Growing pears in the home garden

Quick facts

  • Pears are related to apples, but can be easier to grow than apples.
  • Two varieties are generally needed for successful pollination and fruit set.
  • They can be grown organically in Minnesota.
  • Pear trees require full sun to produce the most fruit.
  • Prune annually to keep the tree healthy, productive and looking its best.
  • It can take 3 to 10 years for trees to begin flowering and producing fruit.
  • Mature pear trees are large and produce a lot of fruit in a short window of time.
  • Fruit should be picked at a mature stage and then allowed to ripen indoors.
Full grown, tall pear tree on a green lawn in summer

Pear trees originated in central Asia. They are relatives of the apple and are propagated and managed in a very similar way. But pears are in some ways easier to grow than apples. Apples can be pestered by many insects and diseases, but pears are relatively trouble-free.

Pear trees can be grown organically simply because they don't require any sprays to keep them healthy and pest-free. Fireblight is the only disease that challenges pear trees, but this is easy to diagnose and manage.

Commercial pear production in the U.S. is centered in Washington and California, where cultivated varieties such as Bartlett and Bosc are grown. Those varieties would not survive winters in the average Minnesota garden.

Thanks to cold climate fruit breeders at the University of Minnesota and other northern research stations, there are several cultivars that are hardy to our region. Most are best suited to USDA zone 4, but there are a couple cultivars that will grow well in USDA zone 3.

If you want consistent fruit it is best to plant two pear varieties with compatible pollen or be certain there is a pear tree in a neighbor's yard. If you're a fan of pears, find an open space in your yard for a couple of these beautiful trees and you'll have fruit for years to come.

Caring for pear trees through the seasons

March— For existing trees, prune before growth begins, after coldest weather has passed

April, May— If last year's growth was less than 12 inches, apply compost around the base of tree

April, May— Plant bare root trees as soon as the soil can be worked

May, June— Plant potted trees after threat of frost has passed

May through October— Water trees as you would any other tree in your yard, particularly during dry spells

June, July— Pick off smallest pears to encourage larger fruit

August through October— Harvest

October, November— Rake and compost fallen leaves and fruit

November— Apply tree wrap in late fall to prevent winter injury

November through March— Watch for deer and vole damage; put fencing around tree if needed

Getting started

Select the right tree for your location and use these step-by-step instructions to plant and care for your young trees.

 | 

How to keep your pear trees healthy and productive

Watering, weeding, mulching and pruning will keep your pear trees healthy for years to come.

 | 

Diseases, insects and other challenges

Fireblight is the major disease of pears in Minnesota. 

In other areas of the U.S., pear trees are susceptible to a number of insect problems. Because these trees are not common in Minnesota, insect problems are usually not severe for home gardeners.

As more people add pears to their gardens, this may change. But for now, promptly removing and destroying fallen fruit and leaves, and pruning to promote good airflow through the tree are all that is normally needed to grow a satisfying crop in most years.

 | 

Emily E. Hoover, Extension horticulturalist; Emily S. Tepe, horticulture researcher and Doug Foulk

Reviewed in 2018

Share this page:

© 2018 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.