Proper Pruning of Grapevines


Pruning grapevines is a specialized task sometimes called an "art" by those who are experts in this practice. Because grapevines grow quickly each summer season, they can reach 15 to 20 feet in length. All types of grapes need to be pruned in late fall or winter, after they produce their fruit, lose their leaves and become dormant. The vines of the grape plant are often referred to as canes, and you must prune as many as 90 percent of all canes to ensure a bountiful harvest the next summer or fall.

Pruning Grapevines the Right Way

Step 1

Cut all diseased, unsightly or dead canes back to the main trunk of your grape vine after it has produced its fruit and lost its leaves. Make clean cuts with sharp clippers or loppers if they are too large for clippers---do not leave any ragged edges on your cuts.

Step 2

Prune trellised grapes such as French Colombard and Chenin blanc into a "horizontal cordon" configuration. With this method of pruning, you leave two canes supported and tied on the plant's trellis and cut off all secondary canes to their connection point on the main trunk and on the permanent cordons on the trellis.

Step 3

Prune in summer if your vines are unsupported by stakes or a trellis to keep forming fruit off the ground. If you prune in summer to control rampant growth, cut the longest canes halfway back to the trunk. When you make your cut, try to avoid cutting off small, forming grapes.

Step 4

Prune grapevines that have no main trunk all the way back to the ground---perform this task in fall or winter when your vine is dormant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not cut below the grafted section of the trunk if your vine is a grafted variety. Leave approximately 6 inches of the trunk above the grafted portion, which looks like a scar.

Things You'll Need

  • Sturdy clippers or loppers
  • Garden gloves


  • UC Davis: Horizontal Cordon Pruning Method
  • UC Davis: Pruning Grapevines
  • Oregon State University: Prune Your Grapevines Heavily in Winter
Keywords: grapevines, pruning cutting, horizontal cordon

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.