How to use tree pruner

How To Use Pole Pruners

Taking down High Twigs to Clean up a Tree


Jonathan Landsman

Jonathan Landsman

Jonathan Landsman is a professional horticulturist and former city planner for the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. While writing for The Spruce, he covered pruning and grafting trees and shrubs. Jonathan earned a master's degree in horticulture at Cornell University and was a full scholarship fellow of the Cornell Plantations Public Garden Leadership program. He is an instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Plant Identification and Botany.

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Updated on 01/26/20


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Pole pruners are a strange tool, with the cutting power of hand pruners but a reach of 8 feet and more. You use them when you have small things to cut that you can’t reach.

Unless you are a perfectionist that can’t stand to leave a little dead wood here and there on tall plants and vines, you won’t be using these very often at all and may not need to buy one. However, if you do decide you need to make small cuts high overhead, owning pole pruners can save you uncomfortable work from a ladder.

Here you'll learn about some examples of times you might use pole pruners and a few tips on how to use them safely and without tiring your hands more than you need to.

Cautions About Pole Pruner Use

Though easier and safer to use than its cousin the pole saw (since pruners can only cut much smaller wood), pole pruners must still be used cautiously. You are cutting smaller wood, but the wood bounces or sails around and falls less vertically than heavy wood. And you are looking up. No twig is so small that it can’t poke your eye.

Note: Never, ever, ever work near power lines or on branches with any part above a power line.

Choosing a Pole Pruner

Robert Kourik offers the following advice on pole pruners in his handbook, "Pruning":

  • Make sure the head is drop-cast or die-forged metal, not the weaker steel.
  • The kind that operates on a rope running to a bicycle chain is best.
  • Fiberglass poles are 40 percent the weight of wood poles and are preferable. It is easy to find one with a telescoping option to lengthen between 7 and 14 feet long or so.

When to Use a Pole Pruner

Pole pruners offer you just one thing: a long reach. Their cost is the unwieldiness and uncertainty of an 8-foot-long pole you need to carry around. Only in a few cases, and based on your personal preference, can they be used to make a job easier. These are a few examples just to get you thinking:

  • Minor pruning on trees. Thinning the new growth at the edges of a mature tree is the supposed main job for pole pruners, but in practice, it is very slow work to do with pole pruners. If it weren’t, professional orchardists wouldn’t use such big ladders.
  • Trunk cleanup. Mature trees will occasionally sprout epicormic growth from their trunks; honey locust especially likes to do this. Alternately, you may at times need to down pull all or part of a vine climbing a tree.
  • Tidying high on trellises. When you need to tidy up climbers such as clematis, trumpet creepers, and some roses, you might like to use a pole pruner. If you didn’t have a spotter to work with you, that would be another good reason to use pole pruners.

Pole Pruning, General Technique

There isn’t much to say on the subject: when it comes to using the tool, it will come naturally to you. Rather than a step-by-step, keep a few things to keep in mind:

  • If cutting a branch, stand off to one side not directly below it. If cutting small wood you can be below it, but don’t look up as you cut. Or wear safety goggles. That's never a bad idea.
  • Wear work gloves to prevent rope burn. Even cheap cotton gloves make a big difference.
  • Loop the rope once around your palm and then close your fist over it before you cut. Now you can get a strong pull without having to squeeze your hand to hold the rope tight.
  • Don’t try to cut anything too large (over a 1/2-inch thick). You’ll be tempted to at times, and it won’t work, and embedding the blade in dense wood is no fun. It’s hard to pull out, and now you’ve left a gash in living wood.
  • Cut as you would cut with hand pruners, but don’t go nuts trying to cut precisely at a node every time; it’s just too hard. Get the twig deep into the crook of the pole pruner head where the cutting action takes place, then pull the rope to make your cut.

4 Different Types of Pole Pruners and How to Choose One


David Beaulieu

David Beaulieu

David Beaulieu is a landscaping expert and plant photographer, with 20 years of experience. He was in the nursery business for over a decade, working with a large variety of plants. David has been interviewed by numerous newspapers and national U.S. magazines, such as Woman's World and American Way.

Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process

Updated on 09/22/22

Reviewed by

Andrew Hughes

Reviewed by Andrew Hughes

Andrew Hughes is a certified arborist and member of the International Society of Arborists specializing in tree heal care. He founded and runs Urban Loggers, LLC, a company offering residential tree services in the Midwest and Connecticut.

