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How to Grow Pears

A guide to growing Pear trees in gardens, allotments

and containers

Pears

Family/Latin Name

Rosaceae - Pyrus communis

Type of Plant

Hardy Deciduous Fruit Tree

Suitable for

Gardens, Allotments, Large Containers

Recommended Tree Forms Espalier, Dwarf Pyramid, Bush, Cordon
Jump to:-    Tree Sizes  |  Yields  |  Pruning   |  Pests & Diseases 

 

Growing Pears - Details

See also:- Pear Cultivars (Varieties)  |  Pear Rootstocks  |  Tree Forms  |  Container Growing  | Buying Plants  |  Fruit Growing Glossary 

 

Site and Soil

Prefer full sun.
Tolerant of most soil types provided they are well drained
Espalier trained trees suitable for very large tubs e.g. half barrels and dwarf bush and cordon varieties for slightly smaller containers +60cm/2ft wide

Space required

See table below

Yield

See Table below

Time between planting  and harvesting

Maidens - Start producing in 4th Year
2 year olds - Produce in 2 years

Planting Time

Bare root/wrapped root ball: December to February

No alternative - must be planted when completely dormant
Trees supplied in pots:  Best - October to March
Alternative - Any other time (soil conditions permitting)

Number of trees needed for pollination Although it is possible to get varieties which are self fertile, better results are always achieved by growing 2 or more pear trees especially if there are no other pear trees being grown in nearby gardens/allotments.
NB  Some cultivars  will not pollinate trees of the same cultivar or certain other cultivars, so it is advisable to check which trees are compatible before purchasing.
How to plant - Open ground



Union join Rootstock Scion
Prepare the ground before planting, forking in a general fertiliser such as Growmore. Do not add fresh manure at planting time as this can damage the roots.

Dig a large hole wide enough to take the roots when spread out and deep enough to take the whole root system. You should be able to see signs on the tree of the original soil depth on the tree stem. Care must be taken not to plant the tree so deep as to bury the union between the rootstock and scion  (the  knobbly  bit).

If growing in a free standing position, drive in a sturdy wooden stake which should be as tall as the stem of the tree at least 30cm/12" into the ground in the hole. Stand the tree in the hole, spreading out the roots or bare-rooted specimens, tie to the stake then fill in the hole with soil, slightly rocking the tree between each spadeful so the earth falls between the roots, firming gently as you go, until the hole is filled to the top. Water in well.

  How to plant - against a wall


Cordon Fruit Tree
Larger Cordons and Espalier tree forms do well if planted again a wall.  It's best to fix the supports and wires to the wall before you plant the tree.

Dig a large hole wide enough to take the roots when spread out and deep enough to take the whole root system about 30cm/1ft away from the wall and slightly sloping away from the wall. You should be able to see signs on the tree of the original soil depth on the tree stem. Care must be taken not to plant the tree so deep as to bury the union between the rootstock and scion  (the  knobbly  bit).

Stand the tree in the hole, spreading out the roots or bare-rooted specimens, tilting it slightly towards the wall, then fill in the hole with soil, slightly rocking the tree between each spadeful so the earth falls between the roots, firming gently as you go, until the hole is filled to the top. Cordons can be planted at an angle of about 45 degrees widthways which is especially useful if the wall isn't very high (see diagram on the  left.). Water in well.

  How to plant - in containers Even on dwarf rooting stocks, Pear trees can be quite vigorous, even though the containers will go a little way to curtailing the size of tree, so large containers are necessary .
Bush and Pyramids - container size minimum  60cm/2ft wide x 45cm/18" deep. May need staking.
Espaliers against a wall  - container size minimum  75cm/2½ft wide x 60cm/2ft deep

Good drainage is essential so make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Place a 2.5cm/1" layer of stones or crocks in the bottom and cover with enough soil or compost so that when you place the tree in the container, the original planting depth (which you should be able to see on the stem of the tree)  is 5cm/2" below the top of the container. Fill the container with soil or a loam based compost to the original planting depth. Firm well and water in.

