Sign in or sign up

No Bunnings account? Sign up

Project list

Sign in to your account

Vineyard with grape vines
The grapevine is an amazing climbing plant that’s easy to grow and incredibly rewarding. Productive and versatile, you can grow grapes for their fruit, their seasonal shade, or both! In just a few years, you could turn a boring pergola into a lush oasis and harvest grapes fresh for your table.

What you need to know about grapevines

Name: grape, wine grape, table grape, Vitis vinifera, Vitis rotundifolia.

Height: grown up a trellis or support, grapevines can reach 30m if left unpruned.

Foliage: deciduous.

Climate: grapes dislike humidity, growing well in cold, warm, arid/semi-arid climates and some sub-tropical areas.

Soil: tolerant of a wide range of soils, grapes prefer a free-draining soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.

Position: full sun, protected from strong winds and severe frost.

Flowering and fruiting: grapes flower in spring, producing their crop throughout summer.

Feeding: low maintenance; apply a mulch of compost and manure annually.

Watering: drought tolerant once established, water when required, usually once or twice a week in spring and summer.

Appearance and characteristics of a grapevine

The grapevine is a prolific deciduous vine with large green leaves in spring and summer, striking autumn foliage, and delicious fruit in late spring and summer. A dual-purpose plant, it can be grown as living shade, as well as a fruiting crop.

Grapes can be divided into table grapes, dried fruits and wine varieties.

Table grapes are selected because of their large plump fruit. “Crimson Seedless” (red), “Menindee Seedless” (white) and “Black Opal” (purple) are popular table grapes in three different colours. All are seedless and can also be dried as raisins. In coastal areas try “Pink Iona” or the extremely popular “Concord”. In tropical and sub-tropical areas with wet/humid summers, try muscadine grapes, as these are more tolerant of humidity.

Dried fruit grape varieties include “Sultana”, “Black Muscat” and “Sun Muscat”, although most table grapes are delicious dried, including the early fruiting “Flame Seedless”.

Wine grapes are also sold by variety, such as “Chardonnay”, which is not just a lovely wine grape, but also a nice table grape. In hot dry inland areas, try the fast-growing and incredibly resilient “Shiraz”, and in areas with cool winters and long hot summers, try “Cabernet Sauvignon”. Most wine grapes do not like humidity, but “Chambourcin”, which is a hybrid wine grape, will tolerate mild humidity, so is worth a try in areas with moist summers.

black grapes on a grape vine in the outdoors 

Uses for a grapevine

Living shade, grapes are prolific climbers that can be trained as a green roof or green wall if given a solid structure to climb. Readily covering a pergola or the roof of an outdoor area in just a few years, your grapevine will provide shade in summer while allowing the warm winter sun to penetrate during the cooler months, when it has lost its leaves. Grapes can also be trained to a trellis, much like in a vineyard, as a living wall or espalier-style orchard. This still provides you with an abundant harvest of grapes, in just a fraction of the space.

Aside from seasonal shade, grapes can obviously also be grown for their fruit, which can be eaten fresh, dried or turned into wine. Their purpose dictates which variety you should grow, so you need to decide how you would like to consume your fruit before choosing a variety.

How to plant and grow a grapevine

Thriving in many parts of the North and South Island, grapes are not fussy about soil, growing in everything from clay to sandy soils. However, they do prefer climates with hot dry summers and cool winters.

Plant bare-root plants in winter while dormant and potted grapes in autumn, winter or spring.

  1. Plant in full sun and protect emerging foliage from frost.
  2. Improve the soil with compost and decomposed manure before planting.
  3. Prepare the hole and backfill to ensure the final planting height is just a little deeper than the level in the pot or on the stem.
  4. When planting bare-root grapes, backfill a mound into the centre of the hole to allow the roots to fan out and down.
  5. Firm the soil and water to remove air pockets in the soil.
  6. Make sure you have provided a trellis, wire or frame, otherwise your plant will grow along the ground until it finds something to cling to!

Caring for a grapevine

Do not allow your vine to produce fruit for the first couple of years. Instead, encourage the plant to put energy into developing a strong root system. Fertilise only when necessary, using compost, chicken manure or blood and bone.

Water regularly during the dry months, especially during fruit development. As grapes change colour, reduce watering to allow the sugars to develop in the ripening fruit.

Apply a mulch of compost and decomposed manure annually, and dust with organic sulphur twice a year.

Pruning a grapevine

Grapes fruit on current season’s growth, so cut them back hard each winter to maximise your harvest.

How to prune grapes

  1. If training a vine over a pergola, start by training the main stem up the side of the structure and then cut it off to initiate spread.
  2. Train stems along the sides of the pergola and then cut again to stimulate long vines that run across the beams of the pergola.
  3. Tie them to the pergola to form the framework for your productive green roof.

Prune canes back each year to at least 2–8 buds to ensure a good crop, but be ready to thin canes and bunches as necessary to ensure large plump grapes, rather than a mass of tiny berries. Once their foundation is set, up to 90 per cent of the growth can be removed each year to maximise fruit production.

Diseases and pests affecting grapes

Grapes are prone to fungal attack, especially in areas of high humidity or when plants have been grown too close together and left unpruned. Black spot and powdery mildew are common problems, but fortunately, both can be controlled by thinning foliage to improve, and by spraying with an organic fungicide. Dust twice a year with organic sulphur to control powdery mildew and mites.

Caterpillars can be problematic in some areas. If found, spray with Dipel.

As grapes develop, net the vine from birds. They are not as picky as us, and can readily decimate your harvest before the crop actually becomes ripe enough to pick.

How to propagate grapes

Grapes can be readily propagated using hardwood cuttings taken when the vines are dormant in winter.

  1. Start by filling a pot with propagating mix.
  2. Cut a length of vine around 40cm long, just below a leaf node into the brown wood.
  3. Make a hole in the propagating mix using a pencil
  4. Dip the base of the cutting in rooting gel or cutting powder and insert it into the hole. Firm down and repeat.
  5. Trim the top of the cutting to about 2cm above the top node.
  6. Water and place the pot in a sunny position.
  7. In spring, when the top growth is active and strong, re-pot into individual plant pots or plant into the garden.

If you like this then try

Passionfruit: a productive vine that also makes a great green roof or green wall.

Kiwifruit: male and female climbers with an abundant crop in autumn.

Hops: a versatile climber and an important component for homebrew aficionados.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!


Suggested products

More D.I.Y. Advice

Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.