Good quality tools aren’t too hard to come by but you need to know what features to focus on when you’re buying them that fit your gardening needs. Pruning shears are one of the garden’s most used tools. We reviewed ten bypass pruners and thinning scissors over three months to see which brands and tools worked best.
Pruning shears or garden shears come in different types like bypass, anvil, ratchet, or thinning scissors. Each of these varieties has specific qualities that help in pruning your garden. For this review, we solely reviewed bypass and thinning shears.
Bypass pruners are the most common and have sharp blades that cross when cutting and are best for green branches and stems up to half an inch (or more).
Anvil pruners have a double-edged top knife that slices into a stationary base blade and is best for cutting dead branches or stems.
Ratchet pruners have comfortable handles and are easier to maneuver for people who need assistance in leveraging grip strength.
Thinning scissors are great for removing small stems like tomato plants or tiny seedlings.
Max cutting thickness
Many pruners indicate the maximum branch thickness they can successfully cut through. The size indication is often listed on the product packaging or online unless they were thinning pruners meant for smaller branches or stems. However, after testing, we noticed that these limits weren’t entirely accurate because they also depended on strength of the user’s hands.
Left/right-handed model availability
Are you left or right-handed? Do you have people in your household that are both? Most pruners are made for right-handed people, but brands carry left-hand-specific pruners. All the pruners we tested are right-handed but could work as left-handed pruners, except that the blade faces the opposite side so you lose some visibility of the branch you’re cutting.
Build quality and repairability
Build quality is important to consider when you buy any tools, especially if they’re used and stored outside. Pruning shears come with blades of hardened steel, titanium (coated), carbon steel, and nonstick. Depending on your gardening plans, each material has its pros and cons.
Coated blades are great to prevent sap from sticking if you’re cutting green stems–all you have to do is wipe them down after each use. If you want a longer-lasting tool, hardened or carbon steel blades are super durable, and you can sharpen them later on–however, they require more upkeep that involves using oil to prevent rust.
If you want a single product that lasts a lifetime, pick a pruner you can repair easily. Some pruner brands we tested sold new springs and blades (like Felco), but few sold or offered instructions on how to replace the garden shears. Budget brands were cheaper, but if you are concerned about repairing your tools and are more eco-conscious, then repairability is a big feature to consider.
Pruning shears come at various prices dependent on brand, type, and quality. You can find shears at prices ranging from under $10 to over $60. If you are tight on a budget, there are low-priced pruners that can do the job. However, we’ve found that pruners that were higher priced have better warranties, are made with sturdy materials, and are easy to repair. You typically need to pay a higher price for a longer-lasting tool.
How we selected
We tested over ten varieties of pruning shears ranging in price from $7 to $60. While there are different types of shears, we focused on the two most popular: bypass pruners and thinning scissors.
Bypass pruners are typically used for cutting green (or stems still attached to living plants or trees) and are the most widely available. Thinning scissors can also cut live plants, but their slimmer-shaped blades allow for delicate cuts to plants like tomatoes or vining plants like cucumbers.
Between these two types of pruners, we picked some of the most well-known brands like Felco and Corona Tools and budget brands like Gonicc and Vivosun.
How we tested
For several months during the Spring and Summer gardening seasons, we tested eleven pruners in different scenarios. We tested indoor and outdoor plants and trimmed thorny rose bushes and thicker citrus tree branches, crops like corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, and other vegetables. Many pruners stated that they would easily cut through a maximum of ¾ of an inch thick stems; however, we quickly found out this couldn’t happen without a lot of grip strength.
We tested each pruner on average and smaller-sized hands to review comfort levels and ergonomics, especially for a few pruners specifically made for smaller hands. For reference, we tested each pruner with two gardeners with small (6 ½ x 3 inches) and average-sized (7 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches) hands.
Lastly, we compared the durability and maintenance of each pruner. Depending on the blade material and the pruner’s overall repairability, some pruners require higher maintenance after each use, while others just need a quick wipe.
Best Overall: Felco - F-2 Pruner
The Felco – F-2 was our top choice because it made pruning branches a comfortable and easy experience. We tested Felco’s flagship pruner on various live and dead plants, stems, and branches. The F-2 easily cuts through thick and thin stems up to ½ inch. However, anything larger took a lot of grip strength. While these pruners fit for average-sized hands, they still feel comfortable in smaller hands compared to other pruners.
The ergonomic rubber, phthalate-free handles act as shock absorbers when cutting thicker branches and help reduce fatigue on your hands. Each pruner has a nickel-plated spring in the center that alleviates grip fatigue too. Although we initially had difficulty figuring out how to lock and unlock the pruners, we eventually learned. It became easier the more we used the pruners.Read more…
Felco prides itself on prioritizing sustainability, so all items are made from 100% renewable energy and the tools are designed to last a lifetime. We liked that if the durable hardened steel blades and aluminum body ever got damaged, you could repair them by purchasing new parts on Felco’s website. The original packaging even includes instructions on how to repair the pruners and a tool for disassembly. If, for some reason, you can’t fix your pruners, Felco also has a limited lifetime warranty.
