How to Espalier Apple Trees


Espaliering trees is an interesting combination of both art and horticulture that allows growers to raise fruit trees in limited space. The art was practiced in Europe through the middle ages. Fruit trees such as apple adapt well to the espalier process. To train an apple tree in the espalier method, you must start when the tree is planted. Espalier trees will require constant attention and care their entire life.

Step 1

Select a design for your espalier tree before purchasing the tree itself. Common shapes for espalier trees include chevrons, candelabras and tiers.

Step 2

Prepare your planting location by attaching a trellis to a wall your tree will grow against. You will train your tree by tying it to this trellis. Select a sunny location with well-drained soil for your espalier tree.

Step 3

Choose an apple tree for espalier that is young and supple. The limbs of the tree should bend easily without breaking. Dwarf varieties of apple tree are another ideal candidate, because the tree will never grow too large for the trellis.

Step 4

Dig a planting pocket as close to the trellis as possible. The planting pocket should be twice as wide as the tree's root ball but no deeper. Place the tree's root ball in the hole and cover with soil. Mulch around the tree to prevent grass from growing over the root ball and competing for nutrients and water.

Step 5

Bend your apple tree's branches into the desired shape. Always bend the branches gently to avoid breaking them. If your tree cannot bend to the proper shape without breaking, then bend it into shape gradually over time. Tie your tree's branches loosely to the trellis with cotton string so it doesn't into the tree's bark.

Step 6

Plan regular maintenance sessions for the espalier tree every few months. During each session, you should plan to re-bend and re-tie limbs as they grow as well as removing new limbs and sprouts.

Things You'll Need

  • Trellis
  • Masonry screws
  • Drill
  • Apple tree
  • Shovel
  • Mulch
  • Cotton ties
  • Pruning shears


  • Oregon State University: Espalier Training of Fruit Trees is Fun but Demanding
  • Mississippi State University Extension: Espalier Shrubs and Trees
  • N.C. State University: Espalier

Who Can Help

  • Ohio State University Extension: Trellis Espalier System for Supported Apple Trees
Keywords: espalier trees, bending apple trees, shaping apple trees, shaping trees, espalier apple 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."