How Does Tree Training Work?

If you’ve ever noticed a beautifully shaped tree in someone’s yard or garden, chances are it didn’t get that way by accident. The owner has likely devoted time and resources to actively influence the specimen’s growth for aesthetic and practical purposes.

So how does one start the tree training process? As the go-to tree trimming company in Fresno, we at Cut Rite Tree Service know that there’s an art and science to this practice. Keep reading as we discuss the best ways you can achieve the perfect balance of function and form with your own outdoor masterpiece.

What’s Tree Training?

You “train” a plant by strategically pruning its branches. Too many beginner gardeners make the mistake of treating this practice like a simple haircut. Just remove any stray limbs, and you’re good to go, right? Wrong.

Every cut made leaves a lasting influence on the tree’s future growth. That’s why you should always have a specific goal in mind before you start a pruning session.

Why Do It in the First Place?

Aside from transforming your tree into an attractive ornament over time, pruning also brings a wealth of practical advantages, such as:

  • Strong branching structures, reducing the risk of storm damage
  • Minimizing pest infestations and diseases
  • Encouraging full blooms and high fruit production
  • Increasing sunlight penetration for other plants

Choose the Right Tree Training System

Different species respond differently to training. Let’s discuss the three common approaches and what trees best suit them:

Open Center

The goal of an open-center or “vase-shaped” system is to leave the tree’s central area open and free of large tree branches or a main trunk with routinely trimmed water sprouts and vigorous suckers.

Often best for: Cherry, fig, nectarine, plum, peach, prune, almond, and apricot trees

Central Leader

The central leader system trains trees with a strong, upright trunk and upward-growing scaffold limbs, resulting in a triangular shape reminiscent of Christmas trees. You do this by choosing a leader, the branch that grows parallel to the trunk, and systematically pruning away any competing limbs.

Best for: Apple, pear, linden, crabapple, and walnut trees

Modified Leader or Grouped Planting

This approach helps to achieve a more “branchy” look that provides shade while still allowing some light through. You do this by selecting several branches

Best for: Sycamores, oaks, apples, pecans, and pears

Modified Central Leader

Also known as a delayed leader system, this method combines elements of the first two approaches. You start by training a young tree with the central leader method but remove the central leader as soon as the main side branches develop.

Best for: Walnut, persimmon, mulberry, elm, and other species with a tendency to fork in the main trunk

Leave the Job to Professionals

From training fruit trees with espaliering systems to finding the best permanent branch pattern and pruning thick branches with the three-cut technique, tree training is an intricate art. Call 559-320-7723 and let our crew at Cut Rite Tree Service lend you a helping hand.


We are a locally owned company that prides ourselves in providing the best service possible for the residents of Fresno, Clovis, Madera, Sanger, Folwer, Reedley and the surrounding areas.

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1806 N Temperance
Fresno, CA 93727


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