How do pears grow

Pear, pear tree

Origin and growth

Today's cultivated forms of the pear (Pyrus communis) are the result of crossings of various West Asian and European wild pears. The local wood pear (Pyrus pyraster) can also be found in it. The history of the cultivated pears can only be partially reconstructed, because the pome fruit was already very widespread in the Mediterranean region in Homer's time.

Pear trees grow quite strong and form rather narrow, upright crowns. The alternate leaves are usually broad-oval and have a strikingly shiny upper side. The trees have a very high life expectancy: There are specimens in Germany that are estimated to be 180 years. Apple trees are barely half as old. The flowers often appear one to two weeks before the apple blossoms and are therefore somewhat at risk of late frost. They have the typical flower shape of the rose family (Rosaceae), are pure white and have dark stamens. Like the apple trees, pears fruit on short fruit skewers on perennial wood. Pears also have a certain meaning as forest trees: The mostly reddish, beautifully grained wood is in great demand in furniture construction and achieves high prices.

Pears from your own garden taste many times better than the fruits that are offered in the supermarket. One of the reasons for this is that these are picked when they are not ripe in order to survive transport routes and to keep them as long as possible. When choosing a suitable pear tree, the size of the garden is of course decisive. Fortunately, there are now many types of pear for small gardens. New compact varieties such as ‘Condo’ or ‘Concorde’ prove to be significantly more storable than many old pear varieties. And in terms of taste, they are in no way inferior to famous varieties such as ‘Williams Christbirne’ or ‘Delicious from Charneux’.

The base is decisive for the growth of the pear. Trees grafted on pear seedlings have deep roots and can therefore sometimes cope with dry seasons, they are also relatively resistant to winter frosts. Fruits of better taste and quality ripen on quince bases such as ‘Quince A’. The disadvantages: They have shallower roots and are therefore less stable, and they are more susceptible to frost and more sensitive to lime. It is best to seek advice on choosing a variety for your garden at a local nursery, as they will be familiar with the local climate and soil.

Location and soil

Pears need a place in full sun, warm and sheltered. A place in front of a sunny house wall, where the trees benefit from the radiated heat, is ideal. Here the space-saving upbringing as an espalier tree is ideal. However, there are also robust, cold-tolerant varieties that produce well-ripened fruits in less favorable locations, for example the old variety Gute Graue ’and the large-fruited Duchess Elsa’.

Humus-rich and evenly moist, sandy loam soils are ideal for all pears. For trees that have been grafted on quince supports, however, they must not be too heavy and too calcareous. Since trees grafted on pear seedlings are deep-rooted, the soil should be sufficiently loose down to the deeper soil layers. Pears will only thrive satisfactorily on poorer sandy soils if they have a high proportion of humus.

Planting and care

Dig a planting hole that is at least twice the diameter of the root ball and loosen the sole with a digging fork. It is important that the tree is not set too low, as pears are very sensitive to this. The surface of the root ball should be at about the same level as the ground level and the grafting point must be well above it so that the grafted trunk does not form its own roots and the growth-regulating function of the grafting base is overridden. Cover the tree slice with composted bark for at least the first few years so that the soil stays nice and moist.

To provide nutrients, pears need four liters of ripe compost per tree each spring, which is enriched with around 100 grams of horn meal. The mixture is spread in the outer area of ​​the tree disc, where most of the fine roots are. In dry summers, young trees in particular need additional watering. In autumn, a white coating protects against bark damage from the winter sun. If there are wild rabbits romping around in the garden, a game cuff is also strongly recommended as protection against biting.

Upbringing and editing

When you prune your pear tree, you create the ideal basis for a good harvest in late summer. Pears grafted on weakly growing quince rootstocks such as ‘Quince A’ require significantly less space than pear trees grafted on seedling rootstocks as half or high trunks. Like apples, they can be raised as bush or even narrower spindle trees and even as a fruit hedge.

In this video we will show you step by step how to properly prune a pear tree.
Credit: MSG / Alexander Buggisch / Producer: Folkert Siemens

When raising a spindle tree, all side shoots that are not yet too strong should be spread with specially cut strips at a flat angle of at least 60 degrees. Steep, tall, stronger shoots are removed completely before they can develop into competition shoots. The central shoot is shortened so that it branches well along its entire length, as are the longer side branches. The further cutting measures are essentially limited to the so-called fruit wood rejuvenation: The old, heavily branched fruit wood is removed by cutting it off behind a younger branch.

