Espalier fruit trees used as a divider

How to train a fruit tree

Discover which trained tree shape - a cordon, fan or espalier - is best for which type of fruit.

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.


Watch our video guide to planting an apple tree.

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

Trained fruit trees are a fantastic way of incorporating fruit into a small garden.

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 keen on the pruning that is an essential part of training. 


Stone fruit

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. 



Figs are often grown as fans, too – as they also like the additional heat radiating from a wall in the 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

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.