The Q&A Archives: Pruning a fully grown Bradford Pear?

Question: We recently built a new house. In the yard, there is a fully grown Bradford Pear. Yet, with the shape, it has never been pruned. Is it too late to try form some type of shape? If not, when would be the proper time? Also, on the larger branches, how far back can we cut them with out killing the limb?

Answer: I am not sure why you want to try to prune the tree. If, for example, it is way too large for where it is planted, you might want to remove it and replace it with something that matures to a smaller more suitable size. Or, if it has suffered storm damage with severe breaking and splitting, it may have become dangerous and simply need to be replaced.

Usually, Bradford pear develops a fairly uniform somewhat pyramidal shape on its own but eventually in age can develop a more spreading look. Training would have been done earlier in its lifetime to try to develop a well spaced branch framework -- once it is full grown it is basically too late to change that very much.

Although some people assume that a tree needs to be hard pruned or "topped" as a maintenance job, this is not true and it will damage the tree in the long run. On a mature tree pruning would probably be limited to removing broken or damaged branches such as caused by a storm.

If you think the tree needs work, I would strongly suggest you consult on site with a professionally trained and certified arborist who has experience with ornamental trees. They will have both the expertise and correct equipment needed to perform any necessary work and can explain to you what they would do and why. Good luck with your tree!

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