Root competition from a Bradford Pear

funnthsun z7A - Southern VAAugust 17, 2013

Yes, I hate the tree, No, I can't cut it down YET (these are basically preemptive strikes for Ken, lol)

So, I am wondering if Bradford Pears are like Maples when it comes to root competition with Hostas? I have an existing bed that is being revamped (was never done properly by the previous owners) and WANTED to put Hostas in, but am wondering about the roots and a search of Bradford Pears brought up nothing here. Thanks!

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idiothe(4 MN)

I grow under pear trees... but they are dwarf trees, so they are probably on crabapple root stock...

I suspect you'd be OK - but all you have to do is grab a shovel and dig a scoop or two. Maple roots are quite dramatic - a mat of wire-like fine roots in the top inches of the soil.

Dig a hole and see what you see...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 10:42AM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

I can dig in it, it's not a mat of roots, but there definitely is a root presence. I usually see them come up and start to leaf out here and there under that tree. Those I find very annoying, as you can't roundup them, you'll kill the tree and if you just cut them off, they just come back. The area is diggable, though, but I just didn't want to fool myself into thinking that would make it OK and then 3 or 4 years from now have diminishing Hosta.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 10:57AM
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idiothe(4 MN)

I wouldn't hesitate to do a bed under these circumstances. I think water and light will be bigger factors than the tree roots in this case.

When I grow under crabapples in deep shade and sandy soil, I know I'm not getting them enough water and there isn't enough light - and they do grow slowly. I can help out by clearing out the lower branches so they get as much light as is available... and then making sure that my watering is effective, not getting all misdirected by the tree leaves.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 11:04AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

they are worse than maples ....

it will start suckering wildly ... [oh.. i see it already has ]

one would think.. you would want to take it down.. BEFORE you plant things under it ...

whatever .. you are making excuses.. get rid of it now ...


ps: if i only had a nickle for every time i said.. if anyone can beat this problem.. i can.... for every time i said.. oh.. it will be different in my garden ... when i said.. oh.. i know its a giant problem.. but i will deal with it later ... I WOULD HAVE A LOT OF NICKLES ....

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 12:26PM
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gardener-in-wi(5 SEWi)

I had a pear tree that I had planted a perennial garden under, in addition to plantiginea hostas. Never had any problem with root competition until after we took the tree down. Two years later trying to move a mum, it was completely strangled by the pear tree roots. My husband had to saw out the huge root. We had the stump ground out at the time the tree was removed, but those roots down there are huge! The tree will eventually fall apart on you, that's what happened to ours, 15 years after we planted it. Maybe you might want to try spin out bags for your favorite hostas. . .


    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 1:19PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I don't know if it is generally advisable or not, but I do know that my neighbor has a large Bradford Pear and grows several very large hosta under it (one about 6 inches away from the trunk), plus several hydrangeas in that area also. She has been doing it for years--but she has trimmed back the branches considerably so that the plants under it get a fair amount of sun.

I can testify that that Bradford Pear is way older than 30 years. That is about when I moved into my house and my neighbor's Brandford Pear was already a big, hefty tree then. On the other hand, maybe it is in a somewhat protected spot. I planted a Bradford Pear on my property in a more exposed place and 10 years later, a strong wind came along and uprooted it on one side, so that it was leaning against my roofline. From that experience, I have assumed that Bradford Pears are not deep-rooted--but then there is my neighbor's tree surviving decade after decade after decade--with hosta and hydrangea growing happily beneath its branches. Go figure!


    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 2:10PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

Dang, apparently preemptive strikes are no good either :( Take it down before planting SHADE plants under it? Uh, what?

Terri, now that is very interesting, as my long-term plan was to try to grow something else close to the pear and then take it out later. Gotta have something so that the shade doesn't miss a beat, don't want to lose other perennials planted in different areas, but using that shade as well. I was thinking about a Shoal Creek Chaste tree b/c they are fast growing, but don't know how the roots grow on those yet, need to do some more research. But from what you said, even if I take out the tree, the roots won't give up the fight?! Man, this is a tough one!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 2:13PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA


Looks like we cross-posted. Yes, that is the case with ours as well. It is at least 25 years old. It started to split about 5 years ago, so my DH climbed it, topped it and thinned it out. It looked horrible for the rest of that year, but came back the next year looking great and healed itself totally. It looks great again, like it never had any problems. I think keeping the weight off of them is key.

As well as it's doing, I would really like to replace it. Just not my style of tree, but I can't lose the shade for even one season, so I am trying to come up with an ingenious plan! Here's hoping for an epiphany!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 2:18PM
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idiothe(4 MN)

regarding suckers... my DW insisted on putting a Tiger Eyes Staghorn Sumac in a new planting two years ago. She swore this one doesn't sucker "much." The original plant died the first winter - but suckers are showing up all around it.

Her sister, who works in a nursery, says there is a chemical product for suckers that kills suckers but does not kill the main plant. I haven't tried it - but I didn't even know it existed until recently.

Not sure if that helps with pear suckers or not... might be worth looking into. I found this one on Amazon...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 5:25PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Bradford Pear has a destructive branching technique. It catches debris, as it is so upright, and rots the crotch of the tree. They end up splitting. They life expectancy around here is about 25 years.

It may be different where you live, but that's consistent with what I've seen. They are popular in our neighborhood. I haven't a clue about their rooting habits, although they cast a dense shade. But, don't consider them a long lived tree.

Aristocrat is suposed to be a lot better.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 1:01AM
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I was looking for a Shoal Creek Vitex Agnus Castus, and every place seems to be out.

Somewhere I read that a redbud tree would be a good one to plant. It is quick growing in my part of the country, and gives a nice broken shade with a big round head on it. It blooms on bare branches in early spring, but not sure how far north it will prosper.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 1:27AM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

I got my Shoal Creek Vitex from Lazy S. They have several to choose from, last I checked. Since I already have one, I'd like to use that, but will have to do some research on the root system, it looks like.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 8:07AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

Redbud trees are the state flowering tree of Kansas--which is Zones 6 and 5--so they are at least that hardy, for those who were wondering.

They grow wild up and down our alley--which is lovely when they bloom in the spring. Also very trimmable--I refer to it as my Kansas bonsai tree. And when it gets too old or big, I just cut it to the ground and let a sucker (I guess it would be called that) grow in its place for a brand new tree. I've done that in two different places in my yard, and the "new" trees are doing fine.

I have 3 hosta growing under one of them, but they were planted just a few weeks ago, so I can't say whether hosta like it there or not. I have all kinds of perennials growing under my other redbud--they've been there for years.


This post was edited by dublinbay on Sun, Aug 18, 13 at 12:44

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:27AM
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idiothe(4 MN)

We have a redbud here in Minnesota. We fell in love with these when driving south in the early spring and seeing them in Missouri and Kansas.

The Minnesota Arboretum has had a test stand for many year... I think a project of the University of Minnesota Extension Service... here's one description

'Minnesota Strain' redbud displays an attractive dark pink to purple flower in early May. Growing to 12 feet, the small trees are open-spreading with multi-stems and are suitable for protected sites in southern Minnesota.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:58AM
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bernd ny zone5

In respect to other, fruit producing pears: One I cut down, a h.'T Rex' grows next to the stump, no pear suckers. The other pear has a very large h.'Empress Wu' growing under. None of the pears shows any surface roots. Bernd

This post was edited by berndnyz5 on Sun, Aug 18, 13 at 17:27

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 4:58PM
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