Espalier Questions

I want to do an espalier on a South-facing wall. I have never done one before, so before starting I would like to fact-check some of the advice I have seen online.

One of the articles said apple is the best tree to start with if you’re a beginner because it is the most pliable. Also that you will get much heavier fruiting with a spur variety, and that it is best to use a dwarfing rootstock (they specifically recommended M27).

Is all of this true? If so, I can get Arkansas Black Spur or Bisbee Spur Red Delicious locally, since I live about 20 miles from Bay Laurel Nursery. But it would be on M111 rootstock. Would this make a significant difference? If so, any suggestions on other sources to purchase the tree from?

Thanks, as always, for sharing your expertise :slight_smile:

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Hi there! I love to talk espalier! Mine are in their 3rd year and look good. No fruit yet though. I used M111 root stock because I’m in the hot South and it was recommended for that. I was told the semi dwarf roots are more hardy for heat and drought. The only thing I’ve noticed with the larger rootstock is that multiple prunes are needed in a season. Mine outgrow their shape frequently.
It’s really good you’re making sure they are spurs in advance though. I went with the varieties recommended for my climate from an apple expert who admitted he didn’t know much about espalier. I’m not positive they are spurring varieties which has led to some interesting pruning choices.


Thanks! It’s good to know the M111 is working out for you.

My enthusiasm got the better of me and I just finished ordering the Arkansas Black Spur from Bay Laurel. So for better or worse, that is what it will be…

It’s so hard to not go overboard. Arkansas Black is a delicious apple! It’s one that survives here in the South and is well loved.
The other option is grafting other varieties to some of the espalier branches too!


Lol, I don’t think I want to do any additional grafting on this one. I already have an apple Franken-tree that is barely 3 feet tall and already has 5 varieties grafted to it. If I can just get the Arkansas Black to be a pretty espalier that covers up my ugly blank wall and bears a few apples, that will be good enough.

Do you have pictures of your espaliers?

My thoughts are…
M27 could be kind of small…
M111 to much vigor for many varieties as espalier.
M 9 size works well.
However spur type ark black . Is a excellent choice.
Even on m111 should be manageable as espalier .
I have spur ark black here on m111, not espalier , but very well behaved trees, don’t require much pruning.


I haven’t tried Arkansas black but have heard it is tasty. If you already have other apple trees I wouldn’t be too worried about trying another espalier type, I started with Asian pears and they have been forgiving enough for a beginner

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It’s hard to see them with all the bushes and lawn in the back, but here they are!


Those look great!

I do have other apples, but not Arkansas Black yet, and it is one of the ones I planned on having eventually anyway. It is a tasty apple.

Thank you!! They have been my labor of love. I’m out there picking off bugs and pinching off shoots on a regular basis :slight_smile:

These are mine.
First one is a pear espalier. I’m chip budding to the trunk to get the arms where I want them. Not going too well. But I’m not in any rush so I’ll kee at it.

This one is a plum/pluot/apricot espalier. So far I got 7arms growing horizontally as they should and one arm growing vertically. That one is an attempt at green grafting. I couldn’t bend it to horizontal without risking the graft breaking. I’ll figure something out for it come spring.:slightly_smiling_face:


I’ve hit a minor setback on my espalier pear and I’m not sure how to proceed. It grew almost to the second wire last year, with buds positioned well for scaffolds on the first wire. Let it grow a bit and then pinched off the growing tips on the top part of the tree. So far so good.

My trouble is that on the lower wire, one bud for the left side took off, and then each of the two candidate buds for the right grew a few leaves and then stopped (one after the other, otherwise I would have just picked one to let grow). So now I have one branch on the whole tree that is growing vigorously, with nothing to balance it on the other side.

How would you handle this? My best guess is to pinch the growing tip on the vigorous branch and see what happens, but I’m very open to suggestions. Here are the other two buds that grew and stopped. You can see where I notched early this spring for a third bud, which of course decided not to do anything.


I’ve had similar things happen. A couple of things you might try, in addition to taking the tip off the more vigorous branch:

  • Bend the more vigorous branch down (below horizontal).
  • Don’t bend the less vigorous branch down until the growth starts to balance out.
  • Notch the trunk below the more vigorous branch.
  • Notch the trunk above the less vigorous branch. (I see that you already tried something along these lines, but I’ve found that repeated attention sometimes does the trick).
  • More drastic but possibly necessary: cut back to the first tier until more balanced growth is established.

Hope this is helpful!


I’m having issues with my apple espalier as well, except my problem is that I have both horizontal tiers growing well, but can’t get it to sprout vertically from the top again to start making the 3rd (uppermost) tier. I may have to be satisfied with 2 tiers, which wasn’t my original plan.

My uninformed advice from beginner to beginner would be to pinch the top center growth tip to force growth to the lower side branches. But then you may have the same problem I’m having. Or maybe try draping some shade cloth over the vigorous side of the tree to slow it down, then hopefully the other side might catch up.

All the articles I find on espalier training go into great detail about building the support structure, then the last step is “Train the tree”, with no further explanation or detail. It’s very frustrating for those of us who are trying to learn.


Thanks! I’ll try the notching and bending first. I’ll cut back to the first tier if that doesn’t do the trick.

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The most important thing when starting a Horizontal Espalier is to let the first layer fully grow to its full length and thickness before starting with the second layer. This can take up to 3 years.

I see that you are already working on the second layer while your first layer has just begun. This will never turn out right.

What I do in these situations is prune everything at the height of the first layer on a crown cut (kroonsnede) (0.5 cm), allowing the side buds (neven ogen) to sprout.

These side buds are exactly at the same height, and with them, you will form the first layer.

You let one branch grow straight up, which will become your leader. Keep topping this at about 20 cm so that the bottom layer can fully grow first.


Dit is what wil happen when u do the cuts above:




@Roland , do you have any suggestions for pruning and maintaining tip bearing apples on a vertical espalier system? Thanks in advance.