Pear trees (Pyrus communis) are easy to grow because they tolerate poor conditions, including drought and heat, better than most other fruit trees. They grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Oriental pears are more adapted to the climate in Texas than European pears and grow on a wide variety of soils, such as sandy or heavy clay-caliche soil. Pear trees bear many attractive, fragile, white flowers in the spring and produce fruit in the fall. Plant two trees of different varieties to ensure the best pollination of the flowers and the most fruit.
Kieffer (Pyrus communis “Kieffer”) is a common pear variety in the South and consistently produces a large crop in late September and October. It grows in the eastern and western areas of Texas, as well as the hill country, and needs at least 400 chill hours (roughly the number of hours between the temperatures of 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit; areas south of the line Laredo to Corpus Christi are generally insufficiently chilly for pears, says Texas garden expert Bob Webster). Fire blight does not spread as rapidly through Kieffer pear trees as in other varieties. The large, hard fruit is crispy with a coarse texture and a moderate amount of grit. It is greenish yellow when ripe and lacks the typical pear flavor. The pears store well and are good for canning and cooking.
LeConte (Pyrus communis “LeConte”) is the oldest Oriental variety of pear in Texas. It is a vigorous tree, but has poor to fair resistance fire blight. It grows in the hill country and western area of Texas, and needs 200 chill hours. The medium-sized fruit ripens to a creamy or bright yellow with a reddish blush in August and early September. The fruit is sweet smelling, juicy and not gritty. It is good for making preserves.
Orient (Pyrus communis “Orient”) is reliable producer of juicy, slightly sweet pears. The medium to large fruit is firm, coarse textured and gritless. The skin is yellow to russet-colored when ready to pick in August or September. The pears are good for baking and canning. The trees normally bear at an early age and have excellent fire blight resistance. They need at least 400 chill hours, and grow best in the eastern and western areas, as well as the hill country of Texas.
Moonglow (Pyrus communis “Moonglow”) is a newer variety and the best pollinator for other varieties. It is a vigorous tree and very resistant to fire blight. It needs 500 to 700 chill hours and is best suited to the hill country, and the eastern and western areas of Texas. The fruit is moderately juicy, soft and gritless. They are medium to large and brownish-green when they mature in late August to early September. They are good for eating fresh, canning and making preserves.
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