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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Pears

The Editors

Biting into a juicy pear is one of life's joys. Growing pears is generally easier than growing apples, as they have less pest and disease issues. They are easy to fit into small yard spaces, too! Learn more about planting pear trees in your backyard.

When growing pears, note that two cultivars are generally needed for successful pollination and fruit set. Most pear trees are not self-pollinating. You can also grow pears in containers—and plant at any time of the year. Make sure you purchase pears specifically bred for containers.

Be aware that pears can take from a few years or more to begin flowering and bear fruit. But once they start producing, pear trees are prolific and long-lasting!

There are many different types of pears; some are best eaten raw and some are best for cooking. Learn more about pear varieties in this guide!

  • Plant pear trees in early spring. Order bare root plants in mid-winter so that they arrive in time.
  • You'll need full sun for best fruit set and fertile, well-drained soil as well as good air circulation.
  • If you live outside of the dry western regions, you should choose fire blight–resistant types and rootstocks.
  • Plan to plant at least two varieties of pear trees, as they will need to be cross-pollinated to produce fruit. Make sure the varieties are compatible with each other.
  • Space standard-size trees 20 to 25 feet apart. Space dwarf trees 12 to 15 feet apart.
  • For container-grown trees, remove the plant from its pot and remove any circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and using shears to cut through the roots.
  • For grafted trees, position the inside of the curve of the graft union away from the sun when planting.
  • Dig a hole that is a few inches deeper and wider than the spread of the roots. Set the tree on top of a small mound of soil in the middle of the hole. Be sure to spread the roots away from the trunk without excessively bending them. Do not add fertilizer or topsoil to the hole.

Check out our video to learn more about how to plant a bare–rooted fruit tree. 

  • Water the young trees well during dry spells to help establish the roots.
  • Apply a small amount of fertilizer early in the year. Add 1/8 pound of ammonium nitrate per tree multiplied by the number of years the tree has been set in moderately fertile soil. If you have highly fertile soil, use less fertilizer.
  • If the leaves are pale green or yellowish during the summer, use a little more fertilizer the next year.
  • If the tree grows more than 12 inches in one season, use less fertilizer the next year.
  • Be very careful when applying fertilizer! If you give your trees too much nitrogen, they will become more susceptible to fire blight and also may focus too much energy on producing foliage instead of flowers and fruit.

Pruning Pear Trees

  • Prune annually to keep the tree healthy. Generally, prune lightly to keep the trees looking their best and productive.
  • For dwarf trees, prune them to a central leader system.
  • Standard-size trees can be pruned to either a central leader system or a modified leader system, which is easier to maintain.
  • The central leader system features a central trunk with branches that spiral out every 5 to 8 inches, making sure that no branch is directly above another. The training for such a system begins in the early summer of the first year, during which time you should remove any shoots that form within 18 inches of the ground. The end result should resemble a Christmas tree.
  • Use spreaders to help shape the branches of the trees. These help the branches to spread outward rather than upward. When the branches are small, you can use clothespins to push the branches away from the main trunk. For bigger branches, use wooden slats with a "V" shape notched into each end.
  • Remember to thin the fruit as well, leaving about 6 inches between each cluster of fruit per branch.
  • After your trees are established, water them regularly.
  • Harvest pears when they are mature but still hard. Ripen the pears at room temperature for the best quality fruits.
  • Mature pear trees produce a lot of fruit in a short window of time. Be prepared!

  • To store pears, pick them when they are fully grown but still very hard. You can keep them in the refrigerator; they should last for about 1 week. You can also keep them in containers in a cool (about 40°F), dark place; they should keep for 1 to 2 months.

  • You can also can the pears for longer storage.
Wit and Wisdom

Pick pears when the fruit has a faint yellow blush but is still green.

Drop peeled pears in cold, lightly salted water, and they won't turn brown.

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Sharon (not verified)

6 months 1 week ago

I have a variegated pear tree with three different varieties on it. Will it bear fruit or do I have to plant another in order to have fruit.

Janice (not verified)

9 months 2 weeks ago

I’ve lived in Upstate SC zone 7 for three years and discovered a Bartlett on my property. It’s a small tree, no idea how old, but set fruit for the first time last spring. The fruit were small when I harvested, but I waited one day too long. The night before, I had about 30 pears. The next day, all but 4 had disappeared. So I suppose the best indicator of the time to harvest is to stay up and watch for the squirrels! I knew how to determine if they were ready to pick, but I didn’t know about putting them in the fridge, so my first harvest made for a pretty picture, but the squirrels and eventually the birds got to enjoy them. I’m thrilled to learn I can cross pollinate with an Anjou or Asian. Pruning intimidates me, so I believe I’ll hire a local nursery to prune the Bartlett and properly plant an Anjou or Asian, or both! Thanks again for all the wonderful help.

Julie (not verified)

1 year 3 months ago

Am I able to submit a photo of my Pear tree and/or a Pear from the tree somewhere? I need help Identifying it. We bought this property almost 20 years ago and the tree was here long before because it was full grown when we bought the property. It's old and tall and has lots of beautiful Pears on it. Well odd shaped pears.. Are they canning Pears, baking Pears or just eating Pears? I have to say I've never tried them.. Each time I think I've figured out what they are I read something that makes me believe I'm wrong.

Robert l knise (not verified)

1 year 4 months ago

Your article on Pears was very interesting. How do we deal with the most outstanding problem. Squirrels Every year like clock work they strike the week of the fourth of July. I had only about 200 . In six days all gone. I bought 3 bottles of dear and rodent spray and may help with dear , but worthless when it comes to squirrels. Now I am out 36.0 dollars. Do you know of a spray to keep them away from the pears ?