Having the right garden tools can make or break your gardening experience. But choosing the best items for your garden can be challenging, especially when selecting the best pair of pruning shears. After all, these tools come in several varieties, including curved and straight models.
Curved pruning shears are best for removing branches and cutting thick stems, whereas straight pruning shears tend to work best for cutting through smaller plants and stems. They’re equally useful, but their suitability differs depending on what you intend to prune.
This article will explain how curved and straight pruning shears work. We’ll also discuss their unique benefits and applications. You can use this information to select the best pruning shears for your gardening needs!
What Are Pruning Shears?
As the name of this tool suggests, pruning shears are scissor-like tools used to prune plant leaves, stems, and branches.
Most pruning shears consist of two sharpened blades supported by straight handles, typically with a thick spring placed between them to generate additional force. Pruning shears come in various sizes and styles, ranging from tiny 2 in (5.08 cm) straight-edged versions to massive 2 ft (0.61 m) curved options.
Selecting the best pair of pruning shears for your gardening tasks often means selecting between curved and straight models.
So how do these pruning shears differ, and which might be right for you? The best way to answer these questions is to review both types.
Curved Pruning Shears: An Overview
Blade shape is the defining quality that separates curved pruning shears from straight varieties.
Curved pruning shears either feature a single straight blade that aligns with a curved one or two curved blades, one convex and the other concave. Either way, the quality that makes these pruning shears “curved” is the presence of at least one curved blade.
How Do Curved Pruning Shears Work?
Curved pruning shears work in much the same way as straight pruning shears. They feature grips or scissor-like handles, which gardeners can grasp to open or shut the attached blades.
When squeezed shut, these blades meet, producing enough force to snap through thick stems, twigs, and growing tree branches.
However, curved pruning shears are often heavier and larger than straight shears. This results from their large, thicker materials (including solid metal blades and handles), which can produce more force to aid in cutting through hardier, thicker plant matter.
Curved pruning shears almost always feature a thick metal spring poised between the handles. This spring helps force the blade apart after cutting and produces more tension (and thereby more force), ensuring that the blades can pierce materials that straight pruning shears cannot.
It’s also crucial to note that some curved pruning shears feature long handles (up to 2 ft (0.61 m) long). These shears are often called loppers or tree loppers, and they’re designed to help gardeners trim hard-to-reach stems and branches, especially on young trees.
The curved blade on these shears encircles rounded stems and branches, reducing the likelihood of the blade slipping off and away while pruning. Consequently, curved pruning shears (of all sizes) are an essential gardening tool when cutting through thick stems and limbs.
Benefits of Using Curved Pruning Shears
Shopping for pruning shears can be challenging, especially if you’re unaware of each type’s advantages.
To help you decide whether curved pruning shears might be right for you, let’s briefly discuss their most significant benefits, including:
- Increased cutting force
- Greater cutting surface area
- Improved pruning reach
Curved pruning shears could make your outdoor work far more efficient and enjoyable, especially if straight shears aren’t strong enough to help you get the job done.
Increased Cutting Force
Simple machines have helped humans overcome obstacles for thousands of years. Curved pruning shears feature an updated version of one of the most crucial components of these simple machines—a fulcrum!
This pivot point between the shear blades typically consists of a thick metal spring.
This spring helps the blades remain separate when the shears aren’t in use. It also generates pressure, creating more cutting force. The force produced by this coiled piece of metal can help gardeners cut through relatively thick twigs and stems.
Several straight pruning shears lack this spring, making them far less capable of handling thick, rigid plant matter. Those hoping to snip through thick stems or twigs can do the job more quickly and easily when using curved pruning shears.
Greater Cutting Surface Area
Curved pruning shears are also beneficial thanks to their greater surface area.
One of the best ways to understand this concept is to think of a map.
Imagine selecting two points on a map, then drawing a straight line between those points. Now imagine that you must draw a realistic route between these spots, one that twists and turns through side streets or small towns.
