With so many different pear trees available, it can be confusing which is the right for you. As a result, it is worth considering the following:
Site: Pears need more warmth and sunlight than apples to fruit well. They also flower earlier so are more at risk from spring frosts. Provide a warm, south- or west-facing, sheltered site in your garden for the best results.
Garden size: If size is no restriction, choose a half-standard tree, but they are too large for the average garden. Where size is an issue, consider a bush, spindlebush, pyramid or cordon. These all can be grown in a small space, or even in a pot. Alternatively, train pears as espaliers or fans flat against a sunny wall or fence.
Dessert (eating) or culinary (cooking): Pear cultivars are either dessert or culinary, although some are dual-purpose.
Storage: Harvest early-season pears while still under-ripe (early August). Picked fruit ripens quickly. Mid-season pears ripen in September and should be harvested while immature in late-August.
The majority of pears are late-season and should be harvested in mid- to late September when the first windfalls appear. Treat very late pears the same as very late apples, leaving them on the tree until the forecast of hard frost. These ripen in storage.
Taste: Flavour is one of the important consideration for most gardeners. Organised autumn fruit tasting events are a useful way to determine favourites. Unfortunately imported cultivars sold in supermarkets are from warmer countries, and have a different flavour when grown in Britain, even if they grow well, which is often not the case. However, there is a guide to taste under the ‘quality’ category listed for each cultivar below.
Disease resistance: Resistance to disease is another consideration which varies between cultivars, with modern types often having higher levels of resistance than traditional ones.
Pollination group: For the best yields, pears need pollination from a different cultivar that flowers at the same time. If you have a large enough garden, you can plant two different cultivars (pollination partners). But most gardeners do not have this luxury, so need to rely on pollen from a neighbouring pear tree.
In the selection of a pollinator, choose from within the same pollination group (flowering period) or from the adjoining groups, where flowering periods overlap. Triploids marked (T) are poor pollinators and where these are planted, two additional pollinators are necessary to cross pollinate the (T) variety and each other.
Rootstock: Most tree fruits are grafted onto rootstocks. It is the rootstock more than anything else which controls the size of the tree. Quince C or A are both semi-vigorous but Quince C is slightly less vigorous than Quince A. See our advice on rootstocks for fruit for further information.