Growing Grapes in Containers: How to grow grape vines in pots

Lack of space isn’t a reason not to grow grapes in your garden. Most people assume grapes require a lot of space, but even those who don’t have any yard space can try growing grapes in containers. 

This isn’t a task that I recommend for new gardeners. It is moderately difficult, so for brand new gardeners, the care and upkeep of grapes can be more than you feel comfortable doing. If you’re up for the challenge, learning how to grow grapes in pots can be a fun adventure.

  • Growing a grapevine in a pot requires a rather large container, typically 15-20 gallons, to grow to optimal size.
  • Use a loose, well-draining potting soil mixture in your containers that is full of compost. Compost should be added each year to give a nutrient boost to your grapes.
  • The best times to plant grapevines in container are either in the spring or the fall.
  • You will need to train your grapevines to grow up a trellis or support system. You also need to learn how to prune your grapevines to remove old, dead branches.

The hardest parts of growing grapes are learning how to prune and train grapevines. These tasks can seem intimidating for new gardeners, but you can find plenty of videos and books to learn the proper techniques. 

Don’t stress; the gardeners who came before you are here to help. Here is what you need to know about growing grapes in containers. 

Growing Grapes in Containers: Getting Started

Growing Grapes in Containers: Getting Started

If the idea of fresh, homegrown grapes fill your mind, it’s time to get started. Growing grapes in containers take consideration, such as where you want to grow them and what type of support you’ll offer. Here is what you need to know. 

1. Pick The Optimal Container

Pick The Optimal Container

Grapes typically don’t grow in containers, so the right pot is vital. You should pick a large, sturdy container that can support the vines that grow vigorously and large.

  • The ideal pot would be 15-20 gallons that measures, at least, 16-18 inches deep and 18-24 inches wide.
  • You should start with a smaller pot and repot in a larger one as your plant grows.
  • The pot should have drainage holes at the bottom. Grapes prefer not to have soggy feet, so several holes at the bottom of the container is a must-have.
  • Avoid pots that are black or dark-colored, including plastic containers, because they will hold in the sunlight and heat. That causes the roots to get too hot. Wood is an optimal material.
  • If you have to use dark plastic, try to arrange your container so that it is in the shade, but the vines are in the sun.

2. Select The Right Spot To Grow Grapes

Select The Right Spot to Grow Grapes

Like all plants, grapes have particular sunlight needs, so picking the right spot does matter. You want to choose the place beforehand to avoid needing to move a huge, filled pot later.

  • Look for a location that is sunny, warm, and dry.
  • Your plants need at least six hours of sunlight each day.
  • Grape plants can receive shade in the afternoon, so long as it gets six hours throughout the day.
  • Avoid places in your garden that are wet, shady, or have little to no air circulation. Grapevines need plenty of air circulation to avoid fungal diseases, so make sure it’s not in a blocked off location.

3. Fill The Containers With The Right Soil

Fill The Containers with The Right Soil

The soil needed for grapes should be slightly acidic to neutral. Never dig up the dirt in your garden or backyard to fill pots; that soil could contain bacteria.

  • Grapes don’t grow well in heavy garden soil, so avoid clay-like or thick soil that doesn’t allow water to drain.
  • Select a loose, light potting mix that is rich in organic matter. Add compost to your potting soil to increase the nutrients available for your plant.
  • Make sure the soil drains well; grapes don’t tolerate soggy feet.
  • You can add stones or styrofoam at the bottom of the container for increased drainage. Another option is to add extra grit for drainage.

4. When To Plant Grapes

Fill The Containers with The Right Soil

The ideal time to plant grapes varies on where you live.

  • If you live in a mild climate, the best time to plant grapes is in the spring or early summer. This is the best time because it gives your plant time to grow throughout the entire summer without any frost exposure, which would stunt or delay the growth. 
  • Those living in hot, tropical climates should plant in the winter. Since you don’t have any frost in the winter, it gives your plants time to grow without being exposed to extreme temperatures. 

5. Planting Grapes In Pots

Planting Grapes in Pots

Most grapes are growing from cuttings, but you might be able to find potted grape plants instead. 

