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How to Grow: Flowering Pear
Fun sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Spring with white flowers with yellow, orange and red fall foliage color
Mature Height x Spread
30 to 50 feet x 15 to 20 feet
Attracts beneficials, fall color, drought tolerant
The flowering pear is a widely used (and some may say over used) ornamental tree for good reason. The tree grows quickly to 30 to 40 feet tall in a narrow, teardrop shape. It’s loaded with fragrant, white flowers in spring, produces only small, non edible fruits in summer, and has an attractive range of yellow, orange and red colors in fall. Flowering pear is very adapted to hot and dry conditions, withstands air pollution, and is resistant to the fire blight disease that ravages other pear trees. It’s a great tree in the lawn, in a small yard or along the street. Its one drawback is on older trees the branches may split, but newer selections have better branch angles and less splitting.
When, Where and How to Plant
Flowering pears are hardy to zone 5. They are best grown in southern parts of our region. Purchase trees from a local nursery and plant from spring to early fall in well-drained, fertile soils. However, flowering pears are adaptable to many soil conditions. Space trees 10 to 20 feet apart.
Keep young trees well watered. Create a mulch ring covered with wood chips or bark mulch around trees grown in lawns. This will keep the soil evenly moist, prevent weed growth and protect the trunks from damage from lawn mowers and string trimmers. Fertilize in spring with a tree plant food.
Regional Advice and Care
Because of their strong, upright growth, flowering pears may have narrow crotch angles and split easily during high winds, ice or snowstorms. This can quickly deform a tree beyond repair. Grow flowering pear varieties with wider crotch angles. Flowering pears don’t have any major insect or disease problems. Remove dead, diseased and broken branches any time and prune after flowering in spring to remove suckers, water sprouts and crowded growth in the center of the tree.
Companion Planting and Design
Grow flowering pear trees as a street tree, in a lawn area, or to line a property boundary. Flowering pear can split branches easily. Grow flowering pear where they will be protected from high winds to minimize the damage. You can also protect them when you grow flowering pear in groups with other medium-sized trees, such as crabapples and flowering cherries.
‘Bradford’ pear is the most commonly planted flowering pear variety. However, it should be avoided due to its narrow branch crotch angles and propensity to split branches. Newer selections are better trees and should be planted instead. ‘Cleveland Select’ (AKA ‘Chanticleer’ and ‘Stone Hill’) grows 35 feet tall in a pyramidal shape. It has wide branch angles, good disease resistance and is long lived. ‘Jack’ and ‘Jill’ are newer selections that only grow 20 feet tall and have a round growth habit with dense foliage growth.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.