Plant Profile: Bradford Pears


Normally, Bradford Pears bloom at this time of the year but with the winter that we’ve had this year, the Bradford Pears have bloomed and already have their leaves. But I thought that we would still take a look at them. My hope is that I can discourage you from planting them. There aren’t many plants that I would tell you NOT to plant…gardening is a very personal experience and if you like a particular plant, my theory is to go for it. But I hope that you’ll pass the Bradford Pears by when you head to the garden center next time.

Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ is a fast growing tree that has been planted ad nauseum in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region. In fact, it’s been planted everywhere across the country and it has become a monoculture. What happens with monocultures? Often times, a pest or disease moves in and decimates the population. One of the many downfalls of Bradford Pears is that they end up with fireblight. If your tree looks like someone set fire to the new growth in the spring, it has fireblight.

Fireblight is really the least of the problems that Bradford Pears experience. The worst problem with them is that they break apart. The crotch angles are very close, and while this isn’t really a problem when the tree is young, as the tree ages it leads to included bark. Included bark basically describes bark that is encapsulated in the tree instead of being pushed out as it grows. Here is a picture that more accurately describes it then I can.

bradford pears

If you notice the dark V-shaped area at the bottom, that is the included bark. When there is enough wind or weight placed on the branch, it gives way and you end up with this:

bradford pears

That is a very large wound that the tree will have a hard time recovering from. Besides, you wanted a tree that was beautiful, not one with large gaping holes in the canopy.

You may be wondering about other options that will still provide beautiful blooms in the spring but be less susceptible to breaking apart. Here are some options:

  1. Real pear trees – you know, the ones that actually produce fruit that you can eat. If you’re worried about having to clean up the fruit that falls, make plans for it ahead of time. You can make preserves, pies or donate it to a food bank. The obsession that this country has with planting trees that intentionally don’t produce food bewilders me.
  2. Apple trees – the blooms are just as beautiful as Bradford Pears and again, you get fruit as an added bonus. Read yesterday’s post about Cedar Apple Rust so that you can identify it if your trees come down with a case.
  3. Cherry trees – again, these have gorgeous blooms and you get a crop of cherries that will satisfy your needs as well as the needs of many other people you know.


I hope that I’ve given you enough ammunition to discourage you from planting Bradford pears. If you like what we’re doing here at Mid-Atlantic Gardening, please subscribe to the website to receive updates to the latest posts as well as to be eligible for our subscriber giveaways. You can subscribe by joining our e-mail list on the top right of this page. Thank you for your support! If you have experience with Bradford Pears, leave me a comment below or e-mail me at Happy gardening!