Espalier fruit trees used as a garden divider

How to train a fruit tree

Discover the best ways to train various fruiting plants.

Trained fruit trees are a fantastic way of incorporating fruit into a small garden, or a wide variety of fruits into a larger garden.


Trained against a wall or fence, they take up hardly any room, and provide abundant crops. You can also use them as a screen or divider.

More fruit tree content:

The main tree shapes are espaliers, fans and cordons – but which shape suits each type of fruit? Read on to find out.

Apples and pears


Apples and pears are usually trained as espaliers or cordons, with the tree grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock to restrict its vigour. If training one yourself from scratch, choose a spur-bearing variety (most varieties are spur-bearing), as tip-bearers aren’t suitable for pruning in this way.

Stone fruit

Ripe cherries on a fan-trained tree
Ripe cherries on a fan-trained tree

Stone fruit – cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines – are traditionally trained as fans, as the shape suits their vigour and the fruit ripens better when given the warmth of a wall.


Fan-trained fig tree, against a wooden shed
Fan-trained fig tree, against a wooden shed

Figs are often grown as fans, too – as they also like the additional heat radiating from a wall in summer. As a bonus, the rubble at the base of many walls also restricts their roots, which stops them growing too leafy and promotes fruiting.

Soft fruits

Ripe gooseberries on the bush
Ripe gooseberries on the bush

Gooseberries, redcurrants and whitecurrants crop brilliantly when trained as double or triple cordons. They look great trained against a wall or standing independently as a garden divider.

Planting bareroot fruit trees

You’ll find the best selection of varieties sold as bareroot trees in winter. This is a cheaper way of buying them, too.

Gardening gloves. Photo: Getty Images.