Pruning a Pear Tree

April 6th, 2007

Pear Prunings in VaseLast week when I was doing my spring gardening tasks one of the things I did was prune my pear tree. I figured this would be a fine time to review how you are supposed to prune trees.

First of all you are supposed to prune deciduous trees in very early Spring when their buds begin to swell but before the buds break. Then you’ll want to overall create a pleasing form with your tree and either emphasize a central leader (most pear trees use a central leader), or a series of 4 main scaffold branches coming off a short trunk.

You’ll want to prune away dead wood. Any branches that are crossing each other. Branches that grow down, or straight up. Branches that grow out of the main trunk at too wide of an angle, or too narrow of an angle. Finally you’ll want to remove interior growth to promote good airflow. All of thise you do for the tree’s health. Branches too close to the trunk can trap moisture and promote rot, branches too wide of an angle from the trunk can end up weak. Branches that rub together or touch can wound the bark and invite infection. Airflow prevents fungal diseases, etc.

Then, if what you’re pruning is a flowering tree or shrub, you can take the branches inside, put them in water, and you’ll get some interior flowers in as little as a few days, what you see in the picture are prunings from my pear tree in a jar of water in one of my windows.

34 Responses to “Pruning a Pear Tree”

  1. Chris De La Rosa  Says:

    Thanks for the great info you shared on pruning a pear tree. About 3 years ago we purchased the home we’re now living in and we were lucky enough to have a pear tree in our backyard. Seems the previous owner didn’t have much pruning skills since there is some work to get done. I’ll be doing the pruning within the next couple days (providing it warms up a bit). We’ve noticed that though the tree bears a wonderful crunchy pear, the majority of flowers and baby pear falls off. Also.. we’ve noticed that the ones that do stay long enough to mature is often scarred or deformed. From hear-say I heard that it’s normal to spray the trees with some sort of chemical/insecticide to help the tree produce perfect shaped and un-scarred pears. Is there any truth to this? What is it that’s sprayed and when is it applied?

    Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Keep up the sharing of great info.

    Chris..

  2. Administrator  Says:

    There are lots of pesticides for use on fruit trees. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions though, and make sure you don’t spray when the flowers are still out (wait until they’ve all turned to fruit). Just off the top of my head Sevin is okay for use on fruit trees at certain concentrations.

    And yes, many fruits fall off, and many are oddly shaped. Shape doesn’t affect flavor though.

    I rarely spray my pear tree.

  3. Chris De La Rosa  Says:

    Thanks. I do have some Sevin so I may give that a try.

  4. Brushcutters  Says:

    I was looking for advice on this and through the post and comments I have found out what to spray my pear tree with.

  5. Helen Ryan-Evans  Says:

    I have an old pear tree in my garden, which for the past couple of years has suffered with a rust infection. Would pruning help?

  6. Administrator  Says:

    Rust is a fungal infection (if that is indeed what you have). Pruning might be severe, but remove heavily infected leaves atleast, pick up ALL debris from aroudn the base of the tree. Then treat with a fungicide, both topical and systemic.

  7. Antonette Hollenbach  Says:

    we purchased some acreage in rural Pierce Co. last year and We gained a small orchard. While I’m sure in it’s day it was a beautiful area. it is now about 30 years overgrown. After we cleared the blackberry brambles, i discovered 3 pear, 2 cherry, 5 apple, 9 plum, and 3 hazelnut trees. a raspberrry area that over took it’s boundries. I suffered some storm damage last year and there is evedence of previous storm damage that has effected the heart wood, and will need to be removed. some of the trees have had secondary trees sprout up at least 3 or 4 feet from the original esablished tree. would i be better off trying to save the old ill planed tree, or should i try to encourage the new trees? they both bore fruit this year. Some of my Apple trees have even tipped. they are at an angle, as if they were blown over. but they live still! and all bore friut this year! Amazing! the apples did have some sort of little worm that appeared to gain entrance through the bottom of the fruit. I did’nt see any holes in the skin but when you cut the fruit you could see the rust colored tunnel marks from the core out ward. I figure baby steps!! that way I don’t get overwhelmed, because this really is a dream come true for me. I wanted to plant fruit trees because I love to do home canning and this way I figure I have a big jump start. But there is a very short learning curve here. I got some fabulous information here and I’m so glad I found this site. I sure could use some advice form any one in my area with a similar knowledge. Thank you! I appreciate your time! Antonette.

  8. James Green  Says:

    Hi I purchased a home with a beautiful pear tree (40 years old) right next to my porch. The previous owner left the house in poor shape and it had to be treated for termites. When they were treating it they put the chemicals around the home and drilled through the concrete in some places. I have three kids and I would love to eat the fruit, I am just worried that the pear tree’s roots may have taken in some of the termite poison. Is this a realistic possibility? Any thoughts? If the fruit is inedible my wife wants me to take it down to make a bigger porch.

  9. Michele Paulse  Says:

    Last year our pear tree did not bear any buds or fruit. That was the first time something like that happened to the tree. We thought it was because of the strange weather we had in the spring. This year the tree bore lots of buds and tiny pears but within a few weeks all but a few pears fell off. Might the cause be frost after a warm spell in early spring? Might the soil be lacking a mineral?

