How to Grow Bartlett Pear Trees (Williams Pear Trees)

Bartlett pear tree with fruit

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Bartlett pear trees are famous for their yellow-green, sweet fruits. Also known as Williams pear trees in Britain, these trees are a cultivar of Pyrus communis. Available in both standard and dwarf height varieties, Bartlett pear trees reach a mature height of 15 feet to 20 feet. 

Each year, Bartlett pear trees burst forth in a bloom of showy white flowers before their leaves appear. In late summer (about three to five months past the peak of full bloom) these flowers produce delicious, juicy pears. Unlike other fruit trees, the pear tree grows in a conical shape, similar to a spruce tree. Green, oval-shaped leaves that measure up to three inches long and have a very fine-toothed edge fill the tree's canopy during the growing season.

Common Name Bartlett Pear Tree, Williams Pear Tree
Botanical Name Pyrus communis
Family Rosaceae
Plant Type Tree, Fruit
Mature Size 20 ft. tall (standard), 15 ft. tall (dwarf), 20 ft. wide (standard), 10 ft. wide (dwarf)
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Loamy, clay, moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 5-7, USA
Native Area Europe

Bartlett Pear Tree Care

Once established, Bartlett pear trees are relatively easy to care for and do not require much attention. They prefer moist, well-draining soil and a consistent watering schedule. Though Bartlett pears are partially self-fruitful, meaning they will produce fruits on their own, they do best with a compatible nearby pear tree for pollination, such as Kieffer, Moonglow, or Stark pear-tree varieties. After planting, Bartlett pear trees will take a few years to establish and begin producing fruit. However, once these trees are established—after at least two years—they produce abundant fruit. In fact, Bartlett pear trees have been known to continue producing fruit for over 100 years

When fruits appear, wait until the fruit is mature but still unripe to pick. If the fruits are left on the tree, they may become too soft and take on a mealy texture. Bartlett pears are non-toxic to pets, but the seeds contain cyanide. You should never feed your pet pear seeds.

Bartlett pears are generally problem-free. However, they may contend with fire blight.  

Light

Bartlett pear trees require lots of sunshine for blossom and fruit production. Choose a location where these trees will get six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. 

Soil

These fruit trees are sensitive to dry conditions and salt in the soil. They require moist, well-draining, heavy soils. Soil pH levels should be slightly acidic.  

Water

In order to remain healthy and produce juicy fruit, Bartlett pear trees need regular watering. Plan to irrigate these trees on a weekly basis. A drought or dry spells means trouble for the Bartlett pear tree, so be sure to give extra water during periods of no rain. 

Temperature and Humidity

Bartlett pears can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 7. They require cold winters and must experience around 800 hours of ‘chill hours.’ More technically known as vernalization, chill hours are tallied when the air temperature is between 32 degrees and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit don’t count towards chill hours and temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit are subtracted from the accumulated chill hours.

Fertilizer

Yearly fertilizing will keep the Bartlett pear tree strong and producing plenty of fruit. It is best to give fertilizer in the spring. A well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for fruit trees is ideal. Beware of too much fertilizer, as this will encourage the tree to grow more foliage rather than fruit. 

Pruning 

To keep a pear tree healthy and manageable in size, plan to prune each year during the tree’s dormancy. You start pruning the first year that the tree is planted. Choose a main leading trunk or branch and trim all other branches so that they are 5 to 8 inches apart. Each branch should spiral around the trunk with no branch being directly above another. Remove any branches that grow below 18 inches from the ground. Because young branches are weak, they may need to be tied to more mature branches until they are strong. 

Each subsequent year, continue to maintain this spiral of branches. Trim away any lateral growth that is pointing inwards, as this will cause airflow problems. Then trim away the tops of any main growth branches that are not the selected main branch. These can be identified where the branch has forked, creating lateral growth, and the main branch continues upward without any more lateral growth. Trim this branch right above the last lateral growth. This will encourage the branches of the tree to grow strong while ensuring proper airflow and light penetration through the branches.  

Tip

If you are pruning to maximize fruit production, you should prune to prioritize long, straight lateral branches where fruit is most likely to grow.

