Pruning is an important task that will ensure that your established espalier trees will grow and produce flowers and fruit as they should. You should plan on an annual winter pruning which is best carried out as soon as the leaves have fallen. More info can be found on building supports for your espalier fruit trees or ornamentals, or general information on how to espalier.
Your espalier may be pruned into whichever shape you may choose. The diagram to the right shows three ways to train and prune your espalier. Regardless, of which form you choose, you will need to prune each side or lateral shoot which has developed along the horizontal branches should be cut back to within two or three buds of the base. The leading or extension shoot at the end of each branch should be lightly tipped if of moderate growth.
A young leader shoot should be shortened by about ⅓ of its length. The spurs which form along the main branches as a result of this pruning should be kept 5 or 6 inches apart. When they become long and very branched, they should be cut back to leave only three or four fruit buds on each.
*Aged espalier trees need special care in shortening and regulating the old, gnarled spurs. If this is not done, you may have weak blossoms and poor cropping.
Espalier trees should be pruned each summer. In July each lateral or side shoot should be pinched back to within about five to six leaves of the base. Any secondary growth that follows this summer pruning should be pinched off in early September, or when it appears.
Root Pruning Your Espalier
Young espalier trees often grow much too vigorously. To check growth and to encourage fruiting, they should be lifted in October. The roots should be shortened and the trees replanted in the same place. Older trees which cannot be lifted must be root-pruned by taking out a trench around the tree and cutting back any thick roots in autumn.
*Note- the general care of your espalier tree will have the same cultural care, spraying, and harvesting requirements as will any other normal growing fruit tree. Find information on your particular type of tree and treat it the same.