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Pear Trees

By: Kate Bradbury - Updated: 25 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
Pear Trees Growing Pear Trees Varieties

The pear tree is widely cultivated across the world. Its fruit is juicier than that of apple trees and it is generally softer in texture. The fruits can be eaten raw, used in cooking, juiced, or made into cider or perry (a traditional alcoholic drink made with fruit of rare trees grown in south west England). The pear tree belongs in the same plant family as the apple tree (Maloideae, a subfamily within Rosaceae), and bears similar flowers.

Pears trees are medium sized, and reach to up to 17m tall. They normally have a tall, narrow crown, although a few species are shrubby. Most pears trees are deciduous (they lose their leaves in autumn), but some species growing in southeast Asia are evergreen (they keep their leaves throughout winter).

The flowers are white, although some feature a yellow or pink tint. The fruit shape differs across the world, but in Europe the classic shape is that of an oval with a bulbous end.

Types of Pear Tree
The breeding of pears has not been on such a large scale as apples. Some new varieties have been introduced, however, including the Bristol Cross and the Merton Pride.

Virtually half of Britain's pear orchards have been destroyed since 1970. This has resulted in the reduction of many cultivars, including the oddly named Vicar of Winkfield, which had pale yellow flesh and is firm, dry and woolly in texture. This variety can still be bought to order from specialist suppliers, but is no longer grown commercially.

Varieties of Pear Include:
  • Concorde – self fertile new variety. Taste is similar to the Comice pear but it is much easier to grow
  • Conference – well-known, reliable pear, most common variety grown commercially
  • Worcester Black – originates in Worcestershire in the 16th Century
Cultivating Pear Trees
Cultivated pears are derived from a handful of wild species distributed throughout Europe and western Asia. In England the trees can often be found growing wild, where seeds are spread by birds or mammals that have eaten the fruit.

The pear is very similar to the apple in cultivation, propagation and pollination. It is normally reproduced by grafting. This process involves growing a tree from seed, and grafting the cutting of another variety on to it. This maintains the specific type of pear grown, as those trees grown from seed can produce a lower quality of pear, and often an entirely new species.

Pear trees are naturally very deep rooting. As such they suit a light, sandy soil. However many pear cuttings are grafted onto quince trees, which are more shallow rooted. These are more suited to growing in large pots and damp, clay soils.

Growing Pear Trees
Pear trees can be grown in orchards, large pots or as espalier trees against a wall or trellis. Like apple trees, if you choose to grow your own pears you will need at least two trees to ensure the flowers are fertilised to produce fruit.

For espalier-trained trees you can buy a year-old tree and train it yourself, by pruning the branches so the tree grows flat against the wall in a fan shape or along horizontal lines. You can also buy trees that are two or three years old and already trained. This will have the additional advantage of bearing fruit more quickly.

They are best planted in autumn, and should be placed roughly 10m apart, although dwarf trees can be spaced just 6m apart. They should be placed in a sunny position in well-drained, rich soil.

How to Choose Your Pear Tree
Before buying your pear tree, consider what size (height and spread) is appropriate for your garden. The size of the tree can be determined by its rootstock (the lower part of the tree on to which different varieties are grafted). If its rootstock is a traditional pear variety it will need more room than if the tree is grafted on to quince stock. The label should also tell you how fast the tree grows and how high.

Planting Your Pear Tree
Dig a hole, a little wider and deeper than the roots of the young tree. Part-fill it with home-grown compost and place the roots in it. Tie the tree to a support and fill in the hole with soil, firming gently. Water well, and ensure it is well watered during dry spells. You should have pears within two years.

Pear trees provide years of fresh fruit, and there are so many varieties available that you can’t buy commercially. If you have room, treat yourself to one or two heritage varieties, they’ll provide interest as well as delicious fruit.

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[Add a Comment]
I have a bosc pear tree and this year it is loaded with pears. However the leaves are all covered with black spots and are falling off early. If it has a disease is it still okay to eat the pears? Thank you!
Mo - 25-Aug-18 @ 3:20 PM
lost first lot of pea size fruit two weeks ago now ten lots of new blossom showing will this mature.Tree is conference pear 5yrs old.
Bewildered - 7-Jul-18 @ 11:47 AM
@None - You could have under-watered or over-watered it. The smaller the container, the more important it will be to water regularly and not let the compost dry out. In summer your tree could require 2-3 litres per day. Something is seriously wrong with it for this to happen now after a healthy blossoming. Have you changed the tree position? Can you see evidence of disease?
Ol - 14-May-18 @ 2:23 PM
Have a family pear tree loads of blossom leaves ,after blossom died off ,all leaves died , and it looks like the tree is dying ! Never did this before this tree is in a large tub ,been in about 4 years ,
None - 11-May-18 @ 9:26 PM
@Dgp - I always remove any fruits that have not formed properly. But your pear tree should thin out naturally after the June drop. After that just make sure there is a few inches between every pear. Using your gut-instinct works best.
LaurieL - 17-Apr-18 @ 11:15 AM
How much should l thin out the young forming pears on my patio pear tree?
Dgp - 16-Apr-18 @ 4:19 PM
@Squiggle - if you're in doubt get a tree specialist in. You certainly don't want to be cutting it from the main trunk. It's worth paying to have it pruned by someone who knows what they are doing.
Max - 5-Sep-17 @ 3:31 PM
We have a really old pear tree that pre-dates our purchase of the house but I reckon about 40yrs old. It is really tall and fruiting useable fruit for the 1st time in 10years. I'd like to have it's height reduced but don't know what height to cut it down to. Is it ok to cut the main trunk down or will that kill it?What should I reduce it to? I don't want to lose the tree entirely due to poor pruning choices.
Squiggle - 5-Sep-17 @ 9:21 AM
Jules - Your Question:
Hi,I moved into a new house and come to realise the garden has a pear tree but I'm not sure what type of pear it is. Was hoping I could send you a picture of the tree and the pears with the possibility of finding out what type of pear it is.

