The pear tree is a common choice for the home orchard. The sweet fruits can be enjoyed fresh or used in both sweet and savory recipes. The wood is used in making furniture and woodworking.
Common varieties available in American grocery stores and for the home garden include:
The scientific name for this tree is Pyrus communis and it belongs to the Rosaceae family. The pears that have been domesticated are a subspecies known as communis.
Other familiar members include:
- Those in the Prunus genus (including many of our stone fruits like plums peaches and apricots)
- Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica)
- Quince (Cydonia oblonga)
- Roses (Rosa spp.)
- Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
- Strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa)
This is known as the European pear, Swiss pear, common pear or simply pear. The straight species is known as the wild pear.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones
The zone requirements will vary by cultivar. The tree's origins lie in southwest Asia and central and eastern Europe.
Size & Shape
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.
Find a location in your garden that receives full sun daily.
The oval leaves are 1 to 4 feet long and dark green. If you turn them over, they are 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.
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.
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.
Check this pear pollination chart from the Colorado State University Extension to see which cultivars work best together.
If you only have a small area where you can grow a pear tree, consider using the espalier form. This French-style involves carefully training the young branches along vertical wires. You can also choose to plant dwarf varieties like 'Bartlett', 'Moonglow' and 'Williams'.
These fruit trees are able to handle wet soil, though for optimal growth it should drain well.
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.
Pears can be trained in the open center form while they are young.
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.
A bleach solution may also be used, though this tends to destroy your tools over time.
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)