From the University of Georgia
Cooperative Extension

Pruning the Bearing Vine

Grapes require heavy annual pruning to maintain quality and productivity. Prune during the dormant season. Because of our mild climate, prune during February. Late winter or spring pruning will cause “bleeding” (flow of sap through the pruning wounds), but this should not cause alarm since it does not damage the plant.

Note: Pruning is done in Florida during the following dormant periods: (a) south Florida-January; (b) central Florida-January 1 to February 15; and (c) north Florida-January 1 to March 10. 2

Two Types of Pruning — Cane and Spur

Two very different types of pruning are used on bunch grapes. American-type bunch grapes can be pruned by either cane or spur pruning. French hybrid type bunch grapes are typically spur pruned. With cane pruning, only the trunk is permanent. The cordons (arms) are formed by leaving several of last year's canes. With spur pruning, the trunk and the cordons are permanent and the current season's growth is cut back to short shoots (spurs).

Cane Pruning (American type bunch grapes)

Do not over crop third year vines. Thin the fruit clusters to one per shoot. Most mature vines (typically 4 years and older) should be pruned to have between 30 and 60 buds. The more vigorous the vine, the more buds should be left. Balanced pruning, a method of pruning to balance production and vine vigor, is recommended for two wire systems. To balance prune, select four canes of last summer's growth, one for each direction on the two wires. See Fig. 1.

Grape vine properly pruned showing fruiting canes and renewal spurs Credit: University of Georgia County Extension

Fig. 1

Grape vine properly pruned showing fruiting canes and renewal spurs. Each cane on the double curtain or two wire vertical trellis should be pruned similarly to this.

These should be selected from canes arising from the head of the vine. Canes about the diameter of a pencil are most desirable. Cut each of these back to leave 15 to 20 buds per cane. Gather up all of last season's canes pruned from the vine and weigh them. Note: Do not weigh older wood. As a rule of thumb, 30 buds should be left on the vine for the first pound of prunings removed, and 10 buds for each additional pound. Vines producing less than ¾ pound of prunings should not be cropped. As an example, suppose a vine after pruning where 60 buds were left yielded 3½ pounds of prunings. Then the number of buds to be left would be about 55 (30 for the first pound and 25 for the other 2½ pounds). Each of the four canes left should be pruned back to have about 14 buds each. If balanced pruning is not to be done, then 30 to 60 buds should be left; the greater number being left on the most vigorous vines.

Leave renewal spurs to form canes for next year. These spurs are also canes of last season's growth pruned back to leave only two buds each. From these spurs will grow the fruiting canes for next year. Renewal spurs should be located as near the trunk(s) as possible.

Spur Pruning (French hybrid bunch grapes)

Spur pruning is recommended for French hybrid grapes and can also be used for American type bunch grapes, however cane pruning of American bunch grapes may reduce disease pressure by removing almost all the old wood each winter.

Single wire low trellis with catch arms

In late winter cut back side shoots that grew the previous summer. This forms the “spurs.” Leave two to three buds per spur for French hybrid grapes and four to six buds on American type bunch grapes. Select shoots that grew upward in a well-lighted environment to have the most fruitful spurs. Remove weak shoots. Thin the side shoots to about 6 inches apart.

The second step is to remove water sprouts, suckers and any tendrils attached to the trunk or cordons. Finally, prune back cordon growth beyond the 4-foot point or halfway to the next vine. In the spring allow four to six shoots per foot of cordon to develop, removing shoots where necessary. Also selectively remove leaves from around the fruit clusters to improve fruit quality and help reduce disease pressure. These leaves can be removed shortly after bloom but before the berries begin to change color and soften. Do not remove leaves after the berries begin to soften because sunburn may result. Thin fruit clusters to no more than two per shoot. As the new shoots become long enough, place them into the catch wires.

Mature French hybrid on Low Wire Cordon before winter pruning Mature French hybrid on Low Wire Cordon after pruning Credit: University of Georgia County Extension

Fig. 2

Mature French hybrid on low wire cordon before winter pruning.

Fig. 3

Mature French hybrid on low wire cordon after pruning.

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1 Krewer, Gerard. "Home Garden Bunch Grapes." Reviewed Jan. 2011. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
2 Andersen, P.C., Crocker, T.E. and Mortensen,J.A. "The Bunch Grape." Fact Sheet HS-17A, a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Publication Aug. 2001. Revised Apr.2014. Web. 8 Nov. 2014.

Published 8 Nov. 2014 LR. Last update 21 July 2015 LR
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