One important thing Felco stresses is daily maintenance if you want to keep these pruners forever. With hardened steel blades, you can sharpen them for every use–a recommendation they highlight to keep your pruners in top shape. We also didn’t mind wiping the blades down and oiling them after every use. It was an easy process and not too involved. They also offer deep-cleaning instructions on their website.
Even though these were the most expensive pruners, we chose the Felco – F-2 pruners as our best overall because they’re durable, comfortable to use, and you can repair them if necessary. It’s worth it for us to pay more upfront for a tool with good quality that lasts long-term.
Best Budget: Corona - Classic Cut Bypass Pruner
If you are looking for another durable option for pruners but are on a budget, we recommend the Corona – Classic Cut Bypass Pruner because they’re half the price of the Felco – F-2 pruners. These pruners are made of forged steel alloy that is easy to resharpen when dull and has a non-slip grip on both handles for a comfortable pruning experience. They easily cut through many live stems and branches ¾ inches and under in diameter.
Like the Felco pruners, the Corona – Classic Cut Bypass Pruner blades have a self-cleaning sap groove that helps remove sap or dirt while cutting branches and stems. They also have a wire cutter notch in the blade that cuts through thin wires. Corona also sells extra parts on its website for repairs.Read more…
These pruners are best made for medium to large-sized hands since they’re about 9 inches long and weigh 0.6 pounds. We found that the Corona – Classic Cut Bypass Pruners weren’t as balanced as the Felco – F-2 pruners, which made the pruning experience a little more awkward using the Corona pruners. This means your hands might get tired of using them for longer periods.
However, if we kept up with daily maintenance through sharpening and cleaning the blades, the pruners were durable and stayed sharp. We think the Corona – Classic Cut Bypass Pruner is a great budget option for any gardener at under $25 (and more than half the price of Felco pruners).
Best Thinning Scissors: Fiskars - Micro-tip Snips
The Fiskars – Non-stick Micro-tip Pruning Snips was our top pick for thinning scissors because they have a sharp, thinly shaped blade that gets into the smallest corners of your cramped tomato or vining plants to cut out suckers.
The Arthritis Foundation awarded Fiskars for the enhanced comfort control on the handles designed to reduce hand fatigue. The plastic body of these pruners helps keep them lightweight, too. The locking mechanism is also easy to close and open one-handed.Read more…
The coated, non-stick blades prevent sap or resin from building up with every trim. Maintenance is also super fast, with a swipe of cloth at the end of every pruning session. At under $12, we recommend these thinning scissors for any job that requires intricate trimming or pruning in your garden.
Best for Small Hands: Felco - F-6
Similar to the Felco – F-2, we found the Felco – F-6 just as durable and easy to use with ultra-sharp edges, but the added benefit of custom handles made for smaller-sized hands. The F-6 is perfect for small-handed gardeners because it’s lighter in weight (0.46 lbs) than the original F-2 pruners (0.55 lbs). The F-6 measures about 8 inches compared to the F-2, which measures 9 ½ inches.
Its smaller-sized handles make maneuvering the pruners through tough stems and branches easier. The difference in holding these smaller handles was night and day, regarding how much leverage you can have when cutting thicker branches or stems. We would also state that handles that fit your hands are safer because it’s less bulky and awkward when cutting branches with sharp blades.Read more…
These Felco – F-6 pruners are also made from 100% renewable energy in Switzerland, can be repaired at home, and come with a limited lifetime warranty. You can sharpen the uncoated, hardened steel uncoated blades with every use. Daily maintenance requires a wipe-down and oiling to prevent rust, but it’s not too cumbersome. Due to their long-lasting materials and comfortable grip, we recommend the Felco F-6 pruners for all gardeners needing smaller-sized tools.
Gonicc - Professional Pruning Shears
If you wanted a cheaper dupe for the Felco – F-2 pruners, check out the Gonicc – Professional Pruning Shears pruners. The blade comprises polished carbon steel and Teflon, and the handles are PVC-coated aluminum for an easier grip. It easily cuts live stems and branches up to ½ inch in thickness. You needed a little bit more maneuvering for thicker stems, but it still did the job.
While it looks very similar to the Felco – F-2, there are some differences in user experience. The Felcos have a stronger spring to help with grip fatigue and a smoother cutting movement where the blades easily slice through stems. Although we do like how the Gonicc – Professional Pruning Shears have an easier locking mechanism to maneuver with one hand. These pruners fit best for medium and large-sized hands as it measures about 8 inches.Read more…
There wasn’t much maintenance required after using this pruner except for a quick wipe-down. Its Teflon-coated blades make for easy cleanup after cutting stems with sap. At under $20, we think the Gonicc – Professional Pruning Shears pruner is a decent pair of pruners if you want low maintenance with a limited lifetime warranty.
