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How to prune ornamental pear trees

Updated November 21, 2016

Ornamental pear trees are popular in home and commercial landscapes for their three-season interest. In spring, they produce clusters of small white flowers, followed by lush green foliage in summer and vibrant red-orange-maroon colour in fall. Callery, or Bradford, pear is the ornamental pear most often planted, but its dense, vertical branch growth and multiple trunks make it susceptible to ice and snow damage. Relatively short-lived at 20 years, ornamental pear is a tree that needs pruning.

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  1. Prune in fall or early spring, when the ornamental pear tree is young, dormant and less susceptible to fungus or insect damage. Disease and insects are attracted to wounds caused by pruning.

  2. Put on gloves and begin low on the tree, working up. Clip away shoots or "suckers" from the bottom third of the tree with short-handled pruning shears. These shoots will eventually turn into multiple trunks if left alone.

  3. Prune off lateral branches higher on the trunk with short- and long-handled pruning shears, depending on the height of the branch. The goal is to leave lateral branches spaced 10 inches apart, thinning the canopy of the tree. The remaining branches will be more resistant to snow and ice damage and promote a strong framework for the tree's growth.

  4. Thin out dense, vertical growth on the remaining branches to promote good air circulation through the thick canopy of ornamental pear. Ventilation will prevent fungus and bacteria from colonising in the canopy, especially in high-humidity climates.

  5. Trim out dead, diseased, broken or wilting branches from ornamental pear whenever you see them. When cutting close to the trunk, leave a quarter-inch stub to avoid damaging the trunk bark. Do not cut branches flush with the trunk of ornamental pear trees.

  6. Cut pruned branches into manageable lengths, rake up twigs and leaves, and dispose of them in yard waste bags. Sterilise the blades of your pruning equipment by dipping them in boiling water for 30 seconds to prevent transmission of fungus or disease to other plants.

  7. Tip

    Callery ornamental pear does produce fruit, but it's very small and inedible.


    Wear gloves when working with Callery pears that are not the Bradford variety. Bradford does not have thorns, while other Callery varieties have very sharp ones.

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Things You'll Need

  • Ornamental pear trees
  • Gloves
  • Short-handled pruning shears
  • Long-handled pruning shears
  • Yard waste bags

About the Author

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