The Asian pear tree (Pyrus pyrifolia) is in the Rosaceae family tree, like plums and peaches, and is a prolific tree, producing many fruits each season. These are relatively newer fruits introduced to the United States in the early 1800s, but they're growing in popularity. They're sweet, crisp, ripen on trees, halting ripening as soon as they're picked, and lasting up to five months in the refrigerator. The trees are pest-resistant, easy to care for, and Asian pears can be harvested in two to three years.
The Asian pear produces copper-colored, rounded fruits a few inches long. The fruits are juicy like a pear but crunchy like an apple—hence why they are sometimes called "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, stretching around one to three inches. This tree has a reasonably quick growth rate and is best planted in the spring after any danger of frost has passed.
|Common Names||Asian pear, Korean pear, Japanese pear, Taiwanese pear, Chinese pear, apple pear, zodiac pear, papple, sand pear|
|Botanical Name||Pyrus pyrifolia|
|Plant Type||Tree, fruit|
|Mature Size||30–40 ft. tall, 30–40 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Loamy, sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Hardiness Zones||5–8 (USDA)|
How to Plant Asian Pear Trees
Before planting, soak the tree's roots in a large container of water for about one hour. Cut any damaged roots off the root ball and loosen the roots.
When to Plant
The best time to plant is in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. You can also grow this tree in the fall.
Selecting a Planting Site
Remove weeds, grass, and rocks from the site about one week before planting. Pull apart any soil clumps. The soil should be well-draining and moderately rich, with a pH of 6.3 to 6.8.
Avoid sites prone to late spring frosts, or provide frost protection where late frosts are likely. Plant the tree in an area that will receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight in early summer (late June to early August). This sun is essential for flower bud production the next season; without it, the tree will produce no fruit.
Spacing, Depth, and Support
If you're planting more than one tree, space them at least 15 feet apart. 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 four-inch layer of compost into the soil.
Place the tree in the hole at the same level as 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 ground with a garden hose. Let the hose trickle water slowly so that the soil can 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 two feet deep into the ground and four inches from the trunk. Tie the tree to the stake to keep it growing straight. Apply a several-inch layer of mulch on top to help with moisture retention in the soil. Mulch also provides insulation for the roots in winter.
Asian Pear Tree Care
Asian pear trees generally grow too large for container growth. You can start it in a container up to the first three growing seasons, but it requires planting in the ground.
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 with good airflow.
These trees prefer rich soils with good drainage. Loam or a sandy loam is 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 seven inches of soil. If it needs to be decreased, add sulfur. Contact your local county extension service about conducting a soil sample.
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 dries out. Adjust watering times based on rainfall and hot weather.
Temperature and Humidity
Asian pear trees are cold-hardy and 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, ensure their moisture needs are met, especially in scorching weather. A moderate humidity level is ideal.
Wait a month after planting before fertilizing. Then give the tree a half-pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer. If the tree grows more than one foot yearly, refrain from fertilizing it. Nitrogen encourages growth, but too much can prevent optimal fruiting or encourage diseases. If the tree grows slowly (fewer than eight inches each year), feed it a third to a half cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer for every year of the tree's age.
Spread a four-inch layer of bark mulch over the tree's root zone, starting four inches 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 two to four-inch layer of mulch to keep weeds down and retain soil moisture. Adding compost or farm manure in spring and summer can promote healthy growth. Before winter starts, mulch again with straw or grass.
Most Asian pear trees are not self-pollinating, meaning you will need another tree to pollinate. The two trees should be planted 50 to 100 feet apart for optimal pollination.
The 'Hosui' variety will sometimes self-pollinate. Some cultivars are cross-compatible with other varieties. Compatible varieties include 'Chojuro' with 'Shinseike' and Bartlett (European pears); Nijisseiki with 'Chojuro,' 'Shinseiki,' and Bartlett; and 'Shinseiki' with 'Chojuro.' 'Hosui' will cross-pollinate with most other pears.
Types of Asian Pear Trees
Many varieties of Asian pear trees, including some dwarf cultivars, reach only around eight to 15 feet tall. Popular varieties include:
- 'Chojuro': This cultivar produces fruits with 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.
- 'Nijisseiki': Also called 20th-century Asian pears or green pears
Harvesting Asian Pear Trees
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 from late summer to fall, depending on variety and climate. Some fallen fruits around the tree indicate 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.
Prune your tree over the winter while it’s dormant. Young Asian pears will likely need pruning to encourage good shape. And mature trees need pruning to remove dead, damaged, or overgrown branches. Thin the canopy by about 10 to 20 percent, eliminating branches crossing or growing at odd angles. This will improve air circulation and allow sunlight to hit all parts of the tree. Remove diseased branches.