Gonicc - Premium Titanium Pruning Shears
The Gonicc – Premium Titanium Pruning Shears pruners are made with titanium steel, Teflon blades, and an aluminum body. While its “titanium steel” label might be enticing, it’s a glorified name for stainless steel and not similar to actual titanium, which is lighter. We found cutting rose stems larger than ¼ of an inch difficult. Like the Gonicc – Professional Pruning Shears, there was low maintenance involved after using the clippers to cut through tomato stems–all it required was a quick wipe down.
We liked the cushioned handles, which made for a more comfortable experience. However, we could foresee how fast the foam handles could deteriorate quickly. After using these pruners for a couple of months, we also noticed the red layer of rubber peel off the body. We would skip this more expensive Gonicc pruner for its cheaper alternative, the Gonicc – Professional Pruning Shears because it gives you the same experience without deteriorating handles.
Corona - AG Long Straight Snip
The Corona – AG Long Straight Snip is another pair of pruning scissors that feature a tapered blade to help remove suckers on tomato plants or cut back bushy plants. These scissors have sharp blades and rubberized handles for a comfortable grip. The Corona – AG Long Straight Snip scissors also use a strap as a lock, which we found to get in the way while cutting.
Since it’s made of tempered steel, it comes at a heavier weight (3.2 ounces) than the other scissors (2.4 ounces) we tested, which might give your hand fatigue after pruning. We found that this pair of scissors easily cut through thicker stems due to its durable material.Read more…
Corona states that the coating prevents rusting, but we didn’t find this true during testing. After using this for a few days pruning vining plants, we noticed that it would rust overnight if we didn’t wipe it down and clean it immediately. You may skip this one if you’re looking for something with no maintenance. But if you want scissors that can cut thicker sucker stems or vines and that you can resharpen, then the Corona – AG Long Straight Snip may be for you.
Corona - Flex Dial Comfort Gel Bypass Pruner
Coming across the Corona – Flex Dial Comfort Gel Bypass Pruner custom-fit hand feature was fascinating for our gardeners with petite-sized hands, but unfortunately, that excitement didn’t last. These clippers have eight adjustable grip sizes that are supposed to help with hand fatigue and make the pruning experience more comfortable. Adjusting the dial from one to eight closes and widens the pruners (including the handles and the blades).
At dial one, the space between the blades is less than ¾ of an inch at the widest part, and it became increasingly difficult to cut stems because the opening was so small. There was also less leverage and power with each cut too. Instead of less hand fatigue, we experienced the opposite because we needed to cut multiple times.Read more…
While the blades are super sharp and the soft silicone handles are comfortable, we did not like using these pruners because the pruning experience felt similar to the other tools we tested, except the Corona – Flex Dial Comfort Gel Bypass Pruner was $10 more expensive.
Fiskars - Power Gear 2
We were intrigued by the Fiskars – Power Gear 2 pruner because of its patented gear technology that multiplies the leverage while cutting through stems and branches. This pruner is different because it’s made with a cam mechanism (or gear system) that helps cut thicker branches easier and uses the natural motion of your hand to grip the handles as you cut.
While this new design was enticing, we found it a little awkward to use because the handles moved in a way we weren’t accustomed to, no matter how often we used the pruners. Even if the gears and cam mechanisms were designed for an easier user experience, maneuvering the pruners was difficult because of this new design.Read more…
There’s also a lack of smoothness in making cuts, perhaps due to the synthetic plastic gear material and friction of movement. We wouldn’t recommend using this pruner because it failed to achieve its promise of an innovative and easier pruning experience.
Vivosun - Scissors (not recommended)
The Vivosun – Scissors are the most inexpensive item we tested, and unfortunately, it didn’t hold up as well as our other scissors and pruners. We liked that the fine-tipped blades made of stainless steel had a slight curvature to help reach suckers on tomato plants. While we like the super sharp, micro-tip blades, we found the tool’s body lackluster.
The plastic body with rubber handles was lightweight, but the material felt cheap and flimsy. We’ve previously had Vivosun – Scissors, which only lasted a few months before the body broke apart. Although these are inexpensive, we wouldn’t recommend these scissors because they break easily.
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Bryan Vu, Editor
Bryan is our cooking and kitchen expert, with more than 15 years of experience of cooking and testing kitchen products. When outside of the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, photography, videography and figuring out how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. He thoroughly enjoys discovering the best, whether it’s ingredients or equipment, and finding products that can stand the rigors of daily use.