Gardeners know and love the striking purple-leafed cultivars of various shrubs (and even a few perennials and grasses), but how about a vine with purple foliage? Purpleleaf grape is an ornamental selection of common grape, a species best known as the source of wine grapes. Don't expect to harvest fine vintage grapes from this cultivar, though-it's strictly an ornamental, and the fruit it produces is not very palatable. It's the richly colored purple foliage that makes this tendrilled vine an asset in the garden. Provide a sturdy support such as an arbor or split rail fence, then choose companion plants that will complement this vine's royal hue.
Common name: Purpleleaf grape
Botanical name: Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea'
Plant type: Perennial vine
Zones: 6 to 9
Height: 15 to 25 feet
Family: Vitaceae, grape family
- Sun: Full sun or partial shade.
- Soil: Well drained with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.
- Moisture: Evenly moist soil is best, though established plants can tolerate drier conditions.
- Mulch: Apply 2 to 3 inches of coarse mulch (such as wood chips) around the base of the vine, but keep mulch off of the vine itself.
- Pruning: Grapevines need several summer prunings to keep them in line. Train the vines over an arbor, pergola, or fence, then prune back long shoots to keep the plant looking tidy through the growing season. This plant is grown strictly as an ornamental, so don't worry about pruning off fruit.
- Fertilizer: Rarely needed.
- Propagate from hardwood cuttings or by layering.
Pests and diseases
- Downy and powdery mildews can infect foliage.
- Japanese beetles and other chewing insects can damage foliage.
- The rich purple foliage makes a perfect foil for light-colored flowers such as white- or light pink-flowered clematis or the airy white flowers of silverlace vine (Polygonum aubertii). Annual vines like morning glory also combine well with purpleleaf grape.
- When trained along a low wall or split rail fence, purpleleaf grape provides a great backdrop for perennial flowers. Use pastel flower colors and silver-foliage plants for a romantic look, or bright gold, red, and orange flowers for dramatic color.
- Purpleleaf grape can also be grown through a large shrub or small tree, but watch carefully to make sure that neither the vine nor the support plant is overwhelming the other.
All in the family
- Most grapevines are grown for their fruit, but a few species and cultivars are grown for ornamental features such as brilliant fall color, variegated foliage, or lacy cutleaf foliage.
- Other ornamental genera in the grape family include Ampelopsis (porcelainberries), Parthenocissus (includes Virginia creeper and Boston ivy), and the popular indoor plant grape ivy (Cissus).
(Text by Nancy Rose, image by Amy Sumner)