Growing Muscadine Grapes
Taken from the brochure
"Growing Muscadine Grapes in Florida"
Jiang Lu, Cynthia Connolly & Joe Spinelli
Center for Viticulture, Florida A&M University
The Early settlers attempted to grow European grapes in Florida over
300 years ago. Through centuries of experimentation, however, grape growers
found that non-native grapevines could not endure the state's climate. In
the 1930's grape research and breeding programs were initiated at Florida's
Two distinct types of grapes thrive in the
state today. They are Florida hybrid bunch grapes which grow in the typical
grape bunch formation and Muscadine grapes which grow in small clusters.
Both are used for fresh fruit, wine, jelly, and juice.
Muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) are native to Florida and southeastern
United States. They are enjoyable and easy to grow.
The first step in growing Muscadines is to obtain plants. Rooted cuttings
are used for planting grapevines. You can use either bare root vines or
potted plants and you can either purchase them from a nursery or propagate
Early spring is the best time for planting. Holes 8" in depth and 6" to
8" in diameter should be dug with either a shovel or a tractor driven auger.
Under dry conditions, a gallon of water should be poured into the hole before
planting. One year old potted plants should be placed directly in the hole
without disturbing the root ball. Plants which have been in pots for more
than a year may be root bound, however, and the roots should be separated
at planting. After placing the plant into the hole, firm the soil around
it and water it immediately. Continue watering the newly transplanted vines
at least once a week to ensure their survival. Provide a straight support
(twine, bamboo, wood or plastic sticks, etc.) to help the plant climb to
the trellis. New shoots should start to grow within a couple of weeks after
It is important to train the young plants by tying one strong shoot to a
straight support and pruning off all the other shoots. This strong shoot
will be the main stem or trunk of the vine and should grow straight up to
the trellis wire. When the main stem is about six inches above the trellis
or fruiting wire, select two lateral shoots growing in opposite directions
from below the trellis wire to form the cordons and cut off the main stem
above these shoots to force them to grow. These shoots should be tied to
the wire, leading their growing tips in desired directions forming the bilateral
Any material that supplies nutrients to growing plants is a fertilizer.
Fertilizer should be applied to plants about two weeks after the vines start
to grow. Approximately 1/4 pound of 10-10-10 should be placed in a circle
6" from the new plants. One half and 3/4 of a pound are recommended for
two and three year old plants, respectively. A second and third application
may be made at the same rate after six and twelve weeks of growth. Organic
fertilizers such as fish emulsion, compost, crabmeal, or cottonseed meal
may be used as an alternative.
Irrigation and Weed Control
Water the vines about once a week to saturate the roots if there is no rain.
Prevent weeds from competing with the vines by shallow hoeing (so as not
to damage the grape plant's roots), mowing, or applying herbicide whenever
First Pruning and Second Season Growth
To ensure good fruit production, pruning of the past season's growth should
be done each winter when the leaves have dried and fallen off the vines
and the plants are dormant between January and February. After the lateral
shoots have been established as cordons, canes extending from them should
be pruned back to spurs. These spurs should have 3-4 buds on them. In the
spring of the second growing season, as these buds break and produce new
shoots, all flower clusters should be removed to concentrate growth in the
vine. Vines which do not reach to the trellis wire should be retained to
grow to the wire in the second year. At bud break of the second year, plants
should be fertilizer with 1/2 pound of 10-10-10 per plant. This should be
repeated after six and twelve weeks.
Second Pruning and Third
In the winter after the second growing season, canes grown from the previous
year's buds should be pruned back to three buds per spur. When buds begin
to grow in early spring, apply fertilizer (3/4 pound of 10-10-10 per plant)
and repeat application six weeks and the twelve weeks later. Weeds should
be controlled to avoid competition with the grapevines for nutrients and
water. By the third season of growth the bilateral cordon should be well
established and fruit may be harvested.
Forth Season Onward
Prune the vines after the third season of growth while the plants are dormant
as before. Fertilize at bud break and again at six weeks and twelve weeks.
Water weekly in the absence of rain and control weeds. Sufficient water
and nutrients at bud break are very important to ensure a vigorously growing
vine and good fruit set. Remove suckers from the trunk below the trellis.
Harvesting of fruit should begin in the third season. Muscadine grapes may
be picked individually or shaken off the vine into a net suspended from
a catch frame.
Fungal diseases such as anthracanose, black rot, and downy mildew are common
in Florida grapes. Muscadines have fewer disease problems than bunch grapes.
Disease susceptibility, however, varies with different cultivars. Sanitary
and healthy soil and growing conditions are the best means to prevent disease.
Fungicides may be used to control diseases. Check with your county extension
agent to determine approved products.