Care for Bradford Pear


The Bradford pear gets its scientific name, P. calleryana, from a Catholic missionary to China, J. Callery, who introduced the tree to the Western world, according to the Ohio State University Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. The Bradford's glossy green leaves and showy white flowers provide more value as an ornamental planting than a garden crop because the small fruit is inedible. The Bradford pear tree faces fewer pest and disease problems than other fruit trees, but it does require post-planting care.

Step 1

Water transplanted trees after new growth emerges. Attach a wand sprayer to a garden hose, and soak the top of the planting mound. The water filters down to the root ball and prevents it from drying out. Use a soaker hose to water established trees. Soak the soil from the drip line, or outermost edge of the tree leaves, to within 3 feet of the trunk. Provide water throughout the growing season. The trees tend to drop pears without adequate moisture.

Step 2

Apply ½ lb. of fertilizer to young pear trees. A sufficient fertilizer blend includes nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in a 10-10-10 ratio, according to the New Hampshire Cooperative Extension's article, "Growing Pears." Allow a 2-lb. application for mature trees when a soil test indicates a need.

Step 3

Train a young Bradford to a central leader, or the main trunk. The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service recommends cutting 1/3 of a whip (unbranched tree) in spring when the buds swell. During the summer of the first growing season, retain one lateral branch that appears to be developing at a 70- to 90-degree angle from the trunk, then use pruning shears to remove all other lateral branches. After the third growing season, limit pruning to branches growing at less than a 70-degree angle.

Step 4

Thin out the branches every two years with a pruning saw or pruning shears. Mature Bradfords tend to lose limbs during storms because of the species' poor branching habit. Selectively remove vertical limbs so that more wind passes through the canopy. Thinning reduces the likelihood of storm damage and strengthens the remaining branches, according to Ohio State University's Department of Horticulture and Crop Science.

Step 5

Remove branches infected with fire blight and entomosporium leaf spot, using pruning shears. Fire blight is a bacterial disease that causes black leaves and misshapen twigs, according to Clemson University Extension's Bradford Pear profile. The entomosporium leaf spot fungus progresses from red-purple spots to red blotches and causes the leaves to drop.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use fertilizer with caution. The additional nitrogen encourages fire blight in mature Bradford pear trees.

Things You'll Need

  • Spray wand
  • Garden hose
  • Soaker hose
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw


  • Ohio State Horticulture and Crop Science: Pyrus Calleryana--Callery or Bradford Pear
  • University of Georgia Warnell School of Forest Resources: Watering Trees
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Growing Pears
  • North Carolina State University Extension Service: Growing Pears in North Carolina
  • Clemson University Extension: Bradford Pear

Who Can Help

  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Growing Pears in Virginia
  • North Carolina State University Extension Service: Training and Pruning Fruit Trees
  • Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Choose Alternatives to Bradford Pear Trees, Experts Advise
Keywords: Bradford pear tree, pear fertilizer, prune pear trees, train Bradford, fire blight

About this Author

Renee Vians has been writing online since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism and language arts certification from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Her articles have appeared on eHow, Garden Guides and a variety of other websites.