How to Deal with Broken Branches on a Bradford Pear Tree

By: Julie Day
Trunk of Bradford pear tree

Tight, vertical branches on trees like Bradford pears are prone to splitting.

A large limb has ripped off my Bradford pear tree, leaving a huge gash in the trunk. What should I do? -Carmen

Once a tree splits and damages the main trunk, it can be very difficult to heal. And unfortunately, because of their growth habits, Bradford pears are notorious for splitting in two.

Bradford pears grow extremely fast, and they tend to put out lots of nearly vertical branches that come off the tree at narrow angles. These types of branches are much less stable than branches with wide angles; and when they fall, they split and take a huge piece of trunk with them. Even though a Bradford pear should live for 30 or more years, the tendency to split reduces their span to more like 15 years.

If your tree has already split, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Many people decide to cut the whole tree down at this point. If the wound isn’t too severe, or if more than half of the tree is OK, you can wait to see if the tree will recover.

Skip the tree wound treatment, and instead use a sharp saw to try to get a clean cut and to remove any dead wood, so that the tree can callus over on its own. Don’t top the tree; instead thin out branches to reduce the strain.

Check out our article on Dealing With Storm Damage To Trees and How To Trim Large Tree Branches for help.

Broken branch pruned back on Bradford pear tree

Broken branch pruned back on Bradford pear tree.

Prune Branches to Prevent Splitting

A good pruning can help prolong the life of a Bradford pear tree. While the main pruning is best done when the tree is young, it’s never too late to try to save your tree. Bradford pears should be pruned to have a strong, central leader trunk; and well-spaced, widely angled branches of 45 degrees or more.

When pruning Bradford pear trees:

  • Remove sucker limbs.
  • Thin out rubbing or closely-spaced branches.
  • Remove branches growing vertically against the trunk.

Because branch weight contributes to splitting, avoid topping or heading back these trees, since topping results in a flush of growth at the cut site that will make the branch that much heavier. Instead, thin out unwanted branches to open up the shape.

Your first pruning might be a doozy, but the tree will live longer if it’s balanced and not too top-heavy.

Julie

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4 Comments on “How to Deal with Broken Branches on a Bradford Pear Tree”

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  • MJ Gonzalez Says:
    October 25th, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Great article here. Thanks for sharing!



  • Jacqui Alexander Says:
    June 18th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    My 13 1/2 yr Bradford Pear broke a giant branch off during a tornado. That had a lot of little limbs. Sometime with the last few days another giant branch with alot of little limbs broke off. I have a BIG hole right in the middle of the tree. It was a gorgeous tree before that. It was fertilized, not overwatered but healthy. It was hard to water under it due to the lower limbs so I didn’t water it as much as another one that is in the back but isn’t anywhere near the size of this one and they’re both the same age. I’m now deep watering with a root feeder and I give it 12-mo slow feeding and insect protection by Bayer Advanced. That alone cost $20 since it had a girth of 39″ and you feed it according to the size of the trunk. How on earth do I get this hole to grow back some branches so it doesn’t look funny. It’s like the whole front end that shows to the house is gone but the part we can’t see facing the neighbor’s house isn’t. I know you said it wouldn’t do much good to heal the wound but aside from sawing it off (it must weigh somewhere around 150-200 lbs.) I have pictures I took with the Digital Camera of what it looks like if you want to see. What I don’t understand is why the second huge branch just broke off? There wasn’t a wind storm or big rain storm within the last few days. It’s made it through some really major wind storms without losing limbs until the tornado. That one was to be expected but this other I don’t know. I did see some little red ants climbing on it but I don’t think they’re carpenter ants from the photos I saw. Those ants had got into my apricot tree and did damage, I saw queens and kings but this tree I didn’t see any of that. I protect all my trees with Bayer Advanced products, especially the fruit trees. It would be a shame to cut it down after all these years plus I would have wasted all that money from the Bayer Advanced products, Superthrive I just started giving it, and deep watering.

    The Oak trees have drought problems but this guy made it through just fine. It’s the Oak Trees that I bought the Ross deep watering tool for. I can’t reach the tree limbs that are dead that need to be cut off. They’re just falling off. I regular water my trees every week. This one I didn’t because it was getting enough water on its own. It was stunning before this happened.



  • Shirley Wainman Says:
    June 6th, 2012 at 6:07 am

    We had have a Bradford pear tree that the whole top broke off during an October smow storm. A tree cutter told my hasband that if he cuts a few inches off the top of the trunk, it will grow back. That’s hard to believe. There are sucklins growing out the side. Will the ever become a tree again?

    Thanks in advance.
    Shirley



  • mark tatum Says:
    April 5th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    my green giants turned brown with last years heat and dry, they are still flexable and smell good .no new growth, are they dead ? they are about six years old


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