Propagating Bartlett Pear Trees

Propagating Bartlett pear trees can be done through cuttings. This method will work with softwood cuttings and semi-hardwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings are taken in the spring or early summer. These root easier than semi-hardwood cuttings, but also tend to dry out easier. Semi-hardwood cuttings are taken in late summer to early fall when new growth is beginning to harden. These do not root as quickly but do not dry out as easily. You will need a sharp pair of garden snips, a small pot, moist but well-draining soil, rooting hormone, a plastic bag, and a rubber band. Then follow these instructions:

  1. Choose a cutting that is around six to eight inches long. Trim below a node at a 45-degree angle. 
  2. Remove any leaves or buds along the bottom half of the cutting. 
  3. Scrape away the bark on the bottom inch or two of the cutting, then dip the exposed end into rooting hormone.
  4. Plant the cutting into moist, well-draining soil or a soilless medium. 
  5. Place the plastic bag over the tree, securing it to the pot with the rubber band.
  6. Place the cutting in indirect sunlight and keep it warm.  
  7. Mist the soil and cutting daily. Air out the plastic bag once in a while to prevent the development of mildew. 
  8. Roots may take a few weeks to a few months to develop. 
  9. Once strong roots and new growth appear, repot the new tree into a larger pot. Remove any flower buds that form.
  10. The following year, harden off the tree until it is strong enough to be planted into the garden. 

How to Grow Bartlett Pear Trees From Seed

Starting Bartlett pear trees from seed is not ideal, as the resulting tree may not have the same characteristics as the parent tree. However, it is still a viable option with great rewards. If you would like to grow a pear tree from seed, follow these instructions:

  1. Take dry pear seeds and wrap them in a damp paper towel. Place these in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to three months. It is best to use several seeds, as not all of them will germinate. 
  2. After a few months, remove the seeds from the refrigerator and plant them in small pots with well-draining, moist soil. Each seed should be planted in its own pot. Lightly cover the seeds about an inch deep. 
  3. Place the pots in a sunny location and keep the soil moist. To help maintain humidity, a plastic dome or plastic bag can be used to cover the pot. 
  4. Germination should occur in a few months. If a dome is used, remove it once growth appears. The following year, the new trees can be planted into the garden.   

Overwintering

Bartlett pear trees require cold temperatures to thrive and produce fruit each year. Therefore, very little attention is required for these trees to survive a cold winter. Simply add a layer of mulch around the base of the tree to help insulate the roots.  

How to Get Bartlett Pear Trees to Bloom

Bartlett pear trees are known for their beautiful white blooms that appear every spring. The tree produces these small white flowers before leaves appear, making the display all the more show-stopping.

To encourage the Bartlett pear to bloom, be sure the tree gets plenty of sunshine and water. Maintain a regular pruning schedule to ensure that sunlight is able to shine through the tree’s canopy. In addition, maintain a regular watering schedule during the growing season.  

Common Problems With Bartlett Pear Trees

Bartlett pear trees are generally hardy and do not contend with many problems. Still, there are a few issues that may be encountered when growing these pear trees, such as irregular pigmentation in leaves or a lack of blooms.

Pale Green or Yellow Leaves

Throughout the summer, Bartlett pear trees should have rich green foliage. If the leaves appear pale or yellowish, this is a sign of inadequate nutrients. It is best to give additional fertilizer the following spring, rather than add the fertilizer later in the year. Add more slow-release fertilizer the following spring. 

No Blooms

Sometimes Bartlett pear trees may not bloom. This may occur for a variety of reasons. These include lack of sunlight and water, too much fertilizer, and improper pruning. Be sure your tree is receiving six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Remove any nearby branches that may be shading the tree. Water weekly to keep the tree quenched. Fertilize in the spring. If the tree produces large amounts of foliage and branch growth with little to no blooms, cut back on fertilizer the following year. Pruning is important, but be sure not to prune the tree too severely. This can hinder bloom production.  

FAQ
  • How long does it take for a Bartlett pear tree to produce fruit?

    Many factors determine how quickly a mature tree bears fruit, but usually a tree will yield its first crop between 3 and 7 years.

  • Do Bartlett pear trees need a nearby pollinator tree?

    Bartlett pear trees are partially self-pollinating, which means they will produce some fruit on their own. However, they produce better when planted near a compatible pear tree for pollination.

  • How fast does a Bartlett pear tree grow?

    Bartlett pear trees are considered a fast-growing species of fruit tree. They can grow more than two feet per year until reaching the tree's mature height.

Article Sources
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  2. Burke, Anna. “Can Dogs Eat Pears?” Akc.Org, American Kennel Club, 30 Aug. 2016, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-pears/.

  3. “The Importance of Chill Hours for Fruit Trees.” Ucanr.Edu, https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16468.