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8 Must-Have Pruning Tools for Outdoor Maintenance


When maintaining outdoor spaces, having the right tools is crucial. Pruning — removing dead or unwanted branches from trees, shrubs and plants — helps promote proper growth and prevents disease. Pruning tools are designed to tackle various trimming tasks to promote outdoor spaces’ health, appearance and safety. With the right pruning tools, you can trim and shape trees and shrubs, helping them grow well and look their best.

From hand pruners and loppers to saws and hedge trimmers, explore the best tools for different pruning jobs:

1. Pruning Shears

Pruning shears, also known as hand pruners or secateurs, are versatile tools for precision trimming. Featuring short handles and blades designed for removing small branches and twigs, deadheading flowers and performing intricate pruning tasks, they can cut branches up to three-fourths of an inch in diameter and reach areas too narrow for loopers and hedge shears. Look for shears with sharp stainless-steel blades, ergonomic handles and a locking mechanism for additional safety.

2. Loppers

Loppers are designed to cut thicker branches larger than three-fourths of an inch in diameter. Available in two types, bypass and anvil, loppers typically feature long handles and large jaws designed to cut branches and stems up to around 2 inches in diameter, depending on the condition and type of plant material. Maintenance professionals use loppers to reach higher branches and trim overgrown shrubs or small trees. They are great for precise pruning, thinning and shaping plants to promote healthy growth.

3. Pole Saws

Pole saws and tree pruners make it easier to reach high branches without ladders or climbing. These tools feature a long pole with a pruning head at the end. Lightweight and strong with an adjustable cutting angle, they allow you to trim branches from a distance, helping reduce the risk of accidents. Gas-powered pole saws have a short bar chain saw and ergonomic handle for tree pruning and other heavy-duty jobs. Cordless pole saws are an eco-friendly option powered by rechargeable batteries for light to medium pruning tasks.

4. Pruning Saws

Pruning saws are designed to cut branches larger than 1.5 inches thick. They have curved or straight blades with sharp teeth that can easily slice through branches. Pruning saws are ideal for removing deadwood and large branches or cutting back thicker shrubs.

5. Hedge Trimmers

Hedge trimmers precisely shape and trim hedges, bushes and shrubs. They are either manual or powered. Manual hedge shears require more effort since they are hand-operated, while electric, cordless or gas-powered trimmers are suited for more heavy-duty jobs.  

6. Pruning Knives

Pruning knives can be used for many trimming tasks and grafting. They have sharp, curved blades that can be either smooth or serrated and are designed for delicate pruning work, like removing small branches, buds or leaves and reaching tight spots in dense foliage. Some pruning knives have blades that can be folded for safety and additional portability.   

7. Chain Saws

For tree pruning, arborists and professional landscapers often use chain saws with specially designed pruning chains and bars to remove large branches and limbs. Look for professional-grade saws with anti-vibration handles and ergonomic grips.

8. Safety Equipment

When working with pruning tools, safety should always be a priority. Essential safety equipment for outdoor maintenance could include cut-resistant gloves to help protect your hands from thorns and rough branches, glasses or a face shield to protect your eyes from debris and safety footwear for additional protection. A hard hat or safety helmet can help protect you from falling branches and other debris. Proper head protectionsafety chaps and hearing protection are essential if using a chain saw. For hazardous situations, like pruning high, large branches or limbs near power lines, it’s best to contact a trained professional.

Important Considerations

When selecting a pruning tool, several factors are important to consider:

  • Durability: Look for tools made from high-quality materials built to withstand regular use with sturdy blades and handles that can tackle tough branches without breaking or bending.
  • Sharpness: Sharp blades are essential for making clean cuts. A good pruning tool has sharp blades that can easily cut through branches without crushing or tearing.
  • Comfort: Since pruning can be repetitive, choose a comfortable tool with ergonomic handles designed to reduce strain over extended periods.
  • Safety: Pruning tools should have safety features like locking mechanisms or blade covers to help prevent accidental injuries when the tool is not in use.
  • Versatility: Choose tools that can be used for light trimming and heavier pruning, allowing you to tackle various types of plants and branches.
  • Maintenance: Consider how easy the tool is to clean and maintain. Select tools that can be easily disassembled and cleaned or have blades that can be sharpened or replaced.  

While several tools are often required to properly maintain outdoor spaces, investing in high-quality pruning tools can help promote optimal growth and prevent disease. Remember to choose tools that are comfortable and designed for the specific pruning task.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When is the best time to prune a tree or a shrub?

A: Pruning times can vary depending on the type of plant and location. However, according to the University of Minnesota, late winter to early spring is generally the best time for pruning.

Q: How do you sharpen pruning tools?

A: Specific sharpening techniques vary depending on the type of tool. For pruning saws, use a triangular file to sharpen the teeth. Knives can be sharpened using a sharpening stone or a file with a coarse grit. Loppers and secateurs typically have bypass blades that can be sharpened with a fine-toothed file or a sharpening stone. Remember to clean the blades before sharpening and lubricate them afterward to help prevent rust.

Q: How do you clean and sterilize pruning tools?

A: Dirty gardening tools can spread disease. It’s important to clean pruning tools in the fall before putting them away for the winter or if you used them while working with a sick plant or in another location. According to Iowa State University, one of the easiest ways to sanitize pruning equipment is to wipe or dip your tool in rubbing alcohol.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.