Propagation of Grapevines

Overview

The savvy gardener can take advantage of the grape plant's vigorous growth to propagate new plants. All grapes respond well to propagation, and the most commonly used method for home gardens is cutting. Successful propagation takes at least one year; after this time, cuttings should be rooted and begin producing fruiting vines.

Cuttings

The best way to propagate grapevines by hand is by taking cuttings during either the late fall or the spring, once the grapevine has gone into dormancy and before it begins growing again. Cuttings taken in the fall need to be placed in cold storage (such as a refrigerator) for the winter months, then planted in the spring. Spring cuttings can be rooted straightaway.

Technique

Identify strong and healthy shoots from which to take cuttings. Ohio State University recommends choosing canes with a diameter of 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Then, using anvil pruners, snip off a section of the shoot that contains two to three buds. Take as many sections as you wish to root; while not all cuttings will root successfully, many of them will. Ohio State University recommends planting twice as many cuttings as you want to mature (to account for unsuccessful efforts).

Planting

To plant grapevine cuttings, turn over the soil in a full-sun location that offers fertile, well-draining soil. Remove anything growing in the soil, plus any rocks, sticks or clumps of soil. Using a trowel, make a furrow that's 6 to 7 inches deep. Lay your grapevine cuttings in the furrow, leaving 5 inches between each cutting. Then, one at a time, hold each cutting vertically straight in the soil and cover over the cutting with soil. Tamp down the top layer of soil around the cutting, which should have only the top bud above the layer of soil. If you need multiple rows, leave 3 to 4 feet between rows.

Care

Water the cuttings regularly. Do not let the soil dry out while the cuttings are taking root. Check the soil's moisture content by sticking your finger a couple inches underground; the soil there should feel lightly moist at all times. Water until the soil becomes drenched, then wait until the soil becomes lightly moist again. During their first year, cuttings also need regular weeding, light fertilizing and control against insects or critters.

Layering

Layering is an alternate method of grape propagation some gardeners may wish to use. This does not involve taking cuttings, and is done either in late winter or in early spring, using one-year-old grape cane. To layer grapevines, dig a shallow trench where you wish to start the new vine. Then take a long section of vine and extend it down into the trench, letting two to three nodes or joints remain in the trench. Fill the trench with soil to bury those nodes. Leave at least two buds on the far end of the vine above the soil line. Ensure the buried cane has 3 to 4 inches of soil pressed over it, then tamp the soil down and leave the plant alone. New growth will emerge from the part of the vine that's still above ground, beginning a new section of grapevine. Layering works well in vineyards or other commercial fruit orchards and makes less sense in a home environment, though curious gardeners may wish to try it.

Keywords: grapevine propagation, propagation of fruit, grapevine cuttings

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.