Choosing the Right Hand Pruners: Anvil vs. Bypass – Which One is Best for You?

Gardening enthusiasts and professional horticulturists alike know that having the right tools is essential for maintaining a healthy and attractive garden. One such indispensable tool is a pair of hand pruners used for trimming and shaping plants, bushes, and small trees. But with so many options available, how do you know which type of hand pruner is right for you?

I will dive into the two most popular types of hand pruners – anvil pruners and bypass pruners – to help you make an informed decision.

 Why Take My Garden Advice?

In this day and age of massive content being produced, how do you know who or what wrote this? I’m a real person who lives in South Carolina, and I have been gardening for over 30 years. I have worked in big home & garden centers, local nurseries, and commercial landscaping. My advice and stories are all from my first-hand experience.

 Understanding the difference between Anvil and Bypass Pruners

Before diving into the pros and cons of each type of pruner, let’s first understand how they differ in design and function.

Anvil Pruners:

Anvil pruners have a single straight cutting blade that closes down onto a flat anvil-like surface, essentially crushing the plant material between the blade and anvil. These pruners work similarly to a knife cutting on a cutting board.

Bypass Pruners:

On the other hand, Bypass pruners have a curved cutting blade that slides past a counter blade, like a pair of scissors. This action results in a clean, precise cut that minimizes damage to the plant tissue.

The Pros and Cons of Anvil Pruners


-Great for cutting dead, dry, or woody branches: The crushing action of anvil pruners makes them highly effective for cutting through tough, dead, or dry materials without the need for excessive force.

-Typically more affordable: Anvil pruners are generally less expensive than bypass pruners, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious gardeners.

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-Potential for plant damage: The crushing action of anvil pruners can cause damage to living plant tissue, which may lead to infections or delayed healing.

-Not ideal for precise cuts: Due to their design, anvil pruners are not the best choice when precision is needed, such as in pruning delicate plants or making precise cuts near the base of a stem.

 The Pros and Cons of Bypass Pruners


-Clean, precise cuts: Bypass pruners create clean, precise cuts that minimize damage to living plant tissue, promoting faster healing and reducing the risk of infections.

-Ideal for green, living stems: The scissor-like action of bypass pruners allows them to easily cut through green, living stems without crushing or damaging the plant.

-Suitable for detailed work: The design of bypass pruners makes them a better choice for detailed pruning work, such as shaping bushes, fruit trees, or ornamental plants.


-Not ideal for dead or woody material: Bypass pruners can struggle to cut through dead, dry, or woody branches and may require more force, which can lead to hand fatigue or even damage the pruners.

-Typically more expensive: Bypass pruners are generally more expensive than anvil pruners, which may be a consideration for some gardeners.

Choosing the Right Pruner for Your Needs

Now that you understand the pros and cons of both anvil and bypass pruners, it’s time to decide which one is right for your needs. Consider the following factors:

The types of plants you’ll be pruning: If you mostly work with dead, dry, or woody branches, anvil pruners may be the better choice. If you mostly prune green, living stems or require precision cuts, bypass pruners are the way to go.

·    Your budget: If you’re on a tight budget, anvil pruners are generally more affordable than bypass pruners. However, it’s important to consider the long-term benefits of each type of pruner and not solely focus on the initial cost.

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·    The frequency of use: If you’re a professional gardener or a hobbyist who spends a significant amount of time pruning, investing in a high-quality pair of bypass pruners may be worth the additional cost, as they’ll provide cleaner cuts and better overall performance.

·    Ergonomics and comfort: Regardless of the type of pruner you choose, make sure it feels comfortable in your hand and is easy to use. Look for pruners with ergonomic handles, non-slip grips, and adjustable tension settings to ensure maximum comfort during extended pruning sessions.

The Verdict: Which Pruner Should You Choose?

Ultimately, the choice between anvil and bypass pruners comes down to personal preference and the specific requirements of your garden. Both types of pruners have their advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for you will depend on the type of plants you work with most frequently and your budget.

Anvil pruners may be the better option for gardeners who primarily deal with dead, woody branches. However, if you’re working with green, living stems and require precision cuts, bypass pruners are the recommended choice. In many cases, having both types of pruners in your gardening toolkit is ideal, as this allows you to switch between the two depending on the task at hand.

Researching and choosing the right-hand pruner for your needs will help ensure that your plants remain healthy and well-maintained, making your garden a more beautiful and enjoyable space. Happy pruning!

Blair Witkowski
Author: Blair Witkowski

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