Pear Tree Not Leafing Out: Troubleshooting Pear Tree Leaf Problems

Pear Tree Not Leafing Out: Troubleshooting Pear Tree Leaf Problems

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By: Teo Spengler

If your pear tree has no leaves or small, sparse leaves when it should be covered in green foliage, something isn’t right. Read on for tips on how to determine the reason you pear tree has small leaves or none at all.

Pear Tree Leaf Problems

When you only see sparse leaves on pear trees, it’s an indication that the tree is stressed or not getting what it needs. Since the tree needs leaves in order to remain healthy, it’s important to figure out the cause of pear tree leaf problems.

If you are noticing that your pear tree has small leaves just after leaf break, the situation might right itself quickly. Sometimes, an unusually cool and rainy spring season causes a delay in fruit tree leaf development. Watch and see what happens when warm weather arrives.

Sparse Leaves on Pear Tree

Is your pear tree new to your garden? If so, consider whether transplant adjustment might be causing the pear tree leaf problems.

Newly planted pear trees have to work hard to regrow their roots, which were trimmed in the nursery. Often, they spend the first two years after transplant trying to rebuild the root system. A pear tree has small leaves during this time of root building. You can help the tree by providing generous irrigation during the years after transplant.

In fact, inadequate irrigation at any time can cause sparse leaves on pear trees. Too little water makes it difficult for pear trees to grow proper foliage. Be sure the trees get extra water during dry periods. Provide an inch (2.5 cm.) of water a week during normal periods, two inches (5 cm.) during a drought.

If you use pesticides and weed killers inappropriately, this can also cause pear tree leaf problems like misshapen or sparse leaves on pear trees. Always follow the label directions.

Be sure that your pear tree’s soil drains well. A tree sitting in mud is not likely to thrive. Likewise, trees need sunlight to produce leaves, so consider whether your pear tree is correctly sited. If not, move it to a site with adequate sun and excellent drainage.

Pear Tree Has No Leaves

If your pear tree has no leaves at all, it might be dormant or dead. Check the calendar. A pear tree not leafing out is normal in winter. Pear trees are deciduous and lose their leaves in winter, but should start producing leaves again in spring.

If spring has come and gone and you notice your pear tree not leafing out, it may have died. In this instance, apply the scratch test. Use a sharp knife and peel back a small slice of bark. It should be green inside. If the area is brown, the tree is dead.

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Read more about Pear Trees


This article explores all the common pests and diseases which may affect your pear tree. Most of the problem areas have pictures to clearly illustrate the damage caused which helps to identify the pest / disease.

Feel free to email us using the form at the end of this page or via our contact us page for advice on pear pests and diseases. Also, please see our question and answer section on pear tree problems at the end of this article. Your question may already have been answered there.

Pear Tree Diseases

Fruit trees suffer from diseases the same way that humans do. A bacterial virus or fungus infests the tree and impairs its ability to grow and produce healthy fruit. Bacterial infections tend to be the most difficult to deal with often ending in tree removal. It is far easier to prevent disease than to get rid of it.


There are two common bacterial infections associated with pear trees. Fire blight is a bacterium known as Erwinia amylovora. This organism will live through the winter in leaf mulch, fallen fruit, or rotting wood around the base of trees. It tends to infect new shoots first causing them to ooze a clear liquid.

Insects carry the liquid up the tree and spread the bacteria throughout. Before long entire branches begin to look as if they’ve been burned. The leaves brown, blossoms wilt, and fruit falls off prematurely.

Clean and sanitize all pruning tools before using them on your trees. Cut out all affected parts of the tree and burn them. Remove all the mulch from around the base of an affected tree and burn it.

Stony pit is another viral disease that affects pear trees. The exact organism that causes the disease is still unknown. It affects the fruit of pears causing them to become dimpled and unsightly. Like fire blight, the only thing gardeners can do is remove all infected foliage and mulch from the area.


Fungal diseases are more common than bacterial diseases and easier to combat. Some common fungal infections in pear trees include:

  • Leaf Spot – Black and yellow spots on leaves and lesions on fruits
  • Pear Scab – Dark spots on leaves, fruit, and twigs. It turns grey and cracked.
  • Sooty Blotch – Smudgy dark blotches that occur on fruit and leaves. Can be washed off.

