Fan trained fruit trees are useful for situations where space is limited or as a decorative feature on walls and fences. Fruit trees requiring warm sheltered conditions or shelter from rain such as apricots and peaches are often grown as fans on warm south facing walls.
A classical fan trained tree consists of a short clear trunk of no more than 45cm (18 inches) which splits into two main arms forming a "Y" shape and a set of branches radiating out from these main arms to make a fan shape. Depending on the rootstock a mature fan trained tree would require a height of 2-3m (6-10ft) and a span of 2.5-5m (8-15ft). Most types of fruit tree can be trained as fans. But they need appropriate summer pruning and training to maintain and develop the form.
Fan trained trees are usually grown against a wall or a solid panel fence. They need a suitable support structure in the form of a set of horizontal wires at 45cm (18 inch) or closer spacing. Alternatively they can be grown in the open supported by posts and wires. While some earlier ripening or cooking apples and plums and acid cherries can be grown on a north or east facing wall or fence, ideally fan trained trees should be grown on a sunny south or west facing aspect. If planted in the open the fan arms should ideally run in a north-south direction so that both sides receive similar amounts of light.
There are two options available to you if you wish to grow fan trained trees.
The first is to buy a ready trained tree. We supply an extensive range of over 60 varieties of fan trained trees including apple, pear, quince, plum, gage, damson, peach, nectarine, apricot and cherry. In addition we offer fan trained plum, gage, peach and cherry trees on both semi-vigorous and dwarfing rootstocks to suit smaller and larger walls and fences. Unlike most other nurseries our trees are field grown and supplied bare-root in the winter. They are larger, more robust and establish better than pot grown trees. Our trees are also trained in the classical "Y" form and not as palmettes which are frequently sold as fans. As there is usually a very limited supply of these ready trained trees we advise ordering early. Please click the links for individual types of fruit at the top of this page.
Alternatively you can train you own starting from scratch. To do so you need to start with a maiden untrained one year old tree on a suitable rootstock. Semi-vigorous and semi-dwarfing rootstocks are those most commonly used for fan training. However dwarfing rootstocks can be used for smaller spaces and vigorous rootstocks for very large fans. Most varieties are suitable for training, but tip bearing apples and pears should be avoided. You can find out if a variety is a tip or spur bearer by referring to the characteristics page for that variety on our website.
As with all restricted forms the mature size is ultimately determined by pruning and training. Because of the heavy summer pruning the mature size of a fan trained tree will be much smaller than the equivalent tree grown in a non-restricted form. While there is quite a lot of flexibility, it is nevertheless important to choose a rootstock appropriate for the space you have available. If the rootstock is too vigorous you would get too much new growth every summer and would then need to prune excessively. If you have too little vigour the tree may struggle to fill the space. You also need to take into consideration the growing conditions. If conditions (soil, climate etc) are poor you should err on the vigorous side.
Fan trained trees on semi-vigorous rootstocks are suitable typically for fans of 3m (10ft) height and spread or more. Dwarfing and semi-dwarfing rootstocks are suitable for smaller fans typically 2m (7ft) height and spread. As a rough guide if you have a wall or fence area of more than about 5 sq m (50 sq ft) you should have a tree on a semi-vigorous rootstock. For anything smaller you should consider having a dwarfing rootstock as long as you have reasonable growing conditions.