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Ultimate Guide to What Are Secateurs: Types, Features, Uses, Maintenance, and Buying Tips

This ultimate guide to what are secateurs will help you learn how to sculpt stunning masterpieces in your garden landscape. You can boost your home’s curb appeal by learning how to trim front yard shrubs and foundation plantings. Then, get the best advice on turning your backyard into a beautiful green space for the family to relax.

Bright Colored Secateurs

So, say goodbye to unruly shrubs, stubborn branches, and overgrown greenery. You can learn how to snip your way to gardening success by choosing the right secateurs. This article will help you trim the years of your gardening learning curve. 

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, this comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about secateurs. So, if you’re ready to take your gardening skills to the next level, keep reading to become a secateurs expert. 

Understanding Secateurs: Basics and Types

Secateurs—or pruning shears—resemble scissors for trimming, pruning, and cutting shrubs, flowers, and trees. Some secateurs have two sharp cutting blades that pass over each other when squeezed. Other types have a single blade that presses down on a flat surface. This essential gardening tool ensures precise and healthy plant maintenance.

Secateurs are practical garden tools that should be in every gardening enthusiast’s toolbox. 

Three primary types of secateurs are common in gardening—bypass, anvil, and ratchet cutting mechanisms. Here are brief descriptions of the different pruning tools available for gardeners:

  • Bypass Secateurs: These are the most common type and work like scissors. The pruning tool has two curved blades that bypass each other. Bypass secateurs provide clean, precise cuts on live branches and stems. Therefore, they are ideal for delicate pruning tasks and maintaining plant health.
  • Anvil Secateurs: Anvil secateurs feature a single flat blade that closes onto a flat, broad surface—the anvil. This type of tool for gardeners is suitable for cutting dead or woody branches. The crushing action is less precise than bypass secateurs. However, they exert more force, making them efficient for tougher pruning jobs. The cutting action is like using a knife and chopping board. 
  • Ratchet Secateurs: A ratchet pruner is a gardening tool with a unique cutting mechanism, enabling users to cut through branches. The cutting tool uses a ratchet to cut thick branches in incremental steps. Ratchet secateurs are useful for individuals with limited hand strength. They reduce the effort required for cutting thicker branches by dividing the task into smaller, manageable stages.

Anvil secateurs and bypass secateurs with a ratcheting mechanism are collectively called ratchet secateurs. The cutting and locking mechanism allow you to slice thicker branches and prune more effectively by applying force incrementally. 

Secateurs vs Loppers

Man using Loppers to prune hedge

Loppers and Secateurs are both cutting tools used in gardening, but they differ in size and purpose. Secateurs are handheld, scissor-like tools for precise pruning of small branches and stems. Loppers, however, are larger, with long handles and a scissor or anvil-like cutting head design. The larger blades and longer handles provide greater leverage and reach for cutting thicker branches and limbs.

Exploring Features and Functions

The best way to know which type of garden tool to use for cutting is to see exactly how each type of secateurs works. 

Bypass Types of Secateurs

A bypass pruner is the best type of cutting garden tool for cutting live branches and stems.

Let’s look in more detail at how bypass secateurs work. 

  • Blades: Bypass secateurs have two sharp, curved blades that make cuts with a scissor action. The pruner cutting edge is slightly curved or beveled on the outside and flat inside. When the handles are squeezed together, these blades pass over each other. Therefore, a bypass pruner cuts stems and branches cleanly.
  • Handles: Bypass secateurs have two handles you grip with your entire hand. So, unlike cutting with scissors where you use your fingertips, you grip secateurs handles in your palm. These handles can be made of various materials, including plastic, aluminum, or steel. Ergonomically designed handles are common, with the lower handle curved for comfort. These provide a comfortable grip and reduce hand strain during prolonged use.
  • Spring mechanism: Most bypass secateurs have a spring mechanism that automatically opens the pruner blades after each cut. This spring action makes it easier to quickly make multiple cuts without manually reopening the blades.
  • Cutting capacity: Bypass secateurs are best suited for cutting live branches and stems, typically up to 0.78” (20 mm) in diameter. However, the precise cutting capacity depends on individual models. For thicker branches, you need to use a bypass lopper.
  • Safety features: The best bypass secateurs have several safety features. These include a locking mechanism to keep the blades closed when not in use, reducing the risk of accidents. Some models also include a thumb-operated safety catch for additional security.
  • Materials: The sharp blades of bypass secateurs are typically made of high-quality steel or other durable materials to ensure sharpness and longevity. Many have aluminum handles to make them more lightweight. Look for models with blades that are easy to sharpen or replace when they become dull.