  Aftercare Open Ground - Yearly pruning will be necessary (see below). Apply a mulch of well rotted manure or compost once a year in  spring and a supplement of a balanced inorganic fertiliser is helpful in January.
Wall Grown Trees - Yearly pruning will be necessary (see below). Apply a mulch of well rotted manure or compost once a year in  spring and a supplement of a balanced inorganic fertiliser is helpful in February. Keep trees well watered as the ground near walls often dries out quickly
Containers -  Yearly pruning will be necessary (see below). Apply a mulch of well rotted manure or compost during the first  year in  spring and a supplement of a balanced inorganic fertiliser is helpful in February. In subsequent years, it is best to carefully remove some of the soil from the container and replace it with fresh compost. Do this carefully so as not to damage the roots. Keep the containers well watered.
General -   If there are lots of fruit forming these should be thinned after the natural fruit drop which will occur by June to avoid the branches being over-laden and  breaking and to produce larger fruit. Thin fruit to 8-10cm/3-4" apart  with 1 fruit per cluster. Place a grease band around the trunk in October to help guard against winter pests.
  Harvesting Exact harvesting times vary depending on the cultivar so exact dates can't be given. However  fruit should not be left to completely ripen on the tree and should be picked whilst still firm. In general:-
Early Season - July - Early September
Mid Season -
Mid September - Early October
Late Season varieties  - Late October
In general, if an Pear is given a slight twist and comes away, then it is ready for picking.  Always be gentle when harvesting as bruised fruit doesn't keep well and pick the fruit with the stalk in tact. It should be noted that not all Pears on a single tree will ripen at the same time.
  Storage All  - Best eaten within 2 - 4 weeks. store in cool place in one layer

Pear Tree Dimensions

Expected Yield Per Mature Pear Tree

Espalier
Dwarf Pyramid
Bush
Cordon
Height: 1-2m/3-6ft   
Height: 2m/6ft      
Height: up to 4m/12ft        
Height: 2m/6ft
Spread: up to 5m/15ft
Spread: 1.6m/5ft
Spread: 1.6m/5ft
Spread: 30cm/1ft
    Espalier
Dwarf Pyramid
Bush
Cordon
Depends on amount of tiers
3-5kg/8-12lb
18-45kg/40-100lb
2-3kg/4-6lb
For a complete guide to and explanation of the various fruit tree forms click here

How to Prune Pear Trees - General

  • Always make pruning cuts no more than 6mm¼" above a bud. The aim is to produce an open centred canopy. Slant all pruning cuts away from the buds as in the diagram on the right, to prevent  water  being channelled towards the bud which will cause problems.
Correct Pruning Cut



  • A tree is comprised of 3 main parts: 
    1. The stem or trunk  'Leader' 
    2. Main 'Branches' which come directly off the Leader 
    3. 'Laterals'  which come off the Branches

    Laterals usually have a set of cluster leaves at their base then spaced leaves all the way up their stems. Always ignore the leaf cluster when counting the leaves to prune back to e.g. the diagram below has been pruned back to 5 leaves on the right had lateral and 3 on the left hand lateral

    Cluster Leaves on stem


Parts of a Tree

 

Maiden

2 Year Old

3 Year Old

Older

Central main stem (leader) with buds

Central stem, bare towards the bottom with a few main branches and very few laterals Central stem, bare at the bottom with more developed branches plus more developed laterals Central stem, bare at the bottom with many more fully developed branches and many more laterals which clearly show the tree form (shape) e.g. bush

Detailed Instructions on Pruning Pear Trees

1st year (Maiden) Pear Tree

Dwarf Pyramid - In winter cut back the leader to a bud 50cm/20" above soil level. If there are any side shoots cut back to 13cm/5"

Bush -
In winter prune leader just above a bud 1m/3ft above soil level ensuring there are at least 3 good buds beneath it.

Espalier -
In Winter Find 2 good buds - 1 facing right - 1 facing left about 30cm/1ft above the ground then cut the leader about 30cm/1ft above them (just above a bud). If there are lateral branches rather than buds, use these instead and cut them back by 2/3rds to an upward facing bud. Remove any other laterals.

Cordon -
In Winter cut back any longer laterals (side shoots) off the leader to 3 buds. Tie main stem to long canes/wires.

Standards - 
very large trees unsuitable for growing in gardens or allotments

2-Year Old Pear Tree

Dwarf Pyramid - In Winter cut back the new growth on the central leader to 25cm/10" to a bud which is facing in the opposite  direction of the one chosen last winter.  Remove side shoots (feathers) within 45cm/18" of the ground. Prune main branches to 20cm/8" just above a downward or outward facing  bud and prune any laterals from these main branches to 15cm/6".

Bush  - In winter prune the strongest top 3-5 branches back by half just above an outward facing  bud or shoot. Remove any growth on the stem lower than these, painting the wounds with a sealant.

