How to Espalier a Lime Tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Espaliering is a method of training trees to grow in two dimensions rather than three. This process is most frequently employed on fruit trees such as limes. The style of tree training can adapt a tree to areas where regular lime trees would not fit. Gardeners train espaliered trees to grow in predetermined shapes such as chevrons, candelabras or tiers. The process of espaliering is simple, although training a tree in this method is quite time consuming.

Dig a hole for a tree against the south side of a brick or stone wall. Because limes are among the most cold sensitive trees in the home landscape, the south-facing wall will absorb heat through the day and release it at night to warm the lime tree. The hole should be twice as wide as the tree's root ball and exactly the same depth. Place the tree's root ball into the hole, and fill in the space between the soil wall and the root ball with soil. The main trunk of the tree should be 6 inches away from the wall.

Determine which pattern that you wish to train your espalier tree into. Potential patterns include palmate, chevron, tiered, cordon or candelabra. Attach a masonry drill into a cordless drill, and drill holes into the masonry in a grid pattern behind the tree.

Insert a masonry anchor into each drilled hole. Screw an eye bolt into each masonry hanger.

Pass 9-gauge wire through each eye bolt, and attach the wire by twisting it around the end bolts to create a sturdy trellis.

Bend and shape limbs into the espalier shape by tying them loosely into their proper position against the trellis with cloth plant ties. If a limb will not bend into place without breaking, bend it as far as it will naturally go and tie it in that position. Once the limb naturally grows in that position, bend it a little further. Keep bending the limb over time until it reaches the desired shape.

Prune unwanted branches by cutting them back with pruning shears to a point just outside of the bark ridge formed between the tree's trunk and the limb.

Examine the tree once weekly and adjust the ties as needed. Water the tree using the equivalent of 1 inch of rainfall every 10 days.

Plan major pruning and training sessions every three months.

Things You'll Need

  • Lime tree
  • Shovel
  • Drill
  • Masonry bit
  • Masonry anchors
  • Eye bolts
  • 9-gauge wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Soft plant ties
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About the Author

Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.