Secateurs – or hand pruners to coin the American term – are basically garden scissors for snipping small branches and stalks up to about 20mm in diameter.
Pruning is an essential practice that keeps plants healthy by promoting new growth. It also controls unruly plants from taking over the garden and helps train them to grow in the way you want them to grow. Deadheading (removing dead flowers) is another important practice that can enhance the flowing performance of most perennials like roses, delphiniums, irises, lupins and poppies.
We’ve tested a variety of different secateurs on various branch widths and come to the conclusion that they all cut extremely precisely without leaving any bruising. In fact the biggest differences we‘ve noticed between the different models is size, comfort, cutting strength and whether they have the ability to select different jaw widths to suit individual hand sizes. If you’re not sure what type of secateurs you need, head to the bottom of this page where you’ll find the answer.
Here’s our list of the best secateurs you can buy today.
The best secateurs you can buy in 2023
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Even if you have large hands, these dinky pocket-sized secateurs are brilliant for snipping stalks, stems or branches up to 1.5cm in diameter. The RHS-endorsed Burgon & Ball Pocket Pruners measure just 17cm in length yet, despite their diminutive size, the curved, grippy handles are easy to hold without any slipping. At 150g, they’re as light as a feather, too.
With their hardened and tempered carbon steel blades, these traditional secateurs make light work of any pruning task. They’re exceedingly comfy in the hand and equipped with a nice, soft spring action that doesn’t require too much effort. Top buy.
These brightly-coloured Germanic bypass secateurs are perfect for long stretches in the undergrowth. They also have two different jaw widths for different sized hands and come equipped with stainless steel blades coated in a high-grade plastic grip that feels silky smooth and extraordinarily comfy in the hand.
As to be expected from a company renowned for its quality garden gear, these bypass secateurs snip green branches up to 22mm in diameter with consummate ease though they’re not especially well suited to snipping really thin 2mm stems. On the plus side, they’re quite cheap to buy and therefore not too precious to accidentally leave outside where you last used them.
Why not compare these topiary snippers to another strong model with T3's Gardena Garden Secateurs B/S-M vs Fiskars Pruner Bypass P57 comparison feature.
When it comes to blade manufacture – be it kitchen knives or, in this case, garden secateurs – the Japanese are past masters in the art. And as we all know, they’re also connoisseurs of creative gardening. Put the two together and this is the result – a pair of SK85 carbon steel bypass secateurs that are probably sharp enough to shave with.
Now, it must be said that these beautiful secateurs are of the traditional variety which means a simple spring between two slim, plastic-sleeved steel handles. Consequently, they do require a bit more muscular action to prevent the jaws from springing wide open. Also, these are not the type of secateurs to leave lying about in the flowerbed because that beautiful metal work will get badly soiled. In fact, Niwaki advise using a bit of camellia oil every now and then to keep rust at bay.
However, when it comes to snipping delicate stems and thin branches up to 10mm in diameter, these secateurs cut with utmost precision leaving no bruising and an exactness of cut that your plants will thank you for. They’re also reassuringly weighty, comfortable in the hand and feature a blade locking mechanism that has a satisfyingly decisive snap to it.
If you’re a discerning horticulturist who insists on using only the sharpest and best quality garden tools in the shed, then make these secateurs one of your very first ports of call. Alternatively, if money is no object and you want to snip like a professional, opt for the drop-forged and hand finished Niwaki GR Pro instead.
Ratchet action anvil secateurs are brilliant for cutting through tough dead wood branches up to 25mm in diameter. Unlike normal secateurs, a ratchet model like this sterling pair from Gardena uses some clever pivoting that enables the snipping of bigger branches in three short steps.
Simply place the carbon steel blade around the branch and perform the same hand pumping action you would employ with a normal pair of secateurs. The blade will cut only a few millimetres before resetting itself for the second and third compressions respectively. And all without putting much strain on the finger and thumb muscles.
This model cut through all the dead wood in our test with effortless aplomb, leaving the neatest of finishes in the process. Although the maximum stated width is 25mm, it managed to slice through an even thicker branch of around 28mm without any struggle at all. Impressive.
If you don’t fancy carrying a large pair of loppers around with you, then pop a pair of these in your tool holster.
