Last Updated on November 14, 2022 by Plant Mom Care
Pear trees (Pyrus communis) emerged from Central Asia and are related to apple trees. There are 3 kinds of pear trees grown in the US – Pyrus calleryana (ornamental flowering trees), Pyrus communis (European pears), and Pyrus pyrifolia (Asian or apple pears).
Pyrus calleryana flower profusely and have beautiful foliage in autumn, but rarely bear fruit, while the Pyrus communis and Pyrus pyrifolia bear fruits for eating and baking/cooking. Pear tree wood is utilized in furniture and marquetry projects.
The oval leaves are 1 – 4-inches long, dark green on top with pale green underneath. The white flowers have 5 petals and grow in clusters or corymbs. The fruits come in the colors green, red, brown, or yellow. The trees can grow to 40 – 50 feet high although there are several dwarf/semi-dwarf varieties that grow about 6 feet tall.
If you have limited space to grow a tree, you can use the espalier practice and train young branches to grow horizontally on wires or vertical structures. You can also plant dwarf varieties that can also be grown in pots.
Pear Trees Light Requirements
Like most fruiting trees, pear trees need lots of sunshine to bear fruits as a lot of energy is needed for fruit production. To put it simply, the more sunlight the tree gets, the more fruits will be produced.
Sunlight also helps prevent fungal diseases which often affect pear trees. The morning sun particularly evaporates any water on fruits and foliage, especially in humid climates.
Pear Trees Watering
Young pear trees must be watered several times a week in their first year to help them get established, while established trees need about five gallons of water a week in summer. Remember, overwatering is as damaging as underwatering. Their roots need to have water but not be waterlogged.
Pear Trees Humidity
They prefer low to moderate humidity levels as high humidity can create conditions for diseases to attack the trees.
Pear Trees Temperature
They generally grow better in mild and cool weather. Prolonged temperatures above 90°F can create heat stress and affect fruit production. European pear trees generally do well in zones 5 – 8 while Asian pear trees do well in zones 9 and 10. Generally, these trees thrive in climates where there are cold winters along with cool summers.
Most varieties require about 400 – 800 hours of exposure to temperatures under 45°F to have good bud development and fruit production, however some varieties might require almost 1500 hours of cold exposure to successfully set fruit, while others can set fruit after only 150 hours of cold exposure.
Pear Trees Soil
These trees thrive with rich loamy soil although they can grow in sandy or clayey soils as well if it drains well. Soil pH should preferably stay around 6 – 8.
Clayey soil might be rich with nutrients but tends to retain water, causing problems with root rot. Loamy soil usually retains water without getting waterlogged and has more nutrients. Soil can be amended with compost to improve drainage in clayey soils and help sandy soils retain moisture.
Pear Trees Repotting
Full-size trees cannot be grown in pots, dwarf varieties usually grow to 6 feet and are more suitable for keeping in pots or planted in the ground if space is limited.
Dwarf trees should be repotted in a larger container after one year, then every 2 – 3 years until they reach their maximum height of 6 feet. The container should be twice as large and deep as the root system with plenty of drainage holes.
Remove the tree by gripping the stem close to the soil and lifting it out of the old container, shaking off any excess soil. Then add some gravel to the new container, place the tree inside and fill the space with soil.
Place the pot in a suitable area with good access to sunlight. The best time for repotting is in winter to minimize any damage to the roots. Water thoroughly and keep watering it regularly for several weeks.
Once the tree reaches its mature height, it will not be easy to repot, but you can replace 30% of topsoil with compost every second year to add fresh nutrients.
Pear Trees Propagation
These trees can be propagated by cuttings, grafting, and seeds. The last two methods need some extra work to get successful results.
Propagation by cuttings.
Cuttings of either semi-softwood or softwood trees can be used for propagation. Softwood cuttings are often collected when new foliar growth is beginning in spring through early summer. The typical time for taking semi-hardwood cuttings is early to mid-autumn, depending on your location.
Softwood cuttings root faster but tend to dry out easily too, which slows or stops root development. Semi-hardwood cuttings root slower but don’t dry out easily.