The advantage of bypass blades

The scissor-like action of the stainless steel blades on bypass secateurs means they are less likely to damage or bruise stems when pruning. 

Secateurs with an anvil design

Secateurs cutting small branch

An anvil pruner is specifically engineered for cutting thicker branches and deadwood. It differs from a bypass pruner in its cutting mechanism and structure. It only has a single upper blade and a flat base. 

Here are the key features and components of secateurs with an anvil design. 

  • Blades: An anvil cutter consists of two primary parts—a single sharp cutting blade and a flat, broad surface, a.k.a., the anvil counter blade. The flat blade comes down and presses against the anvil to cut the branch, stem, or limb. The blade is typically made of durable, hardened steel.
  • Handles: Like bypass secateurs, anvil pruning shears have two handles for holding and squeezing. The handles can be made from various materials, including plastic, aluminum, or steel, and are often designed for ergonomic comfort. You grip the bottom part of the handle with your four fingers and use the top of your hand to squeeze the blades together.
  • Spring mechanism: The best anvil secateurs have a spring mechanism that automatically opens the pruner blades after each cut. This spring action makes it easier to quickly make multiple cuts without manually reopening the blades.
  • Cutting mechanism: When you squeeze the handles together, the sharp, straight blade presses onto the anvil. The blade crushes the branch or stem against the anvil, producing a powerful, chopping-like cut. This mechanism is less precise than the scissor-like bypass action. However, you get greater force, making it suitable for cutting tougher materials.
  • Cutting capacity: Anvil secateurs are primarily designed for cutting deadwood and thicker branches. Their cutting capacity depends on the specific model, but they may cut branches up to 1” (25 mm) in diameter.
  • Safety features: Anvil secateurs typically have the same safety features as bypass pruners. 

An anvil pruner is useful for tasks such as pruning dead branches, cutting back overgrown shrubs, and preparing woody material for composting. However, the crushing action of anvils means they are unsuitable for pruning live growth on plants. Therefore, using them appropriately for the task at hand is crucial.

The advantage of anvil hand pruner blades

An anvil pruner cuts through deadwood or branches where greater force is required, for example, pruning deadwood in late winter or early spring. 

Ratchet Secateurs

A ratchet pruner is a gardening cutting tool with either bypass or anvil blades. The difference is that it uses a ratcheting mechanism and springs. The ability to prune in several smaller stages allows you to cut thicker branches with less effort. This reduces hand and wrist strain, making them ideal for people who don’t have much strength. 

However, the multiple steps in each cut may require more pruning time than traditional secateurs. Overall, they are a valuable addition to a gardener’s toolkit for handling heavier pruning tasks effectively.

The advantage of ratchet secateurs

Use a ratchet bypass or anvil for strength when cutting dead wood or new growth when extra leverage is required. 

Versatile Uses of Secateurs

A pair of secateurs are essential for working in the garden. Different types of pruning shears allow you to prune, shape, and trim during any season. The small handheld tools are useful for cutting shrubs and small ornamental trees during any season.

Here’s an overview of which gardening tasks your trusty cutting companion can help you with.


What are Secateurs

Secateurs are ideal for precision pruning. It would be best to use anvil pruners when pruning dead stems, deadwood, and old growth in late winter and early spring before new growth appears. Then, switch to bypass pruners when chopping new growth in spring and summer.  

Whether trimming back overgrown branches, thinning out crowded growth, removing woody stems, or shaping shrubs, secateurs provide the accuracy needed to selectively remove unwanted plant material without damaging nearby foliage.

Deadheading flowers

Removing spent flowers—a.k.a. deadheading—encourages plants to produce more blooms. Secateurs are perfect for this task. Using bypass secateurs, you can easily snip off faded flowers quickly and cleanly. This practice for many perennial shrubs promotes continuous flowering throughout the season until fall. 

