Pruning is part of the regular maintenance for a number of landscape plants and performed for various reasons. This includes maintaining specific sizes or shapes, to remove broken or weak branches and to encourage new growth or enhance the plant's appearance. Use the proper pruning shears, depending on the diameter of the branch or stem you're trimming.
Hand shears, commonly called pruning shears or hand pruners, are used to cut through stems or branches ranging from ½ inch up to ¾ inches in diameter. This type of pruning shear is available with either bypass (or scissor) or anvil blades. Scissor shears includes sharp blades that cross near each other, similar to scissors. Anvil shears have a sharp blade that presses against a flat surface. The bypass pruner creates cuts closer on narrow-angled stems and crushes the stems less frequently, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Lopping shears or loppers, are pruning shears used for branches or stems with diameters up to 1 ½ or 1 ¾ inches. These pruning shears typically are available in either anvil- or scissor-type. The biggest difference between the lopping shears and hand shears is the length of the handles. Lopping shears handles range from 16 to 30 inches long. Lopping shears provide more leverage and a longer reach--good for tougher jobs or branches out of your reach.
Hedge shears or hedge clippers work best on hedges only and come in numerous sizes. These types of a pruning shear consist of long, scissor-type blades with medium to long handles. The hedge shear makes long, straight cuts through several branches at the same time and is often used to maintain precise shapes. Purdue Extension suggests only using hedge shears for new growth on formal shaped hedges, and not on any plants where a natural form is preferred.