Pruning Tips & Tool Care

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


Pruning Tips and Tool Care


Proper pruning is essential to maintaining the health and appearance of shrubs, hedges and trees. Regular pruning will help renew a plant’s strength, make it more resistant to damage and help control size and balance so the plant fits into your landscape design.

When to prune

The best time to prune is generally during the plant's dormant period, usually late winter. However, some situations require more specific timing:

  • Remove water sprouts, dead or diseased branches at any time of year, the sooner the better.
  • Cut back Maple, Birch, Walnut and Poplar trees in the fall.
  • Prune fresh fruit trees and summer blooming bushes in the late winter or early spring.
  • Prune spring blooming bushes and shrubs after they bloom in the early or late summer.
Make healthy cuts

Be careful not to make cuts too close or too far away from a bud. Using bypass blades, position the lower hooked blade to the discarded side of the branch so as not to damage the bark of the remaining branch. Cutting at an angle of approximately 45 degrees will help promote healthy growth.

Deadheading flowers

To deadhead flowers, simply snip off any spent blossoms with a small hand pruner. This sends the plant into overdrive, putting more energy into creating new flowers and root development.

Shrubs and ornamentals

When pruning shrubs and other ornamentals, first cut away dead or damaged branches. Next, prune selectively to refine the shrub’s shape, careful to make only healthy cuts. Never cut more than 30% of the shrubs overall live growth.

Ornamental grasses

In spring, cut back plants within 4"–6" of the ground just before or as soon as new growth appears. Grasses that remain green year-round normally don’t need to be cut back except to remove old, dead foliage.


When pruning hedges, taper the sides so that the bottom is wider than the top. This will preserve lower leaves and stems that will die without adequate light. Additionally, be sure to never cut more than 30% of the shrubs overall.


To prevent peeling bark when cutting back large tree limbs, make the first cut from below. Next, cut the limb several inches beyond the first cut from above. Gravity will cause the limb to fall. Cut the remaining limb at an angle so the bark collar remains intact.


Use a steel diamond file

To sharpen safely and efficiently, run a steel diamond file up and down the blade in a zigzag motion.

Sharpening angle

Stay at a 15-degree angle on the blade, careful to not sharpen at too steep an angle as this could damage the edge of the blade.

Do not over-sharpen

Be sure to test blades repeatedly throughout the sharpening process to prevent over-sharpening.

Minimize coating loss

Stay to the edge of the blade when sharpening blades with low-friction or titanium coating to minimize the loss of coating.


Add oil

Add a drop of maintenance oil to the pivot point, gears or spring of pruners, loppers and shears.

Open and close blades

Open and close the blades of your tool several times to distribute the oil. If the blades open and close easily and smoothly, your garden tool has been properly oiled.

Repeat as necessary

If opening and closing the blades of the garden tool feels jarring or requires undue effort, add another drop of maintenance oil to the pivot point, gears or spring.

Do not over-oil

Add only one drop of oil at a time to the pivot point, gears or spring of your garden tool to prevent over-oiling.


Dirty tools

Most simple hand tools like trowels and cultivators can be cleaned with a solution of warm water and mild soap applied with a gentle brush.

Sticky tools

For pruners, loppers and shears that accumulate sap and other sticky substances on their blades, apply a light alcohol solution with a soft cloth.

Tools used to cut diseased plants

When cutting diseased plants with pruners, loppers and shears, be sure to wipe the blades with a light bleach-andwater solution between cuttings and let dry completely to prevent the spread of diseases between plants.

Never soak garden tools in water

Soaking can cause rust that will diminish the strength and sharpness of garden tools.

Dry garden tools after cleaning

Whether cleaning tools with warm water and soap, light alcohol solution or bleach and water, be sure to dry garden tools quickly after cleaning to prevent rust.

Choosing the right tool

Tree pruners

Long-handled tree pruners provide extended reach to cut high branches up to 5 cm (2") in diameter. Many also include a saw blade to take down thicker branches.

Hand Pruners

Compact hand pruners are ideal for making quick snips on stems and branches up to 2.5 cm (1") in diameter.

Hedge shears

Hedge shears feature long blades that cut all the way to the tip and a two-handle design ideal for sculpting hedges or ornamental bushes.


Loppers feature a two-handle design and a longer reach that make it easy to power through thick branches up to 5 cm (2") in diameter.


Use saws to cut down large branches over 5 cm (2") in diameter.

Bypass blades

Ideal for safely cutting green, living growth like flowers, ornamental shrubs, hedges and tree branches.

Anvil blades

Ideal for pruning dry dead growth, stripping small logs or cutting back branches that died over the winter.

Use caution when sharpening

Always be careful when sharpening tools. Wear thick leather gloves to protect your fingers from sharp edges, and wear protective goggles to protect your eyes from metal filings.

For assistance sharpening

If you do not feel comfortable sharpening your own tools, ask your local gardening center to recommend a professional sharpening service, or call Fiskars’ warranty service line at 1-800-500-4849 for more information. Fiskars does not provide sharpening service.