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.
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
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
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. When To Plant Grapes
The ideal time to plant grapes varies on where you live.
5. Planting Grapes In Pots
Most grapes are growing from cuttings, but you might be able to find potted grape plants instead.
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
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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.
5. 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
These are medium-sized grapes that taste like strawberries. The plants grow up to 70 inches tall and spread at a reasonable rate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amber Noyes born and raised in a suburb Nebraska town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from University of California as well as an BS in Biology City College of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers markets, and potted plants she understands what makes plants thrive and how can we better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially Indoor gardening, houseplants and Growing plants in a small space.