NC State Extension

Pruning Young Pear Trees

by James B. “Jim” Kea
Area Extension Forestry Agent – now retired
Thursday, February 9th, 2006

The pruning of young pear trees is intended to develop tree structure. By skillfully selecting certain branches for the framework and by removing others, the pruner builds the foundation for long-lived trees that are strong enough to carry heavy crops. With young trees, developing structure is the first concern; producing fruit is secondary. Pruning young trees may more properly be referred to as training. During the training process, the aim should be to develop a sturdy tree capable of producing large crops of quality fruit.

At the time of planting, young trees should be cut back to 24 to 30 inches from the ground to balance the loss of roots removed in digging the trees from the nursery and also to form a relatively low head, which is desirable in developing a profitable tree. During the dormant period after the first growing season, three branches should be selected and headed to a length of 24 to 30 inches in order to force secondary branches. All others should be removed. The selected branches may come out at about the same height on the trunk, or they may be selected at a distance of 6 to 8 inches apart. The angles of the framework branches should be as wide as possible for added strength, but this feature is not so important as with apples. Pear limbs rarely break under the stress of a heavy load if trained while young.

At the second dormant pruning, the secondary framework branches should be selected. Generally each of the three branches forming the original framework will give rise to several shoots, from which four to six secondary scaffolds are selected. All other vigorous growth is removed. Each of these branches should be headed at the point where a third set of branches is desired.

Beginning with the third dormant pruning and continuing until the framework is complete, each of the four to six secondary branches selected at the second pruning is headed at the point where the next whorl of branches is desired. The other shoots are thinned out and left unheeded. Further heading is usually unnecessary. If the trees have grown well, the framework should be established. Until the tree comes into bearing, only small branches should be moderately thinned. The lighter the pruning at this pint, the larger the tree and the sooner it will bear fruit.

Revised 2/16/2006.

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