  • Take the cutting and place it in the middle of the pot. Spread out any attached roots. 
  • Pat the soil around the cutting firmly to keep it in places. 
  • Water deeply to help the cutting establish well in the container. 

Caring for Grapes in Pots

Caring for Grapes in Pots

Now that your plants are growing in your pots, you must know how to care for your new grapevines. Grapes can grow for years, even decades, which properly cared and tended. 

1. Offer Support To Your Grape Vines

Offer Support to Your Grape Vines

Chances are you know grapevines need support, and you will need to train the plants to grow up them.

Since you’re growing your vines in a pot, you will want a lightweight trellis, typically made of either wood or plastic. A DIY trellis is an option as well. 

  • In an ideal situation, you would have an arbor or pergola structure for the grapes to grow up, but in containers, that can be hard. 
  • You’ll want to attach the vine to the support system and select a training method.

2. Water Your Plants

Water Your Plants

Grapevines need to be watered regularly and deeply, but the soil should only be slightly moist. It’s vital not to overwater your plants because soggy soil can damage your plants. 

  • You need to keep the plants well-watered in the first few years after planting.
  • Aim for 1-2 inches of water each week.
  • In the first few years, it’s best to keep your plants well-watered until the plants are established.
  • Once established, grapevines are hardy and don’t need as much water. While it’s still required during dry spells, the need for rocks isn’t as urgent and necessary. You will be able to wait a few days between waterings.

3. Fertilize Periodically

Fertilize Periodically

Like any plant that grows for years, grapes need to be fertilized. In the first year, add some general-purpose fertilizer in the summer for added nutrients to help with growth.

  • Each year, side dress the grapevine periodically with aged manure or compost. That adds the vital nutrients needed for the yearly growth.
  • Each year, fertilize your plants with a low nitrogen fertilizer but high in potassium and phosphorus in the spring when the buds start to appear.
  • You can consider feeding a high phosphorous fertilizer after the fruits start to appear on your vines. It’s not a necessary step, and it’s only for extra TLC and care of your plant.

4. Mulch Around Your Plants

Mulching is always a requirement when you grow grapes in the ground, but it’s suggested for container growth. When you add mulch, it prevents too much water evaporation from the soil and protects the roots from damage caused by temperature fluctuations.

  • The best mulches for grapes are pine bark, compost, shredded leaves, or pebbles. Pebbles look the nicest! 
  • Add new mulch each year; it tends to come off when watered. 

5. Prune Your Vines As Needed

Prune Your Vines As Needed

In the months following your planting until the end of the first growing season, it’s unnecessary to prune your plants. They should be able to grow freely, establishing in your pots, and developing a robust root system. 

Instead, you want to remove the wood that is more than two years old and no longer producing fruit — all of the old branches needed to be pruned.

The best time to prune grapes is in the later winter to early spring, leaving only two buds during dormancy. 

  • The most crucial pruning is in late winter when the plant starts to shed its leaves, but you’ll need to do summer pruning. Summer pruning is light and unobtrusive, just a bit of pinching and pruning.
  • Don’t be scared by heavy pruning, but each of the buds will grow into a new branch. Due to limited space, only 1-2 branches should grow from the main trunk.
  • Prune away runners that creep away from the trellis and end up elsewhere.

6. Overwinter Properly

Depending on where you live, grapevines need protection in harsh winters.

You won’t need to worry about overwintering in mild climates, but it is suggested that you reduce water and avoid fertilizing during the dormancy period. 

If you have to protect your plants, remove the grapevine from its support and bring it indoors to a warm area.

You can even pick an unheated garage or greenhouse, so long as its slightly warmer than outside. 

Common Pests & Diseases That Bother Grapes

Grapevines don’t have many diseases and pests, but you should know what you could face. Here are some examples.

Black Rot

Here is a fungal disease that leads to brown lesions on the leaves that create black dots. The grapes might have light spots, eventually hardening and turning black. 

Black rot prefers rainy weather, but it can be hard to control. It’s best to remove all mummified fruits from the vines. It’s also best to apply appropriate fungicides to control the disease.

