Should I prune my pear tree?

orchidcrazy(ms)January 10, 2009

Thank you for looking at my pictures. I planted these two pear trees last April. They are over 6 feet tall now. Is it too early to start pruning? Do pear trees need a couple of years of growth before I can take off the smaller limbs to open up the center. I was planning on weighing the branches down this year/placing sticks to separate the branches. Should I only cut little branches that cross another branch? Sorry for so many questions at once. I am not sure what exactly the pear tree is. There were two different names on the walmart tag, Pyrus pyrifolia 'Orient' and Pyrus communis 'Orient'. Thank you for any suggestions. :)

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Others might disagree but I wonder if trying to grow an open center pear isn't a waste of time. They will just keep growing straight up in the center. I'd just spread the branches as you suggest and cut out branches that rub. Pears are very slow to bear and the more you prune the longer it will take. After the tree starts bearing heavily it will be easier to open it up some if you think that necessary.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 7:04PM
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Thank you fruitnut. I kept reading about people pruning their trees, so I thought I needed too. Because I am not sure what kind of pear tree I have, I did want to see a fruit before I started shaping the tree somewhat. My neighbors oriental pear tree grows straight up and she uses a ladder to pick the fruit and I didn't want to have to do that. Again thanks for giving your advice. :)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 8:37PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Unless these trees are on dwarfing rootstock you will need a very tall ladder if you do not train them by pruning. Contact your local extension service for references of experienced pruning experts to make a house call to make the first pruning and give you advice on how to maintain the size you desire. There is some expense involved but I think it will be money well spent. Al

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 9:30AM
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I have lots of pear trees and I agree with fruitnut about it being a waste of time to try and open the center now. I had a fruit expert tell me last year that the best way to traing young pear trees is to actually bend the branches down, not simply spread them. He told me it makes the young trees think they have pears weighing down the branches and the tree responds by slowing down its vigor and also producing flowers sooner than it would if untrained since it in essence thinks it is older that it really is. I dont know about this personally but the person who gave me the advice is a very well respected extension agent in Texas. Just an idea.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 12:57PM
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Thank you Al for the suggestion of calling the local extension service.
Thank you scaper austin for the idea of weighing the branches down. The tree grew about 1 1/2 feet last year and I hope that wasn't too much. I would love to trick my trees to produce one fruit this year, so I will be able to tell what kind of pear it really is. :)

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 8:15PM
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I would never grow my pears on central leader. Fireblight gets in there and it will go right down the CL. Everything above it will be lost. I grow them with three central leaders, if that description makes any sense. What I mean is I grow them with three very vertical leaders and then take short scaffolds off of those. You can't take a scaffold off of one and send it back through the tree to the other side so the scaffolds just come off on the vertical leader on one side. ie, the vertical leader that would be on the west would only have scaffolds going west. These scaffolds are only about four to five feet long and start about six feet up. The reason being that if fireblight gets into one leader you hope to restrict it to that leader. You will have two thirds of your tree left. At least that's the theory until all three leaders are infected. I think it best to fertilize little to not at all, and to prune very little. It is the young, vigorous trees that get hit worse with FB.

I live within a few miles of thousands of acres of commercial Barlett, d'Anjou, Bosc and others and I can't think of one orchard that is pruned to central leader. I can think of some new ones that are trained on a trellis, but not a ordinary CL.
With your first tree I would head that at no more than about twenty-four inches. Actually the lower the better, but it is hard to convince people to do that. Might as well do it now as later. The second tree looks like it would have two leaders if you cut out that one strong leader in the center. They're still too high, but whataya gone do. You might think it would split down the middle when it has a big crop, but that is why you use short scaffolds.
Anyway that is what I would do. Not saying it is right, as there is always other ways. Like those guys planting on a trellis right now. I wonder what will happen if we have a repeat of 1988. Many young FB infected pear orchards were cut down to knee high.

Pears for Heirs.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 12:44AM
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I did a quick google search on the names and it appears one is an Asian Pear and one is a European Pear. Might run in to pollination problems with the European.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 10:18AM
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Thank you geraldo linex for your input. When I bought the second tree, it looked like it was suppose to be an espalier(?)(growing against a wall because its branches grow in opposite directions only.) I can see that scaffolding would work on this tree. The first one is growing in many different directions. I hope I am understanding your explaination.
Thank you Bucky for looking up my trees. That is one of my questions, is it an asian pear or an european one. The tag says asian but the sticker on it with the bar code says european. LOL I guess time will tell. :) I'm lucky, my neighbor has both asian and a florida pear(fruit looks like an european type pear) in their yard.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 9:10PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

My references indicated both were asian, one grown for edible fruit the other mostly for onamental value. Google the two names and see what you get. Al

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 9:24AM
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I just did a quick search you could be right. Pulled from a University of Georgia site.
European pear: Pyrus communis L. This species does not occur in nature, and possibly derives from P. caucasia and P. nivalis (snow pear). This is the major pear of commerce.
Asian pear: P. pyrifolia (Burm. f.) Nak. [syn. P. serotina L.]. Also called "Japanese" or "Oriental" pear, or "Nashi". Grown mostly in the Orient, this fruit has been increasing in popularity in the USA over the last 20 years.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 1:29PM
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Thank you Calistoga and Bucky130 for looking the names up. My understanding from looking them up(and I could be wrong-won't be the first or last time LOL) is the communis is the common european pear like bartlet and pyrifolia is the asian pear. The tag says Large, yellow fruits are harvested late summer; Sweet, juicy, semi-hard flesh is best used for canning; Blight and leaf spot resistant; Deciduous tree requires a cross pollinator such as 'Baldwin', 'Kieffer' or 'Moonglo' pear.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 12:09AM
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alan haigh

They sure both look Asian to me. I think you should maybe replace both with trees properly identified, but because they are probably Asian they will probably adequately identify themselves very shortly. If they are Asian you don't have to worry about speeding their fruiting- they may even bear next season.

