The common pear (Pyrus communis) grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 9. These pear trees are long-lived with strong vertical divisions that grow up to 40 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide. Pears demand a winter chill to create a good harvest and good air circulation to prevent disease. Pears require the same planting preparation and procedure as apples. Pear trees need different pruning methods based on the variety.
When to Prune Pear Trees
You can prune pear trees during their dormant season — December, January and mid-February — with January being the best month for pruning. When you prune trees during their dormant period, it is a lot easier to see and eliminate dormant buds to stimulate remaining buds. Should you prune in the summer, the process removes leaves, which will help slow the growth of rapidly growing trees that are becoming too big.
Pruning Young Trees
Prune newly planted trees immediately to train the tree. This training process typically takes a few decades. Young pear trees also need heavy pruning to encourage rapid growth during their initial years when no fruit grows. The pruning of young trees must also be corrective with the goal of creating a well-shaped tree that can support heavy plants without breaking. When you have a set of young branches that diverge to form a crotch, cut back one to prevent the evolution of bad crotches, which are likely to break.
Pruning Mature Trees
Old pear trees need light pruning. It is possible to prune these trees to eliminate any dead or diseased limbs, remove weak divisions, cut back whip growth and eliminate any branches that rub. The mature trees also need pruning to enhance air circulation and allow for sunlight exposure to all divisions. When sections are shaded, they stop producing fruit, so thinning some divisions can help improve overall sunlight exposure.
It is possible to espalier dwarf pear trees varieties. Grown this way, the pear trees can be various shapes and need minimal space. People today decide to prune trees to espalier shapes as controlling the size and form of the tree allows for easier care and harvest. Espalier trees typically bear fruit sooner than trees pruned traditionally.