How to Train Espalier Fruit Trees

Overview

Espalier is an ancient art in which ornamental trees such as fruit trees are trained to grow in only a two-dimensional plane. Espalier trees are good ornamental trees to grow along an empty wall such as a fence or house wall. It is also a good way to grow fruit in areas with very narrow land availability. Espalier trees can be trained into many shapes, from the single pillar to a fan or multi-pillar shape. Although espalier fruit trees can be fun to grow, they can also be somewhat challenging to shape.

Step 1

Select a design to espalier your fruit tree into. Common espalier shapes include chevrons, tiers, fan shapes and candelabras.

Step 2

Choose a fruit tree to shape. Your fruit tree should be very young with supple branches that can be bent and tied into place. The tree should also not grow very tall when mature. Dwarf fruit trees are a better choice than heirloom fruit trees.

Step 3

Plant your tree as close to a wall or fence as possible. Dig a planting hole that is twice as wide, but no deeper than, the root ball. Place the tree's root ball in the hole and fill in the sides and slightly over the top with dirt. Water well and mulch around the base of the tree to choke out weeds. Do not mound up mulch around the base of the tree.

Step 4

Attach a wire trellis to the wall or fence by screwing eye hooks into the fence and attaching heavy-gauge wire between the hooks. Gradually bend your supple limbs to the shape you desire by fastening them to the wire with soft string. If the branches show signs of breaking, you will have to gradually bend them into place a little at a time.

Step 5

Prune away unwanted limbs with pruning shears. Make cuts starting outside the fork of the tree where the limb branches away. Slope the cut outward and downward, away from the tree's trunk.

Step 6

Continue to bend and tie limbs into place every three months. You must re-tie all limbs every three months to adjust for the tree's growth. Prune away any new sprouting limbs at this time.

Things You'll Need

  • Dwarf fruit tree
  • Shovel
  • Mulch
  • 9-gauge wire
  • Masonry hooks
  • Pruning shears
  • Soft cotton string

References

  • Oregon State University: Espalier training of fruit trees is fun, but demanding
  • Mississippi State University: Espalier Trees and Shrubs
  • NC State University Extension: Espalier

Who Can Help

  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Espaliers
Keywords: Espalier tree, training fruit trees, dwarf fruit trees

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."