Hedge shears—also referred to as manual hedge trimmers—are a critical part of every amateur horticulturist’s arsenal. They’re highly effective for trimming branch tips and tidying up edges, all while promoting new growth. Electric hedge trimmers are often used by professionals and gardeners who perform extensive hedge work, but manual hedge shears offer unmatched precision and are a great choice for homes with just a few hedges that require trimming.
While choosing the best hedge shears for landscaping might seem like a simple decision, there are actually a number of considerations worth weighing. This guide explores several important features to look for as you shop and then provides choices by category of some of the top products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Fiskars Power Lever 8-Inch Hedge Shears
- RUNNER UP: Colwelt Hedge Clippers 21″
- BEST FOR PRUNING: Mockins Professional Heavy Duty Garden Pruning Shears
- BEST EXTENDABLE: Corona HS 3950 Extendable Hedge Shear
- BEST PROFESSIONAL GRADE: ARS HS-KR1000 Professional Hedge Shears
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Hedge Shears
Hedge shears do not all offer similar performance. A number of factors affect their functionality, including blade type, blade material, handle length, ease of use, and more. Keep reading to learn about several of the most important features to consider when choosing the best hedge shears for landscaping.
Since they require the strength and repetitive motion of your hands and upper body to operate, hedge shears can be tiring to use. Though many are designed with shock-absorbing bumpers, they can still cause shoulder and back pain after long landscaping sessions. As a result, electric and gas-powered hedge trimmers are recommended for larger jobs, while manual hedge shears are ideal for detailed work that requires precision.
Hedge shears are typically able to cut branches up to a half-inch in diameter. Some models, however, feature limb notches to extend this dimension. Additional tools, like loppers, may also be required for thicker branches. Smaller pruning shears are also useful for maintaining hedges. They are well suited for reaching into tight spaces and trimming interior branches to allow more light and air to access the inside of the hedge.
Hedge shears are designed with either straight, wavy, or serrated blades, each of which has its own recommended usage.
- Straight blades are optimal for trimming small shoots and soft branches. Due to their shape, they’re easy to sharpen with a millstone or sharpening stone, making them the most popular style on the market.
- Wavy blades grip on to thicker branches of 0.25 inches or more in diameter and prevent them from slipping as you trim. They have to be professionally sharpened due to their design.
- Serrated blades work best on thick, tough foliage and also require professional sharpening because of their shape.
Hedge shears are made from a variety of metals, and some are coated with added materials to prevent them from sticking and rusting.
- Stainless steel blades are both rust and corrosion-resistant. They’re best for cutting thinner green branches.
- High-carbon steel blades are a combination of stainless steel and carbon steel, which makes them stronger and easier to sharpen.
- Nonstick blades include a coating that prevents the buildup of sap and other natural materials from causing them to rust or stick together.
Blade and Handle Length
The ideal blade length for hedge shears depends primarily on their intended use. A 6-inch blade is best for trimming hedges that are between waist and shoulder height. A 7- to 8-inch blade is versatile enough for most jobs, while a 9- to 12-inch blade is ideal for trimming taller privacy hedges.
Most hedge shears have a total length between 20 and 25 inches. Longer shears are typically more powerful and provide a stronger cut. Telescoping handles provide optimal versatility because the total length of the shears is adjustable to accommodate the task at hand. It’s important to note that telescoping shears do tend to be heavier, so they may not be the best pick for gardeners who experience back and shoulder pain or suffer from arthritis in their hands.
Geared technology in a pair of hedge shears provides additional leverage when trimming, which comes in handy when handling thick or dying branches. Geared hedge shears typically provide between two to three times more power than gearless models. This cutting mechanism is available on more powerful hedge shears, but it may not be necessary for all home gardeners. For those who regularly trim their hedges, gearless shears are sufficient for keeping up with new, green growth.
Ease of Use
Several factors contribute to ease of use when tackling trimming jobs with a pair of hedge shears.
- Weight: Shears often must be lifted above the head during hedge trimming. For that reason, lightweight hedge shears can help prevent neck and shoulder pain or repetitive strain injuries. Telescoping handles are useful in terms of reaching higher branches, but they tend to result in heavier shears. The lightest hedge shears typically have wood, fiberglass, or plastic handles. If weight is a concern, look for shears that weigh no more than 2 pounds.
- Comfort: Ergonomically designed cushioned handles provide a more comfortable grip, enabling gardeners and landscapers to avoid hand pain and discomfort.
- Maneuverability: An adjustable pivot bolt allows the user to adjust the blade tension in accordance with the task at hand, making it easier to maneuver the shears when dealing with branches of different sizes. Shock-absorbing bumpers reduce wrist and shoulder pain by tamping down vibrations and preventing abrupt stops.
Our Top Picks
The following recommendations take into account the abovementioned features to consider when shopping for the best hedge shears in addition to overall quality and value. Read on to discover some of the top options on the market in a variety of categories.
The serrated stainless steel blades on Fiskars’ hedge shears can effectively grip and cut through thick branches. While serrated blades are notoriously difficult to sharpen, this model uses patented self-sharpening technology to ensure they remain sharp. The blades also feature a low-friction coating that makes them more rust-resistant and repels plant residue so they don’t gum up.
