Regular bypass pruners are perfect for taking frost damage off plants and small shrubs; they cut branches up to 1/2-inch in diameter. Bypass pruners are the type that act like scissors – the blades cross. Anvil pruners have blades that cut across a flat plate. Bypass pruners are a little more expensive than anvil pruners but the cuts they make are cleaner which allows the plant to heal quickly. Anvil pruners can crush plant tissue.
Pruners should be disinfected after each use. Take a clean rag and sterilize the pruner blades with a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Carefully clean the blade. Whatever gunk remains can be removed with very fine steel wool. Also, you’ll want to keep your pruner blades sharp so cuts are clean and don’t tear the plant.
After each pruning session, it’s good to oil the blades. You can find an inexpensive bottle of 3-in-1 oil at a hardware store or use WD-40. Wipe an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces after each use, and remember to keep cutting edges sharp.
Here’s a great guide on which tools to use to get the correct cut for various plants and trees. Print it out so you can keep it handy.
The University of Arizona Master Gardener Manual also has good, specific information about pruning shrubs, trees and hedges.