Powdery Mildew

You might notice red patches on the canes with yellow spots on the top of the leaves. Powdery mildew creates a white film on the leaves and powdery growth on the fruit. It’s a fungus as well that likes mild temperatures and high humidity.

The best way to handle powdery mildew is to plant vines in an area with good air circulation and proper sun exposure.

Make sure the training system you use promotes air movement. You can also apply sulfur or a copper-based fungicide.

Bird’s Eye Rot

You might find dark red lesions on your grapes or sunken gray lesions with darker edges.

The leaves might curl, and the lesions cause a ring of damage that can kill the parts of the plant. Bird’s eye rot is a fungus that prefers warm weather. 

Typically, this fungal disease can be treated by appropriate fungicide when the vines are dormant. 

Grape Cane Girdler 

Grape Cane Girdler

This pest causes holes that encircle the cane, puncturing it. Injuries to the vine can cause problems in establishing the plant.

It’s best to prune any infested shoots below the girdle. Spraying is sometimes needed to control adult populations.

Grape Mealybug

These insects cause sooty mold to grow and develop on the fruits. They release a sugary secretion onto the fruits, so it causes the growth of mold.

You can control the grape mealybug by controlling the ant populations, which are a natural enemy. You also can apply appropriate insecticides to take care of them.

Japanese Beetles

These pests cause your plants’ leaves to look like skeletons or lace-like. They can destroy leaves in just a few days.

Japanese beetles destroy flowers and buds as well. The adult insects are a metallic green-bronze color, and the larvae are cream-white grubs that live in the soil. 

You can remove them by hand and drop them into soapy water. Neem oil can be used to reduce the population without harming your plants or fruits growing on the plants. 

If Japanese beetles were an issue before, try using floating row covers in the next year to protect your grapevines from these pests. 

Harvesting Container Grown Grapes

Harvesting Grapes

You don’t harvest grapes in the first year; harvesting should be done after 2-3 years.

Grapes ripen between late August and late October, but that will depend on the variety you grow and the climate in which you live. 

You’ll know that they’re regular to harvest is to taste them simply. If the grapes are sweet and lovely, harvest them.

If they don’t have the right taste, leave them on the vine for a few more days. Once the grapes change colors, it can take 1-3 weeks to ripen correctly.

Grape Varieties That Grow Well in Containers

It is hard to recommend grape varieties because it is hugely dependent on your region and climate.

You should go to a local garden center or nursery that is independent of your area. I don’t recommend, in these cases, that you go someplace that is a chain store. You want advice from local gardeners. 

Ask for varieties that grow well in containers, are resistant to diseases, and handle your climate well. 

However, that being said, you can grow most grape varieties in containers. A dwarf grape cultivar can stop you from needing to train grapevines in a container. 

You should get a self-pollinating variety, so you only need one plant unless you want more than one. Most grape varieties are self-fertile but double-check before purchasing. 

Here are some options!

Somerset Seedless

Somerset Seedless

These are medium-sized grapes that taste like strawberries. The plants grow up to 70 inches tall and spread at a reasonable rate.

Hope Seedless

Hope Seedless

If you want a green, seedless grape variety, Hope Seedless is a high-yielding choice. It doesn’t reach tall heights, but it spreads much wider than its height. You’ll need an ample structure to support it. 

Boskoop Glory

Boskoop Glory

For our gardeners across the ocean, Boskoop Glory is well-suited for the United Kingdom’s growing conditions. It produces tasty grapes that harvest earlier in the season. It has the right height and spread for containers without being too large.

Flame Grapes

Flame Grapes

Here is a pink grape that grows well in containers. It’s often grown inside greenhouses, so you can be assured that the growth isn’t too substantial.

Final Thoughts

Lack of space doesn’t mean that growing grapes is impossible. Instead, focus your intentions on learning how to grow grapes in pots. With proper care and training, they can live and grow for years, producing tons of grapes each year.

Updated on by Amber Noyes

1 thought on “Growing Grapes in Containers: How to grow grape vines in pots”

  1. Live in Portugal on the Algarve. Bought some vines to grow in pots. I have some old bee hive boxes and thanks to this article will use them to plant my vines in. This is the best article on the web at the moment. Thank you for it.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.