Pruning Pear Trees

The central-leader system is recommended for pear trees as well as for apples. Proceed in much the same manner as when pruning an apple tree, bearing in mind certain characteristics of pears.

Pear trees are highly susceptible to fire blight, a bacterial disease that infects the tree through both the flowers and the shoot tips. Fast-growing water sprouts and terminals are especially vulnerable, so keep pruning to a minimum; this applies especially to any heading cuts, which stimulate susceptible new growth. Once the central-leader framework is established, remove only small branches, water sprouts, or limbs that rub. If the tree grows too tall, thin back the branch tips to small laterals to discourage the growth of disease-susceptible soft new shoots.

Pears have a tendency to grow more upright than apples, so more spreading is necessary than with apple trees. As with apples, spread branches to 60 degrees from the vertical. As with apples, prune pears lightly every year once the central-leader framework is established.

Be sure to remove branches or terminals killed by fire blight to prevent the disease from spreading. Infected branches can be identified by their scorched-looking leaves. Cut off twigs and branches with black and sunken cankers, making cuts 4 to 6 inches beyond the visible damage to prevent further spread of the disease.