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot accept direct mail. The site here may help you determine your tree type. Or you could take a branch sample of leaves/pears to your local garden centre who should be able to help.
FruitExpert - 21-Aug-17 @ 11:10 AM
Hi, I moved into a new house and come to realise the garden has a pear tree but I'm not sure what type of pear it is. Was hoping I could send you a picture of the tree and the pears with the possibility of finding out what type of pear it is.
Jules - 19-Aug-17 @ 12:36 PM
@Enjay - There is no specific time. Tasting for sweetness is the best measure, and the pear should come easily off the tree when twisted. Enjoy!
NicoLsn - 8-Aug-17 @ 12:32 PM
My conference pear tree has a very good crop. They look bigger than usual for thus time of year. When should I start to harvest them? Many thanks.
Enjay - 7-Aug-17 @ 12:06 PM
we planted a new paer tree this year which has just 2 pears but nearly all the leaves have dropped off?
poll - 1-Aug-17 @ 10:49 AM
@Pete - It helps if you have trees in close proximity but it only takes one bee to cross-pollinate from another tree. Great crop - enjoy!
Sarah - 28-Jul-17 @ 4:06 PM
I have 1 single tree that has had a couple of pears the last couple of year's,this year like 50 or more.This is 14 years old.Thought you needed two?
Pete - 28-Jul-17 @ 1:17 AM
I recently bought a home with 5 pear trees.They are loaded with fruit so much so that the branches are sagging.I have thinned some and tied some up.However, now that the pears are starting to get larger and ripen, the leaves are turning black and drying up.I don't want to lose the trees.Should I thin the fruit or give more water. Help!!
Monica - 21-Jul-17 @ 2:35 AM
@New homeowner - if the fruit is inedible there is not much you can do.
NH - 7-Jul-17 @ 3:08 PM
i have a new patio conference pear tree. i only have 1 pear but the branch this is on is covered in a black frothy substance and now it is smothered in long orange 'caterpillars"I can send a photo if needed.
Boots - 28-Jun-17 @ 10:16 AM
I recently bought a house with mature fruit trees.I just thinned my apple and pear tree for the first time.Is there anything I can do with the "baby" fruit I picked in the thinning? Or do I just need to put it in the trash?
New Homeowner - 24-Jun-17 @ 5:40 PM
N/a - Your Question:
Family pear tree has loads of flowers then loads of fruit ,as soon as the fruit gets to a small size They all drop off ,leaving about 9 or 10 which come to nothing It is in a large container ,and looked after. Any help ?

Our Response:
There is a natural first drop of fruitlets that have not been pollinated well which takes place as soon as the flowers have faded. These fruits are usually pea-sized. The second natural drop is the 'June drop'. This is where the tree decides whether it is receiving enough nutrients etc to support a crop. Your tree knows its limits and if it cannot support a crop it will drop the crop and concentrate on itself before its fruit. It seems you tree may need a bit of TLC and then you may get the crop you desire. Pot size, compost and nutrition should be checked. Even though your tree is being 'looked after' it is obviously lacking something.
FruitExpert - 16-Jun-17 @ 2:31 PM
Family pear tree has loads of flowers then loads of fruit ,as soon as the fruit gets to a small size They all drop off ,leaving about9 or 10 which come to nothing It is in a large container ,and looked after .Any help ?
N/a - 2-Jun-17 @ 1:02 PM
@none. There are two types of buds, flower buds are larger and more plump than growth buds and have a downy surface. These buds produce flowers which mature into fruit. Growth buds are smaller than flower buds, they are more pointed and grow flush with the branch. Or it could be a woolly aphid which can be eradicated. Does anyone else have any ideas?
IndieIG - 30-May-17 @ 11:19 AM
I have a pear tree which is now 5years old and first year of fruit but started to get Cotten wool type buds, I pull them off easily, why is this.
None - 29-May-17 @ 12:43 PM
None - Your Question:
My pear tree starts with a lot of small fruit, but very quickly they turn blackand dries up?

Our Response:
If you cut open one of the affectedfruits and find small, cream-coloured maggots inside then it could possibly be Pear Midge damage.
FruitExpert - 24-May-17 @ 11:46 AM
My pear tree starts with a lot of small fruit, but very quickly they turn black and dries up?
None - 23-May-17 @ 3:36 PM
I brought a pear tree,it blossomed now all the buds have fell off,any ideas
Chief - 20-May-17 @ 1:14 PM
Hi my conference mini pear tree is in a large plant pot it blossoms brilliant get plenty of pepears on but they all drop off and the leafs go black and crispy can you help please.
Blackie - 14-May-17 @ 7:29 PM
Hi ,someone above asked about Harvest Green pear tree ..I have just purchased one from Homebase for £14 plus ,am gonna prepare ground then plant it My first fruit tree ! Not sure what to expect and know nothing about them however I will come back on here to read up
Jane - 14-May-17 @ 4:37 PM
@IanS - the poor draining soil may be your problem. It definitely sounds like it doesn't like where it is - one of the major causes of fruit tree death is wet soil :(
Cal78** - 12-May-17 @ 2:18 PM
I planted 10 fruit trees 15 months ago. All were bare root except a conference pear which was potted. This pear produced a great flush of flowers this spring, but no leaves. Now the flowers have dried up and the tree looks dead. Any opinion on what might have happened? They're in a sunny spot but the ground is heavy and poorly draining.
IanS - 12-May-17 @ 1:14 PM
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