8 Reasons Grape Vines Die and How to Prevent It

Growing grapes is a long and slow process that requires lots of patience and care, especially when you start from seeds or cuttings, so having a grape vine die can be very frustrating. Grape  vines can die for various reasons. When growing a grape vine there are a number of things that you will want to look for to prevent your grape vine from dying. 

8 Reasons Grape Vines Die and How to Prevent It. In the list below you will discover 8 reasons why grape vines die:

  1. Neglect
  2. Drowning (over-watering)
  3. Drying Out (under-watering)
  4. Over-Feeding
  5. Under-Feeding
  6. Winter Injury
  7. Disease
  8. Pests

Read on to discover more details about what kills grapevines and what steps you can take to prevent them from dying. 


If someone neglects to take care of any plant in their garden, it will eventually die. In order to survive, grapes need certain amounts of water, sunlight and fertilizer. They also require appropriate climate temperatures to survive and produce fruit. In order to make sure you accidentally aren’t neglecting your grape vines, make sure you understand the basic care that they will need.

Drowning Or Over-Watering

Although grape vines prefer to have the soil they are growing in kept moist. It is important to make sure the soil isn’t soaking wet all the time. Overwatering grape vines can cause several things to happen that will ultimately kill your grape vine.

  • Too much water can cause the vine to be more susceptible to disease. 
  • When the roots of the vine are sitting in water then the oxygen supply needed to keep them alive will be cut off, causing them to drown. 
  • Oftentimes plants can drown in the winter because they don’t need as much water.

Here are some common signs of overwatering in plants:

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Soil that always seems soaked
  • Wilting
  • Leaves that have brown tips
  • Root rot
  • The plant is losing its newer leaves

How to Prevent Over-Watering: To prevent your grape vine from drowning you must stop watering it. This will give the soil time to dry out and provide oxygen to the roots. Here are a few steps you can follow to revive your plant:

  1. If your grape vine is in a pot, and hasn’t grown too large to handle easily, you can try gently removing the roots from the soil for a few hours to give them time to dry. While doing this, leave the vines attached to the trellis for support. 
  2. Once the plant has dried out you will want to wait until you see growth again before slowly introducing it to small amounts of water. 
  3. If you keep a layer of mulch on top of your soil, remove it to allow the soil to dry. Do not add mulch when you begin to water again so the soil doesn’t keep retaining too much moisture. 

Drying Out Or Under-Watering

Underwatering your grapes can cause the vines to die, just like over watering can. Life gets busy and gardeners who don’t have an automatic sprinkler or drip system will sometimes forget to water their grapes. Another way individuals under-water their grapes is if they stop watering them after the harvest. Although you might not think you need to keep watering the empty vines, you need to if you want any produce again next year. 

Depending on what the plant is doing, in some cases it might be hard to tell whether you are under watering or over watering your grape vines. One of the biggest factors that will help you distinguish the difference is to test the soil to see if it is moist or dry. To do this you can use a moisture meter or just test it with your fingers. Here are some common signs to look for to know if you have under watered your grape vines:

  • Wilting
  • Soil is dry
  • Plant grow slows or stops
  • Yellowed leaves
  • Leaves that curl and appear dry

How to Prevent Under-Watering: To make sure your grape vines are getting enough water, establish a watering schedule. Grapes should be watered every 2 to 3 days. If the soil appears to be drying out within that time frame, increase how often you are watering. You want the soil to remain moist, but not soaking wet.

Over-Feeding Grape Vines

It can be tricky to know when you should fertilize grape vines. If you start your grape vines from seeds or cuttings, you will want to begin fertilization within the first two weeks of planting. After this one time feeding you typically won’t need to feed the plant again until spring. Once spring arrives you will need to fertilize your plants about every three weeks. 

It is important not to over feed your plants at any stage of the growing process. When there is too much fertilizer in the soil, the vines will have a hard time absorbing water. It is also important to make sure you don’t shock the plant with too much fertilizer at once. 

Too much fertilizer can also increase the growth of the vine but decrease the amount of fruit that is produced. The quality of fruit will also decline when too much fertilizer is present. Develop a consistent feeding schedule to keep the vines growing and performing at their best. 

