Pear trees can be an attractive and fruitful element of the home orchard. They have fewer pests than apple or cherry trees, provide fruit and fall color, and bloom heavily in spring. There are multiple types of pear trees available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Select the best pear tree for your needs and enjoy this low-fuss tree for many years.
European pear trees (Pyrus communis) include well-known varieties such as Bosc, Bartlett and D'Anjou. European pear trees produce fruit that gardeners may harvest and ship or sell before it ripens. As the fruit ripens on kitchen counters, it becomes juicy and soft, perfect for eating fresh. However, European pear trees are suceptible to fire blight, a disease that affects twigs and branches, eventually killing large portions of the crown or the tree itself if it remains uncontrolled. Humid conditions contribute to this problem, so consider your climate when selecting a cultivar.
Oriental Hybrid Pears
Oriental hybrid pear trees include popular cultivars like Warren, Kieffer and Moonglow. These pear trees are more resistant to fireblight than European pear trees, but their fruit is grittier and less suited to fresh consumption. They are excellent pears for canning, and the trees themselves are better suited to alkaline soils and humid conditions. In fact, Oriental hybrid pears are the most common pear tree in Arkansas and Texas.
Relatively new to backyard orchards in North America, Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) have a crisp, apple-like texture. In fact, retailers often sell Asian pears as "apple pears" due to the rounded shape and firm flesh. Asian pear trees grow in similar conditions as European pears and are, in general, slightly more resistant to fireblight. Like other pear varieties, they have spring bloom and fall color. Unlike European pears, Asian pear fruit ripen on the tree and remain firm for extended storage; store the fruit in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Asian pears will produce fruit without a pollinator, but planting two varieties ensures a healthy crop. Auburn University recommends Housi and Shinko pears for home gardens.
Ornamental pears (Pyrus sp.) do not bear fruit, but do supply spring flowers and fall color. This pear family includes the popular Bradford pear (P. calleryana Bradford). Gardeners often plant Bradford pears as a street or patio tree due to the masses of white flowers in early spring, the attractive, glossy deep green leaves in summer and the fiery orange-red foliage in autumn. Bradford pears, however, grow up to 40 feet tall and have wide, horizontal branches that interfere with pedestrian traffic, earning them the nickname "fatford pear." The Chanticleer is another ornamental, similar in bloom and color to Bradford, but grows only 15 feet wide.