Topiary shears

The best tools for pruning

Discover which pruning tool suits which type of job in the garden.

Pruning is an important job in the garden – it helps to keep plants in shape, encourages the production of fruit and flowers and can help to prevent disease. So it's worth getting well kitted out with pruning tools. 

Not sure whether you're pruning correctly? Watch our video guide to the basic pruning cuts.

Secateurs, loppers and a folding pruning saw will enable you to tackle a wide range of jobs. Other useful tools are handy for specific pruning jobs, such as shears for clipping hedges or topiary, and long-reach pruners for high branches in trees.

We outline the best tools for different pruning jobs.



Bypass secateurs, which have a scissor-action, are great all-rounders for pruning and cutting back plants. They're ideal for cutting soft stems up to the thickness of a pencil. Anvil secateurs (where the blade cuts onto a flat surface) crush as well as cut, so are best used only on woody stems. Watch Alan Titchmarsh's No Fuss video guide to choosing secateurs.

Pruning saw

Pruning saws come in various sizes and can be used on branches up to 5cm thick. Some have coarsely angled teeth so they cut on both push and pull strokes, but many cut only on the pull stroke. Use larger bow-saws for bigger branches and small trunks.

Long-reach pruner

Long-reach pruners are like secateurs on a long pole. They're operated by pulling a rope or lever at the other end. They're ideal for the occasional pruning of tall trees or big shrubs cutting woody branches up to about 3cm thick.


With long handles for good leverage and heavy-duty blades, loppers cut woody stems up to 3cm thick. They're ideal for tough pruning. Some have extendable handles and a ratchet system to make cutting easier.

Hand shears

These short-handled shears are perfect for clipping hedges, box edging and topiary, cutting stems up to pencil-thickness. Some have extendable handles for tall hedges. Read more about trimming topiary.

Topiary shears

Also known as sheep shears, topiary shears are used one-handed for trimming soft green shoots up to 5mm thick on small topiary and shaped shrubs, evergreen herbs, and other detailed work on compact plants.

Secateurs, loppers and a folding pruning saw will enable you to tackle a wide range of jobs. 



Care for your tools

Whichever tools you use, it's important to look after them. Sharp secateurs, for instance, are a pleasure to use when working properly, and when they cut cleanly they don't tear plant stems. Always wipe the sap of the blades blades after use, spray or wipe with oil, store them in a dry place so they don't rust – and remember to sharpen them every winter. Watch Alan Titchmarsh's No Fuss video guides to sharpening garden tools and sharpening secateurs.

Discover more ideas and inspiration

Related content

How to prune an evergreen hedge

How to prune beech and hornbeam hedges

Prune and move shrubs (video)

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