If you measured the line versus the route, you’d likely find that the line is far shorter! That’s because a straight line is almost always shorter than a curved one.
Since curved pruning shears have rounded blades, they provide more cutting surfaces than straight pruning shears. This increased cutting area is beneficial when attempting to slice through thick twigs.
Improved Pruning Reach
Hand pruning shears are so-called because they’re small enough to fit neatly in the palm of your hand, and you can operate them with a single hand. However, while several types of curved pruning shears are just as small as straight shears, some are far larger.
These heftier, two-handed shears are called loppers, and they almost always feature the iconic curved blade associated with curved shears.
Though heavier and slightly more challenging to handle, curved loppers are a fantastic tool for gardeners with small trees. After all, these tools feature long, thick handles which provide enough height to help you prune away unwanted tree limbs and branches.
This improved reach may mean that you can maintain the look of your property’s trees without climbing a ladder. That said, loppers aren’t designed to cut away thick tree limbs. For that task, you’ll likely need to contact a tree removal specialist that offers limb removal services.
Best Applications for Curved Pruning Shears
It’s an excellent idea to invest in a variety of tools for your gardening tasks.
However, if you’re attempting to choose only one type of pruning shear, you might want to gravitate toward curved models if you:
- Need to cut through hardened twigs and stems.
- Don’t want to use a ladder to prune new tree growth.
- Need to prune large shrubs.
- Maintain a rose garden.
Overall, curved pruning shears are a fantastic choice when trimming through plant stems up to about 2 in (5.08 cm) thick. Curved-bladed loppers are equally helpful in trimming away similarly sized plant stems and branches, though they offer greater reach than smaller, handheld shears.
Straight Pruning Shears: An Overview
Straight pruning shears are similar to curved versions but tend to be smaller, lighter, and slightly easier to handle. Additionally, they feature straight-edged blades that meet, much like the blades on a pair of scissors.
How Do Straight Pruning Shears Work?
If you’ve ever used a pair of scissors, you’re probably familiar with how straight pruning shears work. After all, straight pruning shears are very similar to scissors, though most feature flat handles instead of looped ones.
Straight pruning shears feature two parallel blades that cut through plant matter when closed tightly together. Some models have springs to produce additional force, but these springs tend to be smaller and less powerful than those found on curved pruning shears.
Benefits of Using Straight Pruning Shears
Now that you’re familiar with how pruning shears work let’s take a moment to examine the benefits of using these types of shears. After all, understanding the benefits of each pruning shear type is crucial to selecting the best shears for your garden duties.
Generally, the most significant benefits of using straight pruning shears are:
- Precise cuts
- Easy handling
- Reduced wrist strain
These tools are a fantastic option for gardeners who enjoy growing flowers, vegetables, and small fruits. Let’s delve into the reasons why.
Pruning shears of all types can produce precise cuts, but straight pruning shears tend to be a little more reliable than curved options. After all, curved blades aren’t designed for precision. They’re designed for force and greater cutting surface area.
A pair of straight pruning shears is the far better choice when hoping to make clean, exact cuts. So, when cutting fresh flowers and detaching fruits from small plants, it’s often better to use scissor-like straight shears than curved options.
Curved pruning shears can be challenging to handle, especially if you’re using a long pair of loppers. These tools are useful but often heavy, with some options weighing several pounds.
On the other hand, straight pruning shears tend to be lightweight and small. These qualities make them easy to handle and use, no matter your current level of physical fitness.
The only exception is hedge shears, which almost always feature straight blades. These can be hefty and slightly unwieldy, just like loppers.
Of course, hedge shears (also called hedge trimmers) aren’t the same as straight pruning shears. The former is used to trim wide sections of overgrown shrubbery, while the latter is more often used to trim small portions of plants of all types.
Reduced Wrist Strain
The shorter handles of straight pruning shears make them far less punishing on the wrists. Gardeners that struggle with hefty curved shears, or have arthritis, can benefit from switching to straight shears.
