Most people think of fruit when they hear the words ‘Pear Tree’ because many people are not aware that some pear trees are grown for their beautiful spring bloom and for their fall color. These are the Flowering Pear Trees. They make attractive, upright trees that are always neat in profile, even without any pruning.
Flowering Pear Trees are wrapped in a profusion of white blossoms every spring and in late fall they turn beautiful shades of red and are one of the most reliable trees for fall color. Because they are upright, they do not take up a lot of room in proportion to their height compared with most other flowering trees, so they are an ideal choice for restricted locations where there is not enough room for a more spreading tree.
Using Flowering Pear Trees on Your Property
Flowering Pear Trees have a lot to offer when you are looking for medium-sized trees for your property. They grow rapidly and when young can add 4 feet a year, producing a 20 foot tree in as little as 5 years. They will eventually reach 40 feet in height but are only 20 to 25 feet wide when they are mature. This means they can be fitted into a quite small area, which is why they are popular as street trees or as a specimen tree for a smaller front yard.
Because of their hardiness and tolerance of poor soil, they also make an excellent wind-break or screening tree. A row of Flowering Pears in full bloom, or in autumn color, is a beautiful sight and their dense, green foliage is a restful summer background. Because of their neat form they work well alongside a driveway as the branches will not get in the way and they do not drop a lot of messy fruit.
Since they need no pruning and are resistant to most pests and diseases, Flowering Pear Trees are a great choice for low-maintenance situations, leaving you with more time free to work with the other plants in your garden, or just giving you a low-maintenance landscape that frees up your time for family and other interests.
Flowering Pear Tree Appearance
Flowering Pear Trees are medium-sized trees that reach 40 to 45 feet in height. Their crowns are are pyramidal or tear-drop shaped and perhaps half as wide as they are tall. They have a naturally neat form, with upright branches and a clean trunk. The lower branches can be pruned off as necessary to make a trunk of any height needed for the location chosen. The bark is an attractive light brown to reddish brown when young, turning greyish brown and becoming slightly furrowed with age.
Leaves on Flowering Pear Trees
The leaves are oval in shape, 2 to 4 inches long with smooth edges and a glossy surface. They are a healthy rich green color and a slightly paler green on the underside. The leaves hold well on the trees into fall, but by late fall they turn spectacular shades of red, orange and even purple, before falling. They almost always give good fall color, whatever the weather conditions in a particular year, unlike some other trees grown for fall color which have their good and bad years, depending on weather.
Flowers on Pear Trees
The flowers appear in early spring, just before the leaves and they are pure white. The individual flowers are small, but they are carried in dense clusters 3 or 4 inches across, which completely cover the tree and are a real highlight of spring. Small hard fruits, just a ½ inch across follow the flowers, but these are not really noticeable.
Types of Flowering Pear Trees
The original Flowering Pear introduction was called ‘Bradford’. This was very popular and widely planted, but it turned out to have a problem when grown in snowy areas. Because it is especially upright in its growth, the narrow joints between trunk and branches were prone to crack under the weight of a heavy snow fall and so trees were liable to break during winter storms. So breeders worked to develop other forms which did not have this problem.
The first replacement form was called ‘Chanticleer’, or the Cleveland Flowering Pear Tree. It is also sometimes called ‘Glen’s Form’ and was introduced in 1965. This tree not only does not break in storms, it has very dense flowering and outstanding fall color, making it a great choice when selecting a Flowering Pear Tree.
The Cleveland Flowering Pear Tree also does well in areas with restricted root space and will do well as long as it is not exposed to drought for more than a month. Cleveland Flowering Pear is quite upright, growing to 40 feet and being less than 20 feet wide at that height. This makes it an excellent choice for restricted spaces.
Since then there have been a number of other improved forms developed, including the Aristocrat Pear Tree. This selection has fall colors at least as good as the Cleveland Flowering Pear, but is wider in form, being a good 25 feet wide when it reaches its mature height of 40 feet. This makes it a good choice for screening.
Flowering Pear Tree Hardiness and Growing Conditions
One of the real attractions of Flowering Pear Trees is their hardiness. They grow from zones 5 to 9, so outside of the cold Mid-west, they are a great choice. In addition, they are very undemanding for soil and will grow in most types of soil. They are especially useful on clay soils, where they will grow where most other trees will not. For this reason they are used for street-trees because they can survive adverse conditions. Once established they are drought resistant and are also pest resistant and resistant to most diseases. This makes them a very easy, trouble-free tree for low-maintenance situations.
Planting and Initial Care
For individual specimens allow 20 feet clearance around the tree, so do not plant closer than 10 feet to a building. For restricted sites choose the Cleveland Flowering Pear Tree. For an attractive feature along a driveway, plant the Cleveland Pear at 25 feet intervals so that the individual trees can be fully appreciated.
For a privacy screen or windbreak plant at 15 foot intervals if using the Cleveland Pear and at 20 foot intervals for the Aristocrat Pear Tree. Planting a longer row using Aristocrat will therefore reduce the total number of trees needed by one-quarter.
To plant your Flowering Pear Trees, you should begin by digging a hole three times wider than the pot, but no deeper. Mix some organic material into the soil you remove and place you tree, out of its pot, in the center of the hole. Replace most of the soil and firm it well down around the root ball. Fill the hole with water and after it has drained away, replace the rest of the soil.
There will probably be a bend in the trunk of you tree close to the ground, which is the point where the selected piece of Flowering Pear Tree was joined to the root system. Make sure this point is a couple of inches above the ground. Water your tree thoroughly every week during the first growing season and then just during longer periods of dry weather.
Information on Flowering Pear Trees
Flowering Pear Trees all belong to the botanical species Pyrus calleryana. This tree is commonly called the Callery Pear and grows naturally in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Seed of this plant was collected by the famous American plant collector Meyer. Meyer worked for the US Department of Agriculture as an ‘agricultural plant explorer’ and he spend many years, mostly in China, collecting plants to test their usefulness for agriculture in America.
In 1918 Meyer sent seeds he had collected in eastern China to the US Plant Introduction Station in Glen Dale, Maryland and the staff there grew seedlings of this tree. One particularly attractive plant, which lacked the sharp, thorn-like shoots of the wild species, was selected for its prolific blossoms and became the Bradford Pear described earlier. As first this tree was also used to form the root system of fruiting pears, but it was eventually recognized for its ornamental value and became a popular tree.
To get the maximum growth-rate from your young tree, you should apply a tree fertilizer each spring, or more frequently if you are using liquid fertilizers. Keep the area around the base of the tree free of grass or weeds by applying thick mulch. Be careful with string trimmers as the bark is thin on young trees and easily damaged. The only pruning needed is to remove broken or crossed branches and to remove lower branches as needed to keep the crown high enough for any clearance needed. If any shoots appear at the base of the tree these should be removed immediately.
A Low-Maintenance Flowering Tree for Difficult Soil Conditions
Flowering Pear Trees are a great choice for a low-maintenance attractive tree for difficult soil conditions, especially clay soil. They are hardy, trouble-free trees that brighten up both spring and fall with their attractive flowers and fall colors. You should choose an appropriate variety for the particular needs of your exact location.