These cool bypass pruners from Fiskars incorporate a unique lever mechanism that reduces cutting effort quite dramatically, making them suitable for smaller hands and arthritis sufferers. Instead of a standard scissor action, the P57’s top black blade extends further than the norm to join the bottom handle midway, creating a pulley-like effect for effortless cutting. However, we would have liked to have seen a two-stage switch to prevent them opening quite so wide between cuts.
Constructed out of lightweight FiberComp material, these smooth feeling secateurs have a cutting width of 2cm, making them suitable for any green-stem pruning duties. At a snip under £24, they’re not too pricy either.
Corona – a leading horticultural brand in the USA – has a history dating back to 1928 when it helped revolutionise the US citrus fruit industry with production of one of the very first professional pruning shears for snipping fruit off the stem without damaging it.
The Corona Deadheading Snips are perfect for deadheading flowers and performing delicate stem work in confined areas. These bypass secateurs feel ultra light in the hand and are equipped with sharp stainless steel blades with bevelled tapered tips for precise cuts. They also boast a light return spring that makes them effortless to use and a ComfortGEL coating that provides superior comfort and plenty of grip.
This premium bypass model screams quality all the way from the high-grade aluminium body and ultra-sharp TruEdge bypass blades to the ergonomically designed cork-covered handle. Granted, the Quantum’s weighty feel and larger size makes them more suitable for gardeners with bigger hands, but you’ll love the feel of those cork handles which provide maximum grip, especially when your hands are sweaty.
This Quantum Bypass’s blades are good for green stems and stalks up to 2.6cm (one inch) in diameter and they perform exceptionally well. The spring, too, is set to just the right amount of tension for minimum effort.
If you’re a bit choosy about your garden tools and are after a pair of classy bypass secateurs that perform exceedingly well while being robustly built, then give this model a whirl.
If you find your hands are too small for most secateurs, here’s a great pair of ‘lady size’ bypass pruners that do the job admirably well for around £15. Exceedingly light and small in the hand, these Spear & Jacksons are well up to the task when it comes to snipping back that most annoying of garden plants, the vexatious thorny ninja (aka bramble).
Aside from the slim, easy-grip handles, this model is also equipped with two-stages of jaw width – 75mm for small delicate stems and 114mm for slim green branches. The combination of its SK5 steel blades and bypass cutting action, meanwhile, ensures green stems are cut with minimal bruising. A great buy for those who just can’t get along with normal sized secateurs.
These bright orange bypass secateurs from power tool manufacturer Stihl are just the ticket for effortless pruning. The slim grips fit perfectly in a large hand and the finger-shaped indents provide extra purchase when cutting thicker branches. However, the jury's out on the smooth plastic covering which is a bit too slippery when wearing leather-style gloves.
The Stihl PG20 is equipped with two razor-sharp steel blades for snipping through stems and branches up to around 15mm in diameter. In the pantheon of standard manual pruners, the Stihls feel great in the hand, are extremely sharp and super efficient.
Where most other pruners come with two fixed grip levers, this model has a finger lever that swivels 45˚ as you close your hand. Fiskars states that its PowerGear mechanism ‘makes cutting up to 3.5 times easier than standard mechanisms’ and we’re inclined to agree.
These particular secateurs are fitted with a bypass mechanism so they’re good for softer living branches up to 24mm in width. They’re extremely comfy in the hand and the gently sprung levers don’t open too wide, making them pretty effortless to use. A stalwart addition for your trimming needs.
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Which type of secateurs are best for you?
Before you decide on a favourite model, we should address at least one particular piece of garden jargon that you will comes across when choosing the best secateurs for you: bypass and anvil.
Bypass secateurs have blades that are designed to pass each other smoothly as they cut, like scissors. They are perfect for green wood and delicate stems since they give precise, clean cuts and avoid damaging or bruising the branch.
Anvil secateurs, on the other hand, have one sharpened blade that cuts down on a flat hard plastic or rubber block, rather like a small chopping board. Anvil-equipped pruners are great for dead wood and dry, hard, old growth that needs cutting back. Mind, most amateur gardeners will happily make do with either mechanism since they both essentially perform much the same task. But if you were to pick just one type, we would recommend bypass secateurs because they perform both tasks extremely well.