From beginning gardeners and landscapers to advanced professionals, there seems to be a shared misconception that one pruning tool is good enough for every job. We’re here to set the record straight about the differences between a bypass pruner and an anvil pruner and when to use each of these tools. At the most basic level, a bypass pruner is ideal for pruning and cutting live green stems. This tool makes the cleanest cuts, allowing the plant to properly heal and promote new growth. An anvil pruner easily cuts through dense material, like hard deadwood, without risking the plant, tree or tool. Read on to learn more about how choosing the correct hand pruner allows for more precise cuts and protects you, your plants and your tools.


Much like a pair of scissors, a bypass pruner has a cutting blade that passes the non-cutting hook. The blade is beveled and sharpened on one side, with the other flat and unsharpened to pass the hook. When properly sharpened, these tools make the cleanest cuts on live branches and stems without causing any damage to the remaining stem. This is important as it helps the plant heal from the cut and encourages new growth.

ClassicCUT® Bypass Pruner, 3/4 in. Cut Capacity (BP 3160)

Tend to flowers, vegetables, shrubs and more with the ClassicCUT® Bypass Pruner. This tool features a slant-ground, narrow–profile hook and a resharpenable steel-forged blade to ensure clean, close cuts of green or dry branches and stems up to 3/4 inch in diameter. Its slim handles and non-slip grips make it suitable for small to medium hands and more accessible for a wide range of users.

XSeries Pro Bypass Pruner, 1 in. Cut Capacity (BP16380)

The XSeries Pro Bypass Pruner balances strength and comfort when pruning branches and stems up to 1 inch in diameter. Its steel-forged blade ensures smooth, clean cuts and is fully resharpenable and replaceable. A geared pivot nut also allows for precise blade adjustments, so you can personalize your pruning experience to fit your exact needs.

FlexDIAL® Bypass Pruner, 3/4 in. Cut Capacity (BP 4214D)

The FlexDIAL® Bypass Pruner features an adjustable, 8-position dial designed to easily adapt to your hand size and the way you garden or landscape. The lowest setting is best suited for smaller hands and ensures faster cuts, while the highest setting is best suited for larger hands and allows for more powerful cuts up to 3/4 inch in diameter. ComfortGEL® grips and ShockGuard® bumpers also help to reduce hand fatigue and cushion each cut.


Unlike the bypass pruner, an anvil pruner has a blade that is sharpened on both sides. It closes down on a flat anvil, which typically has a narrow channel for the cutting blade so as not to damage its sharpened edge. What makes this great for cutting hard deadwood is that there is no risk of crushing any stems. In fact, removing the old deadwood helps the plant direct energy toward new growth.

ComfortGEL® Anvil Pruner, 3/4 in. Cut Capacity (AP 3334)

The ComfortGEL® Anvil Pruner features anti-blister handles and ShockGUARD® bumpers to help reduce hand strain while you make powerful cuts through dry and woody branches up to 3/4 inch in diameter. Tackle your gardening and landscaping work with this essential hand tool for thinning brush and removing dead limbs.


Problems and mishaps can arise when gardeners and landscapers believe that one pruner can handle all of their pruning tasks. In most cases, an anvil pruner can make the cut. However, using an anvil pruner on a live stem or branch will likely crush it, causing damage to the remaining branch. The plant must then recover from the cut and will be more susceptible to diseases and pests during that time, which could ultimately kill the plant.

Using a bypass pruner on hard deadwood can be disastrous. Since the wood is harder to cut, it is possible that the tool will twist and torque the hand, causing the blade to cross over the opposite side of the hook. Not only will this cause discomfort for you, but once the cut is made, the blade will come down on the hook rather than bypass it. This can cause the blade to become damaged or chipped. In the worst case, the blade could snap and become a sharp projectile. This not only means losing your hand pruner but also risking bodily injury and voiding the warranty due to misuse.


It's best to assess the job and come prepared with the correct tool for the task—you wouldn't use a screwdriver to drive in a nail. So, if your job is mostly cutting live stems and branches, a bypass pruner is the way to go. Invest in an anvil pruner if you are cutting deadwood or harder, denser plants and trees like mesquite. Spending a little extra budget will ultimately save you from replacing your hand pruner or a plant that didn't survive a poor cut. Most importantly, there won’t be any emergency room visits due to broken blades.

For more advice on pruning and proper tool care, check out our free Principles of Pruning guide packed with helpful tips and information.


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