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Planting service tree - location, soil, planting instructions and care

The service tree is one of the rarest and most attractive tree species found in Germany. Whoever plants it contributes to the conservation of the species.

The plant has been cultivated for more than a thousand years. It was once indispensable in the villages and on the farms. In Germany, the heat-loving plant is predominantly found in wine-growing regions. The rose family comes from the same family as the mountain ash. The trees can grow up to 20 meters high in our latitudes and form protruding crowns. The service tree has many names that indicate its earlier popularity:

  • Spier tree
  • Schmerbirne
  • Sperber tree
  • Spier apple
  • service tree
  • Sperbelbaum

The service tree - a rare guest in the home garden

A few decades ago, the sparrowhawk tree in Germany was almost at risk of extinction. Therefore extensive breeding measures were taken in the 1980s. In 1993 the service tree was chosen as the tree of the year.

Since the plants are still extremely rare in domestic gardens, ensure the survival of the species and give your offspring the prospect of the yellow-red fruits and the pretty autumn colors. True service trees can live to be more than 150 years old.

But be careful: the service tree is quickly confused with the related mountain ash. While the rowanberry has hairy, black-brown buds, the sparrow has hairless, greenish-brown and slightly sticky buds.

Where can you buy gargoyles?

Since a service tree cannot be compared to a conventional apple or pear tree and is not offered in every plant market, nurseries specialized in rearing are the right contact. If the seeds come from vital mother plants, which have been tested for their suitability for breeding, you have the advantage that you get strong plants that are easy to cultivate and grow well. It is generally advisable to buy strong container plants. Older trees with strong root balls grow much better than small and weak plantlets, which are also often affected by fungal diseases.

Choose the right location

In wine-growing regions, the preferred climatic conditions prevail for the service tree. The first basic rule for planting is: Service trees need a lot of space. As a solitary plant, the spore apple can grow up to 20 meters high. If you do not want to use a spreading crown, but rather use the tree specifically for fruit production in the garden, pruning measures are necessary and it is advisable to buy grafted plants.

The plants also need a lot of light, warmth and space. Nevertheless, the trees will grow quite slowly and can therefore establish themselves as fruit trees in the allotment for several years. Older plants, however, are difficult to transplant. You should definitely consider this when choosing a location.

Take the soil quality into account

Servicelings need a nutrient-rich soil. For example, they tolerate warm and dry soils with a high lime content very well. It is not advisable to use sandy soils and a heavy and moist substrate. Young plants in particular are sensitive to waterlogging. You can avoid this by creating a drainage when planting.

Since the tree has been cultivated for a thousand years, the natural range cannot be precisely determined, but at best it can be circled. The plant is mainly found in the following regions:

  • Balkans
  • Crimea peninsula
  • Eastern Spain
  • Asia Minor

In Germany, the best location conditions prevail in the southwestern region. Natural stocks of around 2,500 specimens can be found in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. For example in the Moselle Valley, Neckar Valley and Rhine Valley as well as in Lower Franconia and in the Taunus.

When should gargoyles be planted?

The ideal planting time for the service tree is autumn. Due to the winter moisture, an optimal closing of the ground is guaranteed. The roots will start their activity in March. If you plant the trees in spring, you need to water and silt the plants very well.

How to properly plant gargoyles:

  1. Select location.
  2. Water the root ball.
  3. Prepare the soil.
  4. Remove stones and weeds.
  5. Apply compost or manure as slow-release fertilizer.
  6. Dig out the planting hole three times the size of the root ball.
  7. Insert the plant.
  8. Fill in the planting hole with soil.
  9. Press the floor down well.
  10. Water the plant sufficiently.

So that the young plants cannot bend, they should be given a stick as a support.

How to properly care for the young plants

Anlegen Put on bite protection against rodents:

Even if it is a robust and long-lived tree, the young plants are nevertheless quite sensitive and susceptible to diseases. The roots are also often the target of mice and other rodents. It is therefore advisable to put on bite protection. This should be done directly when planting. Simply place a small, tight-meshed wire basket in the excavated planting hole. Above ground, rabbit wire is suitable as protection against biting. You can attach this directly to the pillar.

❍ Use broad spectrum fungicide against scab fungi:

Young plants are susceptible to scab fungi. In the first few years, the use of a broadband fungicide was therefore a good idea. After budding, simply treat the buds with an agent that is also used against apple scab.

❍ Protect fruits from birds:

Servicelings grow quite slowly and need regular watering for the first few years. Older plants, on the other hand, tolerate longer periods of drought. This is because drought-resistant tap roots develop over the years. Older plants therefore often do not require any further protective measures. However, the fruit of the tree is often the target of birds. If you want to use the fruits, you can use a net here.

Planting a service tree - advantages and disadvantages at a glance


+ The service tree is a rare tree that is sure to attract attention.
+ The fruits can be recycled and processed into fruit brandy, for example.
+ The trees are growth-friendly and durable.


- The plants need a lot of space. Solitary plants reach heights of up to 20 meters.
- Regular cutting measures are necessary for fruit production.
- The plants should come from renowned tree nurseries.
- Young and weak sproutlings are prone to fungal diseases.