The Bradford Pear: Is It The Right Tree For You?

The Bradford Pear, Pyrus Calleryana, is native to Korea and China but gained popularity as an ornamental tree here in the US since the 1960s. Recently, however, the popularity of the Bradford Pear has been on the wane due to its structural weakness and subsequent splitting. Knowing about the advantages and disadvantages of the Bradford Pear will help you to decide if it is the right tree for you, or if you would be better off choosing another ornamental species.

  The Bradford Pear is Not For You If…

  • You mind the somewhat rank odor of the flowers and the mess the fruit makes
  • You are looking for a strong tree that lasts years and years. The Bradford Pear suffers from a weak structure that causes the tree to split if laden with snow or beaten by the wind.
  • You are looking for a tree with a deep root system. The Bradford Pear has very shallow roots and grows suckers that need taming regularly.

The Bradford Pear is For You if….

  • You want a fast growing tree that flowers early in spring
  • You are looking for rich autumn color (reds) and white spring blossoms
  • You want to attract birds to nest in the tree and eat the fruit
  • You are prepared to prune carefully to make up for the weak structure

Popular Alternatives to the Bradford Pear

The Japanese Zelkova is another colorful tree that will complement your property. It is very tolerant to wind, drought and air pollution and provides a good amount of shade. It is great as a yard or street tree due to its attractive vase-like profile and can double its height in 4-6 years.

The Red Maple will bring year-round red color to your yard and display deep scarlet leaves in the fall. Also a fast-growing tree, it can grow anywhere and provides a good amount of shade. The Red Maple is a popular landscape tree which produces flower and fruit in the spring before most other species.

The Chinese Pistache is a popular ornamental tree that is very long-lasting and has a very hard wood. It is deep rooted, drought-resistant and, very importantly, disease and insect-free. It grows 2-3 feet a year into a medium-sized shady tree with spectacular fall colors.