Spring-flowering trees such as flowering pears (Pyrus spp.) line the streets and decorate the lawns and gardens of homes across America. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, depending on the species and cultivar, flowering pears provide spring flowers, few and inconspicuous fruits and a shady, green canopy from spring through fall. Flowering pears are relatively simple to grow and resistant to fire blight (Erwinia amylovora), making them an attractive choice for homeowners and municipalities.
Location, Location, Location
Flowering pear trees thrive in every soil type, as long as it is well-drained. The trees tolerate drought, clay soils and urban pollution. They prefer full sun in a wind-sheltered location.
The wind is a problem for many flowering pears, as the branches grow up at a sharp angle to the trunk, making them vulnerable to winter storms and high winds. The fast-growing trees tend to have brittle branches that break easily.
Spacing Several Trees
When planting several flowering pear trees along a fence line or street, consider the mature size of the tree. If the mature canopy is 30 feet wide, plant the trees 30 feet apart to allow for air circulation around the tree branches.
Water the Tree
Water trees according to their trunk size. In general, a tree should receive 10 gallons of water for every 1 inch of the trunk's diameter per week. During droughts or high heat, young flowering pear trees may need twice-weekly watering to ensure that their delicate roots don't dry out. In addition, a 4-inch layer of mulch around the tree, raked from 4 inches from the tree's trunk out to the drip line, helps keep the soil evenly moist between watering.
Feed the Tree
Always fertilize after watering the tree. Flowering pear trees require a low-nitrogen fertilizer, which encourages blossoms over vigorous foliage. Rake a slow-release 5-30-5 or 10-20-10 fertilizer into the top 2 to 3 inches of soil in spring, at a rate of 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Water thoroughly after applying the fertilizer.
Flowering Pear Trees
There are a number of cultivars of Pyrus calleryana, known as Callery pears. These include 'Bradford,' hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, which was a favorite street tree for many years. Other flower pear species and cultivars include:
- Pyrus calleryana 'Capital' -- USDA zones 5 through 9
- Pyrus calleryana 'Cleveland' -- USDA zones 4 through 8
- Pyrus calleryana 'Jaczam' -- USDA zones 5 through 8
- Pyrus kawakamii 'Evergreen Pear' -- USDA zones 9 through 11
- Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula' -- USDA zones 4 through 7