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Pruning Shear vs Pruning Saw-Which is Best for My Garden

Pruning Shear vs Pruning saw both have the same purpose—to cut tree or shrub branches. Pruning saws and pruning shears are an essential part of gardening and necessary for several reasons. Pruners remove dead or decaying branches, help shape a tree or shrub, and thin out dense foliage.

Pruning  Shears

But you may be wondering when to use shears or when to use a saw for pruning. If your garden landscape has woody shrubs and trees, a pruning sheer and a pruning saw are two vital garden tools. This article discusses when and how to use each one to keep ornamental shrubs, hedge plants, fruit trees, and shade trees looking beautiful and healthy.

What is a Pruning Saw?

A pruning saw is a small handheld gardening tool with a tapered or straight tooth-edged blade. The small saw for pruning branches can have a folding handle or pole pruner for cutting tall branches. Typically, a saw pruner is for cutting branches more than 2 inches thick.

What are the Different Types of Pruning Saws?

There are several types of pruning saws, each with a different purpose. Straight blade and curved blades pruning saws are the most common and ideal for trimming most branches. A pole pruner is a perfect tool for pruning branches on tall trees. But for smaller tasks, a folding pruning saw is ideal. 

Handheld pruning saws

A handheld pruning saw is a versatile tool, perfect for removing small or relatively thick branches. The sharp, serrated blade easily cuts through woody growth, leaving a clean, neat cut exactly where you want it. There are two types of handheld pruning saws—curved and straight blade models.

Straight blade pruning saw

As the name implies, this pruning saw has a straight cutting blade. Its length can vary from 6 to 12 inches long. A straight edge saw is the best choice when pruning branches between waist and shoulder height. In general, the straight blade pruning saw is the most universal.

Curved blade pruning saw

A pruning saw with a curved blade is extremely useful for trimming branches below your waist or above head height. In addition, the curved blade gives better leverage at awkward angles, making it easier to prune low-growing shrubs or taller trees.

Pruning saw with a folding handle

Folding pruning saws offer the avid gardener a portable, safe solution for various types of garden trimming tasks. Generally, the blade is shorter because it folds into the ergonomic handle. In addition, the portable saw is safe enough to put in a pocket and carry with you.

Pole pruning saw

Suppose you need to prune branches from tall trees and shrubs above your reach. In that case, a pole pruner is invaluable. The pole pruning saw usually has a curved blade with a hook. This is designed to offer better leverage and then pull branches that get stuck in the tree.

When would you use a Pruning Saw?

A pruning saw is a gardening tool to trim branches more than 2 inches thick. Usually, you would use the saw to prune branches when pruning shears are too small, and a chainsaw would be too much. Typically, the saw is necessary for removing whole branches rather than small twigs or stems.

You would use a pruning saw to remove unwanted branches so that more light and air get into the canopy

What are Pruning Shears?

Pruning Shears vs Pruning Saws

Pruning shears are designed to trim small branches, remove foliage, cut stems, and cut back perennials and deadhead ornamental shrubs. Also called secateurs, clippers, or pruners, a good set of pruning shears is essential for any gardener or houseplant owner. Think of pruning shears like a pair of scissors to keep plants and shrubs tidy.

Types of Pruning Shears?

There are several types of pruning shears, each with a different purpose. For example, bypass pruners are like regular scissors with two pruning blades. But anvil pruners have a single steel blade that connects to a flat surface. Then for tougher pruning, there are ratchet pruners.

Bypass Pruners

The most common type of garden pruning shears is bypass pruners. These have two blades, with at least one curved one to make pruning branches easier. The shears work like scissors, with one a single-edged blade passing the other to make the cut.

Ratchet Pruners

Ratchet pruners are ideal for pruning rigid branches or for anyone with poor hand strength. The pruners have a unique mechanism to improve leverage. The tool allows the user to make cuts in small increments. The longer the handles, the more leverage you will get.

Anvil Pruners

Anvil pruners work by the double-edged cutting blade pressing the branch against a flat surface—the anvil. The advantage of an anvil pruner is that it provides excellent leverage. These are the best pruning shears to use when cutting dead wood as they don’t leave a clean cut like bypass pruners.

When would you use Pruning Shears?

Pruning shears are an invaluable tool for keeping a garden landscape well maintained. The shears are necessary to remove branches, twigs, and stems up to 2 inches thick. In addition, a gardener uses the pruners to remove dead or decaying plant parts and shape ornamental bushes and shrubs.

Pruning Shears vs. Pruning Saws — Pros and Cons

Deciding when to use a pruning saw or shears usually comes down to branch size. Pruning shears are easy to use, and they slice through thin woody stems with a simple snip. On the other hand, a pruning saw is necessary for keeping large shrubs and trees in shape and in good health.

Pruning Shears


  • One-handed operation
  • They make clean cuts on branches up to 2 inches thick
  • Comfortable grip
  • Spring mechanism for ease of use
  • Handles are designed to give plenty of leverage
  • Necessary for regular shrub and foliage pruning


  • Not ideal for thick branches over 2 inches in diameter
  • Difficult when working overhead
Pruning Saws

Pruning Saws


  • Ideal for pruning tree branches and thick woody shrubs
  • Cut tall branches without climbing on a step ladder
  • Curved blades give extra leverage when working at awkward angles
  • Cuts branches over 2 inches thick


  • Not necessary for all pruning jobs
  • Requires physical strength to saw wood

Pruning Shears vs. Pruning Saws — FAQs

Which tool is best for pruning?

The best tool for pruning depends on the trimming required. For pruning regular shrubs at the end of the season, pruning shears are ideal. However, if you need to remove dead or decaying tree branches, a suitable pruning saw is necessary. For some woody shrubs, a lopper can be used in place of a pruning saw.

Why should I use pruning shears?

Pruning shears are a vital tool for maintaining the appearance and health of shrubs, bushes, and woody houseplants. The sharp blades easily slice through branches, stems, and twigs. This is necessary to remove damaged, leggy, diseased, or dead limbs. In addition, pruning is vital to improve shrub health and promote vigorous growth in spring.

What is the difference between pruning shears and bypass shears?

Bypass shears are a type of pruning shears. The shears have two blades that “bypass” each other to make a cutting action. Typically, there is only one sharp curved blade on the shears; therefore, it’s imperative to keep the pruner blade sharpened.

What is a pruning saw used for?

A pruning saw is usually for cutting woody branches to remove them. However, the saw is primarily for removing entire branches from trees or woody shrubs. Pruning with a saw is vital for thinning out dense tree or shrub foliage to promote healthy growth and improve air circulation in foliage.

What tool is best for cutting thick branches?

If you need to cut thick branches, use a pruning saw or lopper. The lopper is like pruning shears with long handles for increased leverage. A lopper can cut branches up to 1.5 inches thick. However, a pruning saw will cut any branch over 1 inch in diameter easier than any type of pruning shear or lopper.

Pruning Shears vs. Pruning Saws in Conclusion

Proper pruning can improve the look of your garden and encourage healthy plant growth. And it’s crucial to cut branches in a way that minimizes potential damage to trees and shrubs. Therefore, it’s vital to use the correct pruning tools for garden maintenance. Use pruning shears for light pruning—removing thin stems, twigs, and branches. But for thicker or larger branches, you will need a pruning saw.