Learn About Ornamental Vs. Fruiting Pear Trees

Tall Fruiting Pear Tree
ornamental pear
(Image credit: Rebecca-Arnott)

If you aren’t a fan of fruit or dislike the mess it can create, there are many showy non-fruiting tree specimens to choose from for your landscape. Amongst these, there are several cultivars of ornamental pear trees. Keep reading for more information on types of non-fruit bearing pear trees.

Ornamental vs. Fruiting Pear Trees

Many ornamental pear trees do actually fruit but, generally, produce very little fruit and of a smaller size, less than half an inch (1.5 cm.) across. Is ornamental pear fruit edible? I wouldn’t recommend it. I would leave these tiny fruits for wildlife to munch on. The purpose of choosing an ornamental vs. a fruiting pear tree is for its sparse to non-existent fruiting capability.

About Ornamental Flowering Pear Trees

Ornamental flowering pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) are instead often preferred for their showy flowers during the spring and their striking leaf color as the weather cools. Because they are not grown for fruit, they are fairly simple to care for. These deciduous trees have dark to medium green, ovate leaves, with a trunk covered in dark brown to light green bark. 

Autumn chill turns the leaves into a kaleidoscope of red, bronze, and purple hues. All varieties of ornamental pears thrive in full sun in an array of soil types and pH levels. While they prefer moist soil, they are tolerant of dry and hot conditions. Unlike their fruiting brethren, ornamental pears are resistant to fire blight, oak root fungus, and verticillium wilt, but not to sooty mold and whitefly. Amongst the varied cultivars, ‘Capital’ and ‘Fauer’ are also susceptible to thrips.

Types of Non Fruit Bearing Pear Trees

Most varieties of ornamental pear trees have an erect habit and rounded shape. Different cultivars have different canopies from high to low. ‘Aristocrat’ and ‘Redspire,’ suited to USDA zones 5-8, have a cone-shaped habit, while ‘Capital’ tends towards a more columnar mien and is suited to USDA zones 4-8. 

Suited to USDA zones 4-8 as well, ‘Chanticleer’ has a pyramid-like habit. It also has a minimal spread of around 15 feet (5 m.) across, making it a more modest option compared to say, the ‘Bradford’ ornamental pear. Bradford pears are beautiful specimens with showy white flowers in early spring and vibrant orange-red leaves in the fall. 

However, these trees can attain heights of up to 40 feet (12 m.) and have broad, horizontal branching systems that have earned the cultivar the name “Fatford” pear. They are also prone to breaking and storm damage. Height varies amongst cultivars as well. ‘Redspire’ and ‘Aristocrat’ are the tallest of the ornamental pears and can attain heights of up to 50 feet (15 m.). ‘Fauer’ is the smallest cultivar, only reaching around 20 feet (6 m.). 

‘Capital’ is a middle of the road variety reaching up to 35 feet (11 m.) tall. Most of them bloom with showy, white blossoms in the spring or winter with the exception of ‘Fauer’ and ‘Redspire,’ which flower only in the spring.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.