The 2-year old vine before being pruned







What the vine should look like when done.

Pruning Grapes

It is now the season to prune grapes.  Grapes should be pruned during the dormant season, late November to February.  Pruning grapes insure that they stay tidy, but also it insure a production of quality fruit, by limiting the number of bunches to what the vine can support. 

The type of pruning I have been using is a cane pruning.  It is well adapted to European vines in Arizona, and it works fine for me since I needed a vine just tall enough to cover a swimming pool fence.  Other configurations can be more tricky, but the principles are the same.

When pruning an existing vine, a very important fact to remember, is that any wood 3 years or older has generally no viable bud.  This means that if you are pruning severely an overgrown vine, you have to look for recent wood.  In some case, large section of the vine have to be removed.

For this reason,  It is really much better to prune your vine every year rather than waiting to have an unmanageable mess.

Planting time
New vines can be obtained bare root at the local nursery, or from cuttings that you started a year before.  With bare roots, you need to discard the packaging: do not use any of the wood shaving or other packing material in the hole for the young vine.  Trim any broken root, and soak the vine in water for several hours.
The vine is generally shortened to 2 spurs.  Water after planting.

Second year
The second year, you might have a cane reaching where you want.  You need to tie it in the proper place.  It will be the trunk of the final vine.  The problem you have now, is that you have a large number of buds that will try to start all at the same time in spring.  This requires rubbing off some of them as you set the cane, and removing some later in the year as they are growing.  The goal is to leave only 3 or 4 strong ones.  In any case you should remove every flowers from the grape this year, to let the vine concentrate on wood production.

Third year and after
The vine should now have grossly the shape you are looking for.  If you are trying to grow it on an arbor, it might take longer, and then follow the same instructions as the second year. 

We now want to trim the vine to keep it balanced and to limit the fruit production, so that the grapes are of good size.  This is done by controlling the number of live buds on the previous year wood.  The simplest way is to prune selected canes from last year to a short stub and eliminate the rest.  These stubs should show at least 2 good looking buds, but up to 4 depending on the type of vine, and growing conditions.  If you are in area that might freeze hard or freeze late as the buds have started growing, you want to leave more.

In the spring, as the vine starts, each bud will start a new cane, and with it a flower structure that will turn in a bunch of grapes.  Canes started later in the spring and summer will not have any grapes for that year.

As the vine grows older, you can have more fruiting canes, and more spurs, to increase the production of grapes.

Pruning grapes is generally easy and satisfying.  The biggest point is to do it every year, so that the situation doesn't get out of hand.  The canes that you take off when pruning, can be used for cuttings (check the article about this).

Good luck!


More information about pruning grapes from the University of Missouri

A new vine before it is pruned and planted



The newly planted vine pruned to 2 short spurs



The spurs is what will provide next year growth.  Each bud will start a new stem, and one bunch of grapes.

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