Pears are very ornamental trees, bearing attractive spring blossom and gorgeous autumn colour, and the addition of delicious home-grown pears is a bonus.
Grown onto rootstocks of varying sizes, pear trees can easily be grown in smaller spaces and containers, and don’t require much maintenance. There’s also a wonderful range of pear cultivars to grow, offering far more choice and flavour than you can find in a supermarket.
How to grow pears
Grow pears in moist but well-drained soil in full-sun to partial shade. Prune fan- and espalier-trained pears in summer and standard pears in winter. Mulch annually with well-rotted manure or compost.
More on growing pears:
Where to plant a pear tree
Ripening pears on branches
For best results grow pear trees against a south-facing wall or fence, where they’ll be protected from frost. Soil should well-drained and tending towards acidic with a pH of 6.5. Pear trees can be grown as standalone specimens, if space allows, or trained as espaliers or cordons.
Like apple trees, many varieties of pear rely on a pollinating partner from the same group. It’s therefore best to plant two pear trees to ensure they pollinate successfully and also to encourage good healthy cropping.
How to plant a pear tree
Plant bare-root pear trees when dormant, between November and March, and potted pear trees at other times of year. Dig a square-shaped hole so the roots spread out evenly into the surrounding soil, and top-dress with a generous mulch of well-rotted manure.
How to care for pear trees
Pruning a pear tree in winter
Pear blossom appears in early spring, so watch out for frosts and protect trees with fleece if the forecast predicts a cold snap. Mulch annually in spring and water in dry spells.
Prune pear trees when dormant in midwinter, removing dead, diseased and dying branches to improve the health and productivity of the tree.
In summer, pruning is important for the shape and health of the tree. By taking out branches you improve air circulation and also remove any unwanted growth to allow the developing fruits to ripen.
Watch Monty Don demonstrate the right technique for summer pruning pears:
How to harvest pears
Picking a ripe pear from the tree
Harvest pars from late August onwards. It’s best to pick them when the fruit is still firm to the touch. Simply cup the individual fruits in your hand and gently twist off. Allow the fruits to ripen in a cool dark place.
Here, Monty Don explains how to ripen pears for the juiciest flavour:
How to store pears
Storing pears indoors in crates
As most varieties of pear ripen better off the tree, they’ll often store successfully for several months.
Pears can be eaten raw or cooked and there are many tasty ways to prepare them. They go well uncooked with blue cheese or hams, and are delicious hot, stewed with spices in red wine.
Growing pears: problem solving
Pear tree affected by pear rust, with orange spotted foliage
Pear trees are prone to aphids, caterpillars, codling moth, pear leaf blister mite and pear and cherry lugworm that will skeletonise the leaves.
Trees can also be affected by blossom wilt, pear rust, brown rot, canker, firelight and scab.
Like all trees, sometimes things go wrong and your pear tree will die. Watch as Monty demonstrates how to remove a dead pear tree, in this Gardeners’ World clip:
Pear varieties to grow
Pyrus communis ‘Concorde’ – a cross between two classic varieties, ‘Conference’ and ‘Doyenne du Comic’, this produces good crops of well-flavoured fruit. The yellow, cream-coloured fruits look similar to ‘Conference’ pears, but have the flavour of ‘Doyenne’. It is well suited to the British climate and is in flowering group 4. It is partially self-fertile, but produces more fruit if a pollination partner is grown nearby. Choose other pear trees in the same flowering group
Pyrus communis ‘Conference’ RHS AGM – this is one of the most well-known dessert pear varieties with heavy crops of juicy, sweet pears. ‘Conference’ is in Pollination Group 3, and should be grown with a pollination partner, for a more reliable crop
Pyrus communis ‘Williams bon Chretien’ – one of the oldest English varieties of dessert pear, bearing heavy crops of large, golden yellow, juicy fruit, from mid- to late autumn. It is in Pollination Group 3, and should be grown in with a pollination partner, for a more reliable crop
Pyrus communis ‘Reimer Red’ – produces mid-green pears flushed with dark red. It’s in Pollination Group 4, and should be grown with a pollination partner, for a more reliable crop
Pyrus communis ‘Beurre Hardy’ – a popular French dessert pear dating back to the early 19th century. It has an excellent flavour and good-textured flesh. It’s in Pollination Group 4, and should be grown with a pollination partner, for a more reliable crop