How to Grow Asian Pear Trees

Close-up of Asian Pear Tree (pyrus pyrifolia)


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The Asian pear tree (Pyrus pyrifolia) is part of the Rosaceae family. Reaching up to 30 to 40 feet tall, this upright grower blooms with showy white flowers in spring, and pears can be harvested in summer or fall. Because the fruit is juicy like a pear and crunchy like an apple, Asian pears are sometimes referred to as "papples."

Native to China and Japan, it is also grown across other parts of Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. Dwarf cultivars are available and plants usually come on grafted rootstock.

Botanical Name Pyrus pyrifolia
Common Name  Asian pear tree, Korean pear, Japanese pear, Taiwanese pear; Chinese pear, Chinese sand pear; apple pears, prapples, papples; Nashi pears, Nashis, nashpati
Plant Type Fruit tree
Mature Size  30 to 40 ft. tall, 30 to 40 ft. wide
Sun Exposure  Full sun to part sun
Soil Type  Deep fertile loam or sand (adaptable to clay)
Soil pH  Slightly Acidic (6.0 to 6.5)
Bloom Time  Spring
Flower Color  White
Hardiness Zones  5-9, USDA
Native Area  Asia
Toxicity  Non-toxic

Asian Pear Tree Care

Prepare to plant the tree in spring after the last frost. About one week before planting, remove weeds, grass, and rocks. Pull apart any soil clumps. If planting more than one tree, space them at least 15 feet apart. Soak the tree's root system in a large container of water for about one hour.

Dig a hole twice as deep and wide as the root ball, so that the roots will fit and spread freely in the ground. Mix a four-inch layer of compost into the soil. Work in the compost with a shovel.

Cut any damaged roots off the root ball. Loosen the roots. Place the tree in the hole on the same level as it was in the original pot. Backfill with two-thirds of the soil and then tamp the soil with your feet gently.

Before backfilling the last one-third, soak the soil with a garden hose. Let the hose trickle water, and let the soil absorb the moisture. Make sure the tree is planted so that the graft union rests about two inches above the level of the soil. Prevent a depression around the base because, in winter, water can accumulate, freeze and damage the tree.

Establish a 10-foot tall stake two feet deep into the ground, four inches away from the trunk. Tie the tree to the stake.

Light

Fruits will produce most prolifically in full sun. Find the most open and sunny area of your garden where the air flows well.

Soil

Asian pear trees prefer deep, well-drained fertile soils. Loam is best, but plants will adapt to clay soils, with a slightly acidic pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

One year before planting, test the soil pH. If it needs to be increased, add lime into the top seven inches of soil. If it needs to be decreased, add sulfur.

Water

Water the tree deeply about every 10 days after planting and while establishing, ensuring the moisture reaches the whole root system. Adjust watering times based on rainfall or hot weather.

Fertilizer

Wait a month before fertilizing. Then give the tree a half-pound of 10-10-10. If the tree ends up growing more than one foot per year, refrain from fertilizing it. Nitrogen encourages growth, but too much can prevent optimal fruiting or encourage diseases.

If the tree grows slowly (less than eight inches each year), feed it one-third to a half-cup of 10-10-10 per every year of the age of the tree, or up to eight cups divided into two feedings.

Sprinkle the fertilizer over the soil and water it. Spread a four-inch layer of bark mulch four inches away from the trunk. Add the first portion in the spring before new growth appears and the second portion when the tree begins fruiting.

Maintain a two- to four-inch layer of mulch to keep weeds down and encourage the soil to retain moisture and nutrients. Adding compost or farm manure in spring and summer can also help the tree stay healthy. Before winter starts, mulch again with straw or grass.

Temperature and Humidity

Depending on the variety, Asian pear trees can survive winter temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The tree is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 8 or 9.

Is the Asian Pear Tree Toxic?

The tree itself and the fruit are not toxic. Asian pears can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds do contain amygdalin (a glycoside that can release cyanide). Poisoning is only possible, however, if the consumer ingests a large number of seeds all at once.

Pruning

Asian pear trees require regular pruning. Use sterilized pruning shears to cut off branches above the buds, and prune weak, dead, or unwanted branches that could be blocking air circulation.

Thin the tree two times a year. When the tree is in bloom, remove about half of the flowers in each cluster. Then thin again 14-40 days after the blossoms drop as this will encourage larger fruit to form.

Select the largest fruit in each cluster and prune out any others. Each winter, lightly prune the tree to maintain shape and stimulate growth.

Harvesting

Expect your first Asian pear harvest in the second or third year. Harvest when the fruit color changes to yellow or bronze-green with tiny caramel-colored flecks. Consider cooling fruits before eating raw.

Harvesting is generally mid-July through September with a few earlier or later varieties in California. In Washington State, you can expect to harvest around August, September, and October.

Propagating Asian Pear Trees

Propagate from seeds, cuttings, and grafting. For best and fastest results, however, buy a potted plant from a nursery.

Asian Pear Tree Varieties

There are many varieties of Asian pear trees. Popular ones include the Korean Giant, Shinko, Hosui, Chojuro, and Shinseik. Many varieties are dwarf cultivars that reach only 8 to 15 feet tall -- ideal specimens for a home garden.

Common Pests/Diseases

Protect fruits with nets to prevent birds and wasps from eating them. Asian pear trees can also suffer from bacterial infections, which blacken their leaves to their roots. This disease is called fire blight, caused by Erwinia amylovora bacteria overwintering in small bark cankers. Fire blight cannot be cured, but quick pruning action can minimize the spread.

Blackening during other times of the year may be a sign of sooty mold fungi as a result of insect infestation.