Landscape plants need proper pruning to remain attractive and healthy. The pruning process might seem slightly intimidating at first, but using the right type of tool makes it much easier and prevents unnecessary injuries to you and your plants. The specific style of pruning shears you use depends on the type of plant, the size of the plant material and personal preference.
Hand shears, sometimes called hand pruners or hand clippers, are primarily used to cut twigs and small branches up to 3/4 inches in diameter. Hand shears come with either scissor- or anvil-type blades. Scissor shears, also called bypass pruners, have two curved, sharpened blades that overlap with a scissor action when making a cut. Gardeners typically prefer using scissor-style hand shears for cutting live growth because they allow clean, close cuts. Anvil pruners feature one sharp, straight upper blade that cuts against a flat lower plate, which results in one side of the plant tissue being cut and the other side being crushed. Anvil-style hand shears are mostly used when cutting dead plant tissue or thick, woody stems that can't be easily smashed or damaged.
Lopping shears are similar to hand shears, but they have handles ranging from 30 to 36 inches in length. These longer handles not only allow you to prune those hard-to-reach places more easily, but they also provide the leverage you need to cut through branches ranging from 3/4 to 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Some lopping shears are made with ratchet joints or gears, which give you even more power to cut through thick branches while placing less stress on your hands and arms.
Hedge shears are specifically designed for pruning thin-stemmed hedges to maintain a formal shape. While available in a wide range of sizes, all hedge shears feature relatively short handles and long, straight, flat blades that cut several branches at once. The flat blades prune off plant growth in a straight line to give your hedges a tidy appearance. Avoid using hedge clippers to selectively prune shrubs or trees. The Virginia Cooperative Extension website notes that repeatedly using hedge shears might encourage growth of outer twigs while the interior twigs suffer from dieback, a condition that increases the risk of insect infestations.
High-quality shears are great investments if you plan on lots of pruning. Although somewhat pricey, high-quality shears last longer and perform far better than their cheaper counterparts. Look for shears with cutting edges that can be sharpened or replaced by the manufacturer when they become dull or worn out with use. Try out pruning shears before buying them to test the weight, fit and balance of a potential tool. You want a pair that will cut efficiently while not taking too much effort on your part. You don't want to feel fatigued before your pruning chores are completed.