How to Prune Old Bradford Pear Trees


Bradford pear trees have an attractive lollipop shape, bloom early and provide vibrant color in the fall. They are susceptible to splitting, however, because they tend to push themselves apart as they age, leaving the branches vulnerable to ice and wind. Pruning the trees can improve their chances of survival.

Step 1

Prune old Bradford pear trees as late in the winter as possible. You can prune as soon as buds start to appear, but you should wait until the new growth is a few inches long.

Step 2

Use a hand pruner to cut small, thin branches. Lopping shears or a small pruning saw can be used for slightly larger branches. If you're dealing with branches that are about 6 inches thick, use a pruning saw. A chain saw should be used for branches thicker than 8 inches.

Step 3

Prune a central leader tree such as a Bradford pear by cutting the main branch. Make the cut 24 to 30 inches above the highest branch of the first set of three to four branches, which is called the scaffold whorl.

Step 4

Clip off all branches that have grown directly across from one another on the leader or central stem. Also cut off any branches that grow from the leader with angles that are less than 60 degrees; these branches will break under a heavy load.

Step 5

Cut at the nodes, which is where one twig or branch meets another, to remove damaged limbs. This will increase the amount of light and air that gets to the interior of the tree.

Step 6

Remove branches with narrow V-shaped connections; they are weaker and are likely already cracked. Keep all branches that have strong U-shaped joints.

Step 7

Achieve crown raising by removing all branches that are facing downward at the bottom of the tree. This will give the tree a neater appearance and provide clearance below.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid pruning more than 1/4 of the crown at a time. You may stress the tree and cause the excessive production of new sprouts.

Things You'll Need

  • Ladder
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Hand pruner
  • Small pruning saw
  • Lopping shears
  • Chain saw


  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
  • Forestry Resources Extension
  • The Master Gardeners
Keywords: Bradford pear, pear tree, prune

About this Author

Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.