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What Is a Bypass Pruner?

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Clean bypass pruners regularly to avoid rust damage to the blade surfaces.

Gardeners have a host of tools available to maintain the home landscape. Shrubs, perennials and annual flowers require pruning as a regular part of seasonal upkeep. Bypass pruners serve as a cutting tool to remove small branches and dead head flowers. This handy tool makes tidying up the home landscape quick and easy.


Bypass pruners have quite a fancy name for such a simple garden tool. Imagine the cutting motion of a pair of heavy-duty scissors. Bypass pruners work with the identical slicing motion. Bypass pruner blades resemble slightly curved cutting surfaces that slide past each other for a smooth, sharp cut. The top blade is thinner and sharper than the bottom blade. A squeeze of the handle slides these two blades together for a clean, accurate cut. Bypass pruners feature a comfortable handle to allow gardener's a firm grip on the tool.

Comparison to Other Hand Pruning Tools

The flat cutting surface of a bypass pruner differs from another common type of pruning device called the anvil pruner. Anvil pruners feature a sharp, cutting top blade that meets a flat plate that serves as a cutting surface. Do not us anvil pruners when plant care requires very precise cuts. Any dullness to the anvil pruner blade causes tearing of the branch or flower stem. Save the delicate pruning tasks for the sharper blades of the bypass pruning tool.


Bypass pruners work best on branches or stems smaller than 1/2 inch in diameter. Use the bypass pruner for dead heading annuals, trimming back perennials after blooms fade and light shrub pruning. Cutting through larger branches causes weakening of the spring mechanism of the pruning tool. Using the bypass pruner on a large branch also dulls the blade and results in tearing of the plant branch. Switch to lopping shears for branches larger than 1/2 inch in diameter.


Sharpening of bypass pruners requires careful consideration of the beveled edge of the tool. These pruning scissors have a single bevel on one side of the lower blade. Garden centers and hardware stores offer sharpening services to maintain landscape tools. Consider consulting with a professional to increase the life of your bypass pruner. Clean the bypass pruner after each use to remove sap and plant debris. Never leave the tool exposed to dampness. Practice good tool maintenance by spraying all-purpose tool oil on the hinge-mechanism of the bypass pruner before winter storage.