|Official Plant Name||Pyrus communes|
|Plant Type||Fruit Tree|
|Native Area||Temperate Europe, North Africa, Asia|
|When To Plant||April, May, September, October|
|Harvesting Months||September, October, November|
|When To Prune||February, March|
4 – 8M
4 – 8M
Clay, loam, sand
Moist but well-drained
Adding a pear tree or two to your garden could be an excellent choice, so here’s what you need to know to grow these trees successfully here in the UK.
If you love to eat pears, you might be able to grow your very own supply of these fruits in your garden.
Pear Trees: The Basics
Pear trees are native to coastal and mild temperate areas in Europe, North Africa and Asia.
These trees are in the Pyrus genus, which is in the Rosaceae plant family along with roses, and many species of edible fruit.
Around 3,000 varieties of pear are grown and eaten around the world.
The pear is a pome fruit, like the apple and the quince for example. These fruits have been cultivated as food since prehistoric times, and are still very popular today.
The fruit was introduced to the British Isles by the Romans, and a number of cultivars have been developed which are suitable for growing in the British Isles.
The most important species of Pyrus used for orchard and garden cultivars in Europe, North America and Australia is Pyrus communis – the European pear.
The cultivated European pear, Pyrus communis subsp. Communis is believed to have descended from two wild pear species – Pyrus communis subsp. Pyraster and P. communis subsp. Caucasica.
Though pear trees are not quite as hardy as apples, they can be grown across much of the UK, and in fact, need some winter chilling to produce fruit.
Pear Tree Varieties
Of the various cultivars of pear trees grown in the UK, some of the options to consider are:
- Beurre Hardy
- Doyenne du Comice
- Flower of Monorgan
- Grey Auchan
- Louise Bonne of Jersey
- Merton Pride
- Seggie Den
- Pitmaston Duchesse
- Williams Bonne Chrétienne
- Winter Nellis
When choosing a pear tree it should be noted that some of the above will be suitable for northern England and Scotland, while other varietals will really only thrive in the south.
It is a good idea to consider heritage varieties from your particular area.
Remember, too, that yields will usually be better if you plant two cultivars from the same flowering period (pollination group) or ones that have an overlapping flowering period.
Some pears are also poor pollinators and so two additional trees will usually be required to pollinate this tree, and each other.
When choosing a pear, you might also like to think about how the different varietals compare when it comes to taste, and whether you are looking for eating or cooking pears.
You should also consider whether you would like an early, mid-season or late season pear
Another important thing to consider is the rootstock of the tree.
Most cultivated pear trees are grafted onto Quince rootstock. The semi-vigorous Quince A and Quince C rootstocks are usually used in the UK.
Quince C is somewhat less vigorous and so makes for slightly smaller trees, so a pear tree on a Quince C rootstock could be the best choice for smaller gardens.
Where To Plant a Pear Tree
One important thing to note when deciding where to place new pear trees is that they flower pretty early, and so their blossom can be damaged by spring frosts.
It is important to choose a location that is not in a frost pocket, and which is as warm and sheltered as possible – especially if you live further north. It can be a good idea to position a pear tree close to or against a sunny south or west-facing wall.
You should grow a pear tree in fertile, moist but well-drained or well-drained soil or growing medium.
Pear trees can be grown as half standard trees in gardens where space is not an issue.
Smaller pear trees can also be grown in containers, providing that these are of sufficient size.
When To Plant a Pear Tree
Pear trees can be purchased in pots throughout the year, but are best planted out in spring or autumn, when the ground is not waterlogged nor too dry, and the weather is not too hot.
However, it is cheaper, and often the best idea, to purchase and plant bare root pear trees during the dormant period, between late autumn and early spring.
Late summer/ early autumn is a good time to choose and order pear trees for your garden.
How To Plant a Pear Tree
Once your pear tree or trees arrive, plant out as soon as possible. Make sure you have prepared a suitable site for your new garden additions.
As with other fruit trees, you should dig a planting hole as deep as the rootball and twice as wide. It is a good idea to incorporate some compost and perhaps some mycorrhizal fungi into the planting hole to aid establishment.
Refill the soil then water in well. Add an organic mulch around the base of the tree and stake or add a protective collar if necessary.
Creating a Guild for Your Tree
In an organic garden, it is a good idea to create a guild of beneficial companion plants around your pear tree.
A well-chosen guild will help you keep your pear tree healthy, and boost the yields that you are able to achieve.
The plants in a guild are chosen because they confer certain benefits without creating too much competition for your new tree.
The plants chosen for a guild might:
- Confer environmental benefits – keeping the soil covered to reduce moisture losses, for example.
- Add fertility – nitrogen fixers add nitrogen while in growth or when chopped and dropped around the base of the tree. Deep rooted plants can often dynamically accumulate other nutrients from the deeper soil which pear trees cannot reach. These can also be chopped and dropped around the tree, or left to die back or drop their leaves each winter to naturally return nutrients to the surface of the soil.
- Attract pollinators and ensure good fruit set.
- Attract other beneficial wildlife like predatory insects – these help keep pest numbers down and the ecosystem in balance.
- Repel, confuse or distract pest species.
For example, around a pear tree you might plant:
- Comfrey – deep rooted dynamic accumulator, attracts pollinators.
- White clover – nitrogen fixing, ground cover.
- Herbs (e.g. yarrow, borage, tansy, angelica, thyme etc..) for beneficial attraction and pest control.
- Alliums (e.g. chives, perennial edible onions, ornamental alliums) for pest control.
- Early spring flowers and bulbs for nutrient retention and pollination services early in the year.
Caring For a Pear Tree
Pear trees in the ground will need watering during dry periods until they become established.
After they are established, they will need to be watered only during prolonged periods of drought.
Of course, pear trees grown in containers will require more regular watering.
Replenishing your organic mulch around your tree, and creating a guild around it, and chopping and dropping plant material from this guild over time should be sufficient to keep your pear tree happy, healthy and productive.
If growing a pear tree in a container, you should scoop out and replace the top third of the potting mix every year to replenish the nutrients it contains.
Pests and Diseases
Pears can be susceptible to a number of pests and diseases.
Some common pests include aphids, caterpillars, codling moths, pear midge, pear blister mite and pear slugworm.
Pear trees can succumb to diseases such as pear scab, pear rust, blossom wilt, brown rot, and fireblight.
Making sure that you choose the right location for your tree, watering and pruning correctly, and ensuring healthy biodiversity in your garden can all help keep issues to a minimum.
But make sure you keep a close eye on your pear tree so you can deal with any problems swiftly if they do occur.
Pear trees are in RHS pruning group 1.
Standard pear trees should simply be lightly pruned to remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches in late winter or early spring.
Pruning specifics for trained trees will vary slightly depending on the form of fruit tree you have chosen.
Most pears in the UK will be ready to harvest sometime in September.
Pears are picked just before they have ripened fully. They should be swollen, yet firm, with a subtle colour change to their skin.
Pears that you have harvested should then be stored for a period before eating.
Early varieties will usually be ready to eat within a week or two. But later varieties may need much longer, even months, before they are ready to eat.
The tips above should help you understand the basics. Over time, you will learn more about your own particular pear tree or trees and the best strategies to employ.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.