Pear tree branches broke! What do I do?

My pear tree’s about 8 years old. It took several years to mature and bear fruit. And it was modest for a few years (birds and squirrels got their share); we harvested only several handfuls last year and that was the most ever.

This year there were soo many, I removed damaged fruit from the plum curculio. But still plenty. It only ocurred to me recently if I should thin it; branches were getting low but seemed okay.

But today I discovered a very, very low branch was split (actually two branches are split). It’s from a branch that’s very high up and seemed thick.

Pretty disappointed because I was liking the shape the tree was developing. I did mean to winter prune it last year. I was going to top one or a few of the leaders.

Will my tree be okay? This is my only fruit tree besides a granny smith apple that has never really produced but a few small fruits ( bought the same time as the pear, both from Home Depot).

Since it took so long to mature, I’ve never really done much to it.

This is the view from the other side (you can see both branches that are split):

This is the branch that I noticed was really low:

Here is the whole tree (the split branches are on the other side of the tree; you can see the branches that are almost touching the ground behind the trunk):


It happens, don’t sweat it. It feels worse when you are trying to put a spreader to get a branch just perfect and it snaps on you by your own doing. It will take a while but the tree will figure out a way to fill up the space.

Read up on the correct way to trim branches. The closer you get it to ideal the better the tree will be able to cover the wound. Those looks like good clean breaks that should heal nicely. Don’t put anything on the wound, the tree knows what to do.


If you want that branch take all the fruit off of it then put a tall stake in the ground to support it. Wrap the break like you would a graft and then use a splint to support it further.

Don & Dan are offering good suggestions. I’ll just add that you are at risk for more breaks this year, and I’d consider removing some of the remaining fruit. You can brace branches to help with the weight, but in my opinion you’re asking a lot of the tree to size up and ripen all those fruit. (Contrary view: all that fruit might be good to reduce that tree’s considerable vigor!)

I also think your tree is getting plenty tall, and if I were the one spraying, pruning, thinning and picking it I’d not let it get over about 12 feet tall - yours looks to be trying for 25, if I read your photo right. But that’s a whole 'nother story you might take up later.

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If you can keep enough weight on the branches to “train” them to be less vertical, that would be ideal. Those branches will still probably spring way back up though. Be careful about cutting/topping any of the branches as that will just encourage more top/vertical growth. Pears are stubborn that way.

Well, that’s a little reasurring if you say the breaks don’t look too bad. I was thinking they looked pretty bad. I’m trying to educate myself and get out there before the split branches break anymore of the branches underneath.

I have one that looks exactly like that right now. Every year one of my trees breaks a branch. Usually if you take a fruit or two off the broke one the remainder will ripen. Then you can cut the branch after.

I’d love to, but I’m not sure if I can. The break is pretty high up and the branch is pretty long from the point it split at. I’m not sure it’s feasible for me to build a support for it.

Does anyone know if there’s a way I can upload video on here. I’d love more feedback on how to thin and/or prune my tree. I’ve not done either at all before (it’s never been this productive and all of the branches use to be a lot more vertical.

Here’s a picture from this past February:
This is the south view (where the tree branches broke):

And this is the view looking at it from the left of the previous picture:

Oh, it defintely hurts the neck when you are looking up inspecting the tree for any amount of time. The lowest set of branches (at the trunk) are at face level (I’m 5’ 2’'). I didn’t mean for it to get so tall (actually, I think it’s a dwarf), I always thought I’d prune it Dave Wilson style, but it was meager looking for the first few years that I forgot about it. When it started to fruit noticiblely it was already tall and the branches were all V shaped upward so it I ended up letting it go.

I haven’t sprayed it, It gets rust every year, but the fruit set has always been small and then with the tree so big, I’m not sure I could cover the whole thing. The rust has actually been mild this year compared to before.

I did ask reddit last February on winter pruning tips, but then it got warm so I thought I missed the window and ended up not doing it.

I really would like to avoid anymore breaks. Now, I’m worried about this area:

Do I just thin the fruit on the branches?

Even though I’ve had this tree for 8 years and done some casual “research” over the years, I’m a complete newbie at actually managing it. It’s not even mulched.