Here are some signs to look for to know if you are overfeeding your grape vines:

  • Yellowed leaves
  • Wilting
  • Leaves browning at the tips
  • Rotting, black, or brown roots
  • Growth slows or stops
  • Leaves fall off
  • Excess fertilizer found in the soil

 How to prevent over-feeding grape vines: If you have found too much fertilizer in the soil where your grape vines are planted you can go through a lengthy watering process to try and flush out a lot of the fertilizer from the soil. If your vine is in a planting pot then some of this fertilizer will drain out of the bottom. 

You can also scrape off any excess fertilizer that has accumulated on the surface of the soil. Depending on which state of growth your plant is in, try not to remove or replace too much soil. To help the plant focus its growth toward the healthy leaves, remove any leaves that have yellowed, wilted, browned or started to fall off. 

Under-Feeding Grape Vines

Fertilization is an important process when growing most plants. Although grapes can survive without fertilizer, if you don’t feed them when they do need it then they can die or have slowed growth. Fertilizer provides essential nutrients that most soils do not already contain. As plants grow they absorb the nutrients found in the soil, resulting in the need to fertilize grape vines on a consistent schedule.  

Here are some signs to look for to know if your grape vines need more fertilizer:

  • Decreased vine growth
  • Yellowed Leaves
  • Burned leaves during summer months

Because the signs are similar, it can be hard to distinguish between whether grape vines are getting too much fertilizer or not enough. Reflect on how much you have been feeding the plant, if it seems to be less than the recommended three week schedule they might be under fed. Taking a look at the soil and identifying a layer of fertilizer crust on top can tell you the plant is being overfed, not under fed. You can also have the soil tested to see how many nutrients are found in it. 

How to prevent under feeding grape vines: As your vine grows it will require more nutrients. To make sure your plants are well fed during the growing process here are some feeding guidelines you can follow:

  1. Start with nutrient rich soil in the planting season and early spring. 
  2. You will increase your feeding schedule to every three weeks during spring while the vines are growing consistently.  
  3. Once buds are forming on the vine, the feedings can be increased to once a week. 
  4. As soon as the grapes begin to grow, fertilization should stop to allow the fruit to ripen and become sweet. 
  5. During the dormant winter season, fertilization is typically not needed. 

Winter Injury

Grape vines contain living cells that can suffer damage and freeze during winter months if not taken care of properly. The living cells within a plant are interconnected into tissues and several tissues make up an organism. When just certain cells freeze and die then more isolated parts of the plant will die. However, if cells are dying and freezing all over the vine then the entire plant may die. 

A grape vine can suffer from winter injury beginning at 28 degrees fahrenheit. With this being the case, winter injury can be a hard thing to prevent, however there are a few steps you can take to help a grape vine survive the winter.

Listed below are some signs a grape vine will show if it is suffering from winter injury.

  • The stem or shoot becomes gray or brownish-green
  • The plant appears “water-soaked” (spots that always look wet)
  • Reduced number of buds
  • Buds or flowers fall off easily

How to prevent grape vines from freezing or dying during the winter: 

  • Wind machines or fans are often used on fruit plants to help circulate warm around the plant and keep it from freezing.
  • Wrapping up the plant with blankets or piling up soil around the stems can protect them from cold temperatures.  
  • If you live in a northern region, plant your grape vines on south facing slopes of hills or at the top of them. 
  • Let grass grow around your vines to trap in heat.
  • Try not to disturb the soil around your grape vines during the winter months.
  • Prune less. Leave extra buds and leave on the grape vines for extra protection when it gets cold. 
  • Run a sprinkler at night to coat the grape vines with water. The water will freeze overnight, however, as it thaws in the morning it will release heat. 


Disease, such as fungus or bacteria, can be a common problem for grape vines. A vine can pick up a disease through the water, soil, insects, dead debris, or even gardening tools. When diseases are identified and treated promptly, you are more likely to save the entire plant. 

