Bradford pears need appropriate planting conditions, regular watering, light fertilizing and annual pruning to maintain good health. The trees are rather fragile but can live 20 to 25 years with good care.
Selecting an appropriate planting site helps get a Bradford pear tree off to a good start. Ideal sites have moist, well-drained soil and full sub exposure. Places that have very alkaline soil, concentrated cold air or are more humid than the surrounding areas are not good choices.
Bradford pears need watering one to two times a week during their first two years of life for best results. Mature trees usually get enough water from rain except during extended droughts.
Bradford pears benefit from light fertilizer if signs of malnutrition are present, such as pale or yellowed leaves and slow trunk development. One pound of a general purpose lawn fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter is enough. Gardeners should avoid using fertilizers with high nitrogen levels on Bradford pears, as too much nitrogen makes them vulnerable to aphids, scale insects and bacterial diseases.
Pruning should reduce the supported branches by one-third to one-half and should remove all shoots and branches from the lower trunk. Gardenguides.com recommends pruning in the late fall or early winter and sanitizing pruning tools with bleach to prevent pest problems.