Pear: Bare Root Fruit Plant
How to Plant
Planting Bare Root Plants:
- Choose a site in full sun in an area with well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Make sure there is some protection from the prevailing winds. Northern exposures are less prone to late spring frosts, and are more likely to have more snow cover. This protects the plants from soil heaving in winter. Do not plant in the root zone of black walnut trees. Avoid heavy clay soil as well as sandy soil. Amend as needed with organic matter.
- Some pear trees need to be cross pollinated with another variety, some do not. Check your variety description. Be sure to plant trees that will pollinate each other within 50 feet of each other.
- Space trees 12-18 feet apart.
- Plant dormant bare root plants in spring as soon as the soil may be worked.
- Soak the roots in water 1-2 hours before planting.
- Cut the tree back to approximately 30 inches tall at planting. Cut side branches back to 3-4 buds.
- The planting hole should be large enough to hold all the roots without bending or bunching up. Dig holes at least 18 inches deep and wide. Break up hard pan soil layers if present. Do not add raw fertilizers or manure to the soil mixture. Over feeding can kill young trees.
- Set the budded or grafted tree in the planting hole so that roots lie naturally, with the bud union 2 inches above the soil level after planting. Fill in the soil in layers and tamp down around the roots to make sure there is good soil to root contact and to remove air pockets.
- Water immediately to saturate all soil and roots in the hole. After the soil around the plant has settled, make sure the bud union is at the proper height above the soil level. Adjust as needed. Leaves should emerge 6-8 weeks after planting once the weather has warmed.
How to Grow
- When rainfall is not adequate, water newly transplanted trees deeply at least once a week during the first growing season. Apply 3-4 gallons of water per tree. Hoe a small ridge of soil around each tree to keep water from running off.
- A nitrogen fertilizer should be applied to newly transplanted fruit trees 3-4 weeks after planting. Be sure to keep granular fertilizers from direct contact with the tree trunk.
- Do not cultivate the soil surface within the area of the planting hole.
- Mulch 2-3 inches deep, extending 3-4 feet around the base of the tree, using shredded leaves or other organic matter.
- Use tree guards, cages, fencing or deer bags to prevent damage from mice, rabbits, deer and other wildlife.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Pruning is done early to control the shape and health of the tree, by developing a strong, well-balanced framework of scaffold branches. Do not cut back by more than 1/3 of the size of the plant. Prune regularly to avoid making large cuts later. Do not leave stubs, which can die off later and harbor diseases. Cut off all diseased, weak and dead wood. Prune young pear trees at least a month before buds break in late February or March. It is important to know where flowers and fruits develop on different fruit trees, as this will determine how the plants are pruned and trained. Apple and pear trees make flowers and fruits on terminal buds at the shoot tips. Remove any scaffold branching below 18 inches and cut back the uppermost scaffold branch. Remove limbs with narrow crotch angles that grow parallel to the central leader and shorten scaffold branches to 12 inches long.
Harvest and Preserving Tips
- Fruit is ready for harvest in late summer. Pears ripen from the inside out and by the time they seem to be ripe on the tree, they are in fact over-ripe, with a mealy or gritty texture. Fruit, therefore, should not be allowed to ripen on the tree, although it should be harvested when mature.
- Harvest when the color of the fruit looks as it should for the variety. Fruit will be hard, not soft at time of harvest. Take the fruit in your hand and tilt it horizontally. Mature fruit will come easily from the branch at this angle. It will hold onto the branch if it is not mature yet.
- Ripen indoors at 60-70 degrees F. You can also use a paper bag to make the fruit ripen faster, but be sure to check it every day as they can ripen quickly in a paper bag; in a paper bag the ethylene produced by the pears will allow the fruit to ripen in 3-5 days. Outside of a bag it can take a week or two.
- To store pears for a longer period of time, store unripened fruit at 30 to 32 degrees F and 90 percent relative humidity. They can be stored for approximately 1-3 months. Remove 1 week prior to desired use.
Common Disease Problems
Fire Blight: Shoots and blossoms turn black and shrivel. Plant appears as if it has been scored by fire. Burpee Recommends: Cut out diseased wood to healthy tissue. Clean your tools before using on healthy tissue. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Pear Blossom Blast: Buds fail to open, dry out and die. Post infection after bud opening can result in shiny black spots on the fruit and the leaves. The disease rarely progresses past the base of the spurs and is typically concentrated in the lower portion of the tree’s canopy.
Pear Decline: Symptoms include poor shoot and spur growth, dieback of shoots, leaf rolling, premature reddening, reduced fruit and leaf size and premature leaf drop. Burpee Recommends: Purchase varieties with resistant rootstock. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots. Burpee Recommends: Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Scab: Dark spots form on leaves and fruit. Water soaked lesions gradually turn brown in the center with a lighter colored margin. Cracking on the fruit can occur. Burpee Recommends: Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Lygus Bugs (Tarnished Plant Bug): Lygus bugs are ¼ inch long and are green or brown with yellow markings. Nymphs are flightless and smaller than the adults. They suck on stem tips and flower buds and inject a toxic that deforms roots, stems and ruins flowers. Burpee Recommends: Because lygus bugs over winter in garden debris, remove all debris after the first frost. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for insecticide recommendations.
Mealybugs: Mealybugs are 1/8 to ¼ inch long flat wingless insects that secrete a white powder that forms a waxy shell that protects them. They form cottony looking masses on stems, branches and leaves. They suck the juices from leaves and stems and cause weak growth. They also attract ants with the honeydew they excrete, and the honeydew can grow a black sooty mold on it as well. Burpee Recommends: Wash affected plant parts and try to rub the bugs off. They may also be controlled by predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.
Scale: Small bugs look like brown, black, gray to white bumps on the stems of plants. Scale may not have any apparent legs and may not move. Scales have a sucking mouth part. Scale may produce honeydew so leaves and stems may be sticky. Scale can weaken the plant causing it to grow very slowly and may wilt at the middle of the day. Burpee Recommends: Completely spray the stems with Insecticidal soap. For a severe infestation contact your local County Extension Service for recommendation for your area.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Do I need two different pear varieties for cross pollination? Some varieties produce better with two varieties, some are self-fruitful. Check your variety description.
When will my tree bear fruit? Trees should bear fruit in 3-4 years, with full fruiting in 7-10 years.
Can I grow pear trees in my zone 10 garden? No, unfortunately pears require cold winter temperatures and are not recommended in warmer zones than zone 8 or 9 (check your variety recommendation).