Joyce Chen scissors

Succulent Lovers’ Favorite Tools

Do you own the favorite tools of your fellow succulent lovers? Consider: We differ from other gardeners in that our prized plants can turn on us. Cacti, agaves, euphorbias and even aloes can act like dogs who resent having their nails trimmed. (I don't know about your pup, but my Chihuahua is a two-person job.)

Being shredded is unpleasant, so I asked my "Celebrating the Joy of Succulents" newsletter subscribers to suggest tools they wouldn't be without. Dale's (below) is new to me, and I'll order it. Most are under $10. All make great gifts for us prickly-plant aficionados. Links are affiliate. 

Don't see your own favorite tool? Tell us about it in the Comments below!

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I asked, you kindly answered

"What garden tools would you not be without?"

Forceps (hemostats)


Hemostats (forceps)

Jean Sadler: "I would be lost without my hemostats. I have a small and large pair. They are great for picking out leaves and debris from prickly succulents and cactus without getting those pesky thorns in my hands. I found mine at a home show at our fairgrounds. It was a booth that sells all kinds of medical tools, scissors, magnifiers, and such."

15-inch tweezers

15-inch tweezers

15-inch tweezers

Tom Karwin: "The first tool I bring to a succulent grooming project is my 15-inch tweezers. I've been using mine recently to remove debris from small agaves and desiccated leaves from aloes. I also have a shorter tweezer but the longer one is more versatile and easy to use."

Test tube tongs

Dale Rekus: "I use test tube tongs for handling prickly pieces or plants and cacti. Tongs grasp the object when you release the pressure, the opposite of usual kitchen tongs. Very nice, no cramps from squeezing the handles the whole time you're holding an item in the tongs.

Fish hook extractor

Fish hook extractor

Fish hook remover

Diane Bonner: "My favorite cactus tool is a fish hook remover for pulling out weeds from under stickery cactus."

Soil knife

Soil knife

Soil knife ("hori-hori")

Sarah Lee Norman: "My favorite garden tool was a gift from Laura Balaoro...a soil knife."

Barb Graue: “My hori hori Japanese gardening knife.”


Cassie Smith: "I have a set of smooth wooden chop sticks that I use with almost every planting endeavor. I would be lost without 'em."

Which reminds me: During a potting demo at Roger’s Gardens, I asked my helper to get my chopsticks. I watched her dig around in my tote bag and thought I'd forgotten to bring them. Then she said, “Debra, I’m so sorry, there’s no Chapstick.” 

My own favorites


Joyce Chen scissors. Although designed for kitchen use (like cutting through bones), my Joyce Chens are my favorite garden tool. They're perfect for light pruning and taking cuttings, yet are strong and sharp enough to tackle small branches.

See More on My Tools Page

Find more useful items, books, weed and pest preventers, fertilizers, and must-haves that I use for my own garden at Tools & Must-Haves for Succulent Gardeners.

Tools, Books and Products for Succulent Gardeners

Tools & Must-Haves for Succulent Gardeners My personal favorites The tools, books and products for succulent gardeners shown here are among my personal favorites. I update this list when I run across something I’m excited about and want to share. If there’s an item you’re looking for or would like to recommend, or a link that’s…

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  1. Tim Wheeler on November 17, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    My go-to instrument for picking fallen leaves and twigs out of my agaves is intestinal forceps, which is like a 15-inch hemostat on steroids (it helps to be a retired surgeon). I occasionally use extra-long pickups, which are 15-inch tweezers. I use vise-grips (locking pliers) to pull dead leaves stuck under agaves. And tin snips are great for cutting nursery pots to free potted plants for planting in the ground. They are also helpful for cutting dead agave leaves.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 17, 2020 at 2:35 pm

      Hi Tim! How cool that your surgical tools have found a home in the garden. It would be fun to do a video showing how you use them. ;+)

    • Diane Liu on April 7, 2021 at 3:18 pm

      I have my father’s surgical tools! I love the fact that I can continue to use these instruments. I never thought of using them in the garden. Perfect!!

      • Debra Lee Baldwin on April 7, 2021 at 3:30 pm

        Ha! I love it! Thanks, Diane.

  2. Richard J. Jimenez on December 18, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    I agree with Debra, let’s see them in action. Happy holidays!

  3. Lee B. on May 25, 2021 at 5:04 pm

    I use a fondue fork to weed very close to my cactus spines. Place the fork at the base of the weed, or grass, push in and spin. Pull out by the root without getting to close ! Love my fondue forks !,,

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on May 26, 2021 at 12:20 pm

      So clever. I’ll look for fondue forks next time I go thrifting!

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