The long-lived pear tree features beauty and bounty at precisely the exact same time. It is a beautiful tree, boasting spring blossoms, fall color and fascinating winter branches. European pears are the better-known members of the pear family, but Asian pears (also known as apple pears) are gaining in popularity, as are pear hybrids.
European pears need cold to perform well. Most need at least 600 hours of winter chill, even though there are low-chill types. European pear trees are also rather large, reaching 40 feet tall and 25 feet broad, which might be overwhelming in a small garden. There are semidwarf and dwarf types available, however, and they are also a fantastic selection for espaliering.
Asian pears do not require as much chill, just about 400 hours, but do not handle winter lows below -15 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). They are inclined to blossom sooner than their European relatives. They’re also smaller than European pears, and you can prune them enough to keep them in bounds. Hybrid European-Asian pears lean toward their European background in looks and taste however, do in climate extremes, especially colder weather.
Most pears need a pollinator to your best fruit production. If you do not have space for 2 trees, look at a rootstock with various varieties grafted onto it.
Where they will grow: Both Asian and European pears do well in all but the coldest and warmest climates, so you can grow them readily at USDA zones 5 to 9, and some of the roughest European pears can be increased down to zone 3. Newer hybrids are being used to handle more chilly or need less chill, so check with nurseries for types to your climate.
Favorite European pears: Anjou (d’Anjou, Beurre d’Anjou), Bartlett, Blake’s Pride, Bosc (Buerre Bosc, Golden Russet), Comice (Doyenne du Comice, Royal Riviera), Seminar, Flemish Beauty, Flordahome, Harrow Delight, Hood, Luscious, Magress, Moonglow, Orcas, Parker, Patten, Patten, Secket, Summer Crisp, Sure Crop, Warren, Winter Nelis
Favorite Asian pears: Chojuro, Hosui, Ichiban, Kikusui, Korean Giant, Kosui, Nijisseki (Twentieth Century), Seuri, Shinko, Shinseiki, Shinsui, Ya Li
Favorite hybrid pears: Fan, Kieffer, Orient, Ure
Planting notes: Plant bare-root trees in late spring or winter. You can plant container-grown trees year-round, as long as the soil can be worked, but avoid high temperatures so you do not worry the newly planted tree.
Try to find a European or hybrid tree with a strong pyramid silhouette; an Asian pear should have a strong central trunk. Check for strong branches, if you want to espalier.
Pick a sunny spot with well-drained soil, though pears can handle heavy or damp soil better than other trees. Dig a hole that is as deep and twice as wide as the rootball. Spread out the roots, fill in with soil and water thoroughly. Reduce any weak or stray branches. Add mulch, keeping it away from the back.
Care requirements: Water regularly, keeping the roots moist but not overly soggy. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer in the spring, employing approximately 1 lb of fertilizer for each inch of the trunk diameter. Asian pears may not need any fertilizer at all. Don’t overfertilize; employing too much can increase your odds of fire blight, a problem with pears.
European and hybrid pears typically don’t need thinning. Thin Asian pears once the fruit has set, leaving one pear per spear and a minimum of 6 inches between each slice of fruit.
Pruning: Prune at the end of the dormant period. You’ll need to be cautious, as the trees are enthusiastic growers. You might have to do summer pruning for European pears.
The two types of pears grow right up to begin; European pears distribute as they age. With either type, encourage external rather than vertical expansion, which will make it easier to harvest fruit.
Once the trees are small, eliminate any branches growing at a narrow angle to encourage an open centre. Hanging light weights on the limbs can help train the branches to spread outward rather than upward.
Prune yearly to form the trees and keep the facilities open. Remove dead and dying branches, suckers and waterspouts. Cut back older branches to encourage new development.
If you’re espaliering your pear tree, select strong lateral branches and remove any wayward branches.
Pests and diseases: Fire blight is your first and most dreaded problem. You’ll know when you have fire blight; the tree’s branches and leaves will look like they have been burned. It is a fast-moving disease that is hard to eradicate.
Start with a disease-resistant variety. If you see influenced branches, cut them back well past the infected area and disinfect your pruning tools between each cut.
Pests include pear psylla and codling moth.
Harvest: Harvesting European pears at the ideal time, with the exception of ‘Seckel’, can be hard. You have to pick them until they are actually ripe and then let them ripen off the tree.
Harvest when the shade is beginning to change and when the fruit pops off the branch when you gently lift up the pear till the branch is parallel with the floor. Refrigerate early-ripening pears for as much as three months, then bring them to room temperature to finish ripening. Keep late-ripening pears in a dark, cool room, then bring them into a warmer area around three days before you will eat them. Store pear favorites ‘Anjou’, ‘Bosc’ and ‘Comice’ at a space with temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 4 degrees Celsius) for a month, and then bring them into a warmer room to finish ripening. If refrigerating, keep them while still they are underripe.
Asian pears can remain on the tree. Check for ripeness as for European Flowers. They have a tendency to have a long harvest season as opposed to a sudden burst of ripe fruit, so you won’t be overwhelmed with create.
More: The best way to develop more fruit trees