The Root System of the Fruitless Bradford Pear

A flowering pear in bloom.
A flowering pear in bloom. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Fruitless Bradford pears bloom beautifully, have a tight, stately shape and are considered clean trees. Ornamental pears have gained popularity due to these attributes. However, with every over-planted tree, negative attributes quickly become apparent. Bradford pear tree roots can give homeowners headaches if not properly sited.

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Root System

The root system of a Bradford pear consists of an abundance of shallow roots. Shallow roots can break the surface of the soil, making walking and mowing miserable. Shallow root systems also pose problems around sidewalks, foundations and driveways. When a tree is given a finite amount of space to grow in, it can push through concrete, rock and other tough surfaces. Bradford pear trees grow large at maturity -- up to 30 feet high and 25 feet wide. Young, feeder roots reach as far as the edge of the canopy. This means the surface roots can be 50 feet wide.

Spacing Your Bradford Pear

If you love the look, smell and shape of the Bradford pear, there are definitely appropriate situations to plant one in. Properly spacing the tree will allow for adequate root growth, and you will run into less problems caused by the shallow roots. If you want to plant one next to your home, make sure to plant your pear tree at least 25 feet away from foundations, sidewalks or driveways. This will ensure adequate space, soil, water and nutrients for healthy root growth.

Proper Sites

Bradford pears are very adaptable and are tolerant of hot, dry conditions and resistant to fire blight. Locate an area in full sun, preferably with little wind. Bradford pears tend to split and break with age due to the tight crotch angles. Plant Bradford pears in mass as a screen, or as a specimen plant to exhibit the beautiful white spring blooms, and the attractive fall color. It can be used as a small shade tree in small residential yards, but make sure to properly space the plants away from sidewalks, driveways and foundations.

Bradford Pear Qualities

Bradford pears have many qualities that can outweigh the inconvenience of the shallow roots. A Bradford pear in bloom is not only a visual pleasure, but an olfactory one as well. The white, five-petaled blooms have a super sweet smell, and attract a lot of bees and insects. The fruitless attribute of this tree makes a nice alternative to crab apples, due to the lack of dropping fruit. The show doesn't stop there as Bradford pears have amazing fall color, portraying colors from red, orange, purple and yellow.

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