The compound-lever technology makes each cut by these hedge shears more powerful than traditional single-pivot shears, and the shock-absorbing bumpers and nonslip grip on the durable steel handles ensure comfortable use. These hedge shears measure 22 total inches with 8-inch blades, and they weigh 2.88 pounds.
- Stainless steel blades
- Self-sharpening, serrated edges
- Compound level technology for added power on tough cuts
- Shock absorption and nonslip grip for comfort
- A little hefty (2.88 pounds) for some users to wield easily
The wavy blades of Colwelt’s 21-inch hedge clippers are intended to grip on to tough branches, making them a powerful—and affordable—choice for shaping hedges, shrubs, and other decorative topiaries. The 9-inch blades are constructed from forged carbon steel with a nonstick coating to prevent rusting. Due to their wavy shape, these blades need to be professionally sharpened.
The ergonomic soft-grip handles and shock-absorbing bumpers make for comfortable use. Since they weigh just 1.8 pounds, these shears are easy to lift above the head for long periods of time without causing discomfort. As an added safety feature, the blades can be locked when not in use.
- Affordable shears
- 9-inch carbon steel blades
- Soft grip and shock absorption for ergonomic use
- Weighs only 1.8 pounds
- Wavy shape of blades requires professional sharpening
- Rubber covers on grips can fall off
While longer shears are a popular choice, small pruning shears have their own particular application when it comes to hedges. When a hedge becomes too thick, interior growth can be negatively impacted because of reduced access to light and air. Handheld pruning shears can reach inside these tight spaces and clip interior branches.
These pruning shears from Mockins are an affordable and versatile choice for pruning smaller plants, herbs, and shrubs. The bypass design and curved blades make them well suited for trimming foliage without causing damage. They feature stainless steel blades, and the ergonomically designed rubber handles limit hand fatigue and pain. The shears measure nearly 11 inches in total length and weigh a mere 8.4 ounces.
- Bypass design for clean cuts on branches
- Useful when pruning and making precise cuts when shaping hedges
- Steel blades
- Ergonomic rubber handles
- More for detailed work and shaping than for quick shearing
- Coil spring can rust or pop out
The handles of these Corona hedge shears extend from 13 to 20 inches, making them a great choice for trimming tall privacy hedges. The straight-edge blades measure 10 inches in length and are made from high-carbon steel. They are easy to sharpen at home using a millstone or sharpening stone.
The shock-guard bumper helps reduce shoulder fatigue, and the comfortable handle grips increase ease of use. The precision-made pivot bolt provides smooth cutting action. At 3.6 pounds, these shears are comparable in weight to most extendable shears.
- Handles extend from 13 to 20 inches for better reach
- Precision-made pivot bolt for smooth cutting
- High-carbon steel blades
- Shock absorption to reduce arm or shoulder fatigue
- Heavier than some shears (at 3.6 pounds) but reach farther
- Blades might dull, but they sharpen easily
ARS’s professional hedge shears boast high-carbon steel blades, which are chrome-plated for superior resistance to rusting and sap damage. The shears are 25.7 inches with a blade length of 7 inches, making them suitable for trimming tall hedges. Despite their size, these hedge shears are extremely light at just 1.85 pounds.
The straight-edge blades allow for sharpening at home, and they are also replaceable if they wear out over time, making this model a smart pick for professionals or dedicated home landscapers who frequently use shears. The ergonomically designed handles combined with the well-balanced nature of these durable shears ensure long-lasting comfort for long landscaping sessions. The shock-absorbing bumpers and ergonomic handles further enhance their ease of use.
- Blades are very sharp
- Pivot bolt allows for blade adjustments
- Very lightweight and easy to handle
- Precise and clean cuts
- Handles might be too long for some users
The best hedge shears make quick work of trimming and shaping hedges and shrubs. The Fiskars hedge shears check all the boxes for standard hedge-trimming tasks and the blades self-sharpen. For tall or deep hedges and a little flexibility, an extendable handle like the one on the Corona comes in handy.
How We Chose the Best Hedge Shears
Most hedge shears quickly but cleanly trim and shape hedges and shrubs. No matter how good the tool is, however, the constant opening and closing of garden shears can lead to muscle fatigue. So we looked at blade length and how the shears maneuver, how much the shears weigh, and ergonomic features like soft grips or shock absorption. We also looked at blade material to determine how well blades cut, move, and hold up to use and the elements.
FAQs About Hedge Shears
Check out these answers to some common questions about hedge shears.
Q. How thick can a hedge shear cut?
While it varies depending on the particular model, most hedge shears on the market can handle branches up to half an inch in diameter.
Q. Should I oil hedge trimmer blades?
Electric hedge trimmer blades require oiling after every use, but hedge shears don’t need frequent lubricating.
Q. How do I sharpen hedge shears?
Sharpen straight-blade hedge shears by running them against a millstone or a sharpening stone.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series, including This Old House and Bob Vila’s Home Again, he popularized and became synonymous with “do it yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Savannah Sher is a freelance writer and editor with a degree in Journalism from Concordia University who covers home improvement, lifestyle, wellness and pop culture. She lives with her husband and three-legged rescue dog Nori who is the best co-worker she could ask for.