Pears

Biting into a succulent, perfectly-ripe pear is one of the joys of autumn. You may be lucky enough to have one in your garden already that someone else has planted, but if not, they are easy to establish - you can even grow them in containers.

There are many different types of pears, but they broadly fall into two categories: dessert pears for eating, and cookers, as the name suggests, for cooking!

Jobs to do now

  • Prune
  • Check trees for signs of disease, such as canker, and prune out
  • Apply a winter wash to control overwintering pests
  • Now is a good time to plant a new tree

Month by month

Grow

Once established, pears require very little care throughout the year.

Water them during dry spells and from when the fruit starts to swell, particularly if they are newly planted or in containers.

In early spring, feed with a high potassium general fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4. Scatter two handfuls per square metre/yard around trees growing in bare soil, and two and a half around those in grass.

Pears should be pruned every year to get the best crop. Timing and method of pruning depends on the type of pear you are growing.

Read our advice on pear pruning

Plant

The ideal position for a pear tree is a sunny, sheltered site, well away from any frost pockets. Avoid poorly drained or shallow soils.

You will see pear trees for sale in two forms: bare-root stock (where the roots are exposed when you purchase them) or in containers. Bare-root plants should be planted from late autumn until early spring; containerised plants can be planted at any time of year, although winter is preferred.

Planting in containers

If you want to grow a pear in a container you must choose one that has been specially grown for it. Pear trees are not grown on their own roots. The top of the tree is grafted onto different roots (called a rootstock), and the roots control the size of the tree. Therefore, when you are choosing a pear for a container you must make sure it is grafted onto a container rootstock. Look out for rootstocks called ‘Quince C’ for a container.

Choose a container that is 45-50cm (18-20in) in diameter. When planting, place some crocks (small pieces of broken concrete, clay pots, or polystyrene) in the bottom of the containers to retain moisture. Use a good-quality compost (John Innes No 3 is ideal), or multi-purpose compost mixed with one-third by volume of grit.

Planting in the garden

If planting in the garden, dig a hole no deeper than the roots, but up to three times the diameter of the root system (spread the roots out on the ground before digging the hole). If the sides or base of the planting hole are really hard, break the soil up with a fork before planting. Place the plant in the planting hole and carefully refill, placing soil between and around all the roots to eliminate air pockets. Firm the soil gently by stepping on it.

If you want to train your pear tree it pays to choose the right rootstock to plant up.

Quince A: The most commonly found rootstock in garden centres, ‘Quince A’ can be used for espaliers or bush trees.

Quince C: Being slightly less vigorous than ‘Quince A’, ‘Quince C’ is more suitable for cordons, but can also be used for an espalier or bush tree.

Aftercare is very important for new trees, so read more of our advice on looking after young trees.
 

Harvesting

Harvest pears just before they are fully ripened. They should be firm and swollen, with a subtle colour change to their skin.

Test early varieties by tasting one of the fruit for sweetness, yet firmness. Later varieties should part easily from the tree when lifted and gently twisted.

Pears benefit from storage or a period of ripening before eating: early cultivars usually need a week or so until they become softer, while later ones can need months before being ready for eating.

Recommended Varieties

Pears — late summer to early autumn

Pears — mid to late autumn

Pears — late autumn

Common problems

Brown rot
Brown rot

Brown rot is a fungal disease causing a brown, spreading rot in fruit, sometimes with white pustules of fungi on the surface. It is usually worse in wet summers.

Remedy

Remove all rotten fruit as soon as you see it and destroy, this will prevent the spread of the rot.

Pear rust
Pear rust

Pear rust is a disease causing bright orange spots on the upper surfaces of pear leaves in summer and early autumn.

Remedy

Remove all infected leaves as soon as you see them and destroy, this will prevent the spread of the rust. There is no chemical control.

Pear leaf blister mite
Pear leaf blister mite

This mite is a common problem on pear leaves, causing yellow or red blisters that eventually turn black. The damage is unsightly but does not affect the crop.

Remedy

There is no control, other than removing the damaged leaves.

Recipes

Try serving this poached pears with a blackberry sauce after a rich main course. It is wonderful in colour and a great change from fruit salad.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.