Size and weight
Pruners vary in handle size and weight. Choose one that is compatible with your hand size and strength and feels comfortable in your hand.
Your hand and wrist should remain at a comfortable, relaxed position—not bent or stretched—to ease strain and reduce fatigue.
Quality of parts
Look for durable handle coverings, sturdy springs, and shock-absorbing bumpers. Some of the most durable blades are made of high-carbon steel, a strong metal that holds its sharpness.
Pruning head size correlates to the maximum size of branch it can easily cut without leaving a torn stub. Large heads can prune branches up to 1 inch in diameter; smaller heads, up to 1/2 inch.
Multi-use pruners are intended to take on a variety of chores. Other tools are designed and marketed for specialized tasks, such as a narrow-bladed bonsai shear, or rose pruners with a "cut and hold" feature that grips the thorny stems while they are being removed.
Ease of use
The locking mechanism should be easy to engage with one hand.
Ease of maintenance
Make sure you can tighten or loosen the pruner so that it cuts with precision. Some models can be dismantled for cleaning and sharpening. Some manufacturers offer replacement blades and other parts.
It's unlikely that hand pruners, no matter how versatile, will be the only cutting tool in your garden shed. Don't overtax your pruners—or your body—when the task calls for long-handled loppers, electric hedge shears, pruning saws, or a telescoping pole pruner.
Recommended Hand Pruners
1. Stihl Hand Pruner (PP10), $18; an inexpensive but sturdy all-purpose pruner that's a good choice for new gardeners.
2. Fiskars PowerGear Bypass Pruner (7937), $30; ergonomic design and a rotating handle for small or arthritic hands.
3. Bahco PX series (PX-M2-L shown), $87; many customizable options, including head and grip sizes, left-or right-handed.
4. Fiskars Micro-Tip Pruning Snip (9921), $13; for light-duty cutting, shaping, and deadheading.
5. Felco 8 (F8), $55; the professional's choice for pruning roses, grapevines, and other plants that require a precise touch.
6. Florian Ratchet Pruner (701), $33; the ratchet mechanism increases hand strength up to seven times.
7. Corona Dual Cut Bypass Pruner (BP7100), $35; a dual-purpose tool for cuts up to 1 inch in diameter as well as precision work.