. Ragged, unclean cuts heal more slowly and leave the plant open to higher rates of disease.

In contrast, bypass pruners act more like a pair of scissors, where the curved blade slices by another curved blade or base. The blade stays sharp much longer than with anvil pruners, and even when the blade does begin to dull, the bypass action in itself ensures a cleaner cut for the plant. Bypass pruners produce consistently cleaner, closer, better cuts.

My favorite bypass pruners come from Felco. While they are expensive, running up to $50 for a pair of pruners, they will last a lifetime. I’ve had my Felco pruners for a few decades now, and beyond replacing a blade that just couldn’t be sharpened any more, my pair is indestructible.

About these ads

Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Gardening, Homesteading


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Pick a Proper Pair of Pruners

  1. willamettevalleyhomesteader

    March 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    A pair of Felcos is on my wish list!

    • Rural Spin

      March 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      They’re definitely worth every stinkin’ penny. I consider them to be my most valuable garden tool, and I’ve literally had mine since 1986 and they’re still great!

  2. lightlycrunchy

    March 26, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Love the alliteration in the title. I’ve never been able to settle on just one pair – so I keep 3 different ones, but keep them all sharpened and oiled. My best tools!

  3. Dra

    April 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Interesting. I’ve had some pretty irksome problems with a pair of felcos locking up on me…though it took a while. The slightly more complicated nature of the device, I suppose. Easy enough to fix, though,

    My personal favorite for hand pruners are Corona. Two cast pieces of metal, a bolt, a nut, and a spring, and a latch. I’ve found the simplicity of this design to be foolproof, and very easy to use and maintain with no actual repairs needed in the last five years…the occasional cleaning or sharpening is all i’ve needed. As a bonus, they cost about $25, at your local Ace. My pair came to me, used, from someone who owned them for close to a decade, and I’ve had them for close to five years. About a year back I recommended a pair to a friend, and the build quality and functionality was exactly the same as my pair.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,597 other followers

%d bloggers like this: