The Bradford Pear – A Gorgeous Landscaping Tree

The Bradford Pear has been one of my favorite flowering landscape trees forever, and I’ve planted at least a dozen between the two homes I’ve owned.

They’re simply beautiful in the spring, summer and fall – having a distinctive look for each season. And while nothing is without its flaws, the Bradford Pear always comes immediately to my mind when considering ornamental trees for any landscape design.

It’s quite common to see varieties of flowering pear, cherry and plum trees in our general area, and they’re often intermixed. For anyone who has ever been in downtown Princeton in early April, the streets are lined with Bradford Pears and Flowering Cherry trees – and this is when they’re in full bloom. The effect can be absolutely awesome on the peak days.

The photo below is of a pair of mature Bradford Pear trees taken this past Easter morning…

Bradford Pear Trees

Some Bradford Pear Tree Facts

Below, I’ll hit on some of the key areas that I think are particularly important regarding this deciduous landscaping tree. If you’re looking for landscaping ideas right now, my goal is to convince you (for my own personal pride) that you should be at least considering having a few of these! But everyone has different goals of course – and varying climates and soil conditions play in as well. That being said, though, here are some items to consider…

Bradford Pears are Relatively Fast Growing Trees

Bradford Pear trees generally start out somewhat tall and thin, and eventually mature to a spherical shape as depicted in the previous photo. The trees can reach a height of up to 50 feet at full maturity. Once established, you can quite-reasonably expect a couple of feet of growth per year.

The photo below shows a line of alternating Bradford Pear and Purple Leaf Plum trees that I planted last spring, mainly to hide the neighbor’s shed you can see. The pears are about 10 feet tall.

Landscape Bradford Pear and Purple Leaf Plum Trees

To contrast this, the next Bradford Pear photo is of a tree I planted about 8 years prior at a much smaller initial height, perhaps about 6 feet tall. This one is now about 22 feet tall, and as you can see is nowhere near attaining the characteristic spherical shape of a mature Bradford Pear yet. So, in 8 years – this Bradford Pear tree has grown about 16 feet.

Bradford Pear Tree and Purple Leaf Plum

The 3 Seasons of Bradford Flowering Pear Trees

In the spring, the Bradford Pear is covered in clusters of small white blooms (each flower maybe about an inch in diameter), which eventually start to gently “snow” down with the spring breezes. I’d say the trees are at maximum bloom for about 3-4 days, and the “white petal snowing phase” usually lasts about 3-4 days as well; it’s really cool to see if you haven’t seen it before. I’m pretty meticulous (to a fault), but I really enjoy this – even if I have to remove some tiny white petals from my car!

In the summer, the trees maintain dark green leaves. Furthermore, Bradford Pears trees are quite disease and drought resistant once established. (I’ve never lost one.) The tiny little “pear” that results is about the size of a ladybug, is not edible and doesn’t attract any animals – unlike fruit-bearing pear trees.

New Bradford Pear Tree Picture by Picket Fence

In the fall, my Bradford Pears are among the last trees to lose their leaves. They tend toward purple on the Jersey Shore, though I’ve heard they can also get a little orange as well.

Sun, Soil and USDA Hardiness Zones

Bradford Pear trees thrive in full sun and can tolerate most soil types. The tree is rated for hardiness zones 5-9 by the US Department of Agriculture. If you live in the US, you can enter your zip code at the USDA website and find your hardiness zone. Outside of the US, you can gain some insight regarding your planting zones here as well.

Bradford Pear Surface Tree Roots and Splitting

As beautiful as these trees are – there are some downsides as well.

The tree roots can surely hover right at the ground surface. The shot below is not from New Jersey, but rather from a sandy section of Long Island where water can percolate much more easily. It’s very important that you take this into consideration when planting a Bradford Pear tree. If there’s anything that can be damaged by surface roots (asphalt driveways, paver walkways, patios, pools), be very mindful of the planting proximity.

Bradford Pear Surface Tree Roots

Another risk to these trees is splitting – often from ice and wind storms, in particular. The shot above shows a Bradford Pear tree stump. What happened to the tree? A wind storm caused it to split, and the tree then had to be chain sawed down. This is a problem that gets increasingly risky as the trees mature.

Bradford Pear Trees for Your Landscaping?

The Bradford Pear is a popular, hearty, vigorous-growing shade tree with distinctive clusters of white flowers in spring and purple (sometimes orange) foliage in the fall.

For me (and many others), the benefits of these trees far outweigh the risks of surface roots and potential splitting. In fact, you can easily find Bradford Pear trees at most local nurseries due to their popularity and ease of growth – and they’re also quite reasonably priced.

Bradford Pear trees will always be at any home that I own…

But definitely not too close to the driveway or pool!

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  1. Hi Mark
    The Bradford Pear would definitely not be suitable for our little property – I don’t know if you could get it in Australia anyway. They sound a little bit like our beautiful Jacaranda trees that bloom in late October/November depending on the weather. They come out in a bloom of purple and then leave a beautiful carpet. They look spectacular where they have been planted in parks.

    Do you have Leopard Trees in New Jersey? They are my absolute favourite tree. They have a magnificent green canopy and a trunk that is largely white with grey streak, but oh the mess – all year around! It is either dropping pods, flowers or leaves so really only suitable for a large yard where it doesn’t matter about the droppings.

    Pity you can’t do some articles on Aussie landscaping :)

    • Hi Jan –

      I don’t know that we have either Jacaranda trees or Leopard trees in New Jersey – at least not commonly, anyway. I was, however, down in Texas last March – the peak of spring in the Dallas area, where I saw and explicitly asked about a purple blooming tree I saw all over, but nobody could tell me what it was. I’m pretty sure, now, looking at the photo in the link that’s about to follow from Pasadena, that it was your Jacaranda!

      I want one – but maybe it’s a little too cold up my way… ?

      As for the Leopard Tree, here again – I don’t think these are common, if even here at all. We do have Sweetgum trees though, which also make a bit of a mess… these drop little balls that look cool, but are no fun at all if you step on one barefoot!
      Mark recently posted..How To Visualize Deck and Landscaping Design Ideas

  2. Danielle says:

    I’ve just stumbled upon your blog looking for doorbell repair tips. It was such a great write-up I ended up reading through quite a few of your other entries. I especially liked the cedar swing set entry as well as “Paving an Asphalt Driveway”. I’m now subscribed to your twitter and look forward to updates.
    Thanks for writing,

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