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Basic Pruning Tools

To maintain your shrubs and trees, you’ll need a small pruning kit of just a few basic tools

New to pruning? Antonio Reis, assistant editor at Fine Gardening magazine, shows you the tools you’ll need to get started maintaining your trees and shrubs. There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on pruning tools (although that is easy to do). You only really need a small kit of essential tools to get most garden pruning done right.

Here are the items Antonio recommends:

  • Safety glasses and gloves. These will offer protection from whipping branches and/or thorns.
  • Hand pruners. These are the tool you will use most often for basic pruning. They come in two different models: (1) Anvil pruners have one cutting blade that closes on a flat surface. They are cheaper but often don’t make clean cuts. (2) Bypass pruners have two curved blades. They are more expensive but make cleaner cuts and are generally the tool of choice for most gardeners.
  • Loppers. These are basically long-handled hand pruners. They are capable of cutting thicker branches than the hand pruners, and provide more leverage and reach.
  • Pruning saw. If you are struggling to cut a branch with your loppers, stop—this is a clear indication you’ll need a pruning saw to do the job. Many pruning saws fold for convenience. Wooden-handled options reduce shock while using, and some say pruning saws with curved blades allow closer, more precise cuts.

Optional tools for your kit:

  • Pole pruners. These usually extend up to 16 feet and are a safer option than using your loppers on a ladder.
  • Hedge shears. These are perfect for tidying up and shaping hedges. There are motorized options available, but these aren’t needed unless you have a lot of hedges.

To find out more about pruning tools and methods, as well as instructions for pruning many common shrubs and trees, see Pruning Tips and Techniques. To find out what not to do, see Five Common Pruning Mistakes, and How to Fix Them.

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