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BrianAJackson / Getty Images

Pole pruners can range from simple scissor-type pruners mounted to the end of a pole to sturdy pole-mounted manual and battery-operated saws. When shrubs and trees grow large enough that you would need a ladder to prune them with typical pruning shears, pole pruners can be a valuable tool. They allow you to avoid—or at least minimize—potentially precarious work on a ladder. Instead, you can keep your feet on the ground and extend the pole upward to get the high branches.  

Whatever the size of your project, there's the correct pruning pole for you. And this comprehensive guide will help you learn about each. Older-style pole trimmers had wooden handles, and this style is still available usually as a bargain-level tool. But pole pruners with fiberglass handles are lighter and more durable and thus are almost always worth the slightly higher price.

Below, we'll break down the ins and outs of each common type of pole pruners.

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  • 01 of 04

    Ropeless Pole Pruners

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    • Best for: Small branches

    Several variations of ropeless pole pruners exist—some with handles fixed at roughly 6 feet long and others with telescoping poles that are adjustable between roughly 7 and 12 feet. Some models feature handles or other mechanisms that pinch the cutting jaws closed.

    They are lightweight pruners that are inexpensive, simple to use, and perfect for beginners. They're best for pruning small branches up to 1 inch in diameter.

    To use this type of pruner, you must raise the hook end up into the canopy of the tree to be pruned. Then, let the hook nestle right over the branch to be trimmed while keeping the tool stable with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant hand, pull down on the bottom of the pole to engage a cable/sliding mechanism, which scissors the blade around the branch to make the cut. When finished, simply release your pressure on the pole, and the cutting mechanism will spring open again.

  • 02 of 04

    Santi Visalli / Getty Images

    • Best for: Branches up to roughly 8 inches in diameter

    A classic manual pole pruner has a curved pruning blade about 12 to 16 inches long mounted on the end of an adjustable pole. Models with telescoping fiberglass poles typically adjust from 8 to 16 feet. They range in price depending on features, but they're still fairly inexpensive.

    The curve of the blade, combined with its very sharp teeth, makes it amazingly effective at cutting through green or dead wood, even when the pole is fully extended. The sawing action is primarily on the pull stroke. It's a bit of a workout, but these saws can cut through limbs up to about 8 inches in diameter relatively quickly. When the blade becomes dull, simply replace it with a new blade.

    Many manual tree pruners come in sets containing two sections of fiberglass pole (or a single telescoping pole) and one or more cutting head. The heads are interchangeable, so you can switch from a saw to a pruner-type cutter, which is operated with a rope that closes the pruning jaw around the limb. Some pruners have combination heads with a saw and a pruner-type cutter in one unit.

    Saw heads typically include a hook at the base of the saw. This is handy to help you pull down loose branches, though the primary purpose of the hook is to keep you from pulling the saw out of the cutting groove. It is often very difficult to control the saw from the ground, so a saw that slips out of the groove will cause endless frustration.


    Especially when pruning large branches (but even with small ones), avoid working directly under the limbs you are trimming. Also, wear safety gear, including eye protection, a sturdy hard hat, work gloves, and long sleeves.

  • 03 of 04

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    • Best for: Tall hedges

    Electric pole trimmers are a cross between manual pole pruners and conventional hedge trimmers, and they're typically more expensive than the manual versions. Both corded and cordless models are available. Their blades are similar to traditional hedge trimmers, but here the motor and trimming head are mounted on the end of a pole to give you more reach.

    Many have a limited range of adjustability and can expand up to about 8 feet long. The cutting head can be swiveled and locked in place, making it possible to trim the tops of tall hedges perfectly flat while standing on the ground. These extra features come with extra weight, so this trimmer is a bit heavier than a standard hedge trimmer.

    This trimmer is best for trimming extra tall hedges without a ladder. It's not long enough for most tree trimming. And it can be dangerous to mount a ladder to use this tool, especially if you have a corded version you can trip on. There are other trimmers more appropriate where a longer reach is needed.

    The 9 Best Cordless Hedge Trimmers to Get the Job Done

  • 04 of 04

    Pal Szilagyi Palko / EyeEm / Getty Images

    • Best for: Fairly high and thick branches

    Whether corded or cordless, electric pole chainsaws are great specialized tools for more extensive tree pruning work. With a two-in-one detachable pole and chainsaw, this is the perfect tool for hard-to-reach branches fairly high above the ground. These pruners are also great for cutting thicker branches that manual pruners can't handle. Thinner, smaller branches should not be cut with an electric chainsaw, as it is an aggressive tool that will also cause collateral damage and leave a jagged cut.