To raise a pyramid crown, select three to four strong, well-distributed lateral guide shoots at the base of the crown and shorten them by about a third. All other stronger side shoots are removed. The central shoot is also shortened so that it ends at least a scissor length higher than the tips of the lateral main shoots. Pyramid crowns are the preferred crown shape for vigorously growing pear trees. They also cause a comparatively high amount of cutting effort in the following years. All water veins as well as the inward-growing shoots must be removed so that the crown remains nice and airy.

Espalier trees are a form of training that is also very popular with pears. The simplest is a trellis with horizontally protruding side branches. The trees must be prepared for this at a young age by placing them in front of a suitable wire or wooden trellis, tying down the appropriate shoots horizontally and shortening them so that they form side branches and fruit wood over their entire length. Handcrafted hobby gardeners can also build the trellis for the fruit trees themselves. The vertically tall shoots must either be torn off in summer or trimmed to short cones. The upbringing of pears is usually done in late winter. Conservation pruning can be carried out after the harvest in September or also in late winter. The later you cut in spring, the weaker the tree will sprout.


Newer pear varieties are also invariably self-sterile. So you will need another strain nearby in order for the flowers to be pollinated. If there is no other pear tree in the neighboring gardens within the distance of the bees flying, you should plant two different varieties at the same time. Many garden centers also offer so-called duo trees with two different varieties on one tree - they are a good compromise for small gardens.

Harvest and recovery

It is not very easy to determine when the right time to harvest pears and when the fruits are ripe for picking. Experience has shown that it is best to harvest early pears early and late autumn and winter pears late. The fruits are picked one by one by hand. If you shake them off the tree, you run the risk of pressure points and injuries that reduce their shelf life and shelf life. For storage you put them in so-called trays or wooden boxes and put them in a cool place as possible. But never store your pears next to apples! During their ripening process, they release ethylene, a plant hormone, which also promotes the ripening of the pears so that they spoil more quickly.

Pears taste wonderful when you eat them fresh from the tree. Have you ever cut a fully ripe, juicy pear lengthways like an avocado and scooped out the soft pulp? A real treat! If you want to boil down your pears, you should pick them just before they are fully ripe. So they stay firm to the bite in the glass. For pear puree or compote, on the other hand, the fruits can be fully ripe - the more aromatic the result.


Like apples, pears are only propagated through processing. Either through the so-called winter hand grafting as copulation on bare-root seedlings or in summer with the budding, in which an eye with a bark strip of the noble variety is pushed behind the T-shaped cut bark of the grafting base. A special feature of pears is that some varieties are unsuitable for certain rootstocks. In this case, a compatible variety must first be refined on the substrate as an "intermediate piece". After a year, the noble variety is grafted onto this again at the desired crown height. The refinement methods mentioned took some practice, but hobby gardeners who are keen to experiment should give them a try. Basically, refined pears grow just as easily as refined apples.

Cuttings can also be propagated with pears, but the failure rates are very high and the vigor of the trees cannot be controlled. Therefore this method is not suitable for professional propagation.

Diseases and pests

One of the most common diseases that sooner or later affects almost every pear tree is the pear grate. The fungal disease can only be prevented by regular preventive sprayings from the beginning of April to the end of June. Sulfur preparations or horsetail broth are suitable. If the tree is already infected, you should resort to copper supplements. Make sure that no Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) or sead tree (Juniperus sabina) grow in the vicinity of the pears - both are winter hosts of the grate mushroom. The fire blight is far worse and incurable in the home garden. You can recognize it by the brown-black shoot tips that look like charred. If the reportable bacterial infection occurs in the garden, the infected plants must be removed and burned immediately. The symptoms of an infestation with pearpox mite, which causes leaf deformations, are easy to confuse with pear scab.

In addition to pear leaf suckers, voles in particular can become a problem among animal pests. They eat the roots of the pear trees and can damage young plants so much that they die. If you have voles in your garden, you should plant your pear trees in large protective baskets made of close-meshed wire.