The pear tree (Pyrus communis) is a common choice for the home orchard. The sweet fruits can be enjoyed fresh or used in both sweet and savory recipes. Pear tree wood is prized for furniture making and other woodworking projects. Common varieties of pear fruit available in grocery stores come from cultivars of Pyrus communis and include:
The pear tree belongs to the Rosaceae family, and trees are variously known as European pear, Swiss pear, common pear, or simply pear. The straight species is known as the wild pear. The tree has oval leaves are 1 to 4 inches long and are dark green on the top side and a paler green underneath.
The white flowers have five petals and are formed in clusters called corymbs. Like apples, pears are a type of fruit known as a pome. It has a core where the seeds are protected with a leathery endocarp. They come in shades of red, brown, green and yellow. The species tree (wild pear) is up to 40 feet tall and matures into an oval shape. There are dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties available.
How to Grow Pear Trees
You will need to have at least two trees of different varieties for cross-pollination and proper fruit set. Some varieties like 'Bartlett' and 'Comice' may produce parthenocarpic fruit without pollination. Choose 'Anjou' or 'Bartlett' if you only have room for one tree as they are able to pollinate themselves to some degree.
If you only have a small area where you can grow a pear tree, consider using the espalier form, training the young branches to grow horizontally along wires or a vertical structure. You can also choose to plant dwarf varieties like 'Bartlett', 'Moonglow' and 'Williams'. Pears can be trained in the open center form while they are young.
Find a location in your garden that receives full sun daily.
These fruit trees are able to handle wet soil, though for optimal growth it should drain well.
Temperature and Humidity
Each variety will have a recommended amount of chill hours needed for proper fruit set. Check with your local extension service to see how many hours your area receives and recommended varieties.
Harvesting Pear Fruit
Fruit should be picked when they reach their mature size (up to 4 feet depending on variety) but before they begin to soften and ripen. Bring them inside and allow the bletting process to occur.
Pests & Diseases
One of the most common problems found on pear trees is fire blight, which is caused by a bacterium named Erwinia amylovora. Copper sprays may not totally get rid of the disease. It can be difficult to control and pruning of diseased parts can be done in summer and winter to help stop the infection. Be sure to disinfect your tools before and after pruning lest you spread the disease accidentally. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service states that a solution of three parts denatured alcohol and one part water is best.
Other Diseases That Can Appear
- Blossom blast
- Fabraea leaf spot
- Gray mold
- Mycosphaerella leaf spot
- Powdery mildew
- Soft rot/blue mold
- Sooty blotch
- Stony pit
Unfortunately, many pests favor the pear tree. Keep a close eye on your trees and watch for any signs to help control the problem as early as possible.
Pests You May See
- Codling moth (Cydia pomonell)
- Grape mealybug (Pseudococcus maritimus)
- Pear leaf blister mite (Phytoptus pyri)
- Pear psylla (Cacopsylla pyricola)
- Pear rust mite (Epitrimerus pyri)
- Pear sawfly (Caliroa cerasi)
- San Jose scale (Quadraspidiotus perniciosus)