Bradford Pear trees have long been the ‘go to’ tree for easy care and fast growth. They also bloom beautifully, grow uniformly, and display a nice fall color. “So what’s wrong with planting a Bradford Pear”, you might ask. The biggest drawback to having Bradford Pear trees, especially in our area, is their reputation for breaking during our storms, most commonly in Spring. Many cities and counties are even banning the planting of them. When there are so many other great trees you could plant, I have to ask, ‘’Why would you want to plant a Bradford Pear.’’ After reading this entry, you might ask the same question.
Bradford Pear trees have a soft wood, like many other trees in their family. That is a disadvantage for them, especially since they grow and foliate so densely. Another huge disadvantage for them is the angle of the branching. The angle of the branching does not allow the Bradford Pear to grow up strong like an Oak or Maple. So besides the wood being soft, the branching is constantly testing the woods integrity. Adding insult to injury, the leaves are so dense on the Bradford Pear that they catch more of the wind, thus making them even more susceptible to breakage. For that reason, every Spring in Middle Tennessee, we get storms with strong wind and lots of people lose their Bradford Pears. There is nothing you can do but let it grow back out or cut it down. That can be time consuming, disheartening, and costly.
With so many options, why would anyone even want a Bradford Pear you might ask. Well, I cannot seem to come up with an answer for that one. There are, of course, some improved varieties of pear that have branching at different angles which make them stronger like Chanticlear and Cleveland Select. Cleveland Select is even called the ‘Improved Bradford Pear’. These can be good replacements for a Bradford Pear, but there are also many other options.
Some of the best options that have comparable growth rates and characteristics are Cherry, Redbud, Serviceberry, Crape myrtle, select Maple varieties, and Purple Leaf Plum. Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry trees are commonly used because they grow very uniformly and mature at around 25 feet tall and wide, much like a Bradford Pear. Crape myrtles come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, so you can find them to fit almost any area. They also bloom from around May until November. Some maples, like Amur Maple (Acer ginnala) only grow to around 20-25 feet. Amur Maples grow very fast, have great blooms in the spring, and even have very nice fall color. They also grow densely and can be easily pruned.
With all of these available options, why spend your hard earned money on something that is only going to last until the next Spring storm.
Author: Josh Smith