I really like that a lot of the branches are more horizontal. Now, at least the lower ones are more at my level so I can more easily manage them. But I don’t want them to break. So if I thin them to keep them from breaking, can I do that without having them spring back up. It’d be nice if they could stay horizontal.

And what do you mean about it getting top growth if I cut the branches. I defintely don’t want anymore top growth.

By the way, Thank you to everyone for all of the replies and advice, I truly appreciate it!

Oh, that’s a great tip! If I can leave the branch for some of the fruit to ripen I will. I am worried if it’s putting weight on other branches though. I’m going to have to go out and look at it again tomorrow.

Over the winter you might want to cut back the length of those branches. You want shorter thicker branches. Don’t worry if it looks like your doing massive damage. It will all come back in no time.

I would thin the fruit on the branches that seemed most strained. Try taking off every third pear, especially further out on the limb - that should let the branch rise up a bit. Then just keep an eye on it an remove a few more if you see the limb drooping too much. Yes, it’s a judgement call, but you’ll figure it out as you go, and although it’s hard to remove fruit the remaining pears will size up better.

I’m not a good pruner, especially on pears, so I’m going to leave that for somebody else to address. Just be forewarned - there’s big differences of opinion on the best approach to pruning pears, and some very experienced people in this group don’t agree. I can’t decide for myself. And it depends on the rootstock and the variety, too.

Whatever you do you’ll learn a lot here, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Good luck and welcome.


I agree with the suggestion of @marknmt . Remove some fruit to take off some stress if you feel a branch might break from storm damage, but I wouldn’t tip the branches. Pear branches are very flexible and could very well pop right back up to full vertical after the fruit is gone. It you tip a vertical branch it could very likely grow a pitchfork in it’s place. If you have an outward facing branch further down on a tall branch, you could prune to that without getting a pitchfork… but it might still shoot out some growth around the pruning cut. Also, pears that are partially shaded or with plenty of water are more likely to go crazy growing up. They like “up”. A bunch of gnarly, ugly branches in the middle that might grow too tall and break, can also end up being a lazy way to outer branches to get some spread. Just depends on the tree and situation.

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When you say “tip” you mean cutting off the ends of a branch?

I got to taking the broken branches down. First de-fruiting the branches, then cutting the branch in sections starting with the ends before I got to the largest/thickest part towards the break.

One of the branches was actually already a clean break, the other was holding on by the bark. That, I could clip with large pruners (which was easier for me than using a saw up there).

There was a lot of fruit:

That’s only off one of the broken branches.

And there’s defintely a bald spot in the canopy now:

Next, I’ll have to thin out the other branches so I don’t get any more breaks. I can’t reach the top though.

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Yes. You would want to be strategic about it. If there is a side branch coming off a tall vertical shoot, you might be able to prune the vertical shoot back to the side branches… or the pear might go nuts and try to regrow several verticals to replace just the single one that was removed. Fruit weight on those vertical branches is a better option. I’ve never tried pulling non fruiting pear branches down toward horizontal to encourage fruiting but some others might be able to comment on that. It looks like you have a lot of branches going toward horizontal and if those can gain some strength/thickness, you will have a nicely shaped tree. Fruit weight is good. It’s the best way to “train” the branches.

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Okay, that makes sense. So I just need to gauge the amount of fruit weight that can train the branches without breaking them.

Does it matter if I were to top it in winter if that would prevent regrowth?

I could just leave it at it’s height, especially if it has such a tendency for regrowth, it might be a losing battle for me. Plus the birds seem to like it up there. It’s got to be getting at it’s max height I’d think. It’s suppose to be a dwarf.

Can anybody tell me if the wound will be okay? I plan on cutting the branch back closer to the trunk after I look up so more specific how to’s, but the bottom part of the break looks a tad deep. Wondring if I need to do anything for that.

Yes. Exactly.

Winter pruning will make it resprout more vigorously I think, but like I said, you might be able to prune to outward facing branches which it seems to have. It may not grow much taller if it’s a dwarf and was properly labeled. Summer pruning can control height, but there is more risk of fire blight. Aim for hot and dry periods. Maybe your are in a FB area? Or what type of pear it is, as some are more FB resistant. I’m not familiar with what goes on around there for diseases.

I think that wound will heal. When pruning it, I would do it during a period when it will be hot and dry for a while. Otherwise wait until winter.