Asian Pear

Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) are known by many names—including Chinese, Japanese, Oriental, sand, and apple pear. There is confusion with the name “apple pear,” as it may lead people to believe that the Asian pear is a cross between apples and pears. Most cultivars of Asian pears resemble apples because they have round fruit and crunchy texture. However, the resemblance of these pears and apples stops there.

There are also several differences between Asian pears and the more common European pear (Pyrus communis). Asian pears reach optimum quality when allowed to ripen on the tree, similar to apples and peaches. European pears are usually harvested when green and allowed to ripen at room temperature. The color of ripe Asian pear ranges from yellow to yellow-green, depending on the cultivar. Asian pears will be crisp and juicy, with some tartness, especially near the core. European pears will be soft and juicy, with a sweeter, mellow taste.

An Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) tree.

An Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) tree.
Photo credit: Gregory Reighard, Ph.D., Clemson University

Many Asian pear cultivars are available. The Japanese cultivars tend to be rounder while the Chinese cultivars are more oval or pyriform (pear-shaped). All Asian pear cultivars should be considered self-incompatible, which means another Asian pear cultivar will need to be planted as a companion for cross-pollination. Several cultivars are cross-incompatible, meaning they will not pollinate each other, so be sure the cultivars being planted will cross-pollinate and their flowering periods overlap. Generally, Chinese cultivars bloom a week or more before Japanese cultivars and are best pollinated with another Chinese cultivar.

The fruit of an Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia).

The fruit of an Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia).
Photo credit: Gregory Reighard, Ph.D., Clemson University


Plant Asian pears in deep, well-drained soils in a location as frost-free as possible. Avoid sites that are prone to late spring frosts or provide frost protection where late frosts are likely. The chilling requirement needed by Asian pears to break dormancy is thought to range between 600 to 900 hours, although some studies show that specific cultivars may do well at less than this amount. The chilling requirement should not be a problem in most areas of South Carolina.

Southeastern U.S. Region map showing approximate minimum number of chilling hours by state/region

Southeastern U.S. Region map showing approximate minimum number of chilling hours by state/region. Note: four chilling hour zones for South Carolina with yellow arrows. For more information, see HGIC 1401, Blueberry.

Plant trees at least 10 to 15 feet apart in fall or early spring. Mature trees can reach heights of more than 20 feet. There is no reason why Asian pears cannot be trained to a central leader system similar to European pear and apple trees. However, developing multiple secondary and tertiary scaffolds prevents tree death if fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) becomes a problem.

Pears do best in soils with a pH of 5.9 to 6.5. Having the soil tested before planting and following the resulting recommendations is vital. Pear trees should be fertilized annually using a split application. Apply a half to a third cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per year of tree age with a maximum application of 8 cups per tree. Half the amount should be applied before growth begins and the other after fruit set. Broadcast each application over the area under the canopy delimited by the tree’s drip line. If the fruit set is poor, the second half of the fertilizer application does not need to be applied. Too much nitrogen may encourage succulent shoot growth which is more susceptible to infection by fire blight bacteria. For more information on soil testing, see HGIC 1652, Soil Testing.

If the trees are heavily pruned, reduce the amount of fertilizer applied in relation to the severity of pruning. Heavily pruned trees will likely not need fertilizer for a year or two. Also, if the pear trees grow too much vegetatively, the fertilization rate should be reduced for the following year. Shoot growth on bearing pear trees should average 12 to 18 inches annually.


Fruit are borne at or near the tips of 1-year-old shoots on young trees. As the tree matures, most of the fruit are produced on spurs that develop on the scaffold branches (see photo below). Spurs are short shoots with clusters of fruit buds, and these have a productive life of about 10 years. Pruning should be done to remove about 10 percent of these terminal spurs every year. Additionally, pruning should be done in late winter (dormant) season. Spur pruning is necessary to improve fruit size.

It is important when commercial growers select an Asian pear cultivar to consider grafting it onto an appropriate rootstock. The rootstock should be resistant to or tolerant of soil pests (considering soil type) and be compatible with the soil pH, texture, and chemistry. One species of pear that works well as a rootstock for Asian pears is the birchleaf pear (Pyrus betulifolia). It is reported to be more cold hardy than Pyrus calleryana, another pear species used as a rootstock but has become an invasive species. Another important characteristic is that P. betulifolia is resistant to fire blight. However, it produces a very vigorous tree and produces root sprouts that have large “thorns”.

Asian pears are often hand-thinned twice during the early growing season. The home grower may choose to thin only once, which should be done 14 to 40 days after the petal fall. One fruitlet should be left on every other spur cluster or about 6 inches between fruits.

A limiting factor to good fruit production with Asian pears is that trees tend to set too much fruit. Heavy fruit thinning is essential to encourage large fruit and prevent limb breakage. Thinning should be done within 6 to 8 weeks after flowering when the fruit are the size of a dime.

An example of scaffold limbs on an Asian pear tree.

An example of scaffold limbs on an Asian pear tree.
Photo courtesy: Gregory Reighard, Ph.D., Clemson University

For more information on pruning and training pear trees, refer to HGIC 1351, Pruning and Training Apple and Pear Trees.


Fire blight, caused by a bacterium, is the most significant problem limiting the production of Asian pears. To help manage this disease, selecting resistant cultivars, adopting suitable sanitary measures, and avoiding excess nitrogen fertilization are essential. Prune infected branches 18 inches below the affected area and burn or bury all diseased material. Clean pruning tools between cuts with a dilute solution of household bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water). Remove blighted limbs during the dormant season when bacteria are less active. For more information on fire blight, refer to HGIC 2208, Fire Blight on Fruit Trees.

Another bacterium disease, Pseudomonas shoot blight, occurs in South Carolina and can be confused with fire blight. Management practices used for fire blight should be effective for Pseudomonas shoot blight.

Several cultivars of Asian pears are being evaluated for disease resistance in South Carolina, but data are incomplete. Those that show some fire blight resistance are Shinko (best), Shin Li, Olympic, and Seuri. In contrast, Twentieth Century and Hosui are highly susceptible; however, Hosui is often used as a pollinator for Shinko and is a high-quality, early cultivar, so it is commercially planted despite its susceptibility to fire blight.

Another common problem prominent among pear trees is rust disease. Rust primarily affects leaves and young, developing fruits. Several rust diseases are known to attack commercial apples (Malus pumila), ornamental crab apples (Malus spp.), commercial pears (Pyrus communis), and ornamental pears (Pyrus calleryana) in the Southeast. Rust diseases can cause premature leaf drop and contribute to overall crop loss. For more information about rust disease, please refer to HGIC 2000, Apple and Crabapple Diseases.

Codling moths and aphids are the most common insect problems in South Carolina.

Note: Chemical management of diseases and insects on large trees is usually not feasible since adequate coverage of the foliage with a pesticide cannot be achieved.


  1. Crassweller, R. (2023, June 21). Home orchard: why is there no fruit on my tree? Penn State Extension.
  2. Olson, J. (2021, March). Pear rust. Oklahoma State University Extension.
  3. Preserving Asian Pear (SP 50-694). (n.d.). Oregon State University Extension.
  4. UC Davis(n.d.). Rootstock selection.

Originally published 09/99

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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