Growing Pears

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When we purchased our current place in Clawson, the previous owners were gardeners and just west of our house is an old pear tree.

Pears can be some tough trees that work well in our landscapes. Many older homesteads seem to have had a firm fleshed canning pear tree in the yard. They are attractive trees, produce good fruit, have few management problems, and can last for years.

There are three basic types of pears grown in the United States. These are European or French pears, Oriental hybrids, and Asian pears. The European pears include such popular varieties as Bartlett, Bosc and D’Anjou that you’ll see in many grocery stores. Our east Texas environment and the prevalence of a bacterial infection called fire blight excludes them from all but far west Texas.

Oriental hybrids include such well-known varieties as Orient and Kieffer. This type is well adapted to much of Texas and accounts for most of the state’s pears. Oriental hybrid pears include varieties that range from coarse and gritty to smooth, buttery textures. Some varieties have dessert (fresh eating) quality that will rival the best European varieties. The more coarse textured varieties, such as Kieffer, are used primarily for home processing, including canning, preserves, pickled pears and baking.

The Asian pear, often termed “apple-pear,” is gaining increased attention because of its unique fruit. Asian pears are relatively new to Texas and adaptation is still being determined.

Across the state, pears are adapted everywhere but the southernmost part because of insufficient winter chill. Our humid eastern portion of the state often has severe problems with fire blight. If we are to grow excellent pears, we should plant only varieties with high fire blight tolerance.

Sandy soils are best, but pear trees can be grown in clay or heavy loam soils in most parts of Texas. The pear trees at my place that I mentioned earlier are above a shallow, red clay soil.

Full sun, all day long is required for maximum fruit production. Blessed by an abundance of tall trees, we need to choose an area of the yard in full or nearly full sun. Morning sunshine is particularly important for early drying of dew which will reduce the incidence of disease.

Most pear trees sold in Texas are budded onto Pyrus calleryana, a disease-resistant, drought tolerant rootstock. The Old Home pear is also used as a rootstock, and trees from nurseries outside Texas may be budded to this variety. Trees budded to either of these rootstocks are full-sized and usually long-lived.

Let it be said once more that in Angelina County, we must plant trees resistant to the bacterial disease fire blight.

Most available Oriental hybrid pears are tolerant of fire blight. Fruit of all these varieties are harvested firm and then ripened. Kieffer is the old standard, coarse-textured pear that is rated poor to fair for

dessert use but good for canning and baking. A consistent, heavy bearer that ripens late September-October. It has been recommended in the past because of high fire blight resistance, but varieties with much better dessert quality and equal fire blight resistance are available.

Perhaps the best available pear for combined dessert quality and fire blight resistance is Warren, a seedling selection discovered in Mississippi. Ayres and Magness also rank high on this list with a “highly resistant” designation for disease. The other pears listed are appealing, but are lesser than the above in quality or fire blight resistance.

Other varieties of pears will work well for canning, baking and other processing but only have a “good” designation for their resistance to fire blight. First on the “others to consider” list is Maxine. It has very good dessert quality with medium to large attractive fruit. Ripens in August-early September.

Moonglow is another good dessert quality with medium to large fruit that ripens in August-early September.

Garber is a crisp-textured dessert quality, attractive fruit of a shape similar to Delicious apples. Ripens in August. You’ll often hear it called an apple-pear or pear-apple.

Lastly consider the Orient variety. It is of fair dessert quality, coarse textured, russetted, with medium to large fruit. Most notably it is a consistent, heavy bearer that ripens late August-September whose greatest trait for us is that it is highly resistant to fire blight. Orient is used primarily for canning/baking.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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