The Best Grapes to Grow in UK Gardens
It was a gamechanger when I found out that grapes could be grown here in the UK - I’d presumed that they needed much more sun than our less temperate climate could provide, but once I gave it a go, I was a convert! Even in the supposedly grim North, my vine produced grapes within just eighteen months.
- What kind of grapes grow in the UK?
- Best indoor grapes
- Best outdoor grapes
- Best grapes for pots
- Best seedless grapes
- Best grapes for foliage
- How to plant your grapevine
What kind of grapes will grow in the UK?
The kind of vine you choose makes all the difference - it needs to be a variety which is proven to succeed in our less temperate weather, and if you don’t get much of that in your part of the world, it may be best to grow them in a greenhouse or conservatory like I do. However, with a combination of warmer summers and hardier grape varieties being bred, outdoor grapevines are becoming a more common sight.
Generally speaking, the best grapes to grow in the UK are wine varieties, but there are a few dessert and dual purpose vines that will grow well outdoors in warm sunny places further south. Both types, however, can be grown in greenhouses and conservatories anywhere in the country, so if you have the space to grow under cover, anyone can sit under their own vine!
Oh and always choose a grafted or cutting grown grape vine (all of ours are), as they’ll grow better and produce fruit quicker than those grown from seed.
Which are the best choices? We asked our growers for their recommendations - pick any of these and you’ll be laughing. While plucking fresh grapes straight from the vine. Or drinking homebrew, either is good!
The best grapes to grow indoors
1. Black Hamburgh
Probably the most reliable black dessert grape for growing indoors, Black Hamburgh is the famous vine that was planted at Hampton Court Palace by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in 1768, which is still producing an annual crop more than 230 years later. Safe to say it’s a good cropper then! Grow it in a large container or greenhouse bed.
2. Muscat of Alexandria
Another vine with historical connections, Muscat of Alexandria originates in North Africa with Cleopatra reputed to have enjoyed wine made from its grapes. They’re golden in colour with a crisp, aromatic flavour and when grown in a really sunny spot undercover, will develop a rare sweetness.
3. Suffolk Red
Suffolk Red is an American variety that’s really taken off over here, with large bunches of red seedless grapes that can be eaten straight off the plant. It’s a compact vine which is good news for smaller spaces, and also has fantastic autumn colour. For the best results, grow it in an unheated greenhouse.
All of these varieties can also be grown outdoors in warm areas.
The best grapes to grow outdoors
1. Boskoop Glory
Perfect for beginners, this award winning, heavy cropping grape is easy to care for and considered one of the best tasting grapes you can grow here. Boskoop Glory is a deliciously sweet and rich blue-purple dessert grape which can grow to an impressive 10m high and 4m wide, and is one of the hardier varieties for outdoor positions.
Phoenix is our grower’s top choice for outdoors, as it’s not only hardier than most but has inbuilt resistance to diseases including the dreaded powdery mildew. For such a tough plant, it produces beautifully delicate fruit - big bunches of light green grapes that are delicious for eating but also good for wine making.
3. Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir, as you’d expect, makes exceptional wine. The grapes are also perfect for eating fresh, making this another versatile dual purpose vine. Grow it on a pergola for its cool, fresh foliage that turns red in autumn as well as the fruit, which ripens from late summer onwards.
The best grapevines for pots
The grower laughed when I asked this question - the answer is all of them! The best to go for are those that don’t have a massive eventual height and spread, but any grapevine will thrive in a pot as long as it’s large enough - at least 45cm deep and wide is a good size.
Proper drainage is vital to avoid the vines becoming waterlogged, so make sure your pot has holes in the bottom and use a potting mix or compost of which a third is made up of grit. Plants in pots generally need watering and feeding more often, and grapes are no exception. Feed them a general purpose fertiliser every 1-2 weeks or use slow release granules less frequently.
And remember to keep them pruned to fit the space they’re growing in. The good news is this will be easier, as vines in pots tend to be less vigorous than those in the ground.
The best seedless grapes to grow
This one’s a little trickier - the best results for UK grown grapes tend to be from seeded varieties on the whole. However, if you’re growing outdoors in the south of the UK or growing indoors everywhere else, you should get decent results from these (although they may still produce seeds if the growing conditions are less than ideal).
1. Superior Seedless
Does what it says on the tin! One of the most popular seedless varieties, Superior Seedless is instantly recognisable as one of our most popular dessert grapes. Its bright green fruit tastes delicate, crisp and fresh and is a cheeseboard essential. Even better, it can be grown indoors or out.
2. Crimson Seedless
Originally from California, vigorous Crimson Seedless is a great choice for indoors or a sunny place outside. It produces pink-red dessert grapes that keep well in the fridge and have a fresh, sweet flavour.
3. Autumn Royal Seedless
Autumn Royal Seedless is a nice compact vine which will turn your patio or conservatory into a leafy haven while keeping you supplied with some seriously good grapes. They’re purple-black with green-gold translucent flesh, ripening from September to October - and no seeds!
The best grapevines for foliage
All grapevines have beautiful foliage - it’s so ornamental that you could be forgiven for forgetting about the fruit! Many of them also have such vivid autumn colour that they’re planted specifically for this purpose. Of course you will also get grapes from these varieties, so it’s a win-win situation however you peel it.
1. Vitis Brant
Vitis Brant’s bright green leaves form a cool canopy on a pergola or arch, but it’s in autumn that the show really starts and they turn a deep ruby red with green veining, resembling stained glass when the sun shines through them. Oh yes, the grapes. They’re blue-black, richly flavoured and grow in large bunches. Plant indoors or out.
Not sure why this is named after George IV/Prince Regent, as it’s infinitely more useful and has better taste. A true dual-purpose red grape that can be used for winemaking or eating, the autumn foliage is an eyecatching blend of rich burgundy, red and purple. Grow indoors or out.
3. Black Hamburgh
The fruit of this heritage dessert grape doesn’t ripen until late October, so you may well get autumn colour and fruit at the same time - spectacular! The high quality purple grapes are juicy, sweet and delicious. Black Hamburgh is one to grow indoors in an unheated greenhouse or conservatory.
How to plant your grapevine
Before planting your new vine, make sure you have a good support system in place, using wires, trellis or a structure such as a strong arch or pergola to tie the stems to as they grow. After planting your vine, give it a good mulch with woodchip, manure or compost, and refresh this every year.
All grapevines are suitable for growing in a greenhouse or conservatory - if yours is of small to average size, make sure you choose a less vigorous variety, as some can grow very large.
Plant your vine in a large, deep container at the far end of the greenhouse and train the stems along the roof and walls with a network of wires. Grapevines need a lot of space between them - at least a metre - so plant only one unless your greenhouse is extra large.
Outdoor grapevines are a good option for warmer areas of the UK. Choose the warmest, most sheltered position in your garden - a sunny wall or pergola is best - and mix in plenty of compost or well rotted manure with the planting soil, which should be well draining as grapevines hate to be waterlogged.
The best of both worlds
This is considered the best way of growing grapes in the UK and has been a tried and trusted method for centuries. Plant your grapevine in the ground close to your greenhouse, then train its stems through a gap at the bottom or a window at the top of the structure. Your vine will benefit from rainwater (meaning less work for you) while also being protected from the cold.For more growing tips from our fruit experts, check out our essential guide to growing grape vines.