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, which includes several fruit trees such as plums and peaches. The Asian pear produces copper-colored, rounded fruits that are a few inches long. The fruits are juicy like a pear but crunchy like an apple—hence the reason they are sometimes referred to as “papples.” They can be eaten raw or cooked. The tree features dense green foliage in a pyramidal or rounded shape. The foliage turns a red or burgundy color in the fall. And showy cup-shaped flowers appear in the spring that stretch around 1 to 3 inches across. This tree has a fairly quick growth rate and is best planted in the spring after any danger of frost has passed.

Botanical Name Pyrus pyrifolia
Common Names Asian pear, Korean pear, Japanese pear, Taiwanese pear, Chinese pear, apple pear, zodiac pear, papple, sand pear
Plant Type Fruit, tree
Mature Size  30–40 ft. tall, 30–40 ft. wide
Sun Exposure  Full
Soil Type  Loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH  Acidic to neutral (6 to 8)
Bloom Time  Spring
Flower Color  White
Hardiness Zones  5–8 (USDA)
Native Area  Asia

How to Plant Asian Pear Trees

About one week before planting, remove weeds, grass, and rocks from the site. Also, pull apart any soil clumps. If you're planting more than one tree, space them at least 15 feet apart. Prior to planting, soak the tree's roots in a large container of water for about one hour. Dig a hole twice as deep and wide as the root ball, so the roots will fit and spread freely in the ground. Mix a 4-inch layer of compost into the soil.

Then, cut any damaged roots off the root ball, and loosen the roots. Place the tree in the hole at the same level as it was in the original pot. Backfill with two-thirds of the soil, and then gently tamp the soil. Before backfilling with the last third of the soil, soak the soil with a garden hose. Let the hose trickle water, so the soil can slowly absorb the moisture.

Make sure there's no soil depression around the base because in winter water can accumulate there, freeze, and damage the tree. Establish a 10-foot-tall stake 2 feet deep into the ground and 4 inches away from the trunk. Tie the tree to the stake to keep it growing straight.

Asian Pear Tree Care

Light

The Asian pear tree grows best in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Find the most open and sunny area of your garden where there's good airflow.

Soil

These trees prefer rich soils with good drainage. Loam or a sandy loam are best, though they also can tolerate clay if it's not too dense to drain. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is ideal. One year before planting, test the soil pH. If it needs to be increased, add lime into the top 7 inches of soil. If it needs to be decreased, add sulfur.

Water

A lightly moist but not soggy soil is ideal for Asian pears. Water the tree deeply to maintain even soil moisture after planting. Water established trees when the top inch or two of soil have dried out. Adjust watering times based on rainfall and hot weather.

Temperature and Humidity

Asian pear trees are cold-hardy, and they actually need a chill period over the winter where temperatures are below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 50 to 70 days. Otherwise, they won’t produce blossoms and fruits as profusely. They also require summer heat to develop their fruits. However, make sure their moisture needs are being met, especially in very hot weather. A moderate humidity level is ideal.

Fertilizer

Wait a month after planting before fertilizing. Then give the tree a half-pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer. If the tree ends up growing more than 1 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 (fewer than 8 inches each year), feed it a third to a half cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per every year of the tree's age.

Furthermore, spread a 4-inch layer of bark mulch over the tree's root zone starting 4 inches away from the trunk. Add part of the layer in the spring before new growth appears and the second portion when the tree begins fruiting. Maintain a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch to keep weeds down and retain soil moisture. Adding compost or farm manure in spring and summer can also promote healthy growth. Before winter starts, mulch again with straw or grass.

Asian Pear Tree Varieties

There are many varieties of Asian pear trees, including some dwarf cultivars that reach only around 8 to 15 feet tall. Popular varieties include:

  • 'Chojuro': This cultivar produces fruits that have somewhat of a butterscotch flavor.
  • 'Niitaka': This tree features yellow fruits that resemble apples.
  • 'Shinseiki': This cultivar is known for bearing a high volume of fruit.
  • 'Hosui': This cultivar produces golden fruits and is known for being one of the best-tasting Asian pears.

Harvesting

Expect your first Asian pear harvest in the tree's second or third year. Harvest when the fruit color changes to yellow or copper-green with tiny caramel-colored flecks. This will occur in the late summer to fall, depending on variety and climate. Some fallen fruits around the tree are also a sign that the pears are ripe and ready for harvesting. Ripe pears will come off the branches easily. 

You can keep the pears at room temperature for about a week or in the refrigerator for roughly two to three weeks. Handle them with care, as they bruise easily.

Pruning

Prune your tree over the winter while it’s dormant. Young Asian pears will likely need pruning to encourage a good shape. And mature trees will need pruning to remove any dead, damaged, or overgrown branches. Thin the canopy by about 10 to 20 percent, removing branches that are crossing or growing at odd angles. This will improve air circulation and allow sunlight to hit all parts of the tree. Remove diseased branches as they arise.

Common Pests and Diseases

Protect fruits with nets to prevent birds and wasps from eating them as they develop. Also, keep an eye out for common garden pests, including aphids and caterpillars. Asian pear trees can also suffer from bacterial infections, which blacken their leaves to their roots. This disease is called fire blight. It cannot be cured, but quick pruning action can minimize the spread. Blackening also can be a sign of sooty mold fungi as a result of insect infestation.