Cutting flower stems

A bypass pruner cleanly cuts flower stems, meaning that creating floral arrangements or harvesting herbs straightforward. The curved sharp blades easily slice through delicate stems like a sharp pair of scissors cutting paper. Making clean cuts when cutting flowers prevents damage to the plant and ensures longer vase life for cut flowers.

Trimming small branches

A pair of pruners is essential for trimming small branches from fruit or ornamental trees. Depending on the size of the secateurs, you should be able to slice through larger branches up to 1” (25 mm) in diameter. If you keep the blade sharp, you only need to exert a minimum amount of pressure. 

If you want to prune thicker stems, a pair of loppers is the best choice if you require extra leverage. 

Thinning perennials

Most perennial plants and shrubs require periodic grooming. Usually, in mid to late winter, a pair of anvil secateurs will help you easily cut back dead or damaged growth. The secateurs help to ensure you can selectively remove unwanted growth while leaving the healthy foliage intact. 

Rose pruning

Secateurs are especially useful for pruning roses. The sharp blades easily slice through woody rose stems, minimizing the risk of the pruners slipping and your hand coming into contact with thorns. 

Harvesting fruits and vegetables

Secateurs with quality blades are invaluable for harvesting vegetables, fruits, or herbs from your garden. You can efficiently collect your crops with a few snips without damaging the host plants.

Shaping and topiary

Do you enjoy creating visual masterpieces from hedge plants or small shrubs? If so, invest in a good quality pair of bypass secateurs. They will help you shape plants, such as creating topiaries, maintaining formal hedges, or shaping ornamental shrubs. The cutting tool offers the control required to achieve precise cuts and maintain the desired aesthetic result.

Mastering the Art of Using Secateurs: Step-by-Step Guide

Knowing how to use secateurs properly is vital for several reasons. First, you can make precise cuts using minimal wrist strength. Second, you ensure good plant health by not making jagged cuts. Third, you can make the right type of cuts to promote growth and prevent plant diseases from infecting wounds. 

This step-by-step guide will teach you the art of using secateurs.

Cutting a rose with Secateurs

Remember, although a bad worker always blames his tools, experienced gardeners rely on the best tools and techniques for success in the garden.

  • Choose the right secateurs: Select the appropriate type of secateurs—bypass, anvil, or ratchet. The correct pair of secateurs depends on the plant growth you plan to cut. Also, ensure they are in good working condition, with sharp blades.
  • Wear protective gear: Wear gloves and safety glasses to protect your hands and eyes. Cutting dead growth can result in sharp pieces of debris or thorns flying in your face.
  • Stay safe: Before pruning, ensure you understand how to use the pruner safely and correctly. Be aware that the blades may open quickly when disengaging the safety lock. Next, position yourself properly and stand in a comfortable position. Avoid overstretching to reach branches, especially if you are standing on stepladders.
  • Proper hand placement and grip: Grip the secateurs with your dominant hand—for right-handed people, this is their right hand. At the same time, use the other hand to hold firmly the branch or stem you intend to cut. Ensure you use the base of your hand and fingers rather than just your fingertips. Remember, accuracy is more important than speed.
  • Identify the right angle for cutting: Always cut stems at a 45° angle. The lowest part of the cut should face away from the main stem or trunk. This practice ensures water or sap doesn’t run off into stem joints and cause mold or other issues. Also, always ensure the cutting blade is on the side of the unwanted growth.
  • The correct place to prune tree branches: When pruning thin tree branches, protect the branch collar—the bulge at the tree trunk—by leaving it intact. If cutting thicker branches with a pruning saw, cut the branch into smaller sections, starting away from the main trunk, and gradually working toward the main stem or trunk. This method of pruning trees prevents the branch’s weight from ripping off the trunk, damaging the tree collar. 
  • The correct place to prune shrub stems: When pruning shrubs to promote growth, always cut at a 45° angle just above the node. You should never leave more than 0.25” (6 mm) of growth above the bud. Also, never remove more than one-third of the plant’s mass yearly.
  • Techniques for clean and precise cuts: Gently squeeze the secateurs handles together, using steady pressure. Avoid using too much force or a sawing motion—this can damage the plant and dull the blades. Make the cut in one smooth motion, ensuring the blades do not twist during the cut.

