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Simple Tips for Growing Espalier Fruit Trees

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

By Rosie Cousin

What is Espalier?

Espalier is a French method of cultivating fruit trees involving trellising of trees creating a flattened growing surface that produces a wall of fruit.


Espalier is excellent where garden space is limited.

It is easy to maintain netting over flattened trees for protection against fruit predation by birds.

Selection of fruit trees:

Espalier is excellent for productive growth of pome, stone or citrus fruit trees in constrained garden spaces.

Choose fruit trees that are suited to your soil and climatic conditions and ensure the best solar orientation of the fruit trees before planting.

We choose dwarf rootstock as it is easier to control the upward growth than vigorous, full growth rootstock.

When pruning:

  • Many different growing patterns can formed by creative pruning. Rather than early fruit production, think about the shape and structure of your fruit trees in the early stages of growth.

  • Set the pattern and desired height of growth that you want and focus on leaf buds growing in the direction that suits your desired pattern.

  • Distinguish between leaf buds and fruit buds. On peach, and stone fruit, buds will form on the previous year’s wood. Citrus form buds on the tips of new growth.

  • Leaf or vegetative buds will produce not only leaves but also further growth spurs and are vital for shaping your espalier over time. Leaf buds are generally pointy, lying flat and close to the stem located along the stem.

  • Fruit buds will generate fruit bearing blossom. Fruit buds are small, fat, or squat and furry, generally located on the tips of stems or along fruiting spurs.

  • Remember there are more fruit bearing buds than a tree can cope with in any one growing season, so some buds can be sacrificed for the overall shape and health of the tree without damaging fruit productivity. Allow your trees to establish its growth pattern before retaining a lot of fruit buds.

  • Cut the underside growing branches and tips to ensure adequate air space around the flattened trees.

  • Do not train branches downward – always train them upward and across to meet adjoining tree branches. Prune outward growing leaf and fruit buds or growth spurs to flatten growth.

  • Prune excess upright branches and those that conflict with each other. Tip pruning stimulates growth hormones.

  • Branches from adjoining espalier trees can be grafted to form a single continuous living entity. Parallel branches can be but-joined to form a single continuous tree. After a few years when the branches are united, the trellising system can be removed as the continuous tree system will be stable against wind.

  • Make pruning cuts at 45 degrees to ensure water flows off and does not pool. Large cuts may need tar paste to ensure water-tightness of the cut.

Tools required:

  • Strong upright poles well secured in the ground with three or four wires tensioned between

  • Cable ties to train growth spurs

  • Falco or other good quality pruning sheers and folding pruning saw that are sharpened and sterilised before use

  • Grafting knife

  • Grafting tape

  • Medium to hardwood growth hormone powder

Rosie Cousin

Grand Ridge Organics

70 Mirboo Yarragon Rd

Allambee South Vic 3871

Mob 0416068155

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