When to Prune Pear Trees


When I’m growing pears myself I want to take care of these trees as best as possible in order to provide the tastiest fruit. Pruning is crucial for this.

Late winter and very early spring are usually the best times to prune apple trees. A reason for pruning at this time include the fact that you will more clearly see what parts of the tree are dead and hence need to be pruned. Also, the tree will be able to heal from cut wounds more speedily during this time period.

Why pruning at the end of winter or early spring is the sweet-spot

This time of year can be the best time to prune your pear tree because you get to see what branches are  dead or healthy. Your tree is about to use a lot of energy for spring growth. By cutting away the branches that aren’t healthy or desirable, all the energy will flow into the healthier branches, meaning that overall you have a better tree.

The above also explains why  pruning during autumn is such a bad idea. In autumn, instead of the tree using energy,   the  tree well actually  withhold  releasing energy. This means the tree will find it difficult to heal it’s wound from cutting and trimming that may take place.

Late January to very early March could instead be the best time for you. In saying that, every year’s climate is different and different areas of the world have differing weather due to geography. Some good rules to go by if you don’t want to follow a simplistic month calendar guide is by looking at the the last time there has been a heavy frost in your location. If its been a fortnight since the last extreme frost then it may be a good time to start pruning. Additionally, keep an eye on the buds. Try to begin pruning before swelling happens. Remember not to prune too early. Pruning too early during the height of winter may lead to increase sucker growth from the rootstock that could decrease the fruitfulness of your tree.

Pros and cons of pruning after spring arrives 

Pruning a pear tree in spring does bring some benefits. Firstly, the weather is often milder than during the sweet spot of pruning. It might be during a time where there is little risk of snow or early morning frost, meaning that you won’t be freezing when trying to remove some troublesome branches from  your adored pear tree.  Also, it’s well before the potential scorching heat of summer in many places.

Another benefit of pruning in spring is that you can now more clearly see which branches are healthiest and most productive.

Moving onto the cons, when you prune in spring the tree has already used up a good bit of its energy on growing its branches. This means you’re not getting the the highest productive efficiency from your tree regarding healthy and fruitful branch growth.  This underlines the importance of pruning a little bit earlier. For the vast majority of pear tree growers they want their trees to be as healthy and productive as possible . Avoiding pruning later in spring may just help you achieve this result.

Some of the benefits of pruning during the summer

One of the big benefits of pruning in summer is that you can target new shoots that have grown on the tree. By removing these shoots you can ensure that the other older branches that are healthy receive more sunlight. The extraction of these newbies also improve the circulation of air around other  branches of the tree. This circulation of air may be preventative in unwanted disease and pests making their presence felt on the tree.

The tree also doesn’t have as much energy  as spring, therefore, by removing unneeded branches that energy is focused on the more established and productive branches. The energy can hence be more effectively used.

Pruning in summer can be a good idea for  older trees that have bloomed for many years. You may choose to prune your tree during the sweet spot and then again in the summer.

The right tools for pruning during the sweet-spot

When you have decided on what branches are the target on your pear tree then you must consider what specific tool to use. The most important tool of all tools to use when pruning a tree is of course a pruner . For small thin branches you should use a pruner shears or hand pruners. Of course, any tool with blades can become blunt. Therefore, always make sure they are appropriately sharpened or you have a fresh pair when your old one doesn’t do the job. It’s important to note that if you use the same pruner year  after year  it would be wise to replace them. You mightn’t notice that they have become less effective due to its increasing bluntness and ageing.

For  bigger branches it is recommended that you use a hand saw. Sine these can be a bit more dangerous then pruners, always use with care.

What exactly to prune off your pear tree

If you have planted a new pear tree whip or you have just transplanted a very young tree, then don’t be afraid to cut off up to a third of it. This will focus the energy of the tree on fewer branches and on the roots. This process overall gives you a better chance of having a tree that will go on to be stronger and healthier in the coming years. 

The process of pruning  a pear tree is to give you the best chance for it to be as healthy and productive as possible. Therefore, for young and slightly older trees you should prune away any unwanted branch that comes in contact with or blocks the sunlight of a branch that you would like to see remain. Additionally, you should remove branches that are growing inwards  towards the tree as these branches might undermine optimal air flow around your pear tree. These actions will all increase the chances of you having a more productive tree with better fruit.

What training system should you use?

You need to be mindful however of not cutting any branch that may lead to  an outcome that you are not comfortable with. For example, if you were to remove the center branches or leader branches of the tree then you might increase the likelihood of the remaining  branches receiving more sunlight and good air circulation. The training system that incorporates this is the open vase training system. Training systems are carried out in the first four years of the tree’s growth and shapes the plant.

With an open vase training system for a pear tree, over the years the remaining branches might grow wider than you have anticipated as energy is focused away from the now non-existence central branches and toward the side branches. This could cause issues if you are growing in a small space, say a crowded backyard for example. 

For pear trees a central leader training system is often recommended. The tree usually has natural leader branches that grow tall and upright. You should hence consider keeping the side branches in check if you want optimal fruit growth. This system uses this strategy and results in a cone or pyramid shaped tree.

A good compromise that works well for pear trees is called a modified central leader system. It’s not quite a central leader or open vase. It is somewhere in between, with a central trunk still somewhat dominant but there are numerous long branches well spaced out shooting out of the sides of the tree. This could be beneficial for individuals who would prefer not to use a ladder to harvest which could happen if you use a central leader training system.

Make sure to remove suckers


There’s not many things in gardening that I despise more than suckers. Suckers enjoy sprouting up from the roots at the base of the tree. They develop from the attached rootstock of your tree and possibly won’t produce any fruit or pears. Be on the look out for suckers and don’t be hesitant in removing them, as they can prevent your pear tree from achieving its full potential.

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