Different cutting methods when using secateurs

  • Bypass cutting: For trimming live branches and stems use bypass secateurs. Put the blade at a 45° cutting angle just above a node. Ensure the cut branch part furthest from the main branch is the lowest part of the branch. Squeeze the handles to make a clean cut.
  • Anvil cutting: For pruning deadwood or woody branches, use anvil secateurs. Choose the appropriate place to trim the branch or stem. Ensure the cutting blade (the beveled side of the blade) is on the side of the branch you want to remove. Squeeze the blade so the entire blade meets the anvil.
  • Ratchet cutting: For thicker branches, use ratchet secateurs. Begin by making an initial, partial cut by squeezing the handles partially together. Release the handles and then squeeze them again to complete the cut. Repeat this process until the branch is severed.

Always cut away from your body and avoid cutting above shoulder height to prevent accidents. Be mindful of thorns and potential hazards while cutting. As with all sharp tools, keep secateurs out of reach of children and wear appropriate safety gear as needed.

Secateurs Maintenance for Longevity

Check the pruning blade for sharpness.

Regular maintenance is essential in extending the lifespan of secateurs. Also, keeping the cutting tools well-maintained ensures optimal performance each time your green fingers get itchy, and you do some gardening.

The most important aspect of regular maintenance is ensuring that the blades of your secateurs are cleaned after every use. Sap and plant resin can build up on the blades. This can make cutting branches problematic, requiring more effort. Also, cleaning hardened sap and plant debris from blades can be almost impossible. 

Here are some simple maintenance procedures to care for the blades, cutting mechanism, and handles. These top tips can help keep your prized secateurs sharp and functional for longer periods of time. 

Step-by-step guide for maintaining secateurs after each use

  • Blade cleaning: After each use, wipe the blades with hot, soapy water, dry them with a clean cloth, and apply rubbing alcohol. This regular cleaning removes dirt, debris, and germs. It is important to clean both the upper and lower blades thoroughly.
  • Sap removal: If sap has built up on the blades, soak them in warm, soapy water for a few minutes. Then, use a soft brush or cloth to remove the sap. You could also use light-grit sandpaper to remove sap more easily and sharpen the blades simultaneously. Rinse the blades thoroughly and dry them.
  • Oiling: Apply a few drops of lubricating oil to the blades and pivot points. This helps to prevent rust and keep the secateurs working smoothly. Be sure to use a light oil specifically designed for gardening tools.

Step-by-step guide for keeping secateurs blades sharp 

Over time, secateurs blades become dull. Therefore, it is essential to sharpen the blades regularly. Remember, before sharpening the blades, always clean them thoroughly first.

Here are some easy steps to help you keep your secateurs sharp:

  • Blade sharpening: Sharpen blades by using a sharpening stone or a file. Here is how to do it:
    • Immerse the sharpening stone in water for five to ten minutes.
    • Carefully dismantle the secateurs, taking note of where the individual parts go.
    • Place the blade at a 20° to 30° angle and run the blade over the stone with a sweeping motion for around two minutes.
    • Always sharpen the curved or beveled edge, not the flat edge.
    • Following the blade’s natural curve and maintaining a consistent angle is important to avoid damaging the cutting edge.
    Use a file to remove burrs on one side of the blade.
  • Professional Sharpening: If you are unsure or uncomfortable with sharpening the blades yourself, it is advisable to seek professional sharpening services. They have the expertise and equipment to ensure the blades are sharpened correctly. They can clean and sharpen your secateurs for a small price, so they cut like new.

Tips on maintaining secateurs

Here are some helpful tips for ensuring your secateurs enjoy an extended lifespan and are always a “cut above the rest.”

  • Clean blades with warm, soapy water after each use. Washing-up detergent is ideal for the job.
  • Before using secateurs, clean with rubbing alcohol to remove plant germs.
  • Always use rubbing alcohol to clean pruning tool blades before moving to the next plants to prevent spreading disease.
  • Keep all moving parts well-oiled.
  • Don’t use WD-40 for lubrication, as it can cause metal parts to wear out quicker.
  • Use 3-in-1 lubrication oil or vegetable oil to oil secateurs.
  • Sharpen blades immediately if the cuts appear jagged or require extra force.
  • Choose the right time to prune shrubs. Depending on the plant, this is either the dormant season or just after flowering.
  • Always remove dead, diseased, or overgrown branches.
  • Cut off branches that rub against each other to prevent injury and disease.
  • Always put safety over speed and efficiency.

