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Pears: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Pyrus Communis

Pears (Pyrus Communis) are a delicious, easy-care fruit tree perfect for backyard orchards. This guide covers everything you need for planting, growing and harvesting abundant pear crops year after year.

There’s nothing quite like the sweet, juicy flavor of a freshly picked pears plucked right from your own tree. With their showy spring blooms and visually interesting shapes, pear trees (Pyrus communis) also provide lovely ornamental value.

While they require some maintenance like any fruit tree, pears are among the easier varieties to grow successfully for backyard harvests. By following the right steps for planting, pruning and preventative care, you’ll be rewarded with bins full of aromatic autumn pears for years to come.

Here’s some information about pears (Pyrus communis):

AttributeInformation
Scientific NamePyrus communis
Common NamePear
FamilyRosaceae
OriginNative to Europe and Asia, cultivated worldwide
DescriptionDeciduous tree with a rounded crown, reaching heights of 5-20 meters
FruitPears are a type of pome fruit, typically with a sweet and juicy flesh
VarietiesNumerous varieties exist, including Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, and Comice
ClimatePears grow best in temperate climates with well-drained soil and full sun exposure
Harvest SeasonTypically harvested in late summer to early autumn
UsesConsumed fresh, used in cooking, baking, and making preserves and beverages
Nutritional ValuePears are low in calories and fat but rich in fiber, vitamins (especially vitamin C and K), and minerals (potassium)
Health BenefitsPears promote digestive health, may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and support heart health
CultivationPropagated by grafting, requires cross-pollination for fruit production
Pests and DiseasesSusceptible to pests such as pear psylla and diseases like fire blight, often requiring pest management and disease control measures

Getting Started with Pear Trees

Pear-Trees Pears: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Pyrus Communis

The first consideration when growing pears is choosing suitable varieties for your climate. Pears are divided into European and Asian types, with different chilling needs.

European pear varieties like Bartlett, D’Anjou and Comice require a higher number of annual chill hours below 45°F to bear fruit consistently. They’re well-suited to colder northern regions.

Asian or Oriental types such as 20th Century and Olympic prefer a lower chill period of 400-600 hours. These are better choices for mild-winter southern and coastal climates.

No matter which you select, pears typically need another different cultivar planted in the vicinity for adequate cross-pollination and fruit set. Some multi-graft trees have multiple varieties on the same rootstock to self-pollinate.

Most nurseries offer pear trees grafted onto semi-dwarfing or dwarfing rootstocks which help manage their mature size for easier care and harvesting in smaller yards.

Where to Plant Pears

 Pears: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Pyrus Communis

Pear trees require a sunny, well-drained location in the yard to thrive. At least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight exposure per day is ideal, with a bit of afternoon shade tolerated in hot climates.

Like most fruits, they prefer slightly acidic soil in the 5.5-6.5 pH range. Overly alkaline or salty conditions will result in stunted growth and nutrient deficiencies. If this is an issue, plant pears in raised beds with a quality potting or garden soil mix.

Avoid frost pockets or low-lying areas where cold air settles, as late spring freezes can damage blooms and tender new growth. The upper third of a south-facing slope is an ideal planting spot.

Bare root or containerized pear trees should be planted in late winter or early spring after the threat of hard freezes has passed. Spacing depends on the rootstock’s expected mature size. Allow 20 feet between standards, 15 feet for semi-dwarfs, and 10-12 feet for dwarf trees.

When planting, dig a hole two to three times as wide as the root system but no deeper than the existing soil level. Set the root ball on a firm, solid base to prevent settling later on.

Backfill with the original native soil, not compost or amendments, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Water the planting area thoroughly after covering the surface with a 3-4 inch deep mulch layer to conserve moisture.

Caring for Pear Trees

Caring-for-Pear-Trees Pears: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Pyrus Communis

Once established, pear trees have relatively straightforward maintenance needs compared to other fruits. Let’s take a look at the key care requirements.