  10. Tree pruning  Says:

    WOW. thanks for the TIPs. I do really find them helpful. :D

  11. john  Says:

    i have some pears trees and they are growing straight up.what should i do?how should i prune them?
    thanks

  12. Roger Simon  Says:

    hi all. a couple of things.

    to those asking about spraying your trees, there is an excellent 3 in 1 product Carbaryl (Sevin), Malathion and Captan (for mildews and fungi) by Gordons which does an excellent job. if you have apple rust (orange spots with spores under the leaves), Maneb is also VERY good. (for Maneb, you might need to get a personal pesticide applicator license from your county or state).

    now, my question: we had nearly 10 days over 100 three weeks ago and i have very young Asian Pear trees. all the leaves burned up (looked like Fireblight, but its not). now they are putting out fresh leaves, but they are also FLOWERING. has anyone ever heard of pear trees flowering in August?

    thanks in advance.

  13. Debbie  Says:

    We have a couple of old pear trees on our property that are in terrible need of pruning. I don’t think they’ve ever had any care from former owners. We’re in South GA and have warm spells during winter months and one of the trees has already started to flower. When is the proper time to prune them? Is it too late now that the tree is flowering? Thanks for any help!

  14. Potager Life  Says:

    Roger, I’m not sure where you live, but I have experienced re-flowering and some re-fruiting here in Central Texas. Last year my Asian pear (a grafted four in one with four varieties) put on flowers and some fruit AGAIN in late September after some rains and after the temperature backed off a bit. They didn’t get big, but some were edible near Christmas. This also happened with other edible plantings – blackberries and many items in the vegetable garden. This year we are on the 25th day of 100+ temperatures by early July. I think nature is adapting to the changing extremes here. The tomatoes are suffering now, but if they do like they did last year, they will spring to life and I will have fresh tomatoes, eggplant and peppers all fall and for Christmas dinner.

  15. Debbie  Says:

    My neighbour sprayed my pear trees with Raid to kill off japanese beetles, will this hurt my tree!

  16. Administrator  Says:

    It shouldn’t, but your neighbor is kinda stupid.

    1. Raid isn’t made for use on plants, it kills bugs, but you know dishwasher detergent is soap, but you wouldn’t use it to wash your hands or clothes. So it may harm the plant.

    2. He should have used a pesticide made for use on plants. Such as Sevin, works great.

    3. Japanese beetles are big slow and stupid, the easiest way to kill them is with your hands.

    4. I have never seen a japanese beetle on a pear or apple tree, I have seen them on my kiwi vine right next to my apple tree, but never on the apple tree. I don’t think they like apple or pear trees, your neighbor might has misidentified the bug he was trying to kill.

    5. Wash, heavily, any fruit you pick.

    6. Tell your neighbor to butt out of your garden.

  17. Anna  Says:

    I have an overgrown Bosch pear tree. It’s way too tall to pick all the pears off it. I was told by a landscaper to wait until the fall to top off the tree. I was just wondering if this is the proper thing to do, since from what I’ve read on this site is that I should be pruning the tree late winter or very early spring. Half the tree produced beautiful pears and the second half produce very small pears. I know it is in serious need of a proper pruning, but I want to make sure that I do it the right way.

  18. Administrator  Says:

    I would ignore that guy, and ask someone else, he sounds like an idiot.

    Topping a tree is almost never a good idea, never, and yes, you always prune in Spring just before the tree breaks dormancy.

    These two things are both basic and fairly set in stone as far as tree care goes. If he doesn’t know that I wonder what kind of education he has.

  19. Patricia Grace  Says:

    I live in Oregon which is where Harry and Davids business is. They top out their trees and prune the trees in an espalier for easy fruit picking. they sell there famous Comice pears world wide. I am pruning my pear tree so that it is shorter so I have less fruit and can better able reach the fruit. We have a lot of moss and dampness here. Any time I get mold or aphids, mildew, moss, beetles I always use a halfand half solution of white vinegar and spray it everywhere. It is the best for aphids on roses and rose black spot and it sure works on my fruit trees as well.

  20. sunita  Says:

    I got my gardener to prune my pear tree when it had just started to flower and now there is no fruit at all. He took off all of the top branches and it is shaped like an umbrella now. I have had lots of fruit during the three summers that I have lived in the house, although it was not perfectly formed but tasted really good. The leaves have developed holes in them. The house is about 35 years old, I dont know how old the tree is.

  21. Administrator  Says:

    Your gardener messed up, or you did in ordering him.

    The appropriate time to prune fruit trees is late winter, and topping a tree is rarely a good idea.

    Your tree will still fruit next year though, assuming he didn’t take off too much to stress the plant.

  22. Indrani  Says:

    Our flowering Pear trees are sending up shoots around them which we want to control. Any suggestions…other than pulling them up by hand?

