Medlars are ancient fruit-bearing trees that have been enjoyed throughout Europe for centuries. They grow best in deep, fertile soil that is well drained and slightly acidic. They are attractive trees, so even if you don’t grow them for their unusual fruit you can grow them to be purely ornamental. Let’s find out more about how to plant a medlar tree so you can enjoy them in your yard.
What You'll Learn Today
- How To Plant A Medlar Tree?
- When To Plant A Medlar Tree?
- Where To Plant A Medlar Tree?
- How Fast Do Medlar Trees Grow?
- How Tall Do Medlar Trees Grow?
How To Plant A Medlar Tree?
Although medlars are tolerant of a range of soil types, they do prefer it to be rich, deep, and well-drained earth.
The ideal location is in full sun but protected from wind. Medlars have a tendency towards easy breaking and can be damaged in strong winds.
If you have particularly heavy soil, such as clay, then it will require plenty of organic matter adding to it to aid with drainage. Alternatively, you can choose to grow your medlar in a large container, select one that is in excess of 30 gallons for best results.
Deep, heavy soils that don’t drain will suffocate the medlar tree’s roots, and ultimately if the tree does survive, it won’t be particularly healthy and is likely to produce only minimal fruit, which may also be of poor quality.
If you do have moisture retaining soil, then using a medlar that has been grafted onto quince rootstock can be beneficial.
Medlars require little by way of fertilizer. Mulching each spring with a deep layer of organic mulch helps retain moisture during the summer months and slowly breaks down and feeds the tree over winter and the following spring, which is ideal.
Young trees may require a small amount of slow-release organic fertilizer to give them a boost following planting. You can also add organic matter below the tree covered by some regular soil when planting to encourage the roots to grow down.
The only time when additional amendments and fertilizers may be beneficial are if your soil is very sandy, as it won’t contain many nutrients and water will drain from it too quickly.
When planting a bare root tree, measure the size of the roots and dig an appropriately sized square hole a few inches deeper than the depth of the roots. The reason for making the hole square and not round, is that it prevents the roots from growing in a spiral.
Testing And Amending Soil Drainage
- To test how well your soil drains, dig a hole of one foot deep by one foot wide in the location where you want to plant your medlar tree.
- Fill the hole with water in the evening and allow it to drain overnight.
- The following day fill the hole with water again, providing it has fully drained.
- Measure the water depth as soon as you’ve filled the hole, you can use a stick to do this which you then measure with a tape measure to the water line.
- After exactly an hour measure the water depth again and write it down. So if your water depth started at 12 inches and after an hour it is 11 inches write it down.
You can now assume that your water will go down at a rate of approximately 1 inch per hour. However, this is not always the case, so it is best to check again in around 6 hours’ time and do a little math by dividing the number of inches the water has gone down by the number of hours since you filled the hole with water.
E.g.: If 8 ½ inches of water had gone down in the 7 hours since you filled the hole, you would do the sum 8.5 divided by 7 = 1.21 inches of water lost on average per hour.
This shows that the water loss rate is slightly faster than 1 inch per hour, so you should check the hole again in a further 2 hours and do the calculation again.
Another example of faster draining soil could be after the first hour 3 inches of water have been lost, so you would need to check again in another hour or two hours and calculate the water loss rate to give you the average.
There are various other methods for achieving the same thing, but I find this pretty accurate. Don’t forget to set an alarm so you remember to check at the right time!
In this video, you can see how to test your soil drainage:
Improving The Drainage Rate By Amending The Soil
In either fast or slow draining soils the same kind of soil amendments will do the same thing.
In sandy soils adding organic matter such as well-rotted compost, fallen leaves, or grass clipping will help not only how well the soil holds water, but also its nutrient content.
Clay soils, although often higher in nutrient content than sand, will suffocate your plant’s roots by not allowing water to drain away quickly enough, drowning them.
Adding organic matter to clay soil will improve drainage. It may seem like a good idea to add sand to clay soil to make it drain more easily. The effect this actually has is to turn it into a substance more like concrete! So it really isn’t a good idea.