    They are relatively heavy tools, so the extension poles usually max out at about 8 to 10 feet long. From a standing position, they can give an average-height person a reach of about 15 feet.

    If you don't do a lot of tree trimming, this product might not be worth the investment, as it can be pricey. But if you live on a wooded property, a pole chainsaw might be an indispensable tool.

Choosing Pole Pruners

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing pole pruners is the foliage you'll be trimming. Take into account the mature size of your trees and shrubs if they're still young, noting both how high they'll grow and how thick the branches will become. Pruners work best when used with species that are suitable for topiary pruning, such as boxwoods and arborvitaes.

Moreover, you'll have to consider your own height to decide how long of a pole you'll need, as well as whether you can manage a heavier wooden handle or a lighter fiberglass model. Cost can also be a factor. For instance, the manual versions are usually less expensive but will require more elbow grease on your part to get the job done.

Taking down High Twigs to Clean up a Tree

features and types, which one to choose

To have a beautiful and blooming garden, you need to devote time to it, properly care for trees and bushes. Then you can always enjoy a pleasant aroma, fruits grown by yourself. To care for the garden, you will need to buy a few tools, one of which is a quality pruner for grafting trees. It helps in the formation of ornamental bushes, promotes the proper development of plants, allows you to make the necessary vaccinations, improves their nutrition. Let's figure out which tool is better to buy, how to work with it, how the device will help in gardening. 9Ol000 How to choose the right pruner: our tips

  • 4 How to use the grafting pruner
    • 4.1 How to make the grafting pruner last longer
  • Main features of the grafting pruner

    The grafting pruner is a novelty that guarantees an excellent result from the grafting. It works according to the following principle: a clear blade makes a cut on rootstocks and scions. This forms a cut, so that the 2 parts of the branches fit perfectly. Using the device, it is enough just to connect 2 fragments by any of the existing methods. Thanks to the device, the process of grafting crops has been greatly simplified, it has become accessible to every gardener.

    Manufacturers produce many universal models (nozzles - omega, V, U), so you can easily make different vaccinations, working with all methods and trees.

    Fruit tree grafting pruner has a long shelf life. It is enough to perform up to several thousand cuts. The tool is completely safe, and the simple principle of operation allows even an inexperienced gardener to deal with the device.

    How the garden tool works and its benefits

    Devices usually have two blades - support and working, as well as:

    • bolt;
    • nut;
    • lock;
    • handle;
    • spring.

    The cut lies on the working blade, it has a high cutting capacity. The anvil blade has a curved configuration, which significantly reduces friction, ensuring the safety of the process.

    Grafting tools also include a groove through which the juice from the culture will drain. The bolt and nut act as a retainer that guarantees a secure fit of the blades. To limit the stroke, there is a buffer, and the spring brings the device to its original position.

    The main advantages of the grafting tool include:

    • making an accurate cut on the handle, and then a mirror cut on the stock;
    • maximum ease of use of the device.

    But remember that such a device is not suitable for use on branches that are too thick.

    What are the types of grafting pruner

    When choosing a suitable tree grafting pruner, decide on the design features, operation principle, purpose. Based on the principle of operation, the following types of devices are distinguished:

    • contact, when the blades are sharp on both sides, they are located on a single line, they are used to eliminate dry-type knots;
    • planar, when one-sided sharpening of the blade is performed, the movement goes towards the two connecting parts.

    Also devices can be divided into:

    • battery, when the work is done in automatic mode, you don’t need to do anything with your hands, but you have to monitor the state of the charger;
    • ratchet, have a mechanism that allows you to trim branches up to 3 cm;
    • rod, characterized by long handles, used for tall trees;
    • electro, relevant for processing large areas, require the connection of cords, carrying.

    For which crops is it worth buying a garden pruner for grafting

    A popular procedure for most gardeners is grafting grapes with secateurs. But also this tool is actively used for grafting:

    • mountain ash, different varieties of pears, apple trees;
    • spruce crops, cedars, pines, thujas;
    • roses, wild roses;
    • bird cherry, cherry, plum;
    • peach or apricot;
    • different types of nuts;
    • chestnut crops.