Here are some symptoms of a diseased grape vine:

  • Spotted leaves (yellow, off-white, red or black depending on the disease)
  • Fuzzy gray mold
  • Rotting fruit
  • Powdery mildew 
  • Purple or gray leaves

How to prevent fungus in grapevines: Fungus can grow on older areas of a grape vine that won’t be producing any new growth, so it is important to prune away these areas during each pruning season. Do not leave the cut vines on the ground after pruning. Clear them away so any fungus that grows isn’t transferred onto the live plant. 

Even after taking preventive measures, grape vines may still pick up some form of disease. In order to treat the disease you will need to first identify it. Take a sample of the diseased area and get it tested. After identifying the disease you can select a fungicide or bacteria remover that will treat your plant. 


Grapevine pests can range from insects to rodents to birds. Some pests will do more damage to the plant than others. No matter the amount of damage, knowing how to protect the vine from each one is critical to seeing an abundance in produce each harvest.  

Type of pests and how to prevent them: 

  • Birds – Birds can fly in and feast on grapes right as they begin to sweeten. Protect the grape vines from birds by covering them with a net as soon as the fruit begins to grow and ripen. 
  • Rodents – Rodents are drawn to fresh fruit just like birds are. Place traps around your grape vines that will attract the rodents to the trap rather than the vines. 
  • Insects – Insects can do the most damage to a grape vine. Certain bugs, such as aphids, can attack critical areas of the plant, ultimately causing the vine to die. Use edible pesticides to treat these infestations. For other bugs, insecticidal soaps or oils often work well for taking care of the problem. 

Why Are the Grapes Dying on the Vine?

Oftentimes the grape vine itself looks healthy, but the fruit it is producing is dying during the ripening season. In this case it is often insects or diseases that attack the fruit rather than the vine. Here are a few reasons why your grapes might be dying on the vine:

  • Platynota Stultana –  are insects that feed on grapes. As they feed the left behind grapes begin to rot and grow fungus.
    • This infestation can be treated by removing vines that contain most of the insects as well as spraying them with an organic biological spray.
  • Bunch Rot – there are several types of bunch rot, such as summer or botrytis, that can infect your grapes. These diseases will cause the ripening grapes to split, leek, and turn rotten or sour. 
    • Removing leaves from the vine is one of the best ways to control bunch rot. There are also fungicides available, such as elevate, vangard, or scala that will help treat the infected plant. 
  • Mildew – Lots of rainy and humid weather can cause downy or powdery mildew to grow on grapes. If grapes become infected they will fall off of the vine before they become ripe. 
    • Fungicides that contain copper will treat downy mildew and fungicides that contain sulfur will treat powdery mildew. 
  • Pierce’s Disease – Pierce’s diseases is a bacterial infection that can take over a grape vine. A vine infected often won’t show symptoms, such as wilting, until late into the summer. When infected the vines may either stop producing fruit or produce some fruit that ends up shriveling before harvest. 
    • Pierce’s disease has no current cure for it. The best treatment is to have infected  vines removed to prevent the disease from spreading further. 

How Do I Know if My Grape Vine is Alive?

As winter approaches grape vines will shrivel, turn brown, and appear to be dead. On the other hand, vines that have died recently can still appear to look healthy and alive. Because of this, it can be hard to tell if the grape vine is still alive or just dormant for the winter. 

The best way to know if the grape vine is alive is to wait for spring and buds to appear. Some vines will show signs of growth late into spring compared to other vines, so give it time before you determine the plant has died. Here are some signs to look for in the spring to know if your grape vine is alive:

  • Buds begin to swell
  • Buds become fuzzy and look pink or brown
  • Dripping sap from the canes
  • Flexible twigs (ones that snap easily indicate the vine is dead)
  • When pruning you will see green at the cut mark

How to Bring a Grape Vine Back to Life

If a grape vine has been neglected for several years it will stop producing fruit and essentially die. However, grape vines can hang in there for many years before they need to be ripped out and have new ones planted. Here are a few steps to take when trying to revive a grape vine:

  1. Remove almost all of the old wood by cutting off any vertical offshoots that are connected to the horizontal vine on the trellis. 
  2. Next, cut back the horizontal vines along the trellis to where the originally started to grow from the trunk. Leave a part of the vine connected to the trellis so as new ones grow they are guided in the right direction. 
  3. Leave two healthy looking vines if you can. If you are unable to find any, new ones should grow by next year. 
  4. Guide the healthy vines along the trellis.
  5. As your vine begins to grow again prune it lightly to ripen and sweeten the fruit during the growing season and then heavily prune it during the winter or early spring.    