Best Applications for Straight Pruning Shears
Straight pruning shears are almost guaranteed to be the best tool for your needs if you have small, dainty plants like bonsai trees or frail flowers.
That’s because straight shears are lightweight, capable of making precise cuts, and less likely to cause wrist strain than their curved cousins. Of course, not all straight pruning shears are tiny and designed for simple snips.
You can also use straight pruning shears (particularly those with spring-loaded handles) to trim shrubs and snip through thick plant stems. Straight pruning shears are just as multipurpose as curved options, though they’re far less capable of slicing through tree limbs and lopping off thick twigs.
Still, you can use straight pruning shears to:
- Cut live flowers.
- Trim away leaves.
- Keep shrubs maintained.
- Maintain bonsai trees.
- Detach fresh fruits and vegetables without bending the plant’s trunk.
Curved vs. Straight Pruning Shears: Which Is the Better Choice?
If you’re a gardener or homeowner with a variety of plants, including flowers, shrubs, and trees, owning a pair of curved and straight pruning shears is a fantastic way to ensure you have the appropriate tools to keep your yard maintained.
In this way, neither curved nor straight pruning shears are the better choice, as both are useful items used for a variety of gardening and lawn maintenance applications.
However, because of the differences between these two tools, one may be better for specific applications than the other.
For example, curved pruning shears are best used for trimming thick stems, branches, and tree limbs. The curve shape of these shears’ blades provides more surface area for cutting, making it easier to snap through hard-to-trim plant matter. Curved shears with long handles (loppers) are also handy for removing small tree branches.
On the other hand, straight pruning shears are used for more delicate and precise trimming tasks. These are often smaller than curved shears, making them ideal for cutting flowers, pruning bonsai trees, and maintaining small shrubs and bushes.
Naturally, the best option for you depends on your gardening needs.
Can You Use Scissors Instead of Pruning Shears?
Throughout this article, we’ve remarked that pruning shears and scissors are very similar. This begs the question: Could you use a pair of scissors for your gardening tasks, or do you need to invest in pruning shears?
The answer depends on the type of gardening you need to do and the type of scissors you intend to use.
For example, if you need to maintain young trees by trimming away small twigs, a pair of scissors isn’t going to do the trick. Instead, you’ll likely need a long-handled pair of curved pruning shears.
However, if you need to trim away some sickly leaves from a tiny indoor plant, you could use a pair of scissors instead of a pair of pruning shears. However, if your scissors aren’t made of stainless steel, they could develop rust after coming into contact with the water inside leaves and stems.
Sap created via cuts can also become a problem when using scissors. Sap is sticky and can harden into a thick solid. Since most scissors don’t have springs, you could fail to separate the blades of the scissors after they’re covered in sap.
It’s also crucial to note that most craft scissors (especially those made for children) have comparatively dull blades. These can fail to produce a precise, straight-edged cut. Attempting to prune plants with these tools can result in snapped stems or rough, jagged cuts that take longer to heal.
Using scissors instead of pruning shears can also result in injury. After all, if you attempt to cut through a thick stem with a somewhat dull pair of scissors, the blades can slip from the stem and end up slicing through your fingers.
For these reasons, it’s generally best to use pruning shears when attempting to cut away plant matter. That said, you might be able to safely use a strong pair of sewing scissors (which are designed to cut through thick fabrics) to trim away dead leaves or cut fresh flowers.
Curved and straight pruning shears help gardeners snip away plant stems, limbs, leaves, and boughs. As such, gardeners with a variety of plants can benefit from owning both types of pruning shears.
Curved pruning shears are typically used to cut through firm stems and tree limbs. They come in multiple sizes, but most are much larger than straight pruning shears.
Straight pruning shears are slightly less powerful but far more precise, making them ideal for cutting flowers, small twigs, and softer plant parts. Both types of pruning shears can help you maintain your outdoor spaces.