Muscadine grape vines are pruned to train the grapes into an organized pattern on a trellis or fence, and to remove dead wood and revitalize the vines. Muscadine grapes grow based on the new growth; pruning away much of the old wood allows for a better crop in a smaller space. The vines are pruned during the growing season for the first 3 years to train the grapes into shape. Mature vines are pruned during the dormant season, in mid-January.
Prune the vine immediately after planting. Remove all but one main stem, leaving two or three healthy buds. When new growth appears, choose the healthiest shoot to be your main stem. This will form the main stem of the muscadine vine, snip away the remaining shoots.
Prune away all side shoots during the first year. As the main stem grows, tie it loosely to a training stake next to your fence or trellis. Cut away side shoots weekly until the main stem reaches about 2 1/2 to 3 feet in height, or just above the horizontal support that you will train the vine onto.
Cut the growing tip of the main stem just past the horizontal support. You will now concentrate on developing the lateral cordons. Choose two strong shoots to train down the wire, one in each direction. As these two lateral cordons grow, tie them to the horizontal support with cotton twine. Remove other shoots as they appear.
Allow side shoots to develop once the lateral cordons have reached their full length, approximately 10 feet in each direction or to the end of the support.
Prune the side shoots back annually, during the dormant season. Leave two to three buds on each side shoot to develop and bear fruit. Remove sections that will not train on the wire. Keep the vine off the ground.
Remove deadwood. Any wood that is brown beneath the bark is dead. Live muscadine vine is green when the bark is scratched. Remove suckers that sprout from the base of the main trunk or from the roots.
Select another young shoot to train as a new cordon for your muscadine grape vine when the lateral cordon begins to die from old age, disease or injury. Repeat the training process with the new cordon and allow it to become the main cordon the following year.