fruit tree espalier techniques

Jim Hanger - VA.(western)April 16, 2000

...wonder if this should be included in here or should we start a separate forum on apple and other fruit espalier?

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RBS - 7? Atlanta,GA

When I saw the subject, I thought "I didn't know espalier counted as topiary", but I guess you're not sure either! Maybe it would be included in the Fruit and Orchards forum. Are there many posts on that forum about espalier? I'm very interested in how to do that.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2000 at 1:44PM
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Lynne - NEFla - Z8-9

I vote it should be included in topiary. Both forms are sculptural, yes? Planching too?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2000 at 12:47AM
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Lynne - NEFla - Z8-9

Would anybody believe I meant "pleaching" in the above? The main reason I think both should be part of topiary is that both, as I said, are sculptural, as is topiary, and neither is restricted to fruit trees, though fruit is by far the most common espalier. I have a friend here in Jacksonville who is making the most incredible fence along the side of his very urban property by espaliering (?) pyracantha in the interwoven 45 degree pattern on a wire base.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2000 at 2:02PM
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Louise - Australia

What's the difference between pleaching and espaliering? I can't work it out. I got interested in pleaching when I saw the Lime Walk at Sissinghurst - magic.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2000 at 7:17AM
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Kari - NC

I'm interested in knowing how to espalier too! My sitter has a beautiful crepe myrtle that she has done. Wow!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2000 at 10:15PM
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Jill - NC

If it IS ok to include espalier here...

I saw a technique on a TV show for inducing a branch where you need one, but now I've forgotten the details. It was something about waiting until it was dormant (maybe?) and making a knick in the bark either above or below a bud.

Does anyone know how to do this? My main trunk (on an Asian Pear) is unfortunately 4 or 5 years old. Is it too late??


    Bookmark   October 25, 2000 at 3:05AM
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I haven't done any espalier pruning yet, but plan to purchase and plant several trees in the backyard soon. I have searched the web quite a bit. The following link is the best internet source for info and includes links to several other sites. There isn't a lot on the internet out there though.

I suspect espalier as a subject might belong more in the fruit tree department, but that may be my personal bias for the edible showing. I know you can espalier non-edibles, but haven't found actual pix of anything but fruits.

Here is a link that might be useful: kitchen gardener

    Bookmark   January 6, 2001 at 1:24AM
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Kate zone 5, OH

Does anyone have any suggestions for specific varieties of fruit trees, especially apple or pear, that make good espaliers? Also, how old of a tree do I start with?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2001 at 10:02AM
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You can, indeed, espalier things other than fruit trees. I have been training a purple smoke tree against the side of my white stucco house, and am very pleases with the results. I have also seen several kinds of magnolias done this way and they are lovely. I vote that this topic be included here.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2001 at 11:45AM
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jonlyd(z9 Tx (humid!))

Lynne AND Kari:

Lynne can you get a pic posted of your neighbors pyrachantha? I'm hacking mine to kill them, but then maybe if I could do something attractive with them I could move them.

Kari I would die to see the crepe myrtle espaliered. I have numerous crapes in all sizes and I am spiraling the new shoots of one of them.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2001 at 11:58PM
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I have just started researching the espaliering mainly as a form of living fence. My husband believes a chain link fence around our 1.82 acres would make it look like a junk yard while I am determined to put up something. I found a site online that says ANY tree can be trained this way but some are much less work and don't try to fight the process . I found one sight that said for fences, grow low growing species and for very low fences use dwarf species. The various Mountaion Ash(Rowan,Service,whitebeam) as well as Birch Fly Honeysuckle, Cornelian Cherry and Privet and similar low growing fruit trees have proven to be extremely suitable for living fences. Hornbeam and silver maple were also very successful.
I have not chosen my species yet as I am researching disease and pest related problems. I don't want to be spraying my fence for fungus or tent worms every year any more than I want to be spraying a traditional wood fence with stripper or finish. I am looking closely at Black Walnut, Saucer Magnolia, and several varieties of Cherry. I found a site that sells tree seedlings at 1 to2 dollars a tree with a minimum order of 25. Perfect for a fence. I will post the site address when I find it again. The information I got about living fences is at

    Bookmark   January 18, 2002 at 11:15AM
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Preeva(9 Palo Alto)

I have a 5-way grafted apple I need to espalier. Was thinking of stringing wires against my wood fence, had just gotten the eye bolts driven, and was wondering about air circulation--maybe tying the branches right to the fence is a bad idea?
--Preeva in Palo Alto

    Bookmark   January 25, 2002 at 11:54PM
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Regarding air circulation for espaliered trees against fences. It is my understanding that you need at least 4-6" of room between a solid fence and the tree. This can be accomplished with eyebolts that are long enough.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2002 at 7:24PM
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poseyplanter(5A IL)

Wow. This is a slow, steady conversation. Been goin' on for a coupla years, yawn, stretch.

Well, me too, me too!

I am interested in espalier. I like the idea of an espalier forum, but since I'm interested in fruit trees, I go to the Fruit & Orchard Forum.

In May, 2002, I planted 21 apple tree 'whips' to create a Belgium Fence pattern. They are doin' just fine. Some of them, are doing too well because I purchased them on too vigorous rootstock (M7/G30). I just finished tying them last week and they look beautiful. Now, I am studying ways to restrict the growth of the too vigorous trees:/ sigh There's a learning curve, at least for me.

