A Guide to Trimming Tools, Manual and Powered

Landscape MaintenanceTools

Homeowners who trim their own shrubs and hedges need a few basic tools: clippers or shears, loppers, a manual saw, powered hedge trimmers, and a powered pole saw. Buy the cheaper manual tools first, then add the more costly powered tools when the budget allows.

Trimming and pruning are landscaping tasks that keep plants, shrubs, and small trees looking shaped and neat. Having the right tools for the job is a necessity. Using the incorrect implements may damage your plants, stress the tools, and make the whole job more difficult. Save time and avoid strain by investing in the right tools from the start.

Non-Powered Trimming and Pruning Tools

For small to medium-sized bushes, plants, and trees, gardeners should have a pair of hand clippers, loppers, and (depending on the project), a small saw. Relatively inexpensive, these tools will allow you to remove excess growth, dead material, and unsightly sections of plants.

Hand Clippers or Pruning Shears

Hand clippers come in many different shapes and sizes. Bypass Pruning Shears are the most common type of hand clippers; they look like a pair of scissors. Given their overall small size and small blade, these tools are excellent for precise cuts.


Moving up in size, a pair of loppers will not spend much time hanging on the wall. Versatile and powerful, loppers will easily slice through branches and growth that are too thick for a pair of hand clippers. The long handles make for a powerful bite while requiring little effort to compress. Loppers can be used near the bottom of a shrub where the branches are thick and knotted, or to remove low hanging or dead tree branches.

Landscaping Hand Saw

Not much bigger than a pair of loppers, a personal-sized landscaping saw will allow you to remove heftier branches. A little bit of elbow grease will be required, but the tool will do the work for you. Use a rapid back-and-forth motion while applying steady downward pressure. The saw blade will quickly cut through branches that are unreachable or too wide for loppers and hand clippers.

Powered Trimming and Pruning Tools

When planning to trim a hedge, a shrub such as a bougainvillea or boxwood, or a small tree, consider powered tools for the job. Investing in powered hedge trimmers and a powered pole saw will prepare you for anything that can’t be handled by smaller, manual tools.

You will need to decide between gas-powered or electric-powered tools. There are differences in performance and ease of use, so choose carefully.

Electric Tools

Electric tools must have a charged battery or an electric cord to operate. Inclement weather, the length of the cord, and the battery charge will restrict the availability and function of the tool. Electric tools are also generally less powerful than gas-powered tools but consequently come with a lower price tag. They are lightweight and quiet–perfect for small properties and limited cleanup work.

Gas Tools

Gas-powered tools have all the strength one might need. They cut cleanly through thicker branches and small trunks. While they are heavier than their electric counterparts, their raw power enables quick work on the thickest of brambles.

Gas-powered tools cost more to maintain. The price of gas, oil, and regular maintenance adds to the overall cost. Gas-powered tools are also much louder than electric tools. Ear protection is highly recommended as prolonged use without noise guards can result in permanent ear damage.

Which Tools to Buy First

Homeowners who want to take care of their own landscaping need the basic tools described in this article. Clippers or shears, loppers, and a manual hand saw are not expensive; buy these first. Then add the more costly powered hedge trimmers and pole saw.

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