Bradford pear trees are natives of China and Korea, so taking care of them can seem a little foreign. Bradford pear trees quickly became popular in the United States due to their pyramid shape and its ability to blossom early and produce many flowers. However, Bradford pear trees are also fragile, making them susceptible to damage from ice, snow, and wind. Knowing how to care for Bradford pear trees helps to strengthen the tree and ensure its survival year-round.
Bradford pear trees should be pruned in spring, after the tree has finished blooming. Cut off any small shoots or branches that grow near the bottom of the trunk. These growths will make the tree resemble a bush, and they are especially prone to breakage, especially in fall when rabbits and other animals may attempt to eat them.
When pruning a Bradford pear each year, take off one-third to one-half of the branches supported by each "V"-shaped intersection of the branches. Bradford pear trees often split as they age, because the V-shaped intersections where branches split off are too narrow to support the weight of the tree's fully grown branches, especially in a high wind or when the branches are weighed down by ice or snow. Trimming off some of the branches each season can help alleviate stress on the branches and prevent the tree from splitting.
If a Bradford pear tree does split, avoid "topping" the tree, or taking off growth from the ends of the branches. Losing the tips of its branches disrupts the Bradford pear's hormonal cycles, making it unable to prevent large amounts of shoots from growing where the ends of the branches were removed. The overgrowth of shoots creates additional weight at the top of the tree, making it even more susceptible to splitting than before. Instead, prune branches to remove weight from the tree's V-shaped branch intersections.