The Differences Between Garden Shears and Pruners

The Differences Between Garden Shears and Pruners

Reading Time: 10 minutes 🍃

Pruning is one of the most important tasks for gardeners, stopping your plants from growing too unruly. But you’ll need the right tools to prune successfully. Because of this, many people turn to shears and pruners.

At first glance, these can appear similar. But they are several differences between the two. Keep reading to contrast shears and pruners and decide the right one for you to use. 

What is a Pruner

Pruners are smaller tools, designed to fit in the palm of your hand. They often feature a spring. This keeps the pruner open, so you can position it around the branch you want to cut. Once it’s in place, you just need to squeeze it. You don’t need to use a lot of pressure to slice through a branch. 

Type of Pruners

Pruners are one of the most popular types of garden equipment. Because of this, there are dozens of these available on the market. For example, you might be able to find one that is suitable for left-handed users. 

Some of the most popular types of prunersOpens in a new tab. include: 

  • Bypass pruners. These are smaller pruners, which are ideal for removing branches, as they are precise tools. 
  • Anvil pruners. These are larger pruners, designed for removing dead branches and breaking down thicker sticks. 
  • Double-cut pruners.  These feature two blades that have a slight offset. This is ideal for cutting delicate parts of the plant, like the stem or green leaves. 
  • Ratchet pruners. This type of pruner cuts through the branch in stages. This is good for older people, as it doesn’t take a lot of pressure to cut through the wood. It’s also ideal for those who are struggling with arthritis. 
  • Needle-nose pruners. These are long and thin. They are great for working closely with delicate plants. Sometimes, they are used for harvesting fruits, cutting their stems. These pruners are well-suited to children, as they don’t take a lot of hand strength to operate. 
  • Electronic pruners. Electronic pruners are the easiest to operate. You just need to align them with the branch you want to cut. Then, you push the button and the electronics do the rest. They feature batteries, which you will need to keep recharging. 

Finding the Right One for You

With so many options, finding the right type of pruner can be a difficult task. The first thing that you need to consider is what you intend to use them for. As we’ve discussed each of these pruners will be better suited to a slightly different type of task. 

You should also think about the type of handle that the pruners use. You will need to find something that feels comfortable. Many of these will offer a padded handle. If you need one, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a pruner that will cater to left-handed users. 

Check to make sure that it comes with the ability to lock the device closed. This is a fairly standard safety feature. But it’s always a good idea to double-check. 

Finally, you should look at the quality of the blade. This is one of the best ways to tell how long the pruner will last. Ideally, you should be able to find something that will be made from strong materials like carbon steel. You should also select a pruner that uses is made from metal. A plastic latch will break eventually. 

Are Pruners Sharp?

To get through the branches, pruners will need to be sharp. This reduces the amount of damage that you will be doing to the plants, as you will be making a clean cut. As we’ll discuss later, you will need to sharpen your tools occasionally. But most gardeners will only need to do this once a year. 

The amount of force it takes to cut through the branches will vary, depending on the type of pruner you are using. For example, if you have weak grip strength, you will find it easier to operate a ratchet pruner or electronic pruner. 

What is a Shear 

Now that we know what a pruner is, we can turn our attention to the shears. These are made up of two blades, each attached to a handle. You can think of shears as oversized scissors, requiring two hands to hold and operate. 

Sometimes, you will find shears that come with a concave lower blade. This is most common in loppers. This allows you to grip onto the tree branch, making it easier to cut. 

Types of Shears

Like pruners, there are plenty of types of shears. The right one will depend on the situation that you find yourself facing. Some of the most prominent types of shears include: 

  • Lopping shears. These are known for their distinctive shape, most importantly their long handles. This makes them ideal for reaching the top of the branches. These are most commonly used for pruning back trees. 
  • Hedge shears. This is one of the most commonly used types of shears. They have a long flat handle. Because of this, you will be able to cut through more than one branch at once. As the name suggests, these are most commonly used to shape hedges. 

Unlike pruners, shears aren’t interchangeable. You won’t be able to use hedge shears to cut through thick tree branches. You need lopping shears to do this. 

Finding the Right One For You

Like pruners, you’ll find plenty of options on the market for you to explore. Here are some of the elements you need to consider to find the right one for you: 

  • Length of the blade. Unlike pruners, shears come in a wide range of sizes. The best size for you will depend on how you intend to use the tool.  
  • Quality of the handle material. This will determine how comfortable it will be for you to use. There are plenty of types of materials for you to choose from. You might want to get something that will be made from wood. Ideally, you should be able to find something that has a padded handle. 
  • Warranty. Shears will often be more expensive than pruners. Because of this, you should look for one that comes with a warranty period
  • Quality of the steel. Like pruners, you need to get something that will be made from strong materials. This will ensure that it will last for a long time. 


Now that we know what these tools are and how they work, it’s time to start comparing them. Let’s start by talking about the most important difference, the size of the device. In this case, a pruner will be able to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Because of the spring, you will be able to operate them with one hand. On the other hand, you will need to use two hands to operate shears. 

Shears also have larger blades. Because of this, they will be able to cut through more branches at once. It also means that they are capable of cutting through thicker tree branches. On the other hand, the smaller blade size of the pruners means they will need to do a single, thin, branch at once. 


While size is the most noticeable difference, the most important element is the way that the blades are used. More specifically, the type of plants that they are used for. For example, you wouldn’t use shears to help you shape a bonsai tree. 