    The device is also used for black and other varieties of currant, red viburnum, hibiscus.

    How to choose the right secateurs: our advice

    In order for the grafting of grapes or any other horticultural crop to be as effective as possible with a grafting secateurs, it is necessary to choose a quality device. The first thing that is recommended to be done is to take the tool in hand, to feel its location. The result of the manipulations performed depends on the convenience during work. Before purchasing a secateurs, decide on the upcoming volume of grafting manipulations, how it will be more convenient for you to manage the device. We also advise you to consult with experts regarding the advantages of one or another type of secateurs.

    Popular models of secateurs for habituation

    Also consider the material of manufacture. Most often, the following types of steel are used to create the device:

    • SK 5, this is a high-carbon type, used to make thick, massive blades. The price is relatively high, but the product will last as long as possible.
    • SK 50 medium carbon look. It is considered a budget option, the blades can last a long time, reliably.
    • Stainless steel. It has a good appearance, does not corrode.

    Select options based on conditions and frequency of use. Recently, the market for garden tools has been filled with Chinese samples - they are cheaper than European models, although there are often questions about the quality of work. For professionals who often use pruners to graft a huge number of trees, they will not work. But for amateur gardeners who do a couple of graftings a year, Chinese models will be the best choice.

    How to use the grafting pruner

    Grafting apple trees with secateurs or other trees is as follows:

    1. Making 2 mirror cuts with a tool (using a rootstock and scion). On a stock, it is performed with an internal direction, on a scion - with an external direction.
    2. Open the secateurs so that the knife releases the trunk.
    3. We connect the two parts, not allowing the separation of the bark.
    4. The place of bonding is wrapped around with turns of grafting tape, making it "tight".

    At the end, the damaged areas on the trees are treated with a garden pitch.

    We also offer to watch a video of the whole process, how the grafting takes place with a grafting pruner.

    How to make the grafting pruner last for a long time

    In order for the tool to last as long as possible, it is necessary to properly care for the device. After completion of all work, the remains of plants must be removed from the blade. Washing the product is not recommended, as this will dull the blades.

    Pay special attention to the spring with locking clip. Wipe the structure with a dry textile cloth, and then treat with oil or a binder. These manipulations must be done after each use. It is systematically recommended to sharpen the blades so that the knives do not damage the branches.

    A reliable tree grafting pruner is an essential item in a gardener's arsenal. Having picked up a good tool, carefully caring for it, the device will become a reliable assistant in garden work.

    Secateurs for grafting trees, features, tool selection and care

    The grafting procedure is actively used in modern gardening. There are several ways to graft plants, and therefore the question often arises as to which one is most effective.

    The best solution is to graft trees with a special pruner, which greatly simplifies the work and provides an excellent result.


    • 1 Design and construction features
    • 2 How to choose a quality tool

    Design and construction features

    The pruner is a traditional tool used for pruning trees. Its main task is to make even and clean cuts, without torn edges, which is necessary to reduce the damage received by the plant. Another requirement is maximum user-friendliness, thanks to which pruning is done with minimal effort.

    The secateurs are very well suited for the formation of sections

    These requirements are undoubtedly relevant for all varieties of secateurs, including grafting options. The main difference is that the plant grafting tool is used to create sections on scions and rootstocks that are absolutely identical to each other. In turn, this provides a high probability of survival.

    In general, the grafting pruner has the same design as the standard tool. It is made of handles, a working knife, a spring, a blocker. The most significant difference from the conventional device is the shape of the cutting blades. The most modern models can be equipped with a small battery-powered motor.


    • Possibility of successful grafting without special skills and experience
    • The procedure is very fast due to the fact that the cuts on the rootstock and scion are the same, and ideally fit
    • Pruning does not require physical effort, which allows more grafts in a shorter amount of time
    • Pruner is absolutely safe, unlike grafting knives and similar garden tools
    • Ability to choose the most optimal blade shape
    • The grafting tools are durable enough to suit all types of fruit trees

    The pruner is very useful for beginner gardeners

    Undoubtedly, the presented tool is very useful for both beginners and experienced gardeners. The use of a pruner for grafting will greatly simplify the work and expand the range of fruit plants on your land.

    Despite many advantages, the grafting pruner has certain disadvantages. The main disadvantage of the tool is that when using it, the diameter of the scion and rootstock must match. The permissible difference in the diameter of the shoots is 3 mm, not more.

