Key facts about secateurs:
- Secateurs are an essential gardening tool and one of the most used pieces of equipment in any gardener's arsenal.
- The main factor to consider when buying secateurs is ease of use. You want them to be able to cut through the toughest of stems and twigs with minimal effort, and at the same time be comfortable to hold for long periods.
- There are several different types of secateurs available, with prices ranging from less than $5 up to $100.
Data obtained December 2018. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
What are secateurs?
Secateurs are hand-held gardening tools used to prune plants, shrubs and trees. Also referred to as pruners or pruning shears, secateurs look a little bit like a pair of scissors designed for the garden and can be used to:
- Cut stems to promote growth
- Prune overgrown plants and weeds
- Prune rose bushes
- Cut flowers
What types are available?
There are two main types of secateurs:
- Bypass secateurs. Bypass secateurs are the most common option and actually work in a similar fashion to scissors, with the two blades sliding past one another to cut whatever needs cutting. The main advantages of bypass secateurs are that they offer a precise cut, make it easy to get into tight spaces and allow you to trim branches off at the stem. They're typically recommended for trimming live stems.
- Anvil secateurs. Anvil secateurs work by bringing a top blade down onto a blunter cutting platform (the anvil) – kind of like using a knife on a chopping board. Designed for heavy-duty tasks rather than delicate work, these pruners are recommended for jobs like removing dead branches.
Ratchet secateurs and pruners are also available and offer increased cutting power when you need to tackle thicker, tougher stems. They can be useful if you suffer from arthritis or have limited hand strength. However, they're not as widely available as bypass or anvil secateurs.
How to compare secateurs
Before choosing a pair of secateurs, you'll need to think about the type of pruning you'll be doing and how much money you're willing to spend. For example, if you're looking for secateurs to help you trim your favourite rose bush, you won't need a heavy-duty tool capable of cutting through thick stems and twigs. But if you're planning on pruning a wide range of plants of varying thicknesses, you'll need secateurs capable of handling a wide range of tasks.
To help make the selection process easier, these are the key factors that you should consider when comparing secateurs:
Comfort and feel
The most important thing you can do when shopping for secateurs is actually going into a store and getting your hands on a variety of different options. Hand size and strength can vary greatly from one person to the next, so check out how each pair of secateurs feels in your hand.They'll need to be easy and comfortable to open and close repeatedly, so don't hesitate to take a hands-on approach. Some models also come with rolling handles designed to reduce the strain on your hands.
Check what the manufacturer claims is the widest cutting diameter for its secateurs. However, take note that these figures are usually based on cutting green stems or soft wood.
This catch locks the secateurs in the closed position to prevent any nasty injuries. Some models use a lever while others have a sliding catch, so check that the catch is easy to access, engages and disengages smoothly and doesn't get in the way when you're pruning.
While you can pick up a budget pair of secateurs for less than $5, most options are priced anywhere from $15 up to $100.
Look for a blade made of good quality steel. Stainless steel and carbon steel are generally the best options, with both capable of staying sharp for a long time.
Some high-end brands offer spare parts such as replacement blades and springs so that you don't have to get an entirely new pair of secateurs if yours happen to break. If you're making a decent investment in your secateurs, it's worth checking whether you can get your hands on replacement parts if required.
Look for secateurs that feature a wrist strap, or a slot where you can insert your own strap, to ensure that you don't lose them. Some more expensive brands even come with their own pouch or holster.
If you're a leftie, make sure you choose a pair of ambidextrous secateurs (which are designed to be just as comfortable for left-handers as they are for righties) or perhaps consider a pair specifically designed for left-handers – they do exist.
It may not seem like a big deal, but choosing brightly coloured secateurs will make them easier to locate if you drop them in the garden or in long grass.
There are a few simple things that you can do to ensure that your secateurs stay sharp and in tip-top condition for as long as possible:
- Keep them clean. It may be a pain, but cleaning your secateurs after each use is an essential part of looking after them properly and ensuring that they don't become jammed. Cleaning away the sap and then wiping them down with a lightly oiled rag should do the trick.
- Sharpen them regularly. Sharpening the blades regularly with a sharpening stone will ensure optimum performance from your secateurs.
- Don't bite off more than you can chew. Don't try to use your secateurs to trim twigs and branches larger than their recommended cutting diameter. This is a surefire way to damage your secateurs, so save the bigger jobs for a pruning saw.