Muscadine grapes are native to the Southeastern United States and were the first native grapes cultivated in America. Muscadine grapes are grown for their musky flavor and aroma as well as the beauty of their bronze, pink, purple or black grapes. There are more than 100 cultivars available, but the only muscadine grape that grows reliably from seed is the wild muscadine grape.
Remove the seeds from wild muscadine grapes, rinse off the pulp and pat dry.
Spread the dried muscadine seeds on one half of a clean paper towel. Fold the paper towel once to cover the seeds and encase in a plastic storage baggie. Do not seal the baggie: You want airflow in the baggie so the paper towel will stay dry. You can store up to 15 seeds per paper towel.
Store the wrapped seeds at 40 to 50 degrees for 120 to 150 days. Muscadine seeds will not sprout unless they have this period of cold storage. Cold storage mimics the dormancy the seed undergoes in winter and helps soften the impenetrable outer seed coat.
You can store the seeds in a refrigerator (the crisper drawer is the best choice) or in a cold basement or storage area. Leave the seeds alone until you are ready to move to step 4.
Remove the seeds from cold storage when the 120- to 150-day period is up. Remove the muscadine seeds from the paper towels and the baggie. As soon as you remove the seeds from cold storage, you must finish the stratification process.
Place the seeds in a heat-proof glass or plastic container. Place the container on a flat surface (you might want to put it on a trivet or coaster if you are worried about scarring the surface under the container). Pour boiling water over the seeds and cover tightly with plastic wrap. This is called stratification, and the process will further soften the seed coat, allowing the seedling to emerge.
Remove the seeds from the water once it has cooled to room temperature or when you can comfortably place your hand in the water. Pat the seeds dry with a paper towel.
Mix the sterile seed starting mix with compost until you have a 50/50 seed starting/compost mix. Make enough mix to fill your seed-starting flat and moisten with water before filling the flat. It should be sticky and hold together but not be soggy. Moistening first makes the mix easier to handle.
Scatter the muscadine grape seeds on the surface of the mix. Cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of compost.
Place the seed starting flat on a seedling heating mat set at 68 degrees and locate in a bright room out of direct sunlight.
Keep the seeds watered, allowing the 1/4 inch of compost to dry out slightly before watering again. Seeds should germinate in 10 to 14 days.
Leave the seed starting flat on the seedling heating mat until the seedlings form their first set of true leaves, usually within 4 to 6 weeks. The constant temperature encourages germination and growth, so do not turn off the mat or adjust the temperature.
When ready to transplant, muscadine grapes should be planted in slightly acidic, well-drained soil on south facing slopes. Transplant in late spring once temperatures are reliably above 50 degrees. The seedlings should be 3 to 4 inches or taller with at least two sets of leaves.
Things You Will Need
- Ripe wild muscadine grapes
- Paper towels
- Plastic storage bag
- Heat proof plastic or glass container
- Boiling water
- Plastic wrap
- Sterile seed starting mix
- Seed starting flat
- Seedling heating mat
- Mixing compost with sterile seed starting mix adds organisms to the soil that can prevent damping off and fungus growth.
- You can also plant muscadine seeds directly into your garden without stratification if you live in an area with cold wet winters and you plant the seeds in the fall. The 5 to 6 months in cold wet soil provides both the stratification agent (the cold and wet soften the seed coat) and cold dormancy. You will have a lower germination rate using this method.
- Plant twice as many seeds as you will need; the germination rate for muscadine grapes can be low. You can always give away extra plants.
- Seeds do not come true to the parent plants. This means the seeds you plant may not have the same characteristics of the parent. If you want to plant a specific muscadine cultivar, you will need to take cuttings, which are genetic duplicates of the parent plant.
- Sealing the plastic baggie the seeds are stored in can cause condensation to form on the inside of the baggie which can lead to mold growth on the seeds.
- Do not touch the seeds when they are in cold storage. Constantly moving the seeds or checking on them will interfere with their dormancy and you will have fewer germinate.