Watering

During the first year, provide newly planted trees with the equivalent of about 1 inch of rainfall per week to establish the root system if rainfall is inadequate.

For mature trees, deep, infrequent watering every 7-10 days is preferable to frequent light sprinklings. This encourages deeper root establishment. Always allow the soil surface to dry slightly before the next application.

Fertilizing

Apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer or high nitrogen fruit tree fertilizer annually in early spring before bud break and again after fruit set. Spread evenly under the entire canopy area and water deeply to disperse.

Older, stalled pear trees with poor vigor also benefit from fertilization, but apply it in late winter or very early spring. Too much nitrogen once growth initiates can lead to excessive vegetative growth and fireblight susceptibility.

Pruning

Regular pruning is vital for managing size, stimulating new shoot growth and opening up the canopy interior for better light penetration and airflow. The best time to prune is late winter to very early spring before bud break.

When pruning, remove any dead, damaged or rubbing branches first. Then thin out overcrowded interior branches, water sprouts and vigorous upright shoots in the center. Finish by cutting back the outermost tips of remaining branches by about 1/4 their length to stimulate new fruiting spurs.

For espalier, cordon, or multi-leader pear trees, proper training and shaping is crucial early on. While more labor-intensive, these allow growing in very tight spaces while still achieving decent harvests.

Potential Pear Tree Issues

 Pears: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Pyrus Communis

While relatively low-maintenance overall, there are still a few pests and diseases to watch out for when growing pear trees.

Pear Leaf Blister Mite

These microscopic mites get inside newly emerging leaves, causing distorted, blistery growth. Horticultural oils help manage populations when sprayed at the tight cluster bud stage.

Pear Psylla

Distinct “jumping” insects that feed on sap, secreting honeydew and leaving sooty mold on the foliage. Control with well-timed sprays of insecticidal soap or neem oil while populations are low.

Pear Rust

An orangey fungal disease affecting both pear and juniper hosts. Having good spacing and removing any nearby junipers helps prevent rust spores from spreading.

Coddling Moth

The larvae of this moth are the classic “worm” found inside pears. Using pheromone traps and removing/destroying infested fruits prevents future generations from multiplying.

Fireblight

Perhaps the most serious threat, fireblight is a fast-spreading bacterial disease which causes branch dieback and tree decline. Prompt pruning of affected branches, applying copper sprays and planting resistant varieties are all critical for management.

Staying vigilant, addressing problems early, and following an appropriate spray schedule for your area will help steer clear of major pest and disease headaches. However, some relatively minor cosmetic damage is common and won’t necessarily impact the edibility of the fruit.

Harvesting and Storing Pears

 Pears: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Pyrus Communis

Determining when to harvest pears takes some practice, as they’re actually picked mature but still firm and underripe. This allows them to finish ripening after picking without developing grit cells and tough cores.

Check your variety’s peak harvest window, but the general rule is that once those first few fruits start dropping on their own, the majority can be picked within the next 1-2 weeks. For larger harvests, gently twist and lift pears upwards – ripe ones should detach easily from the branch with the stem intact.

Pick pears in the morning when temperatures are cooler and store them in the refrigerator for a short term at 32-40°F. Or, wrap unwashed fruits individually in paper towels or bags and store at room temp for a few days.

Pear aficionados recommend placing unripe pears in a brown paper bag or ripening container with an apple or banana to release ethylene gas and kickstart the ripening process if needed. As they soften up over several days, enjoy that irresistible sweet aroma and smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Once ripe, pears will only last 5-7 days before spoiling. For longer storage of 2-3 months, keep them refrigerated and remove just the ones needed to ripen individually at room temperature.

Whether baked, canned or eaten fresh, there are so many delicious ways to savor the bounty of a backyard pear harvest. With basic care and some patience for their ripening process, you’ll soon be able to enjoy the unbeatable taste and quality of homegrown pears year after year.

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