The reason I would consider replacing them is because fireblight can be heartbreaking and even if you graft on other varieties the trees may be susceptible unless you have no tender new wood from original trees. On the bright side, many Asians are fireblight resistant.

Multiple leader pear trees are common in commercial production in the west coast. Here in the east they are mostly grown to a central leader- I guess we don't get quite as much FB.

Festooning (pulling branches below horizontal)the branches may encourage early fruiting but it will not encourage a great scaffold structure. I sometimes use the method for trees I plan to train to a weep or for Euro plums just to get them into fruiting mode but many types of pears should not be trained this way in my opinion. None of the Asians I grow would be good candidates for this, they fruit so early anyway.

Asian and European pears are mostly pollen compatible- the problem can be timing of bloom. That issue will sort itself out as well when trees begin to flower.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 8:00AM
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Thank you harvestman for your comments. I did actually get a flower on the second tree in November, but when all the leaves fell off in December, so did the flower. I do hope it is an asian pear like the picture that was on the tag of a round brown fruit with little white dots on the skin. The wording on the tag said Pyrus pyrifolia 'Orient', and the sticker with the price of the tree said Pyrus communis 'Orient'. I guess time will tell. :)

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 11:29PM
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Pears are very strongly upright growing, and most I've seen have 5-7 main trunks. "A central leader would get way too tall, I think". I would choose 5-7 branches and remove the rest. They should not all come from the same spot on the main trunk but be staggered up a few inches apart. When you prune always cut to an outward facing bud to help spread the tree outwards.
Never try to 'flat top' a pear tree.
I would do about half the pruning in the winter, and if the trees show high vigor, do another summer pruning in late July.

Here is a link that might be useful: Extension Bulletin Ohio

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 12:12AM
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Thank you boizeau for your comments and website. I think I need to determine what kind of pear tree I have and just prune the crossing branches this winter. Once I know if its an asian or an european pear tree, then I will decide what kind of shape it will have. They we just planted last year and are young trees. I hope to get one fruit this year to find out.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 3:37PM
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Hello Orchidcrazy,
Let me clear this up a little. If your tree is correctly labeled and it is an orient than it is not an asian at least not a true one. Orient is an oriental hybrid of a class most people call "sand pears". They ripen like european pears. You pick them firm off the tree and let them turn soft and then eat them. Fruit of Orient is huge with many as large as soft balls. They have a very unusual flavor and a good bit of grit. Some like it and some dont. I am one who actually likes it. They are one the very best pears for making presersves, pies, sauces and what not. The are not fireblight immune but they are very, very resistant. All in all I feel they are one of the easiest fruit trees you can grow. Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 6:16PM
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I know this isn't my post, but I too am trying to figure when/if I should prune my new pear trees (Le Conte & Moonglow) that I planted a month ago. I don't understand what I read about keeping/cutting the central leader.--Yes, cut it or no, don't? Maybe OrchidCrazy has the same question.

I've not cut anything yet. I also hope OrchidCrazy won't mind me asking one more question on her post. We're in a deep drought and I'm "slow-watering" the dormant pears once a week for 20-30 minutes. My soil drains very well. Is this okay or too much/too little? The trees are lightly mulched.

Thanks, OrchidCrazy, for letting me ask these questions.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 10:01PM
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Thank you scaper austin for the clarification. Now you got me excited....pears as big as softballs!!!!...easy tree to grow!!! I am dreaming of my little trees with these large fruit! LOL I would probably eat them rather than do anything else because I like the gritty taste in my pears.

Redthistle, I don't mind at all, but you might get more responses if you post a new question. I think more people will see it then. :)

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 10:55PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have a Bartlett and a asian pear, both 10 years old. My bartlett I have been able to maintain low enough to not need a ladder, through pruning. The asian has resisted my efforts and is determined to grow straight up, but I have not given up. My pears I am growing as a modified central leader, in clay/loam soil with no summer water. Al

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 8:38AM
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Hey Red Thisle,
I may get some argument on this but I feel it is best to not prune much at all on pears in our area, at least for the first few years. For one our soil in the Austin area is bad and that greatly limits the vigor of our pears. For another not pruning means less chance of fireblight especially in fb resistance like Leconte and Moonglow. If needed you may want to spread some branches out by tying them to the ground but I dont think that even that is needed. So if I were you I would grab a rita at Maudies, go see a show at Alamo, go shop on soco, or try and score tickets to south by southwest and leave the pruners alone for awhile!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 12:15AM
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