Care for Bradford Pear Trees

Overview

Bradford pear trees, native to Korea and China, gained favor with Western horticulturalists in the early 1800's. Landscapers and urban planners, encouraged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's commercial introduction of Bradford pears in the 1960's, were smitten with their compact pyramid form, white spring flowers and fall color. These trees bear fruit that is unsuitable for human consumption and aren't as strong or long-living as other cultivars, but they are still widely grown.

Step 1

Choose an area for planting that receives full sun, particularly morning sun, and has soil that drains well.

Step 2

Purchase a soil test kit from a lab recommended by a county or parish extension agency. Gather a soil sample and send it to the lab.

Step 3

Amend the soil by adding lime or compost if soil pH is not between 5 and 7.5.

Step 4

Select a healthy pear tree from a reputable nursery. Choose one that is 2 to 4 feet tall and with a trunk that is at least 1/2 inch in diameter. Inspect the tree for root damage and diseases. Ensure the tree's roots have been kept moist.

Step 5

Plant the tree in the winter in warmer climates or early spring in the North as soon as the ground is workable, when the tree is still dormant. Soak the roots in a bucket of water from 30 minutes to an hour before planting.

Step 6

Trim damaged roots, branches and foliage before planting.

Step 7

Dig a hole, using a spade, that will accommodate the roots in their naturally spreading state. Position the tree at the same soil level it was growing in.

Step 8

Spread ground soil in and around the roots, firmly tamping it down to eliminate any air pockets. Ensure the soil around the tree's base is level with the rest of the ground or slightly mounded to avoid water pooling.

Step 9

Water the tree. Gently lift it if it begins to settle lower in the ground and creates a depression.

Step 10

Chop off a whip, or un-branched tree, with loppers so it measures up to 3 feet tall. Leave strong, well-placed branches on trees that have branched, and remove others with narrow angles to the trunk and that are lower than 18 inches from the ground.

Step 11

Remove suckers and branches that don't conform in angle with the lead branches to train maturing trees. Remove some smaller branches to allow for better air circulation.

Step 12

Fertilize annually a young tree with 1 lb. of 10-10-10 garden fertilizer after rain has compacted the soil around the roots; use 2 lbs. for mature trees. Do not add fertilizer to the hole when planting the tree. Do not eat the unsavory fruit; instead, leave it for birds to consume.

Step 13

Prune smaller, vertical branches from the middle of a mature tree periodically after it flowers. Prune larger branches that are growing less than a foot apart, and retain those branches that are growing more horizontally, to keep rigorous growth in check and to help minimize wind damage.

Tips and Warnings

  • Bradford pear trees have a short lifespan, growing for only 25 to 30 years. The flowers have been described as having a sickly, sweet smell rather than a pleasing floral fragrance. Bradford pear trees are very susceptible to storm and wind damage, which is why some nurseries do not sell the variety.

Things You'll Need

  • Bradford pear tree
  • Plot with full sun
  • Bucket
  • Spade
  • Loppers
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer

References

  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Growing Pears
  • Texas A&M University Extension System: Home Fruit Production -- Pears
  • University of North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service: Growing Pears in North Carolina
  • Frederick County Master Gardener Program: The Pros and Cons of Bradford Pears
Keywords: Bradford pear trees, growing Bradford pears, pear tree care

About this Author

Joy Brown is a newspaper reporter at "The Courier" and www.thecourier.com in Findlay, Ohio. She has been writing professionally since 1995, primarily in Findlay and previously at the "Galion (Ohio) Inquirer" and "Toledo City Paper." Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and history from Miami University.