Various types of pruning tools are used to get rid of certain plant parts. Pruning involves the cutting and trimming of some areas of a plant for whatever purpose it may benefit the plant. The roots, buds, and branches of a plant are the targets of the pruning practice.
Why Prune Plants?
The moment you prune a plant, you change its form and how it will grow. Pruning is a form of preventive maintenance for facilities. A lot of websites in our list of 52 Top Gardening Websites speak of pruning as an essential part of gardening. Here are the reasons why pruning is necessary.
- To enhance plant health. Pruning rids the plant of its dead, damaged and diseased parts. This prevents diseases from further spreading within the plant. Branches that rub against each other also need to be pruned. It also speeds up the formation of new tissues to allow the plant to grow better.
- To enhance plant appearance. Pruning rids the plant of unwanted branches, unpleasant fruiting and flowering structures that affect the aesthetic beauty of the plant. Pruning also keeps flowering plants such as the 12 Annuals that Do Well in Full Shade looking aesthetically beautiful.
- To control plant size and its purpose in a landscape. Pruning allows you to have the plant in the size that is proportionate with the landscape. Pruning can also enhance fruits and flowers to grow faster. When you prune a plant, you can make it go against any interference it may cause such as getting in the way of utility lines.
- To prevent injury and property damage. Pruning can rid shrubs of their thorny branches which can cause injuries especially when they are along walkways. Getting rid of weak tree branches that hang over sidewalks, parking areas and homes can prevent possible injury to people and damage to properties.
- Pruning also rids the plant of branches that may come in the way of utility lines, traffic signals or street lights. It is also important that you prune shrubs or branches of trees that obstruct the entrance of your home.
- To enhance flowering and fruiting. Pruning influences the plants to grow more fruits and flowers. When you prune flower buds, early growth of flowers is encouraged.
Pruning is the best protection young plants can get for good health and appearance. Trees that are pruned at a young age allows them to have a stronger structure when they mature.
Pruning, however, must be done in the right way. According to Douglas F. Welsh, Professor and Extension Horticulturist, it is better to leave your plants unpruned than to incorrectly prune them.
Table of Contents
- Why Prune Plants?
- Basic Types
- Handle Material
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Caring for your Pruning Tools
These tools are also referred to as secateurs, clippers or pruners Pruning shears can either be scissors type or Anvil-type.
Scissor type pruners have overlapping curved blades and look exactly like ordinary scissors. An anvil-type pruner comes with the upper blade (sharpened) that cuts on a flat surface. Both scissor and anvil type pruners come in different sizes.
The scissor-type pruners though are more preferred because they make clean and close cuts as compared to the anvil-type. Anvil-type pruners, on the other hand, tend to ruin stems during pruning.
Pruning shears are best used for pruning flowers, shrubs, and small trees. Pruning shears are ideal for branches with diameters of up to ¾ inch thick.
To be able to use your pruning shears for extended periods of time, they should be regularly oiled and kept sharp at all times. You should also check on a regular basis the tool’s screws, bolts, springs, and blades and replace any of these parts as needed.
It is also important that you clean your pruning shears after every use and store them in a dry place.
There are a lot of pruning shears available in the market. You can make your choice among the list of the best recommendations online.
These pruners are ideal for cutting through dead branches and twigs that are less than 5/8 of an inch. Anything thicker than that and anvil pruners will have a difficult time and will fray the ends of the object that you are trying to prune. This means that you won’t have a straight edge on your cut and there may be more damage caused to the plant than is necessary. They are ideal for pruning butterfly bushes, rose bushes, and hydrangea but anything thicker than that needs to have a different pruning tool used for the best result. They have one straight blade that uses a splitting action for it to be able to cut down the branch or the stem.
Source: Home Depot
Ratchet pruners are very similar to anvil pruners but have a mechanism that cuts in stages instead of in one smooth movement. Because of this, they are ideal for anyone who has wrist problems as they greatly reduce the strain that is on the user’s wrist. They are also great for use on smaller dead plants and can generally handle anything that an anvil pruner can without any problems.
