10 Plants to Espalier and How to Get Started

If you’ve been thinking about finding a way to be a little more creative with the plants that you grow – especially trees, shrubs, and some of the woody and more hardy vines – the odds are pretty good that you’ve got inspiration from plant designs that have grown right up against flat surfaces (like fences, walls, or trellises).

Well, believe it or not there is actually a technical term for growing plants in specific shapes and patterns against flat surfaces – and that term is espalier.

Below we dive a little deeper into what espalier is, why you should start planning your espalier project now, and highlight 10 plants that really do well with this specific approach.

Let’s dig right in!

What is Espalier?

Espalier has been practiced for literally thousands of years, and ancient agricultural practice researchers believe was initially experimented with by the Romans though it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that Europeans really started to master the art.

The word espalier itself is French, though it comes from an Italian root word that basically translates to “something to rest your shoulders against”. A lot of early espalier work was done with trellises almost exclusively, but today espalier projects can be successfully pulled off in a wide variety of applications.

How to Plant Espalier

Mastering the art of espalier at first seems a little daunting and maybe even a little bit intimidating – but once you dig beneath the surface you’ll find that it is pretty simple and straightforward as long as you follow these basics.

Plan a Pattern

The first thing you need to do is establish the espalier pattern that you are going to use going forward.

This pattern should not only be informed by how you want the finished product to look but also by the types of plants you are going to be using. Fruit trees usually work best in horizontal espalier projects simply because of the way that they grow and the way that the fruit set can be maximized, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Pick a Spot

Secondly, you’ll need to make sure that the location for your espalier has been carefully selected.

Almost any solid wall will do well enough provided that there is plenty of light and space for the plant to grow, though you can also obviously use trellises as well. You can even start in containers if you’re looking to jumpstart the process indoors during the colder winter and spring months.

Choose the Right Plant

There are a lot of plants that can be used in a espalier application, but plants that have branches that naturally want to spread really work best. Below we highlight 10 great plants that you want to consider using a espalier project moving forward.

Establish Your Support

Lastly, it’s critically important that you prepare plenty of support to establish your espalier design right out of the gate and in the early stages.

This is when plants are going to be youngest and weakest, and you need to be sure that they have plenty of support to lean on until they are able to grow, mature, and solidify themselves in the espalier pattern you’ve created.

10 Great Plants to Espalier Now

As we highlighted just a moment ago, plants that have naturally spreading branches that can get pretty strong and pretty robust are the best options to pick and choose from when you are getting started.

Below we highlight 10 great plants that you can start using in a espalier setup right away!

  • Apple Trees
  • Dwarf Lemon Tree
  • Fig Tree
  • Japanese Maple
  • Olive Tree
  • Peach Tree
  • Juniper
  • Jasmine
  • Star Magnolia
  • Tangerine Tree

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