The Q&A Archives: Planting

Question: How to plant and care for a bradford pear tree

Answer: Pyrus calleryana Bradford or Bradford pear should be planted in full sun in soil of average to better fertility. An evenly moist well drained soil is ideal however it will tolerate a dry location. It is ideally transplanted when dormant. This would be true of the ornamental callery pears as a group.

Bradford is a lovely tree with a uniform shape and great fall color. It grows quickly to between 30 and 50 feet tall and about a 30 foot spread in a pyramidal shape. The blossoms are prolific but in my opinion they smell bad, the reason for the off scent is they are pollinated by flies. The fruit is very tiny, not really noticeable. Bradford is also one of the least winter hardy of the callery pears, although it is rated hardy into zone 5. Routine training and pruning by a professionally trained and certified arborist may be worthwhile in an effort to prolong the health of this cultivar.

Unfortunately, this cultivar is somewhat weak wooded, and when combined with its naturally tight crotch formations this particular tree tends to break and split off large sections in winter storms as a result -- usually just about when it has reached a size and age (about 20) to be quite lovely and an integral part of the landscape. This cultivar was used extensively over the past two decades or so and is now being replaced in favor by some of the newer cultivars with better branching patterns.

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