If a fungal infection occurs, sanitize all tools used on or around fruit trees. Remove mulch and replace with clean material. Prune the tree to allow for better airflow. Avoid over-watering or allowing the area to get too humid.

Disease Prevention

Healthy trees get sick less often. Prune your pear trees when they are young to promote strong growth and an open canopy. Keep mulch from ever touching the trunk of the tree. It can be placed around the trunk but not up to it. You may consider using compost instead of straw or leaf mulch in moist environments.

Avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers on pear trees. This causes tons of new unnatural growth and makes them susceptible to infection. Instead, use an active compost to mulch them twice a year.

Finally, there are organic fungicides available at garden supply stores as a last resort. Some gardeners make their own sprays to combat fungus and bacteria.

Transplant Shock

Trees that have recently been transplanted often experience a difficult period of transplant shock, leading to a host of potential problems, including leaf wilt, leaf scorch, yellowing leaves, and leaf rolling or curling. Don't assume you need to water a tree more just because it has brown leaves when its foliage would normally be green.

Don't worry if your tree is experiencing transplant shock, as most often it will be overcome with time. Usually, if you consistently give it the right amount of water, the tree will begin to thrive when it starts to take root. To help prevent transplant shock, let the tree acclimate to its new home for several days before placing it into the ground. Also, make sure the planting hole is at least two to three times larger than the root spread and deep enough to allow more space for growth.

In the case of Bradford pear trees, leaves may turn black (not yellow or brown) after transplanting. The culprit may also be fire blight disease, so-called because it causes tree parts to look as if they've been burned. If you do suspect you have an issue with this disease, an arborist can treat the bacteria with a specialized spray and remove infected branches.

They can grow up to 30 feet tall, and the Bradford pear can be dangerous because of its weak branch structure, which means that the trees often break apart within 20 years, as former Tribune-Times columnist Durant Ashmore has reported. Anything, and anyone, under a Bradford pear is at increased risk as the tree ages and its steep V crotch structure is strained.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission cautions against planting Bradford pear trees. (Photo: File)

Problem: One Tree Is Blooming, the Other Is Not.

There are many possible reasons for Bradford pear trees not blooming, such as:

  • The flower buds are sometimes damaged in cold winters.
  • The trees may not have received sufficient water.
  • Your soil could be deficient in nutrients (having a soil test done never hurts).

You shouldn't put too much stock in the fact that one of the Bradford pear trees has bloomed, as that one could simply have been a healthier specimen at the time of purchase. The soil under it could be slightly different or the other two could have sustained some sort of injury along the way (for example, at planting time).

If your tree has buds, but no leaves, there’s likely a good reason the buds remain cooped up.

For example:

Some plants hold off on blooming, just in case temperatures drastically drop.

The tree has a structural issue, restricted root system or poor soil that prevents it from gaining the energy it needs to grow properly.

Sometimes trees with thin bark or trees planted in the wrong zone can have wood and buds that become damaged and don’t leaf out.

What can I do if my tree has buds, but no leaves?

Bare canopies often point to tree stress. Your tree likely wants to bloom, so it can use its leaves to create more food. But, at the same time, the tree may be too weak to make that happen.

Help your tree by creating and enacting a proper plant health care plan all year—not just when there’s a problem. Adequate water, mulch and fertilizer will help your tree remain healthy and survive trying times.

Will my tree die if its buds are not turning into leaves?

It’s easy to find out if your tree will be OK. Here’s how:

First, pinch a few buds sporadically throughout the tree. If they’re green and moist on the inside, these plant health care tips should be all your tree needs. But if the tree buds are black and shriveled, that’s an in issue, and your tree needs a visit from the tree doctor.

Then, inspect the tree for signs of infestation. Look for sawdust, tiny holes in the bark, streaks under the bark, oozing cankers or anything else unusual. Call an arborist if you see something worrisome.

Want an expert’s opinion about what’s going on with your tree? Click Here!

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Watch the video: If Your Fruit Tree Has This On Its Leaves Heres What You Can Do Right Now!


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