Grapes are one of the easiest plants to propagate at home. Each year, grapes need to be pruned back in the late fall and winter to ensure a good crop the following year. Those cuttings are often thrown away, but with just a bit of effort, you can turn those discards into hundreds of new plants. In many cases, just taking a dormant cutting with a few buds attached and sticking it in the ground will suffice to start a whole new plant.
While propagating grapes from hardwood cuttings is by far the easiest and most economical way, there are five different ways to successfully propagate grapes. I’m going to take you through all 5 methods, and explain why you would choose each method.
The five ways to propagate grapes include:
- Hardwood Cuttings – Using dormant wood pruned off in the fall or winter.
- Greenwood Cuttings – Best used in the growing season to multiply plants quickly.
- Grafting – Used by vineyards when specialized rootstock is required for disease resistance.
- Layering – Used to fill in blank spots in a row or by home gardeners to expand a grape patch.
- Growing from Seed – Not used commercially because grape varieties don’t come true to seed, but it can be a fun to experiment and create new varieties.
Propagating Grapes from Hardwood Cuttings
Hardwood propagation is the most common method, though there are a select few types of grapes that cannot be propagated using hardwood cuttings, like muscadine grapes. Each year during the dormant season, grapes should be pruned to ensure a healthy crop the following year. Grape vines can get leggy, and if the ratio of top wood to roots is too high, then the roots will not be able to feed all the grapes. By pruning the vines, you ensure that the grapes produced are large, healthy and sweet.
The discarded cuttings from a single vine can be used to produce dozens of new plants each year.
Cuttings 12-18 inches in length with 3 or more buds are taken from dormant plants in the fall or winter. The hardwood cuttings are stored in a cold moist environment until the beginning of the growing season.
Shortly before the beginning of the growing season, the grape cuttings are either calloused to induce root growth or simply dipped in rooting hormone and placed in the soil.
To callus the cuttings, they’re exposed to prolonged moist heat to cause the cut base to begin to heal and generate stemcell like tissue that can develop into roots. This can be tricky, and if done incorrectly the cuttings can either mold or sprout prematurely. For better results, dip them into rooting hormone before planting them 2 to 3 inches deep in moist potting soil.
Keep the soil moist, and you should see sprouts within a few weeks. Allow your cuttings to get established and firmly rooted in pots before transplanting them outdoors in the early to mid-summer.
Cuttings using dormant wood should have an 80% or greater success rate.
Propagating Grapes from Greenwood Cuttings
Greenwood cuttings, or cuttings from actively growing vines, can also be used for propagation. Greenwood cuttings have the potential to dry out and are a less reliable method for beginners. There are a few reasons why you might choose to propagate from greenwood cuttings:
- You want to begin propagation and it’s the summer
- A friend or neighbor offers you greenwood cuttings during the growing season
- You want to propagate a lot of grapes in a single year (once established and growing you can take cuttings from your cuttings and produce literally thousands of individual plants in a single year)
- You’re trying to grow a type of grape that doesn’t grow successfully from hardwood cuttings. Some examples include muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) or pigeon grapes (Vitis aestivalis) which have a 1-2% success rate from dormant cuttings but roughly 70% success rate from green cuttings)
Cuttings about 4-6 inches long should be taken during the late spring until late summer from healthy grape vines. All but a single leaf is removed to minimize water loss. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and plant the greenwood cutting in potting soil. Keep your plant in a warm, humid environment.
Grape plants started from greenwood cuttings should begin to develop roots in 1-2 weeks.
Propagating Grapes by Layering
Layering means burying a portion of an established grapevine until it takes root. It’s a quick way to produce a few new vines during the growing season, and maybe the easiest method for the home gardener just wanting 2 or 3 new plants. Layering is occasionally used in a commercial setting to use a neighboring vine to replace a dead vine within a row.
Choose a parent grape plant and bend a young, still flexible 1 to 3-year-old vine near the ground level until it reaches the ground. Burry a portion of the vine beneath the soil, ensuring that you bury at least 1 node. The nodes are where new roots are most likely to form when buried. Make sure that the end of the vine is left above ground to continue growing.
The new grape plant should form roots within a few months and can be separated from the parent plant once it is well rooted.
Propagating Grapes by Grafting
Growing Grapes from Seed
Grapes are generally propagated “clonally” so that they are “true to type.” Grapes can be propagated from seed, but they will not be identical to the parent plant. Growing grapes from seed is an important tool for grape breeders and those interested in developing their own variety or grape. It can also be a fun experiment for the home gardener, because you never quite know what you’ll get.
Grape seeds can be collected from seeded grapes, cleaned and stored in a moist paper towel or directly in soil in the refrigerator for 3 months. After cold stratification in the fridge, the grape seed can be planted in the spring and will germinate into new plants.