How to plant a pear tree
- Bare-rooted pear trees are much cheaper than buying in a pot. Plant in winter when the roots are dormant and as soon as you pick it up so the roots don’t dry out.
- Soak in water while you dig a hole twice as wide as the roots, add organic matter and build a mound in the hole so the start of the tree stem sits level with the ground.
- A narrow garden bed is no place for big trees, however the weeping pear with its single trunk and mop top adds graceful colour and texture.
How to plant in a pot
- Spread roots over the mound and gently backfill. Water in well, then prune back to about 5 or 6 buds.
- When planting in a garden pot, dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. Remove tree from pot and tease out roots. Trim back circling or tangled roots. Put in the hole and backfill with soil, firming down gently. Water in well and keep watering daily for several weeks.
- Water dwarf pears in pots more often than garden trees as the growing medium dries out.
How to grow a pear tree
Climate: Winter frosts, but they also tolerate a hot summer.
Soil: Well-drained and fertile.
Feeding: Fertilise in early spring – feeding later in the year can make the fruit too soft for storage.
Watering: Deep water once a week into light soil; less often into heavy soil.
Mulch: Apply organic mulch in the dry, hot summer months.
How to get rid of pests and diseases
Codling moth: Mulch soil in spring to prevent adults emerging from the soil to lay their eggs on the foliage. Or, wrap the trunk with a band of hessian to distract female egg-laying moths from leaves – keep wrapped for a few weeks, put in rubbish bin and then replace.
Fruit fly: Hang pheromone-based traps to attract and kill male fruit flies. Collect and destroy any rotten fruit.
Pear and cherry slug: The larvae of the sawfly can skeletonise the foliage in a bad outbreak. Throw garden lime or wood ash over the foliage to dry out and kill the slug or spray your foliage with diluted dishwashing liquid. Repeat across the hot months.
Growing pear trees in containers
Put a pear tree on your sunny porch or patio, cultivate a mini orchard in your courtyard or bring bounty to your balcony with the small Trixzie pear plant! It’s been especially bred for growing in containers in cool, temperate climates. Amid its dense, bright green foliage it bears full-sized, round green fruit while taking up minimum space – just 1.5m high and wide. Plus, it’s self-pollinating, so you only need one, if that’s all you have room for.
Can pear trees pollinate themselves?
Most pear trees are dioecious, so you need another pear tree near by that flowers at the same time for pollination – and therefore fruit – to occur. Some of the more modern breeds now self-pollinate. Before you buy, check with your nursery as to which trees need a companion and which ones can go it alone.
When to pick a pear?
Pears are best picked when slightly under-ripe and still firm. When the green skin of the Williams pear turns golden yellow, while keeping its dainty little freckles, you know it’s ripe for picking. Keep them in the fridge for a couple of weeks, then allow to ripen in a bowl before eating. Gently squeeze its neck and, if it gives a little, it’s ready to eat.
How to make an espalier
Pear trees grow naturally into upright, spreading, medium-sized specimens, but you generally need another in your neighbourhood for cross pollination to ensure fruit. If your space is restricted, pears respond really well to being pruned into an espalier.
- Grow them against a sunny brick wall but not too close to it so they still have good air circulation.
- Create a garden room with a pair of pears espaliered against a trellis.
- Make a short walk more memorable by lining your favourite garden path with a line of pears growing along wire.
- Choose your espalier pattern – fan-shaped, horizontally 2, 3 or 4-tiered, and candelabra are the most popular – and establish the frame before you plant.
- Buy trees that are 1-2 years old because their limbs are still supple for easy training.
- Plant 15-20cm away from solid structures.
- Use your espaliered pear as a garden room divider. Since it changes with each season, there’s no need to renovate!
Which pear tree is right for you?
A soft, golden skin with a red blush, the creamy coloured flesh can be eaten raw and poached or glazed in the kitchen.
The pale yellow skin yields a sweet, juicy flavour with a smooth, buttery texture. Eat fresh or bake, boil or grill, dry, preserve or add to a chutney.
Kind of squat-shaped and featuring a pale greeny-yellow skin, the meltingly soft pale-cream flesh with a delicate flavour can be eaten fresh or sautéed, baked and poached, or dried and preserved.
Being Asian, these thrive in warmer climates to produce apple-like fruit with a cinnamon-coloured skin covering creamy, crisp, juicy flesh. Eat fresh, in a salad or on a cheeseboard, or bake.
The textured, cinnamon-coloured skin reveals a lovely, sweet white flesh that can be eaten fresh, dried, preserved or cooked.
An Australian heirloom, the pale skin reveals a fine-grained, ivory flesh. Eat fresh from the bowl, in a salad or on a cheeseboard, or you can juice it, bake or poach it, or dry and preserve.
This tiny, apple-shaped pear with a red-blushed green skin holds crisp, sweet creamy-white flesh. Great fresh but you can also poach or bake it.
The bright crimson skin is exciting, while the creamy flesh lying inside is sweet, crisp and juicy. You can eat it fresh or bake, dry or preserve it.
Some pear trees are destined to be just pretty, such as the hardy, drought-resistant callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) and the weeping pear (P. salicifolia). The callery produces a flurry of fluffy spring blossoms and their leaves turn from bright, luscious lime green in spring to deep, rich maroon in autumn. The weeping has silvery grey willow-like leaves that become glossy green as they mature. Both fruits are small and hard, so make sure you leave them for the wildlife!
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