Fruit Tree Espalier Guide

Whether you create your own mini-orchard, or choose to grow a few in pots on your balcony, fruit trees are fun to grow and can give many years reward of fresh, juicy homegrown fruit! For those with a smaller space, looking to cover a fence, or even just looking to create a bit of theatre in the garden, espaliering is a great option. Find out how to espalier fruit trees below.

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Download a printable PDF guide here


1. Select a fruit tree, apples and pears both work well. Choose an upright growing variety with a straight stem, with two branches on opposite sides lower down on the stem, and ideally another two approximately 30cm higher.

2. Train wire along your fence, approximately 30cm apart. Ensure the lowest wire is at the same height as the bottom two branches you want to train.


3. The best times to plant are early in the morning or late in the day, so your tree isn't exposed to the hot sun straight away. Soak your tree in a bucket of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic to help prevent transplant shock.

4. Dig a hole approximately twice the depth and width of the root ball of the tree and partly fill with Tui Garden Mix. This has all of the essential nutrients your fruit trees need to get off to the best start.

5. Place the tree in the hole, and fill in with Tui Garden Mix, ensuring the tree is no deeper than it was in the container or bag.

6. Train the lower branches along the lower wire, and the next two branches along the second wire.

7. If you were able to find a tree with more sets of branches 30cm apart, continue onto the third, fourth wire etc. However if not (and the more likely scenario) you will need to cut the central growing tip (at the top of the tree) just below the next wire, making sure there are nodes (where the leaf comes out from the tree) below the cut so new branches can grow and be trained along the next wire.


8. Plants use nutrients from the soil as they grow, so replenishing the nutrients ensures your fruit trees grow to their full potential. Feed your tree with Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser in spring and summer.

9. Don’t forget to water your tree too – especially over the warm summer months.

Tui Tips

  • If you have a branch on one side, but not one on the other, in spring you can cut a notch, as shown, and this will force a branch.
  • The weather, weeds, pest insects and diseases can all impact on the success of your fruit trees. Protect your fruit trees from the elements with layers of Tui Mulch & Feed, to help keep their roots moist. Keep the area around your tree weed free.

Illustrations on how to espalier:

Find out when and how to prune your fruit trees here


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Fruit Tree Espalier Guide Comments

  • I have learnt how to espalier my apple tree but how do I prune it for the next season? Do I cut back all those extra bits that have sprung up all over the tree?


    • Hi Kath, espalier trees benefit from summer pruning and winter pruning. In summer if you cut back the long branches that shoot up, a fruiting spur should appear and so cut back above the fruiting spur. Vegetative growth are long skinny branches, fruiting spurs are shorter fatter stubby branches. Prune to maintain shape.

      Tui Team

  • Can you tell me if you can espalier a plumb tree?


    • Hi Harry, apples and pears are most suited for espaliering because they have more flexible branches. Stone fruit such as peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries are not as suited as their branches are brittle and this can be harder to train horizontally. 

      Tui Team

    • We've done a plum it's awesome


    • I have three espalier plum trees, two were several years old when we started altering the shape. The third tree was young and therefore no hassle to start the shaping. The local bird population were having a feast every year - something had to be done and it worked!

      Sylvie Taylor