Make sure you get trees on DWARF stock, not semi-dwarf! PP

    Bookmark   October 3, 2002 at 9:46PM
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Jungle_Jim(zone 8 / WA)

I am so excited I found this topic. So before I even read the rest of the terrific replies to the original post I'm leaving my story here. I bought my home two years ago which included a beautiful old apple tree in the back yard. Well, the property got divided (a very long and sad story) and I lost the apple tree to the neighbor who made a very big deal of harvesting the apples this year. She only harvested them when I was home and available to see her doing it. Argggghhhh.... so I then ran across articles on espaliering apple trees. I have seen people who use them along walkways and as dividers, etc. I am thrilled and plan on using this technique to divide my backyard from my pond area with a 4-5 foot high espaliered apples. I also plan to use them as a divider between my front yard and hers a span of about 20 feet or so. It should look gorgeous. I have to rub her nose in it somehow, LOL. Now... I have seen several different techniques. Some people use wire and some use a wood trellis effect. Is one more effective than the other? I'm thinking I probably want two trees to span the area of about 15 feet in the backyard. Would that be enough or should I use 3 trees? Do I plant the trees now, in fall, or wait until Spring? So many questions and so many answers to find. Next, of course is the type of apple I want. Now, I'm off to read the rest of this thread... thanks way in advance....Jim

    Bookmark   October 13, 2002 at 5:04AM
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poseyplanter(5A IL)

Hey Jungle Jim!

Regarding how many trees to plant...well, it depends on how vigorous they are. The more vigorous the fewer trees. If you plan to espalier them horizontally, you can use a more vigerous tree. My Belgium Fence pattern requires lots of trees, so they need to be dwarf/very dwarf to stay under 6Â tall.

Check out the Fruit & Orchard Forum! There are some resident amateur apple experts who are generous with their advice, especially regarding cultivars. You will need to do some studying though.

I would recommend these books. (You'll learn a lot about root stocks, pruning, patterns) You may find them through your local library. They are older, but still in print.
Training and Pruning of Apple and Pear Trees by C.G. Forshey, D.C. Elfving, and R.L. Stebbins
Dwarfed Fruit Trees by Harold B. Tukey


    Bookmark   October 14, 2002 at 12:55PM
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I highly recommend using high tensile fencing for horizontal training of branches. Other patterns probably wouldn't work with this type of fencing. It can withstand tremendous weight when properly installed, it is very affordable, and it will last a minimum of 40 years. It works great for trellised fruit trees and grapes/vines. Let me know if you want more info.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2002 at 9:18AM
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swang(z10 CA)

Hi, I have some really basic questions about training an apple into a fan shape. Can someone help me? Is now the right time in San Francisco to start doing this? I saw they are selling Fuji apple trees that are semi-dwarf at Home depot. Is there a time in the year that it is too late to start training a tree. In all the pictures I see they do it when there are no leaves on the tree yet. If I waited until next month would it be too late to start training it? And my other question is about size. I want to make it fill a space about 6 feet wide and 8 feet tall. Will this work? For this type of tree? Thanks a lot!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2003 at 12:46PM
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I am wondering about pruning my espalier pear tree. It is about three years old, and is actually three different varieties grafted onto one central stem. I have tied the horizontal branches onto some wire, but now there are a lot of vertical shoots growing up from the branches. Does anyone know how much I should prune the shoots back?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2003 at 3:42PM
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poseyplanter(5A IL)

Hi oldkluger,

Hmm, I have no experience with pears and know nothing about your climate.

Have you also tried the Fruit & Orchard Forum? There are some people who hang out there who are knowledgeable about fruit trees.

IÂve read that pears develop spur systems more readily than apples and do not need as much pruning to develop spurs. Summer pruning is done more to control the size and shape of the tree. Again, this is only arm-chair expertise, not personal experience.

Useful books:

  • Pruning & Training (American Horticultural Society) by Christopher Brickell

  • Dwarfed Fruit Trees by Harold B. Tukey

More books listed in article by Nafex:


    Bookmark   December 12, 2003 at 7:35AM
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I have purchased an apple tree that is already an espalier tree. I sure didn't expect to fin d that at Home Depot! Anyway, how do I maintain its shape? Do I cut off all of the vertical branches when they emerge? I have several like that. Maybe I just cut off the branches that are starting to face outward? Help?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:36AM
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poseyplanter(5A IL)

Hi d_giffin!

I searched on your moniker on the Fruit & Orchards Forum and did not get any hits. There is a fair amount of discussion about espalier there. I would encourage you to check it out:)

LOL!! Here are two fairly recent posts in which I recommend the same books there as I recommended to oldkluger above in 2003. Still good books.

Do a search on espalier on that forum and you will find other posts.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 9:28PM
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I purchased an established Bartlet Pear espalier last year. This spring the tree flowered profusley and then it looks like something is feasting on the leaves,they are full of holes. The tree is full of little fruit that appear to be undamaged.I purchased a fruit and shrub spray that was recommened. The leaves seemed to have little black specks that after being sprayed seemed to turn mushy. Does anyone know whats going on,an insect or a disease?Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 7:48PM
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