(Originally posted Mar. 2, 2012)
The showy, snow-white blossoms of Bradford pears will soon be catching your eye as temperatures warm up. Their undeniable beauty leads to people asking about purchasing them, and disappointment when New Garden advises against them. Why?
Bradford pear (Pryus calleriana ‘Bradford’) is a cultivar of a tree native to China. It is fast growing, reaching 12-15 feet in eight to ten years, and there lies its weakness: fast growing trees tend to be prone to splitting and dropping branches. The tree’s natural branching pattern-many branches meeting at a single point-is structurally weak and prone to breakage. Regular, correct pruning can delay splitting and branch loss, but the odds are eventually a chunk is going to come off. An ice storm or a summer thundershower can result in half a tree lying in your front yard-or on your car. It is also short-lived, lasting only 15 years or so before literally falling apart. Bradford pears produce many surface roots, making it difficult to plant underneath them and over time can cause damage to nearby concrete sidewalks or patios. Developed as a sterile, thornless cultivar, Bradford pear can produce viable fruit when it is cross-pollinated by other callery pears, resulting in invasive colonies of thorny pears when birds disperse the seeds. Oh, and those flowers are best appreciated at a distance; they don’t smell as pretty as they look.
Why would a company that sells and installs trees advise against one? New Garden’s relationship with our customers goes beyond a single transaction. We want to improve your life and landscape with what you get from us, not cause headaches and crush cars! There are alternatives to Bradford pear that we can recommend with confidence. If a white-flowered, spring blooming tree is tops on your wish list, consider dogwood, Yoshino cherry, fringetree, white flowered redbud, snowbell, or Carolina silverbell instead. Your car will be happy you did.