Most plants require pruning to remove shoots, encourage a second flowering by cutting back branches or to improve appearance by removing dead flowers and shaping growth. Include one or two types of professional pruning tools in your garden bag or bucket and keep them readily available. A general rule says to prune plants that flower in summer and fall when dormant. Prune plants that flower in the spring right after the blooms fade and die. Although pruning at the wrong time rarely harms the plant permanently, continuing bad pruning practices leads to less healthy and less attractive plants.
Anvil pruners have a sharp blade that cuts down to a solid piece of flat metal similar to cutting with a knife against a cutting board in the kitchen. Anvil pruners crush and slice a branch or stem to remove it. Use an anvil pruner when you do not need a perfectly clean cut, such as removing dead materials or doing preparatory cutting in order to shorten a branch before clean cutting. Professional anvil pruners have high-quality tempered steel cutting blades. A sharp blade makes crushing and removal easier. Choose a size appropriate to your hand. Clean the tool after pruning diseased branches.
Bypass pruners, sometimes called scissor-action pruners, have two curved blades that offer a cleaner cut than anvil pruners do. In bypass pruners, a sharp blade slides past a thicker, less sharp blade. The curved blades on bypass pruners make clean cuts quickly. Bypass style pruners provide a cutting capability for landscape maintenance by handling small branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Popular among professional and home landscapers, bypass pruners provide an essential service for cutting back and shaping plants.
Individuals suffering from arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome often prefer ratchet type pruners because of the reduction in strength required for each cut. While similar to anvil pruners, ratchet pruners make cuts in stages using a mechanism that holds a setting with the first pressure and then moves to the next setting, which increases the pressure as you close the handles, usually three to four times. Professionals who need to do a lot of cutting or need to cut thicker branches--up to 3/4 inch--choose ratchet pruners. Ratchet pruners require sharpening to maintain their ability to cut branches cleanly.