By following these maintenance tips, secateurs can remain in excellent condition for years to come. Don’t forget to clean, oil, and sharpen them regularly to prolong their lifespan and achieve optimal performance. 

Your Guide to Choosing the Perfect Pair

When choosing secateurs, consider your specific gardening needs. Generally, bypass models are good all-rounders for general gardening work. Anvil secateurs are useful for pruning before the growing season. However, suppose you need to cut thicker branches or don’t have sufficient strength. In that case, secateurs with a ratchet mechanism are the best option. 

However, with so many different types of secateurs available on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the perfect pair.

Here’s a guide to help you make an informed decision on choosing the right secateurs.

  • Gardening needs: Consider the type of gardening you’ll be doing. Choose bypass secateurs if you mainly prune or cut delicate stems and live growth. However, choose anvil secateurs if you have shrubs or ornamental trees that require winter pruning. They have a more robust cutting mechanism, and the chopping option is more suitable for woody stems.
  • Comfort and ergonomics: Look for secateurs that are comfortable to hold and use for extended periods. Features like ergonomic grip handles, shock-absorbing properties, and a lightweight design can reduce strain and fatigue.
  • Blade quality and durability: Opt for sharp blades made from high-quality materials such as stainless steel or Japanese steel. These blades will stay sharper for longer, resulting in cleaner cuts and minimizing plant damage. They also require less maintenance and sharpening.
  • Your budget: Choose secateurs that offer the best balance of quality and affordability. Remember, investing in a durable and reliable pair can save you money in the long run. If you are on a tight budget, consider buying a good quality pair of bypass secateurs. 
  • Additional features: Some secateurs come with locking mechanisms, ratcheting mechanisms, or cut-and-hold features. These additional features can enhance your pruning experience and cater to your preferences.
  • Read user reviews: Reading user reviews is a great way to understand how the secateurs perform in real-life situations. User feedback provides valuable insight into vital factors like comfort, durability, blade quality, and ease of use.
  • Warranty and customer support: It’s also worth considering what other users say about the manufacturer’s customer service and the return policy. For example, do you get a money-back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied? Does the manufacturer provide a warranty for 12 months or longer? The warranty and guarantee can give you peace of mind.

By considering these important factors before purchasing your secateurs, you can ensure that you choose the perfect pair to meet your gardening needs. Whether you’re dealing with delicate stems or thicker branches, having the right secateurs makes pruning tasks easier and more efficient. Consult with gardening experts or explore a range of secateurs to find the perfect match for your gardening toolkit.

How much do secateurs cost?

Handheld secateurs can cost between $3 and $300. The most expensive models have telescopic handles, comfortable ergonomic grips, and a cutting mechanism to make pruning easier. There is also a wide range of electric cordless secateurs to choose from. These models can range in price from $300 to over $1,000. However, for most homeowners with average-sized residential yards, you should expect to pay between $20 and $50 for good-quality secateurs. 

Conclusion: What Are Secateurs the Pruner’s Best Friend

Secateurs are an essential tool for any gardener. Cutting tools with sharp blades are essential for plant health. High-quality secateurs allow you to prune shrubs and trees with precision. This promotes healthy plant growth and prevents disease from spreading between plants. Investing in a pair of high-quality secateurs with stainless steel blades ensures their longevity and efficiency in tackling various pruning tasks.

As with any type of tool, knowing how to use secateurs is vital to becoming a successful gardener. Pruning the right amount of growth and cutting stems at the correct angle will help you maintain your garden and its healthy appearance. Regularly maintaining your garden with the right pair of secateurs will contribute to the beauty of your plants.

So there you have it – you’re now armed with the knowledge to wield your secateurs like the gardening ninja you were born to be. Remember, it’s not just about cutting; it’s about cultivating a garden masterpiece, one snip at a time. Bypass, anvil, and ratchet pruning tools offer precision and versatility in maintaining plant health and crafting beautiful landscapes. With the knowledge gained from our ultimate guide, you’re equipped to choose, use, and care for secateurs, ensuring you enjoy a thriving front or backyard for many years.