These pruners are much stronger than ratchet and anvil pruners and have two curved blades that come together to make a very clean cut. They are ideal on growing plants and green stems as the two blades will carefully cut through the plant without leaving a ragged or damaged end of the stem. They also need to be used on smaller stems that are under 5/8 of an inch but are great to use when the plant is still alive. Use them for cutting flowers for the home; trimming lilacs, raspberries, or roses; and even snipping herbs for the kitchen.
Source: Home Depot
These shears resemble giant scissors, have long straight blades, and are perfect for cutting the branches of shrubs that are under 2.25 inches. They come in manual or electric and are great for cutting large areas of shrubs or bushes with just one pass. Instead of having to clip each individual branch, when you use hedge shears, you can cut multiple ones at a time. This makes it very easy to stay on top of your landscaping. You have to have hedge shears if you want to keep your hedge looking very formal as they create very straight lines that would look out of place in an informal hedge or if you want to cut peripherals. They are great for cutting these during the fall and the spring.
Floral Scissors and Snips
These scissors are incredibly sharp and are specifically designed to cut fresh flowers and herbs from your garden without damaging the stems. While you can use regular kitchen scissors or even pick flowers for your bouquet by hand, using the right tool has benefits. When you use floral scissors, you won’t have to worry about the stem being damaged and preventing the flower from being able to take up water. The smoother, straighter, and nicer the cut on the stem, the longer that your flowers will last once you bring them instead. This also ensures that your herbs aren’t crushed and don’t start releasing their oils or aromas before you are ready to cook with them.
Source: Home Depot
These pruners are also commonly called “clippers” or “secateurs,” and come in a number of different sizes. You can find hand pruners that are anvil or bypass-type pruners. To ensure that your hand pruners last for a very long time, you will want to avoid leaving them out in the rain or in the wet grass for a long period of time as this can cause the pruners to rust and will stop them from working as well as they should. In addition, to make sure that they will continue to work the way that you need them to, you will want to regularly check their blades, screws, bolts, and springs to replace them as necessary. Wiping them down after use is a great way to make sure that they will last for a very long time.
Source: Home Depot
These are simply pruners that come with a much longer handle and have thicker, and therefore more powerful, blades. Some people refer to them as “long-handled pruners” but they do have a correct name and a few differences. They are ideal for pruning items that are 2.5 inches or less, such as small fruit trees, vines, and even nut trees. Because they have a long handle, you can easily reach branches up above your head without getting out a ladder. They are available in anvil or bypass types. The anvil lopper is great for cutting through dead wood and can usually handle thicker branches without a problem while the bypass lopper is best for cutting through plants that are still alive. Because they leave cleaner cuts, the plant will have a much easier time healing from the pruning. Make sure that the blades are sharpened and oiled on a regular basis to keep the tool working correctly and avoid frustration and an accident.
Source: Home Depot
These pruners are just the same as hand pruners but are longer and can easily reach over eight feet without any problems. They are used for making smaller cuts and are perfect for cutting dead branches out of trees as long as the branch is less than 1.25 inches in diameter. They are also known as “extension pruners” or “aerial pruners” and their main advantage is how long the reach is when using them. Because they are so lightweight, they are relatively easy to control even with their long length. Commercial pruners can be bought that will reach 21 feet but most homeowners do not need one over eight feet. They need to be cleaned each time they are used, oiled if necessary, and stored in a dry place so that they do not rust.
Source: Home Depot
These saws are great for cutting through branches that are larger than 1.5 inches in diameter. Their blades are medium in length and can be either straight or curved. Some pruning saws even come with a curved handle that makes it easier for the user to cut through strong, thick branches. The blades are incredibly sharp but even so, they aren’t great for cutting through tree branches, in which case a chainsaw needs to be used. Smaller pruning saws are ideal for home use while larger ones can be used by professional landscapers and cultivators. Straight blades on a pruning saw make it perfect for cutting through sap or green wood without damaging the plants while ones with curved blades are better for larger branches that still need a clean cut.