If you are amending a sandy soil just for one plant, such as your medlar tree then it will only be necessary to amend a relatively small area of a few feet around the tree and as deeply as you are able to go safely and sensibly.
After the amendment, the area should be left to settle for several months before tree planting.
If amending clay soil, to be successful it must be done over a large area and again as deeply as sensibly possible.
This is because if you only amend the area directly around where the tree is to be planted, then after heavy rain, the surrounding clay soil will still prevent the amended area from draining and will work as a swimming pool.
To get around this, it’s possible to add land drains going off like the spokes of a wheel or umbrella around where the tree is to be planted and soil amendment has been added.
Land drains are ribbed plastic pipes that are perforated with holes. They are buried underground and surrounded by gravel before the soil is placed back on top. These will help to carry the water away from the roots of the tree, preventing the swimming pool situation.
Test the soil drainage again after a few weeks to ensure it has improved sufficiently to safely plant your tree. It may seem like a lot of work, but it will be worth your while to ensure the tree survives and remains healthy, providing you with plenty of fruit for many years to come.
Another option for particularly heavy soil is mound planting. This is when rather than planting your tree into the heavy clay, instead, you create a mound of good soil and plant it into that.
Ideally, the mound should be of at least one foot in height and more than three feet in width.
For best results dig a hole of the same size and use the soil from the hole to mix with high-quality organic matter.
The larger the mound the better, as it will permit the tree’s roots to spread out more and support it as it grows.
Planting In Containers
If your soil isn’t suitable and you don’t have the ability to amend it, then keeping your medlar tree in a container is a good option. There are dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties that will tolerate this well and will still give you an abundance of fruits.
The larger the container you use, the better it will be for the tree. Containers made from clay are great as they are porous and drain well. They are also expensive and heavy.
I have made several fruit tree containers using decking boards lined with a pond liner and perforated at the bottom with holes to allow for drainage. These are relatively inexpensive to make, attractive, and can be made to whatever size you desire.
The minimum size requirement for a medlar tree would be a container of around 30 gallons, but the bigger the better.
When To Plant A Medlar Tree?
Medlars can be found as bare-root, or potted trees or shrubs. Bare root trees are best planted in late fall or early spring when the tree is still dormant.
Potted trees can be planted any time of year, but October to January is best providing the ground isn’t frozen.
Planting trees while they are dormant, allows the roots to establish themselves quickly.
Planting Your Tree
- Dig a square hole approximately twice the size of your tree’s root ball.
- Add any soil improvements.
- Ensure you don’t leave any air gaps around the roots and firm the soil around the tree.
- Use a strong stake on the windward side of the tree and secure it fairly low down on the trunk with a soft, strong cord. This allows the tree to sway in the wind and encourages a strong healthy root system and trunk while preventing it from being blown over.
- Water well and ensure the soil stays moist, but not saturated, to encourage root growth.
Where To Plant A Medlar Tree?
When picking out a place to plant your medlar tree, think about sun exposure and wind strength. Your tree will want a spot with full sun, but that is also sheltered from strong winds as they can easily be damaged.
If you don’t have a full sun spot due to other high trees, they will tolerate partial light shade, providing they do get some sun during the day.
How Fast Do Medlar Trees Grow?
Depending on the variety and rootstock, medlar trees are slow to medium growing. This produces hardwood that was traditionally used for the creation of fighting sticks, clubs, and other hunting and warfare weaponry. Medlar wood was also used for making the turning wheels of windmills.
How Tall Do Medlar Trees Grow?
The height of a medlar tree is dictated by the cultivar, the rootstock it is grafted onto and the growing conditions it finds itself in.
There are dwarf and semi-dwarf trees available which can be kept to a height of around 6 to 8 feet. Standard-size trees will reach about 20 feet and have a sprawling habit, so can also be a similar width.
Whatever type of medlar tree you decide to grow, be it a semi-dwarf grown in a pot, and kept small with annual pruning, or a standard tree left entirely to its own devices, you’ll find that your tree is an attractive addition to your yard.
Some varieties grow larger fruits which are better for eating, while others are more ancient in their origins and have an ornamental appearance while still producing fruit that’s edible.
To learn more about medlar fruits you can find more helpful articles on our website.