  23. Josh  Says:

    Awesome Blog, and major props to the Administrator. Very rarely do you see a blog that gets comments for 4 years and Administrator responds back. I was really excited last year when I purchased my house because it came with a pear tree which I still would like to identify which type it is. I purchased in August and of course it was way to late to do anything with the tree. I had tons of small pears that droped all the time and attracted plenty of yellow jackets. Now as the tree is fruiting this year I am regreting not researching this topic eariler as it sounds like it is again too late to really do anything with the tree. Are the Small pears any good or of any use? Also is there anything I can do to avoid attracting wasps again this year? This is my first fruit tree so I am completely ignorant on the topic, any advice is much appriciated!

  24. Administrator  Says:

    You could spray your tree with a pesticide that will kill anything that eats the fruit. But then, of course, make sure you wash the fruit before eating, and don’t spray when bees are pollinating.

    If you know it is yellowjackets in particular there are traps you can get that will kill them. Or traps you can make if you have suitable Macgyver skills, check the Internet for plans. They work well, the traps.

    Small unripe fruit has no use other than compost. Misshapen or undesireable pears can be turned into cider, jams, or jellies. My blog has a recipe for caramel pear butter.

  25. Kevin  Says:

    Great Blog!
    I have 2 large trees, heavy fruit bearing, med to large fruit. Problem: They have almost no flavor. Any suggestions on how I can improve the taste of the fruit?

  26. Administrator  Says:

    Assuming they’re pear trees, let them ripen longer on the tree to improve flavor.

    But also understand climatic and soil conditions can affect fruit flavor. It could just be you’ve had a couple of bad years, or your soil isn’t good for pear flavor. Hard to speculate without knowing more.

    But pears taste best when left to ripen on the tree, until they get slightly yellow, and feel soft.

  27. Amanda  Says:

    On my rental property here in Basalt, Colorado, I have 5 very mature fruit trees, one of them is a pear tree and the others are apple trees that I don’t think were ever pruned until a couple of days ago. Since I rent, I didn’t really have a say on who was to do the pruning job, but by everything I am reading, not to mention the looks on all of my neighbors faces when they walk by, makes me think that the trees are doomed. I have read that you are supposed to prune in the late winter/early spring. Well, it is now November 28th… Also, I read that you are only to take a third of the tree off each year. Well, in this case, it seems like they took about 50% of almost every tree if not a bit more. Needless to say, it is quite sad looking out there in my yard. They did leave horizontal branches, but wow it doesn’t seem like many…! Is there any chance these old trees will survive this devastation?

  28. Leia  Says:

    This is wonderful! My husband and I are in the process of trying to by an old farmhouse in southern Maine. One of the many things about it that qualifies it for my dream is the presence of a huge old apple tree and two pear trees. The apple tree is in good health, just needs a straight-forward pruning, but the pear trees are really hurting. I only know they are pears because I saw one wizened old fruit hanging from one of them; they look as though they haven’t been touched in decades, with suckers and dead wood all over the place. But your blog is perfect for all I need to know about caring for them, and I thank you heartily. I expect we may be in the house come pruning time and I will keep you posted.

    Thanks again,
    Leia

  29. TL  Says:

    Hi,

    I’m new into planning pear trees and does not know much about pruning. I’ve three young Asian pear trees on my property. I’ve one tree in it’s four years, one in it’s third years, and one new one in it’s first year. All three trees had not prune before since I just ran across the pear trees pruning today. Should I wait till next year to start pruning? or can I start pruning the pear trees late in the spring now?

    Thanks,

    TL

  30. Paula Young LMFT  Says:

    Came on site to get tips on pruning a young Asian pear I have. I can’t help but comment on all the discussion about insecticides. I realize this isn’t an organic gardening site. Nonetheless, I just want to share that I live right next to an open space and yet I’ve been able to have a 100% organic backyard and about 95% organic front yard. I’ve even had peach leaf curl and was able to help a very young fruit tree fight it off without the use of chemicals. My motivation is bees and butterflies which are also killed when we use insecticides. My reward is, I can walk on my lawn barefoot without fear.

  31. Rilcky  Says:

    Hi,

    Our pear tree is likely 40 years old, the lowest fruit bearing branches being probably 30 feet high. Can this tree be lowered to produce fruit within reach? (Every time a pear falls, it produces a frightening thud, this is going on all night now…)

  32. Brad Speck  Says:

    Administrator

    I don’t mean any disrespect, but on this page 2-3 people have asked what to do with a pear tree that is getting too tall, is growing straight up etc (which is also my problem)yet the only answer I’ve seen you or anyone else post is for you to say that “topping s tree is almost never,never a good idea”.

    Would you please tell us what IS the right thing to do? I have half a dozen trees to prune & the time is now. Thank you.

  33. Administrator  Says:

    Topping a tree, cutting the central leader off short, makes trees look ugly, ruins their growth structure.

    I guess it matters what your goal is with your fruit trees, production as much as possible? Don’t top it. Ornamentation? Don’t top it. Small scale production, you just want to be able to reach it, prune whatever you like to keep it all in reach.

    Fruit trees can take significant pruning. Check out Espalier fruit trees sometime.

  34. Francis  Says:

    Hi
    My pear tree flowered well in the spring time but as of today their is no pears appearing
    Last 2 year was much the same and I thought it was something to do with the bad winters

    Maybe I should be pruning more

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