Propagating Asian Pear Trees
Asian pears can be propagated from seed or grafting with scions (cuttings). Grafting is a technically challenging process that is best left to advanced horticulturists. However, you can attempt it with a compatible rootstock (tree or a stem with a well-developed root system). Compatible rootstocks include other Asian pear trees, European pear trees, and quince.
Whip and tongue grafting (also known as bench grafting) is the best technique for spring grafting with Asian pear trees.
Grafting is when you take a stem cutting from one plant (pencil thickness) and attempt to get the root plant to accept the scion (cutting) and join its vascular system to the cutting specimen. This technique involves joining wood of equal or nearly equal diameter. The vascular system from the rootstock will nourish the scion (cutting), helping the plant grow true to its variety or cultivar. Here's how to do it:
- You will need a sharp knife, plastic film, and grafting or masking tape to seal the graft.
- The scion or cutting can be 6 inches to one foot long. Trim the top just above the topmost bud on the scion. Cut the bottom off just above a bud. This bottom cut should be 1.5 inches long on a diagonal.
- Next, on the rootstock several inches above the top root, make a smooth cut approximately about 1.5 inches long on a diagonal with a single knife stroke.
- The second cut is the tongue cut. This cut involves making a v-notch, cutting down into the center of the rootstock parallel to the grain of the wood (vertical cut). Mirror this on the scion stock. Next, join the two pieces like two hands talking to each other, then clasping shut on each other, only vertically. The two pieces should be pushed firmly together, snugly, ensuring a good fit.
- Wrap the new graft union with plastic film and grafting or masking tape, giving the union a good seal.
- In about three to eight weeks, the two parts should grow together. Allow the tree to grow in its place for a couple of years before transplanting it.
How to Grow Asian Pear Trees From Seed
When planting Asian pear seeds, note that they require cold germination or a cold period before germination. If you have a climate with a cold, winter season, you can plant the seed in the fall. To prepare the seeds, remove any fruit pieces on the seed and allow the seed to air dry.
If your seeds have not received a chilling period, place them in a sealed container with moistened peat moss, sand, or shredded paper and place in a refrigerator for 60 days. Plant the seed outdoors after the last severe spring frost. Here's how to sow the seeds:
- Make a hole in the planting site or growing container about one to two times the longest dimension of the seed.
- Cover the seed with a light soil cover and an inch or two of sand. Sand prohibits the soil from crusting, which inhibits germination.
- If planting outdoors, prevent squirrels or other animals from digging up the seed by placing a wire screen or hardware cloth over the seed.
- In April, look for any germinated seedlings. Remove the wire screen or hardware cloth when you notice any growth. Seedlings usually take about three years before they bear any fruit.
Asian pear trees are prolific growers, producing fruits quickly and in large amounts; it's imperative to thin out the fruits, or else the plant will spend its energy making "quantity" over "quality," producing subpar fruits.
The tree will usually self-thin in June, dropping about 10 percent of its fruit. However, this is not enough. Thin or remove another 40 to 50% of the fruits. In clusters of three, reduce to one. In groups of four or more, reduce to two.
Thinning will help the tree direct energy into the remaining fruits, allowing them to reach a healthy size. It will also prevent "overbearing" when the tree fails to produce the following year. Also, perhaps the most important reason to thin the fruits—you don't want your tree's limbs to break under the weight of too many heavy fruits.
Most all young trees can benefit from tree wraps or tree guards in the first few years of growth until the bark becomes thick or scaly. These wraps prevent sunscald when the sun heats the tree surface on a cold, wintery day. The tree thinks dormancy is over, unfreezing and kick-starting growth again. However, in the next immediate freezing cycle, the tree is no longer protected in a dormant state, and parts of the tree get damaged or die.
Hard plastic wraps also might keep deer away from your young trees. Young pear and apple trees are favored by browsing deer. Plastic tree guards can be removed for the growing season and put back on in the fall.
Common Pests and Diseases
Protect fruits with nets to prevent birds and wasps from eating them as they develop. Also, watch for common garden pests, including aphids and caterpillars. Asian pear trees can also suffer from fungal pear rust and other diseases common to apples and pears.
Do you need two Asian pear trees to get fruit?
There are one or two varieties that can self-pollinate occasionally. But for reliable pollination, you will need two Asian pear trees (planted within 100 feet) to bear fruit.
Are Asian pear trees easy to grow?
Asian pear trees are fast and easy to grow, requiring little maintenance besides a good site with sun and well-draining, moist soil.
How long do Asian pears keep?
Asian pears can last for a long time. They can be left out for 10 to 15 days and, if refrigerated, 12 to 20 weeks.
Pollination - Pear. Washington State University.
Fruit thinning. Oregon State University.
Pear Rust. Oklahoma State University Extension
Apple and Pear Diseases. University of Maryland Extension
Asian pears: Postharvest quality maintenance guidelines. University of California.