The Asian pear (Pyrus serotina) has been cultivated for 3,000 years in China according to ancient writings dating back to 200 to 1000 B.C., per the University of Georgia. The Asian pear tree grows up to 30 feet tall but many cultivars offer smaller or larger sizes. Two Asian pears planted beside each other will ensure pollination despite the fact that the Asian pear is somewhat self-fertile. The Asian pear does not cross-pollinate with European pears.
Plant Asian pear trees in full sunlight for maximum fruit production. Space trees 7 to 15 feet apart for smaller varieties or 20 feet apart for larger cultivars. The Asian pear is winter hardy and can withstand temperatures that dip to minus 20 F. Grafted cultivars however will only withstand 10 F, according to the Purdue University. Plant in a location that offers a soil pH of 6.5 or slightly above. Mix ample organic matter, such as aged manure or peat moss into the soil when planting the tree.
Numerous cultivars begin flowering in mid-March. Consider planting early flowering varieties in regions that do not suffer from early, hard frosts because the tree can easily sustain damage that will limit its fruit production. Most varieties' bloom times overlap slightly throughout the season, which gives the gardener a choice of other Asian pear pollinator varieties.
Asian pear trees are pruned to a vase shape. When trees are planted they are normally pruned across the top to approximately 25 to 30 inches. Fruit production begins when the tree reaches three years of age. Once fruit is produced, the trees are allowed to grow out 18 inches each season. Pruning allows fruit spurs to develop on the tree and increases the yield each season.
The Asian pear is often referred to as the "apple pear" due to its crisp texture. The pears can successfully be stored for several months and still maintain their crisp, juicy taste. During fruit growth, heavy thinning is required to allow the fruit to attain an acceptable size. Normally the fruit is thinned twice during the season so fruit is spaced 6 inches apart.
Harvest begins in late summer to early fall. When harvesting, take special care because the fruit is delicate and easily bruised. Brown spots or splits will develop in the skin from rough handling. The fruit is usually placed in softly padded storage crates after picking to minimize damage.