    In addition, a peculiar disadvantage of such a pruner is the limitation in the thickness of the plants.

    This tool is recommended for shoots with a thickness of no more than 12 mm, while other methods of grafting fruit trees do not limit the diameter.

    In any case, the grafting pruner is a very handy and useful tool that is indispensable in modern gardening.

    How to choose a quality tool

    Choosing a grafting pruner is a rather important issue that should be treated as responsibly as possible. Due to the fact that such a device has become very popular among gardeners, many manufacturers have appeared who offer their products to the attention of buyers. In order to choose the right tool, you need to consider several important rules.

    Do not forget to pay attention to the characteristics of the secateurs

    What to look for when choosing:

    Handles. This parameter determines how convenient the tool will be to use. Main materials for handles: tubular steel, composite, aluminum, plastic. The last option is the worst, since the plastic handles are completely uncomfortable. The most suitable option is handles made of polyamide, which will ensure long and comfortable operation of the device.

    Blades. The best option for a grafting pruner is a hardened steel blade. Such a knife remains sharp and does not require sharpening for several years, and besides, it is resistant to corrosion. It is important to pay attention to the sharpness of the blades. This is necessary so that the cut of the shoots is as even and smooth as possible, without any deformation.

    Spring. The quality of the spring mechanism directly affects the operation of the tool blades. If the spring is of good quality, trimming will be easy. The most reliable option is the spring mechanisms of the tape type.

    Structural strength. It is a very important indicator, as it largely determines the functionality and durability of the tool. All parts of the secateurs must be firmly fixed. When pressing the handles, there should not be any extraneous sound. Also, it is recommended to pay attention to the presence of a gap between the blades and the handles of the tool, since the smaller it is, the better the cut will be.

    The quality of the cut depends on the strength of the structure.

    The presence of a stepped mechanism. Secateurs for grafting trees can be equipped with a mechanism that divides the process of cutting the shoot into several intermediate stages. This auxiliary function is very useful when grafting is done on thick branches.

    Coating. When grafted, plants often secrete juice, which can fall on the surface of the pruner, while forming a sticky coating. The presence of a Teflon or chrome coating allows you to save the gardener from this problem.

    Rotary handle. Many modern models are equipped with a lower handle that can be rotated. This is necessary in order to reduce pressure on the fingers, prevent the appearance of corns, and ensure comfortable operation of the tool as a whole. In addition, the presence of such a handle significantly reduces muscle tension, so that the hands do not get tired even during long work.

    In order for the tool to be serviceable for a long period of time and perform its functions at the proper level, it needs careful care.

    The basic rule is to regularly clean the tool from vegetable juices, as well as dust, dirt, wood fiber residues. If the tool is made of poor quality materials, it should be thoroughly wiped with a cloth, but not washed under running water.

    In addition, it is recommended to regularly lubricate the spring mechanism of the secateurs. This allows you to maintain the mobility of its constituent elements, to prevent the appearance of rust.

    Expert opinion

    Yuliya Yuryevna

    I have a large garden and vegetable garden, several greenhouses. I love modern methods of plant cultivation and soil mulching, and I share my experience.

    Ask a question

    For whatever procedure you use the pruner, it must be thoroughly decontaminated before each new pruning or grafting, even if it has been rubbed or washed after the last use. We recommend using products containing chlorine, alcohol, manganese (only the solution should be strong, dark pink). You can use the iodine-containing drug Farmayod. After the instrument has been sterilized in one of the indicated means, it must be wiped dry.

    Performing the vaccination procedure, it is enough to disinfect the instrument before and after the end of work. But if sanitation pruning of the garden is carried out, for example, in early spring or autumn, during which diseased branches are removed, then dipping in a disinfectant solution is before each new cut. Otherwise, it is likely that the disease will spread not only to healthy parts of the plant, but throughout the garden. It is recommended to burn the affected parts of plants. If the branches are simply dry or old, then increased security measures are not required.

    Some gardeners recommend thermal disinfection of secateurs. But, for modern instruments that have soft grips on the handles, this approach is not suitable. In addition, there is a high risk of burning or injuring plants. And they do not need additional injuries at all.

    While watching the video you will learn about the whole process of grafting with secateurs.

    In general, the grafting pruner is a tool designed to create even, uniform cuts. When choosing such a device, you should pay attention to the quality of its constituent elements, since this is what determines the degree of functionality and ease of use.

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