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Pear - Pyrus Communis / Pyrifolia

Pears can be divided into two main groups - the Nashi Pear (Pyrifolia) and European Pear (Pyrus Communis). They grow medium - large and are native to coastal and mild temperate regions in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Pear wood is one of the preferred materials in the manufacture of high-quality woodwind instruments and furniture.

There are about 3000 named varieties of pears grown worldwide, which vary in many characteristics including shape, colour, and taste. Pear fruit is consumed fresh, canned, as juice, or dried and some varieties are suited for long keeping. Pears tend to be quite adaptable and grow and crop well in all regions of New Zealand. They are cold hardy deciduous trees that can tolerate harsh winters and warm summers. They provide snow-white blossom in spring, lovely shade in summer and spectacular autumn foliage. 

Like most fruit trees, pears detest constant wet feet in winter, so do best in free draining fertile-soil is best, although they can tolerate somewhat heavier and sandy soils. They require at least 5 hours per day, but will do best in a good sunny spot for good fruiting and less problems with diseases and pests. 

Pear trees naturally grow with very upright, columnar branches. For best fruit production and easy picking, branches can be trained  horizontally, similar to espalier, while still young and supple. The pliable branches can be tied or weighed down until they stay in position. Horizontal branches produce more fruiting spurs than upright growth, and sap flows slower, lessening the overall vigour of the tree and limiting its height.

A central leader form is the most suitable shape for pears to maintain a main trunk of branches usually starting about 1m from the ground, then tiers every 60-80cm up the trunk. Any growth between the tiers (apart from fruiting spurs) should be removed from the trunk. 

Pears are well suited to expalier, especially in a small garden. There is only one true dwarf variety of pear - Garden Belle® from Waimea Nurseries. Interestingly, quince rootstocks are often used to grow pear trees, providing a dwarfing influence and speedier fruit production. Rootstocks named BA29 and Quince C are the most commonly used here. Some pear varieties (such as 'Beurré Bosc', 'Winter Nelis' and 'Williams' Bon Crétien') are not compatible with quince rootstocks, so an interstem or interstock is grafted between the rootstock and the pear variety. This allows the incompatible pear variety to have the dwarfing influence of the quince rootstock, as the alternative pear seedling rootstocks produce very large tree that take longer to produce a crop. 

Pears are unusual as their fruit is better when harvested whilst hard, then chilled and ripened at room temperature. They are ready to pick when the fruit detaches from the tree when lifted to horizontal and gently tugged, apart from 'Beurre Bosc', which can be harder to pick.

Fruit should be refrigerated for around four to six weeks, before bringing up to room temperature for a few days to ripen.

The old heritage varieties from the 19th century are still just as popular for home gardens (and commercial growing) as these are often hard to be beaten on flavour, productivity and storage. Pears tend to be less susceptible to harsh spring frosts with a later flowering time. Almost all need cross-pollination as they are not self-fertile. Be careful to choose varieties that will cross-pollinate well.

Pear Varieties

Click on a row, or scroll right, to view more information. To look up your climate zone click here.

Fruit Type
Months Harvest
Good Keeper
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