It’s better to try and root more cuttings to have a better chance of success. Prepare a suitable number of clear plastic containers (drinking cups will do) and cut around three holes at the bottom and fill the cups with potting mix. Take 6 or 8-inch cuttings from the tips of branches and trim the ends at an angle of 45°.
Next, remove any leaves at the lower area of the cutting. Gently scrape the outer bark off the last inch or two on the cuttings, leaving the leaf nodes intact, and dip the bottom end into the rooting hormone.
Make a hole with a pencil or pen in the potting mix and gently insert the cuttings. Keep the cups together in a location that gets 6 – 8 hours of daily indirect light at temperatures between 70-75°F and cover the cuttings with a large plastic bag.
Keep the mix damp but not water-logged. It might take a few weeks for roots to develop. Softwood cuttings develop roots within 3 weeks, but semi-hardwood cuttings will take about 6 weeks or more. You will see how the roots develop through the clear plastic.
Once the roots are around 2 inches long, they can be repotted in 8-inch pots filled with fresh soil. Keep them indoors for about a year and water them regularly whenever the topsoil is dry.
New foliage will continue growing but remove any flower buds if they develop. Transfer the new plants into your garden/orchard in spring. It will take about 3 – 5 years for the new trees to produce fruit.
Pear Trees Additional Care
Generally, mature fruit-producing trees need more feeding than immature trees. Professional farmers often begin fertilizing the trees after they are 2 years old.
If their growth rate is around 18 – 24 inches of new growth every year, that indicates that there’s enough nitrogen present in the soil. Applying a 3 – 4 inch coat of compost as mulch a few inches from the tree’s base when growth appears to be slowing down is better than using fertilizer since nitrogen can hinder fruit development.
It will also help keep the soil cool, retain moisture, and prevent grass and weeds from growing around the tree.
Young plants will benefit from being supported by a stake when first planted to help them develop a straight trunk. This can be removed after 2 – 3 years.
Pruning is best done every year in early spring. Prune carefully, particularly with young trees since excessive pruning will hinder or reduce fruiting and create excessive foliar growth.
Prune any young tree with no strong branches to around 30 inches high, just before a bud with a 45° angled cut. This will cause the tree to put out branches, if several branches are competing at the top select the more upright one and prune away the others.
Remove any branches below 24 inches or suckers at the base of larger trees, leaving 2 or 3 strong and well-spaced branches. Remove diseased, dead, broken, and any branches growing downward. Proper pruning promotes good air circulation and prevents fungal disease.
Pear Trees Common Problems
Erwinia amylovora bacteria, which causes fire blight, is one common problem for pear trees. Copper sprays might not completely eradicate the disease and pruning should be done in summer and winter to remove diseased parts and stop the infection from spreading. Tools should be disinfected before and after pruning with alcohol.
Pear scab is another disease that is caused by Venturia pirina. Circular dark lesions can appear on the tree, cracking and spreading over time. This can affect fruits and make them inedible. Remove infected areas and use a fungicide if the damage is severe.
Septoria Leaf Spot and Fabraea Leaf Spot are common in wet and humid weather. Leaves develop distinctive purple or gray spots that slowly enlarge and spread. All infected foliage must be destroyed to prevent it from potentially spreading to other plants in your garden.
Pests like codling moth larvae, psylla, leafrollers, aphids, spider mites, and scale commonly attack the tree. The best solution to control these pests is spraying the tree with a solution of neem oil.
How long does a pear tree take to grow?
The tree takes 3 – 10 years to become mature, start flowering, and bear fruit. The lifespan of pear trees is around 250 years.
Best time of year for planting pear trees?
Ideally, planting pear trees is best done in late winter/early spring.
What type of fertilizer to use for pear trees?
Compost is a good organic method of adding nutrients, however you can use a balanced granular fertilizer. Spread ½ cup of the fertilizer in a 2-foot radius, about 6 inches from the trunk.
Do pear trees flower every year?
Normally a young tree begins flowering in its third year. Some varieties usually take around 7 years to flower.
Where should a pear tree be planted?
Plant them in an area that has well-drained soil, full sun, and good air circulation for the best production of fruit, ideally away from large structures and other trees.