Source: Home Depot
Very similar to pole pruners, tree pruners are long, are lightweight, and make it incredibly easy to trim the dead branches out of the trees on your property without having to get out a ladder. The difference is that while pole pruners are generally electric, tree pruners have a smaller saw blade that is on the end of the pole. This blade is serrated to make it as easy as possible to catch the limb that you are trying to trim and to cut through it quickly. In addition, they generally have a small curve at the end of the blade that makes it a lot easier to snag the branch that you want to cut. If the blade were straight, it would be much harder to select a branch to trim and then to hang on to it so make sure that you look for one that has enough of a curve in the blade to help hold on to the branch.
Source: Home Depot
This is a hand tool that has scissors with very long blades on it. They are used in areas where it is difficult to mow or to use a weed eater and are designed to trim the grass that is around the driveway or walkway on your property. They are also useful in trimming the grass around the shrubs or the trees at your home if you are unable to get close enough to them with the mower to do it then. Because they are smaller than a mower, they will take a much longer time to clear larger areas, which is why people use them after they have mowed to trim up the areas that they had problems reaching. This ensures that all of the grass is the same height and looks the best that it can.
These shears are very heavy-duty and work great for delicate work on topiaries. They are single bow and have a spring-loaded action that will automatically open the blade after each time you cut, making them easy to use. Other uses of these pruning tools include cutting down onions when it is time to harvest them and shearing sheep. The blades need to be kept very sharp in order to handle precision work but the fine tip on the blade makes it very easy to carefully snip individual twigs on the topiary without ruining the overall effect.
Pruning Saw Blades
Source: Home Depot
If you want to be able to tackle different types of branches without having to have multiple tools to do so, then you will want to buy a pruning saw that has interchangeable blades. This makes it very easy to switch out the type of blade that you are using so that you can easily handle thicker, smaller, or living branches without worrying about burning out the motor on the pruning saw or damaging the tree. While pruning saws with this option are a little more expensive, the cost is usually worth it to most homeowners as they won’t have to worry about affording or storing more tools in the future.
Source: Home Depot
Instead of having to manually cut through items either using the strength of your hand or sawing for a long period of time, when you opt for power shears, you can enjoy increased power in your tool, making the job a whole lot easier. These tools will use either electricity or gas to operate and make pruning in your garden fast and easy. They are ideal for people who are in a hurry or who aren’t strong enough to use regular pruning tools on their own but can handle power shears without being in danger.
Heavy-duty items are built to last longer. This means that they are generally more expensive but for a lot of people, the increase in price is worth the knowledge that the pruners they are buying are high-quality and made to stand up to a lot of use without damage. If you are going to be spending long days in the garden or if you have a landscaping company, then you are much better off buying pruning tools that are heavy-duty so you can be sure that they will last for a long time.
No matter how careful you are when taking care of your tools, chances are good that at some point, you will forget to dry them and will leave them wet when you put them away. This can, unfortunately, really damage your tool. The best way to avoid this problem is to buy pruning tools that are rust-resistant. While this doesn’t mean that they won’t ever rust when left under the right conditions for it, these tools are much hardier and can stand up to rust a little better. This means that they are a little more forgiving when it comes to their care.
It can be very difficult to use pruners all day long and over time, it’s normal for your hand to cramp and to be uncomfortable. Instead of having to take multiple breaks during the day to allow your hand to rest, the best option is simply to invest in ergonomic pruning tools. These have been specifically designed to be easier to use and to cause less pain for the user, no matter how long you are going to be working in the garden. Opting for ergonomic pruning tools means that you’ll be able to work for longer without worrying about your hand or arm tiring. They’re also the best choice for the elderly or anyone who has painful or arthritic hands as they are designed for ultimate comfort during use.
Even if you know that you shouldn’t be working in the rain or mist because you don’t want to accidentally damage your pruning tools or cause them to rust, people still work when it is damp out. Even if it is a hot day and very dry, if your hands are at all damp from being in the mulch or dirt, then you are at risk of slipping while using your pruning tools. This can be disastrous and quickly cause an accident. To avoid the possibility of this happening, it’s wise to choose pruning tools that have a non-slip grip. This will ensure that you can keep your grip on them even if the tool is wet or your hands are damp and will decrease the possibility of an accident.
