Secateurs are hand held pruners with one or two cutting blades made of stainless, carbon or coated steel. They may be used one-handed to cut through soft shoots of any thickness or woody stems of up to 1 cm (1/2 in). They can also be used to take cuttings for propagation.

There are three styles of secateurs: anvil, bypass and parrot beak.

1. Anvil

Anvil secateurs have a sharpened upper blade that cuts by pressing twigs and stems against a lower, square-edged anvil. Many people find that this style requires less wrist and hand strength to operate, although the blades must be kept sharp to prevent the stems being crushed against the anvil.

2. Bypass

By-pass secateurs have two steel blades that bypass each other in a scissor-like action to slice through twigs and woody stems up to 1 cm (1/2 in) thick. The blades are both made from steel; the upper sharpened blade is convex, whilst the broad lower blade is concave or square.

3. Parrot-Beak

This style of secateurs has two sharpened blades that cut when closed together. Although they give a clean cut, they may be damaged if used to cut wood more than 1 cm (1/2 in) thick.

Features to Look For

  • Ratchet models that allow you to make thick cuts in several stages - useful if you have small hands or your grip is not particularly strong.
  • Handles may be made from plastic or plastic-covered metal. Avoid metal handles as they are cold to work with.
  • Always try secateurs out before buying to make sure that they fit comfortably in your hand and that they are easy to operate. The amount the handles open and the strength required to close them again varies greatly between models. Select a pair that suits the hand you use most; both left- and right-handed pairs are available.
  • Blades may be made from stainless steel, carbon steel or coated steel. Stainless and carbon steel keep sharper for longer, whilst coated steel is easier to clean.
  • Make sure that there is a safety catch that holds the blades in the shut position. Check that it cannot be flicked off accidentally, yet is easy enough to work with one hand.
  • A relatively inexpensive pair of secateurs is usually quite adequate for cutting soft-stemmed plants. However, you will need a more heavy-duty pair for pruning trees and shrubs with woody shoots.
  • If you are buying high quality, expensive secateurs, check that you can take them apart for cleaning easily and that it is possible to buy replacement blades.
  • If you intend to primarily use your secateurs to cut flowers, consider buying flower gatherers instead. These are designed to hold the flower stem once it has been cut.

Equipment Use and Care

  • It is essential to keep the blades of secateurs sharp to prevent ragged or crushed stems, as this may encourage disease in the plant.
  • When cutting, hold the stem of the plant down at the base of the blades. This will hold the stem securely and make it much easier to make an accurate cut. It will also prolong the life of the blades as they will be much less likely to be pushed out of alignment.
  • Always clean the blades after use to remove dried sap. Before putting them away, rub them over with an oily rag.