Pruners are more precise instruments. Because of this, they are used to remove individual branches. They also tend to be used for smaller plants. Some of the most prominent examples include: 

  • Herbs
  • Harvesting fruits and vegetables
  • Cutting and arranging flowers
  • Removing any old growth from bushes and plants
  • Making clean cuts to protect living tissue when transplanting

You should stick to using the pruners for smaller branches. Not only will they be unable to get around the thicker branches, if you try to apply too much force you risk damaging the pruner. There is a chance that you will break the blade. Once this happens, it will be impossible to repair. 

As we mentioned, within the world of pruners, there is plenty of variety. You can use this to further narrow down the type of tool you are using. For example, you will need to use a needle-nose pruner to do more delicate jobs, like trimming a bonsai tree. 

However, if you are trying to trim back some thicker branches from woody plants, you will need something with a little extra force. You might want to think about using an electronic pruner or an anvil pruner.  

On the other hand, shears are more designed to cut through multiple branches at once. This is a good way of saving time. But the larger size makes it harder to get the precision you can expect from pruners. Some of the most common ways of using the shears include: 

  • Trimming and shaping hedges
  • Removing thicker branches from trees
  • Trimming back some perennials, like lavender 

Again, there are lots of shears to choose from. Each of these will have a slightly different use. You’ll need the long arms on the lopper to remove the branches from the trees. On the other hand, if you want to shape a bush, you’ll need to use hedge trimmers. 


In most cases, these tools will be fairly easy to maintain, keeping them in good condition. But you will need to spend a little more time caring for your shears. 

The size of the blade impacts the amount of maintenance the tool will require. The larger the blades, the quicker it will become blunt. Because of this, you will need to sharpen shears more frequently. 

Before you start sharpening them, though, you should check the pivot nut. Sometimes, this can come loose. When this happens, it can mean that you won’t be getting a clean cut. This can make it seem as though the shears or pruner have become dull. Often, though, tightening up this nut will solve this problem. 

Sometimes, you will need to take the blades out and swap them for a replacement. This is more common with shears than it is with pruners. If this is the case, you will need to visit the local hardware store to shop for replacement blades. You might also want to visit the manufacturer’s website. 

The good news is that you can sharpen the blades at home. This is a fairly simple processOpens in a new tab.. Here are the steps to follow: 

  1. Separate the blades. If you can work with each one individually, it will be a lot easier. 
  2. Use a file to sharpen the blades. You’ll want to do this slowly, using one smooth movement. Follow along the factory edge. If you make too many jerky movements, you will lose this and the cut quality will suffer. 
  3. Sand the edges. After you’ve finished filing, you’ll notice several sharp burrs in the metal. Rubbing the edges with a piece of 300-grit sandpaper will help to solve this problem. 
  4. Put the shear or pruner back together. This should be as simple as tightening the pivot nut.

How often you will need to sharpen these items will depend on how often you use them. For example, if you use your pruners for four hours a week, you will need to sharpen them once a yearOpens in a new tab.. Sometimes, you will be able to go 18 months without needing to sharpen these tools. 

There are a few other things you can do to limit the amount of maintenance these items will require. Most importantly, you’ll need to make sure that you are washing them off. This allows you to get rid of any sap or dirt that has accumulated in the blades while gardening. 

You will need to oil them before you put them away. This will ensure that they open and close easily. You’ll be able to use whatever type of oil you cook with. Though olive oil tends to deliver the best results. You’ll also need to store them properly. Keep them in a dry area. If they get wet, towel them off before you put them away. This ensures that they won’t develop rust. 

Good shears or pruners will be able to last for a long time. As long as you take care of these tools, you should be able to pass them on to your children. 

Ease of Use

Gardening can prove to be an intensive activity. It can burn a lot of calories, particularly as you are pruning or weeding your garden. However, there is a significant difference in how easy it is to use these tools. 

Pruners will fit in the palm of your hand. All you need to do is line them up and squeeze the trigger. There are even some options that are designed for people with weaker grip strength. As a result, anyone will be able to use pruners. 

However, shears are larger and heavier. They will require two hands to operate. They take a lot of effort to close properly, especially if you are trying to cut through thicker branches. Though keeping the blades sharp will make them a little easier to cut with, it can still prove to be a workout. 

It’s also important to consider how easy each one will be to carry and store. Pruners will be a lot easier to put away than garden shears. Their smaller size means they are light and easy to carry, you just need to slot them into your pocket. 

On the other hand, shears will be bulkier and more awkward to move around. There is a risk that you can get hurt. Because of the sharp blades, there is a risk that you can accidentally stab yourself.  There are a few ways you can make sure this doesn’t happen: 

  • Keep the shears sheathed. Most shears will come with a sheath. This will keep the blades together and provide some extra padding. 
  • Keep the shears pointed down. When you are walking, keep the blades pointed towards the ground. This ensures that you won’t accidentally stab yourself or someone else if you trip. 
  • Point the blades towards the wall. When you store the shears, you should keep the blades pointing towards the wall, with the handle facing towards you. This ensures that you won’t hurt yourself if you accidentally knock them off the shelf. When you are using them in the garden, always leave the handle facing towards you. 
  • Pick something with a safety lock. This is a fairly common safety feature. It locks the blades together. This is a good way of stopping children from using them without your permission. 

Final Thoughts

When you are gardening, you must be using the right tool for the job. Because of this, you should make sure that you understand the difference between pruners and shears. This includes the size, length of the blade, and how easy they are to use. However, the biggest difference, though, is the way each tool is used. Pruners are used for more precise jobs, cutting off flowers and removing branches from plants. However, shears are used for cutting multiple branches at once, like pruning hedges or removing larger branches from trees. 

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