The pear tree (Pyrus communis) is a common choice for the home orchard. The sweet fruits can be enjoyed fresh or used in sweet or savory recipes. In addition to a fruit harvest, the tree offers springtime blooms and good autumn color. Pear tree wood is prized for furniture and other woodworking projects. Common varieties of pears available in grocery stores come from cultivars of Pyrus communis and can be grown in backyards:
The pear tree belongs to the Rosaceae family, and trees are variously known as European pear, Swiss pear, common pear, Asian pear, or simply pear. The straight species is known as the wild pear. The tree has oval leaves that are 1 to 4-inches long that are dark green on the top side and a more pale 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. They have a core where the seeds are protected with a leathery endocarp. Pears come in shades of red, brown, green, and yellow. The species tree (wild pear) grows up to 40 feet tall and matures into an oval shape. There are dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties available.
|Botanical Name||Pyrus communis|
|Common Name||Pear tree|
|Plant Type||Deciduous tree, fruiting|
|Mature Size||40-50 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy, clay, well-draining|
|Soil pH||Neutral (6.0-8.0 pH)|
|Flower Color||Gold/yellow, white|
|Hardiness Zones||4a-8a, USDA|
How to Grow Pear Trees
If you are hoping for a bountiful crop, you will need to have at least two trees of different varieties for cross-pollination and a proper fruit set. Some varieties like 'Bartlett' and 'Comice' may produce parthenocarpic fruit without pollination. Choose 'Seckel' if you only have room for one tree as they can self-pollinate 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 can handle wet soil, though for optimal growth it should drain well. The pH should be neutral, between 6.0 and 8.0.
Young, newly planted pear trees should be watered multiple times a week. Established pear trees require something closer to about five gallons per week.
Temperature and Humidity
Each variety will have a recommended amount of chill hours needed for a 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 it reaches its mature size but before it begins to soften and ripen. Bring the fruit inside and allow the bletting (ripening) process to occur.
Common 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 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. A disinfecting solution of three parts denatured alcohol and one part water is best.
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.
Growing Fruits: Growing Pears in the Home Orchard. University of New Hampshire Extension
Beckerman, Janna. “Fire Blight on Fruit Trees in the Home Orchard.” Purdue.edu. N.p., n.d. Web.