While most pruning tools don’t fold for easy or safe storage, pruning saws often do and buying one that will fold in on itself is a great way to make sure that the tool is completely safe when you put it away. It can be very easy to accidentally grab the blade of this saw, which will result in major damage to the person who touches the blade as they are quite sharp to be able to cut through wood. When choosing a pruning saw, make sure that you opt for one that folds shut when not in use. Not only will this protect anyone who is trying to find the saw and may accidentally touch the blade but it keeps the blade in better condition as well.
For the ultimate in comfort when you’re working in the garden, you’ll want to make sure to buy pruning tools that have a cushioned grip. This will decrease how tired your hands feel after you have been working for a while and will allow you to work for a longer time. These grips are soft and not only protect your hand from cramping but also give you a little more to hold on to, making it easier to maintain control of the tool.
Plastic handles are very common on pruning tools and make it relatively easy to hang onto the tool while you are using it. They often come in bright colors, which makes it very easy to find the tool if you have set it down in taller grass or in the garden. This will decrease the chance that the tool is left out overnight and ruined by rain or dew. These plastic handles are generally strong enough to last for years and keep the tool from becoming too hot to touch in the summer months.
Tools that have steel handles are very, very strong. The trade-off is that they tend to be a little heavier than other types of tools but they are generally able to stand up to hard tasks and thicker branches that need to be cut. These tools generally have vinyl or plastic coating on the handles to ensure that they are easy to hold on to and keep the tool from becoming too hot if left out in the sun for a long period of time.
Tools with aluminum handles are going to be a lot lighter than ones with steel handles but the trade-off is that they aren’t going to be as strong. For some people, this is worth the trade-off as their lighter weight makes them easier for people to use. For younger children or for the elderly who suffer from hand problems, tools with aluminum handles are the best option.
Wood is very strong and will last for a long time as long as it is taken care of. It’s common for larger tools to have wood for the handles as it is so much lighter than steel is. The important thing to remember when buying a pruning tool with a wood handle is that splinters can occur. Any time that the wood is damaged, it will need to be sanded and repaired to ensure that the tool lasts for a long time and that nobody is injured when using it.
Rubber grips on handles make it easy to wield the tool without worrying about dropping it. It’s common for the grips to be very bright and easy to spot. Due to the nature of rubber, even if the tool is wet or the person using it has wet hands, it is very unlikely that he or she will drop the tool.
Fiberglass handles are strong as steel is but light as aluminum is, combining the best of both worlds. They often tend to be a little more expensive but that extra price is generally worth it for most people because the tools are so reliable and difficult to accidentally damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to common questions about pruning and pruning tools.
What is pruning?
Pruning selectively removes targeted branches, stems, or roots from trees, shrubs, and other plants. Branches, stems, or roots might be selected for removal because they are dead or have been damaged or to prevent the spread or occurrence of disease, to prevent overgrowth, to strengthen the plant, to improve the shape of a tree or shrub, or to increase the quality of the fruits or flowers produced by the plant.
What does pruning do for bushes and trees?
Pruning young trees begins the process of shaping them and of preventing overgrowth among interior branches.
Pruning selected new interior branches strengthens both trees and shrubs. The growth of numerous unwanted interior branches draws resources of food and water away from established branches and weakens all of the branches making the entire tree or shrub more vulnerable to disease and damage.
Reducing the number of interior branches also allows more sunlight and air into the interior of the tree. This enables the leaves to dry out more quickly reducing the chances of fungal diseases. Allowing air to pass through the branches more easily also reduces the wind resistance of trees and decreases the likelihood that they will be blown over.
Removing branches that are near the ground allows people to pass under the tree more easily.
Reducing the number of fruit-producing branches means more food and water goes to the fruit or flowers on the remaining stems or branches improving the size and quality of the fruit or flowers.
Removing dead or damaged branches on either trees or shrubs eliminates a path through which diseases and insects could enter the plant. Removing dead or damaged limbs on trees also reduces the chances of property damage or injuries to people and pets from a falling tree limb.
