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What Is an Ornamental Pear?

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  • Written By: Anna Harrison
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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An ornamental pear is a tree that is grown for its value in landscape rather than for its fruit. Most do not produce fruit at all and are cultivated instead for their beautiful spring flowers, colorful fall leaves, and attractive shapes. All varieties originated with the Pyrus calleryana variety in China. This species is commonly known as the Callery or Bradford pear.

Most of these fruitless trees grow quite tall and may reach over 60 feet (18 m) tall, with an attractive rounded or slightly pointed silhouette. The elongated glossy leaves are dark green on top and pale on the undersides. In fall, they may turn bright pink, red, purple, or bright orange, though they change color fairly late in the season. Masses of strongly-scented white flowers appear before the leaves in early to mid-spring.

Unlike many other ornamental trees, the pear requires very little care. It simply requires plenty of direct sunlight and rich soil that is well-drained and slightly acidic. A layer of mulch should be applied in the spring to help prevent the tree from drying out during the hot summer weather. Most varieties are winter hardy to USDA planting zone 5.

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While these fruitless trees are not usually prone to significant pest infestations or diseases, they can occasionally suffer from root rot, leaf scorch, leaf spots, or fire blight. When these diseases do occur, they need to be recognized and treated early, as they can cause the death of the trees. Pruning should be done on a yearly basis, in late fall or early winter, to remove any branches that show signs of disease.

The ornamental pear is very susceptible to weather damage and the trunk will often split in high winds or under the weight of heavy winter snow. Branches and limbs will break off, leaving a mess and an unsightly, damaged tree. Sometimes an entire tree will be uprooted and toppled over during a storm. As a result, an ornamental pear should always be planted in an area that has some wind protection.

While they are appreciated by gardeners and landscapers for their beauty, these trees are considered an invasive species in some areas of the United States. Though they were previously thought to be sterile and unable to spread, when ornamental pear trees are planted close together, they may cross pollinate and produce viable seeds that are spread to other areas by birds. The seeds then grow into new trees that will flower in as little as three years.

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JessiC
Post 6

As an avid gardener, I am often asked why people use ornamental trees and plants in their gardens, and the best answer I can give is this.

A lot of people who try to keep up small gardens and yards nicely often don’t have the time to deal with super messy stuff. With fruit trees that aren’t ornamental, naturally you’re going to have fruit.

If the person tending this garden doesn’t have time to pick, can and eat the fruit, it rots and draws bugs. It also smells.

For these kinds of gardeners, ornamentals are definitely the way to go.

However, for those who have time to actually take care of the gardening and the fruit, pear trees that bear are a great option. However, keep in mind that they may cost a little more to purchase.

nanny3
Post 5

Trees and plants and flowers; they are a huge part of my life! And, I was not immune to the big growth of people putting out Bradford Pears just a few years ago.

They really are very beautiful pretty much year round in my area. We get mild winters that don’t normally last too terribly long.

However, I do have one small complaint about my ornamental pear trees. They seem to hold water in their trunks, and often this causes them to begin to rot and/or split in the middle once they reach a certain size.

I have learned to keep these pretty trees planted in higher areas, rather than the low lying areas around my home where they will collect warm water. They actually do quite nicely down both sides of my long and winding country driveway.

Although I have several ornamental pear tree varieties, I suppose the Bradford's planted there are my favorites.

wavy58
Post 4

Strong storms helped me narrow down my Bradford pear population. The little trees that had sprouted up near the big ones were making a small forest, and I needed to thin them out.

We had several strong thunderstorms during the spring. The winds broke three of my larger pear trees. It was sad, because they were the ones covered in white flowers, but they needed to go.

Now, the little trees have more of a chance of survival. The big trees had been overshadowing them and stealing their sun. I expect they will quickly mature and provide flowers in just a couple of years now.

lighth0se33
Post 3

I grow a variety of callery pear known as Chanticleer. It is more sturdy than other types of ornamental pear, since it is more upright and narrow.

This tree can reach a height of 50 feet. During the spring, it produces one-inch clusters of beautiful white flowers, followed later by tiny fruit. The entire tree is white during blooming season. In the fall, the whole tree turns red.

The Chanticleer pear is resistant to both fireblight and road pollution, so it is often used to decorate city streets. I grow mine along my driveway. It can adapt to a variety of soil types, and it can withstand heat, drought, and cold. Because it is narrow and compact, it doesn’t break under a blanket of snow.

cloudel
Post 2

@Oceana - There do seem to be quite a few debates online about whether or not people should plant ornamental pear trees. I have had my four trees for ten years, and I side with those who love them.

It has been my experience that if I prune the trees every year to prevent them from getting too tall, they resist splitting. The trunks are not as stressed when you control the height of the tree.

It probably helps that I have other large trees in my yard to shield the pear trees from heavy winds. I would recommend that anyone planting them seek a sheltered spot.

The gorgeous white blooms in spring and the fiery orange and red leaves in the fall are reason enough for me to recommend them to anyone wanting to improve the beauty of their yard. As long as you care for them properly, they should provide you years of enjoyment.

Oceana
Post 1

I considered planting a Bradford pear tree last spring, but first, I read some information online from other people who had grown this type of tree. I found that its negatives might outweigh its positives.

People talked about the little offshoots of the tree called suckers and what a nuisance they were. They grow just about as fast as grass, and they damage a mower if you try to cut them down with it.

Another complaint people had was the shallow roots. They said it was impossible to plant anything else near the pear tree, because when they tried to dig, they damaged the roots near the surface.

The biggest problem people had with this tree was splitting. As the tree gets taller, its lower joints are stressed and it often splits. One guy said that split pear trees lined the streets of his neighborhood, and they were very unattractive.

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