Espalier Pear Tree Maintenance: How To Espalier A Pear Tree

Espaliered Pear Tree Against A Brick Wall
(Image credit: Cynthia Shirk)

An espaliered tree is a flattened tree grown alone one plane. By careful pruning and training, you can espalier a pear tree along the wires of a trellis. This classic garden focal point also maximizes your garden space. Read on for information on how to espalier a pear tree.

Growing Espalier Pear Trees

You can espalier a pear tree along a wall or fence, or else along a walkway. In either case, you’ll need to first plant the tree. Pick among pear trees suitable for espalier. One of the popular pear trees suitable for espalier is the Kieffer pear (Pyrus ‘Kieffer’). This cultivar grows fast and vigorously and doesn’t require pollinators. It generally starts producing fruit at two years old. Kieffer pears rank high among pear trees suitable for espalier because they are very resistant to disease and can be grown in chillier temperatures, down to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 4. Other good pear cultivars to try for espalier are:

  • ‘Bartlett’
  • ‘Red Sensation Bartlett’
  • ‘Harrow’s Delight’

How to Espalier a Pear Tree

If you are growing espalier pear trees along a wall or fence, plant your trees some 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm.) from the structure. For growing espalier pear trees along a walkway, construct a frame trellis and install it at the same time as the tree. Only trees that are one or two years old can be espaliered. Typically, when you start growing espalier pear trees, you train the tree branches along the wires of a trellis. You can select among various espalier designs, including the single vertical cordon, the single horizontal cordon, the verrier candelabra and the drapeau marchand. Build the first level of the trellis before you plant the tree. All that you need for the first few years of pear tree growth are the lower horizontal and inner vertical components of the trellis. You tie the flexible young branches of the young tree to the trellis wires. You can erect higher features of the trellis as time passes. Once the lower branches are trained, start training the upper, inner branches. You’ll probably have to wait about a decade for the espaliered tree to reach its mature size.

Espalier Pear Tree Maintenance

The first year, while the tree is dormant, cut off the top of the tree several inches above the point you want your first tier of lateral branches. When small branch buds swell along the tree’s main leader, remove all except the half dozen closest to your first tier wire. Pick the two branches closest to the guide wires to become the first horizontal tier. Pick the bud with the most vertical growth to be the new leader. This will, in time, become the second tier of branches. Remove the other three once you are certain these are established. As the selected branches grow, tie them to the wires every six inches (15 cm.). You have to keep up with espalier pear tree maintenance to keep your tree looking tidy. Prune back side shoots to about 6 inches (15 cm.) on a monthly basis during the growing season. If you prune too short, you will have less fruit.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.