Espalier -
By late July the two selected buds or laterals should have put on sufficient growth  to enable you to start training them upwards at 45 degree angles in a 'V' shape tied to canes fixed to the wires. These are called the 'ribs'. Train the leader upwards on a vertical cane and continue to train the ribs along the 45 degree angled canes. Keep all other shoots cut back to 6 leaves above the base cluster of leaves. In October lower the ribs on the canes to a horizontal position on either side of the main stem and tie to the wires making the 1st tier. Find 2 good buds - one facing right - one facing left about 30cm/1ft above the first tier then cut the leader about 30cm/1ft above them (just above a bud). Remove any other laterals/shoots between the the chosen pair of buds and the top leader bud.

Cordons - In Late July cut back laterals growing from the main stem which are more than 10cm/4" long to 3 leaves above the base cluster of leaves, and cut back any shoots on these laterals to 1 leaf.

In Winter If not many laterals have formed on the main stem, cut back the leader by up to 1/3rd to an upward facing bud to stimulate laterals to shoot. Continue to tie the growing leader to the canes/wires

3-Year Old Pear Tree

Dwarf Pyramid - In July/August prune current years growth on main branches leaving 5-6 leaves on the branch just above a downward facing  bud, prune current years growth on laterals from these main branches to 3 leaves and any shoots (secondary laterals)  growing from the laterals back to 1 leaf after the base cluster leaves. If lots more growth to secondary laterals is put on by October, prune these as above. In Winter prune the central leader to leave 20cm/8" of new growth

Bush  - By Winter the 3-5 selected branches last year will be producing laterals. Select the  4 strongest laterals on each branch and prune these by half to an outward facing bud and prune the remaining laterals to 3 buds. Prune the leader by half to an outward facing bud.


Espalier -
By late July the second two selected buds or laterals should have put on sufficient growth  to enable you to start training them upwards at 45 degree angles in a 'V' shape tied to canes fixed to the wires which will form the 2nd tier.

In Late July  laterals will have grown on the horizontal ribs of the 1st tier. Cut back mature (woody based) laterals which are longer than 22cm/9" to 3 leaves above the base cluster of leaves. If there are any secondary laterals growing on what's left, cut back to 1 leaf.

In  October lower the ribs on the canes to a horizontal position on either side of the main stem and tie to the wires making the 2nd tier.

If you wish to make a 3rd tier find 2 good buds - one facing right - one facing left about 30cm/1ft above the 2nd tier then cut the leader about 30cm/1ft above them (just above a bud). Remove any other laterals/shoots between the the chosen pair of buds and the top leader bud.

Cordons - In Late July  prune laterals as the previous year.

Pruning Older Pear Trees

Pear trees over 4 years old really only need to be pruned to restrict to new growth to keep the tree size within the available space or to remove weak spindly branches, dead wood or branches which may be crossing and rubbing.  Try not to leave stubs when removing branches and paint larger wounds with a sealant.

Dwarf Pyramids Mostly prune to downward facing buds. Prune in summer as for previous year. Prune leader in winter Once the leader has reached 2m/6ft  prune back hard to 1cm/½" .

Bush Always prune to  outward facing buds/shoots.

Espalier  Repeat last year's pruning/training if the wall is large enough to take extra tiers. Thin laterals to 10cm/4" apart. Always prune to upward  facing buds/shoots.  Rub out any small shoots/buds which are pointing directly towards the wall and pinch back any shoots growing directly away from the wall to 1 leaf.

Once you have finished creating the tiers, prune back the leader to 1cm/½" in May. You should also  prune the tier branches in May once the required length has been achieved.

Cordons - In Late July  prune laterals as the previous year.

Pear Pests & Diseases
Pests Diseases
Birds - like to eat the developing buds which can decimate the crop. Protect smaller tree forms with netting or cotton

Pear Midge
- young fruit do not develop properly and become black before falling. Destroy all the infected fruit. In spring hoe the soil around the tree to expose the over-wintering midges to the cold and birds. Place a mulch of black plastic over the soil around the tree prevents the midges getting to the tree.

Aphids - can cause leaves to curl or honeydew or mould to form on the fruit and leaves. There are chemicals available to combat aphids which can be bought at garden centres. Organic methods include spraying with diluted washing up liquid ( 1 teasp per 2 litres of water),
companion planting of flowers such as marigolds nearby.
Scab - Brown or blackish scabs on fruit which may crack. Blisters on shoots which become scab like and leaves blotchy and fall prematurely. Remove the scabby shoots and spray with  mancozeb from the early bud development.

Canker -  Indicated by shallow depressions at the base of branches which get bigger in spring, . An amber like gum may also be present. Treatment consists of cutting back to good wood and paining the cut with canker paint. Spray as above for scab.

Fireblight -
 new growth turns brown with a sticky liquid appearing around affected areas in Spring. This is a serious disease for which there isn't a treatment. Dig up and burn infected trees.

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