How Long Do Grape Vines Live For

Growing grape vines from seeds or cuttings is a slow process at the beginning. It will often take 3 to 4 years before any fruit is produced, however, once vines are strong and healthy they can live 50 to 100 years. Some vines have been recorded to be over 100 years old. In order to last this long, grape vines need to be well taken care of. This includes proper watering, fertilizing, pruning, protection, and harvesting. Location can also play a major role in how long a grape vine will last. 

When Should I Prune My Grape Vine

Pruning is an essential part to growing healthy grape vines that will produce a large amount of ripe and sweet fruit. If someone neglects to prune their grape vines it is likely they will grow out of control and produce bitter tasting grapes. Follow the table below to know when to prune and keep the grape vine healthy: 

SeasonHow to Prune
Planting Season (Early Spring)No pruning is required during the initial planting season, whether the plant starts from a seed or cutting. A growing new plant should be guided up a trellis for support. 
Beginning of Growing Season (Spring)In the early spring, trim small branches off to thin out the grape vine. This allows the remaining branches to produce larger and more flavorful fruit. 
Growing Season (Spring/Summer)As buds and flowers appear, the grapes can be pruned again to thin out the vine a little more. Thinning supplies more nutrients and energy to the remaining grapes, producing a sweet fruit. 
Harvest (Summer)No pruning is needed during the harvest.
End of Growing Season (January or February)Depending on where you live, this pruning often takes place in January or February. During this pruning you will typically remove all but two of the vines or offshoots that have grown in previous seasons. Be sure the two offshoots you keep are new branches that point towards your trellis. Vines older than 2 years are not likely to produce any more fruit. 
Clean UpAfter heavy pruning it is important to remove all the old vines, leaves, and branches away from the trunk of the plant. Leaving the dead trimmings can increase chances of fungus or bacteria growth on them. These diseases are likely to transfer to the live vine. 

Grape vines do better with heavy prunings so don’t hold back. Cutting off all the old wood will promote the growth of new wood in the spring. Fruit is produced on these newer vines each season, so the more new vines you can get to grow the better harvest you will have. 

How Often Should Grapevines be Watered

A key factor to keeping your grape vine health and alive is making sure it gets appropriate amounts of water. As mentioned earlier it is important not to over water or under water a grape vine. So how often should the vines be watered? Uses the table below to establish a watering schedule. 

SeasonHow Often to Water
Planting Season (Early Spring)Plant seeds and water the soil frequently to keep it moist but not soaked.
Beginning of Growing Season (Spring)As growth begins to appear from the seed or cutting, keep the soil moist by watering every 2 to 3 days.
Growing Season (Summer)As the buds begin to flower and leave form you will keep up the watering schedule of every 2 to 3 days. Make sure it is enough water to penetrate about 10 inches deep, but not too much that the ground remains soaking wet. 
Harvest Season (Summer)As the fruit grows and ripens the vine will still need to be watered every 2 to 3 days. Water will fill the grapes making them sweet and ripe. 
Dormant Season (Winter)No need to water during the winter. Prepare for pruning.

Harvesting Grape Vines

If you have had a successful growing season and harvest has finally arrived you might wonder when is the right time to harvest? A lot of the timing depends on how sweet and ripe you want your grapes to be. As harvest approaches, taste test your grapes until they have ripened to the sweetness you desire. Keep a watch out for birds and other pests that will be after the ripening fruit as well. 

In Conclusion

Grape vines, when well taken care of, will last a lifetime. As listed in this article, there are many reasons why a grape vine may die or stop producing fruit. It is important to understand each reason so you can avoid it to get the most out of your grape vine and enjoy its plentiful fruit.

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