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Espalier Fruit Trees – More Fruit in Less Space

Small yard? Colder climate? Try espalier!

Many people would love to grow fruit trees, but for the space it takes and the warmer climate and higher growing zones needed. Even dwarf fruit trees can take up a lot of space in smaller yards.

From midsummer through late fall, John harvests 600 pounds of apples a year from his garden. His method?  Source: MotherEarthNews.com1)Espalier!

What is Espalier?

The definition of espalier – as a noun:

  • The art of growing a tree or plant on an object such as a wall, fence, stakes or other object.
  • The object on which a plant is trained can also be an espalier

Espalier Definition – as a verb – espaliered, espaliering:

  • Espalier is the practice or action of training a tree or plant to grow on another object

Other Terms for Espalier

  • Trellis
  • Cordon

Trellis and Cordon Trees

Cordoned trees is another form of espalier.

“Cordon fruit trees are simply trees grown as a single stem, with all the fruit swelling on short laterals immediately off this central stem.”

Trellised trees is the more familiar term in the US, but espalier also indicates the type of pruning for directed growth. You can trellis trees and plants to grow to a specific shape or in a specific direction, such as flat, or 2-dimensional, without also pruning them to produce grow and produce fruit differently as in espalier.

The origin of espalier isn’t certain, however, we know it’s been around for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic paintings portray espaliered fruit trees.

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph of espaliered fig tree – image from

There are many reasons to espalier trees and plants, and no end to what kind of plants can be trellised and espaliered. For this article, we’re focusing on fruit trees.

Benefits of Espalier Fruit Trees

  • Grow more fruit in less space
  • Trains plants to produce more fruit
  • Creates protection from weather and a warm microclimate for growth
  • Provides warmth in colder climates (especially when against a southern or western wall)
  • Creates artful designs and landscapes
  • Makes harvesting easier and therefore more efficient

Harvesting espalier apple trees is much easier:

  • Harvest in one plane rather than a circling around a tree
  • Espalier can be done without a ladder if trees are kept shorter
  • If growing taller trees, it’s easier to place a ladder against the wall for picking
  • The fruit framed against a wall is easier to see and pick

Espalier trees typically produce more fruit per foot than ordinary fruit trees.

Mature espalier trees can reap between 30-60 pounds of apples, pears, peaches and pomegranates. Now that’s a lot of good eating!2)

Imagine the benefit of a fruit tree hugging a warm wall to keep warm in colder climates.

The ancient espalier technique was rediscovered by the early French and English when they found that slightly bent and horizontally trained fruit tree branches stimulated vigorous vertical growth of new spurs, which are stubby lateral branches that eventually flower and produce fruit.


Espalier tree on exterior wall

Best Fruit Trees for Espalier

Espalier Apple Tree

Apple tree espalier
Espalier Apple Tree – Belgian Fence, image by River Road Farms, Decatur, KY

Espalier Pear tree

Espalier Pear Tree
Kieffer Pear Tree Espalier, Belgian Fence, image by River Road Farms, Decatur, Kentucky
espalier pear tree image
Espalier Kieffer Pear Tree, Belgian Fence with fruit-image by River Road Farms

If you love the artistry of landscaping, you may enjoy the variety espalier brings to your yard.

Next are a couple cool videos that show us how to espalier a fruit tree.

For another informative article on how you can grow fruit trees in your backyard, you may enjoy this article and videos.2)



For more step-by-step instructions on how to espalier fruit trees, you may enjoy this article by

Typically, the best place to buy trees is from your local nursery. If they don’t have something they may be able to order it for you. However, if you don’t have one nearby, you can often find them on Amazon and have them delivered straight to your door, and Amazon does typically offer guarantees.

Where to Buy Espalier

A top US grower of espalier trees is River Road Farms in Decatur, Tennessee. You can see their intro video below, where you will learn about:

Horizontal Cordon – horizontal espalier used for living fences, dividing walls and accent plants

Belgian Fence – also used as fences and dividing wall, are formed into an intriguing trellis pattern

Candelabra espalier – a blend of horizontal and vertical espalier, good for arbors or individual specimen trees

Fan shaped espalier – branches from a central trunk in a radial fan pattern

Heart shaped espalier – double heart shaped tree, wonderful for landscape feature plants

If you loved that, you’ll also enjoy this longer version where owner Peter Thevenot (pronounced TEH-ven-oh) talks about how a trip to an American “heritage farm” inspired him to start an espalier nursery.

For more, you can visit River Road Farms at

For another informative article on how you can grow fruit trees in your backyard, you may enjoy this article and videos.3)

If you prefer to read step-by-step instructions on how to espalier fruit trees, you may enjoy this article by



Lastly, you can find more about espalier at Mother Earth News.4)

We are an online gardening publication sharing all things garden related! Including urban farming, family gardening, homesteading, gardening for profits, and more. We’re all about growth!

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