What are pruning hooks?
Pruning hooks feature a comparatively short curved steel saw blade on the end of a long, slender pole-like handle. The blade ends in a hook. Pruning hooks also frequently include a clipping mechanism that is operated by pulling down on a long cord. These tools are used for tree pruning.
Why are pruning shears curved?
The curved blades on pruning shears make it easier to make sharp, clean cuts close to the narrower angles at which some stems and branches emerge from the main trunk of the plant.
Can pruning shears be sharpened?
Yes, you can sharpen your pruning shears. Follow these steps:
- Clean your pruning shears using a sponge and warm, soapy water, thoroughly dry them, and remove rust and gardening residue with a #3 semi-coarse steel wool pad.
- If the shears are badly rusted, apply WD40 to the blades, let it sit for 10 minutes, remove it with a clean cloth, and then use the coarse steel wool pad to remove the rust.
- Use a #0 fine steel wool pad to restore the metallic gleam of the blades.
- Begin sharpening with a coarse diamond file, switch to a medium diamond file, and then switch to an extra fine diamond file using the following procedure with each file:
- For well-maintained shears, use 10 to 20 strokes with each file. For neglected shears, make 40 to 50 strokes with each file.
- Hold each file at the same angle as the beveled cutting edge.
- Maintain an even, moderate pressure and draw the file along the curve of the blade from the handle to the tip.
- After sharpening, remove burrs by running the extra fine diamond file along the back of the blade a few times using the same stroke.
- Test the sharpness of the blades by cutting a piece of paper.
- Use bicycle chain lubricant on the blades once a year and olive oil throughout the year to lubricate the blades and moving parts of your shears, to prevent rust, and to keep dirt and gardening residue like saps from sticking.
- Wipe off the excess oil with a clean cloth.
Can pruning kill bushes?
Over pruning can kill some evergreen bushes. Evergreen bushes with sharp, pointed needles will not form new growth if you leave nothing but a bare, woody base. Leave some green growth on the branches that you are pruning from these bushes.
Can pruning be done in winter?
If you have trees or shrubs that bloom in the spring, wait to prune until after these trees and shrubs have bloomed and the flowers have begun to fade. Pine trees also are best pruned from early June to early July.
Evergreen trees and shrubs other than pines, shade trees, and flowering shrubs and trees that form their buds on new spring growth and bloom later in the year benefit from winter pruning.
Caring for your Pruning Tools
According to this article, choosing the right pruning tools for the pruning task intended is just a fraction of the story. Having the right pruning tools is of no use if they are not able to do their pruning work. Keeping your tools in good working condition is important.
If your pruning tool does not do its job well, you might as well not use it to prune your plants. They may do more than good to your plants.
How then do you keep your pruning tools in top shape?
- Always maintain the blades of your pruning tool clean. Plant diseases stick to the edges of the device. If you do not clean the edges and use it on a different plant, you are spreading the disease from plant to plant.
- Make sure to wipe the blades with a rag before moving on to the next plant. If the plant has a disease, clean the blades with alcohol before turning to the next plant.
Clean pruning tools in a bucket of water before storing. Vigorously scrub the blades using a wire brush.
- Keep the blades sharp at all times. Use a sharpening file and to sharpen the blades of your pruning tools. Start filing the edges with short but firm strokes starting from the base all the way to the tip of the blades. Very carefully run your finger to feel if the blades are already sharp.
- If you feel there is a need to disinfect your pruning tools, add bleach solution to water in a 1:10 ratio. Wash the pruning tools in the solution and allow to dry. It should be a regular practice to disinfect pruning tools after each use.
- Oil your pruning tools. Apply a modest amount of oil (WD-40 is most ideal) on the sharpened and cleaned tool. This will prevent the blades from rusting. More importantly, regular oiling allows the blades to open and close while cutting smoothly. Wipe off excess oil before storing.
- Store pruning tools in a dry place.
Pruning is an essential part of gardening. Pruning can only be done best with the right pruning tools. There are different types of pruning tools available to make sure you prune your plants the right way. You can also check out online reviews for more choices.
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