Help us achieve our goals:
make a donation »
Join the RHS today and
support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
A magical gift that grows all year
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Make a donation
Join the RHS today and support our charity
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
See what events are on near you and browse your bookmarked pages.
The main pruning season for grape vines is early winter, but they need regular pruning and maintenance throughout the growing season to keep them manageable and productive. The two main pruning systems are the Guyot system and the rod and spur (cordon) system.
Grape vines, whether grown for dessert or wine, and indoors or outdoors, need regular pruning and training to keep them under control and producing good fruit yields.
The main pruning time is early winter (late November or December). Pruning later can cause the vine to bleed sap, weakening the plant.
Training and pinching out of new shoots, as well as thinning of fruits, is carried out in spring and summer.
No matter where you grow your grape vines, you will need to put up some sort of support system.
Against a wall or in a glasshouse: Use 2-3mm diameter galvanised wires stretched horizontally along the wall or between the glazing bars of the glasshouse. Space them 30cm (1ft) apart. Thread the wires through ’vine eyes’ which are made specifically for this purpose and can be bought to screw into wood or masonry, or to clip into the aluminium glazing bars of the glasshouse.
In open ground: Construct a post and wire support using 2m (6½ft) x 10cm (4in) pressure-treated timber posts driven 45cm (18in) into the ground and positioned 4-4.5m (13-15ft) apart. Stretch 2-3mm diameter galvanised wire between the posts, fixing the wires to the posts with screw-in vine eyes. Attach the first two wires 40cm (16in) and 55cm (22in) above ground level. Subsequent wires should be double, secured on each side of the posts, and at 30cm (1ft) intervals from the lower wires.
The Guyot system: This form of training has either one or two fruiting arms growing from the main stem (single or double Guyot accordingly). It is used for vines grown outdoors, either dessert or wine cultivars.
The rod and spur (cordon) system: This system is usually used for indoor grapes in glasshouses or conservatories, and for growing grapes against walls.
Growing grape vines in containers: Where space is limited, vines can be pruned and trained as standards, with a single stem with a head of branches at the top. Standards lend themselves easily to container cultivation.
Grapes: indoors and out by Harry Baker and Ray Waite (Cassel Illustrated/The Royal Horticultural Society, 2003, ISBN 1844030644)
This book is available through the RHS Lindley Library.
Indoor grapes commonly suffer from the fungal disease powdery mildew and the similar-looking disorder known as shanking. They can also suffer from grey mould (Botrytis), downy mildew and various glasshouse pests, including scale insects and red spider mite.
Vine erinose mite is a common but luckily harmless pest that causes parts of the leaf to bulge upwards, appearing blistered. On the underside of these areas there is a dense mat of fine, whitish hairs, which darken to yellowish-brown during the growing season.
Grapes: indoor cultivationGrapes: outdoor cultivationGrapes: the Guyot pruning systemGrapes: the rod and spur pruning systemGrapevine diseasesFruit: growing in containers
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
In this fully revised edition, you’ll find updated advice by the RHS experts on what, when and how to prune.
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
Register for the site or sign in to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9