[Homestead] Growing Grapes From Cuttings

EarthNSky erthnsky at bellsouth.net
Tue Dec 25 12:06:27 EST 2007

Growing Grapes From Cuttings

Grapes are very easy to grow from cuttings. With proper care, a
dormant cutting can be started in the spring and by fall will give a
vine large enough to bear a cluster or two of fruit the next season.
The important factors are proper care and preparation of the

Grapes can be grown from two types of cuttings, dormant or hardwood,
and green cuttings. Dormant cuttings are the easiest to handle, but
green cuttings work in situations when it isn't possible to use
hardwood, such as for grapes that don't root easily from dormant
cuttings, or when green cuttings are all that are available.


Dormant cuttings can be taken any time after the vine has lost it's
leaves until the buds begin to swell in the spring. Cuttings are
made from the new shoots (canes) that grew the growing season that
just ended. The best wood is the first one to two feet of the base
of the shoot where the buds are closest together, but any healthy,
well matured section of the cane will suffice. Ideal thickness is
pencil diameter up to about 3/4 inch thick. Thicker cuttings can be
hard to handle and thinner wood may not be mature, though thinner
wood may be acceptable if the variety has naturally small shoots.

Avoid wood that is soft and spongy and has a large pith. Best wood
is dense and light green inside with relatively small pith. Cuttings
should be 12 to 18 inches long, with the bottom cut off straight,
right below the bud, and the top cut diagonally, at least 1/2 inch
above the bud to make it easy to identify the top, insuring that the
cutting will be planted right side up.

Best dormant cutting, from base of cane, having 4 or more nodes (area
where the bud is located). Good cutting, having at least 3 nodes.
Fair cutting, having only 2 nodes, though suitable if cutting is
otherwise healthy.

Some growers make the diagonal cut on the bottom. Either way works.
There should be at least 3 buds (nodes) on the cutting, more if
possible, though two bud cuttings may serve in an emergency.

Cross-section of poor cutting showing large, spongy pith, flattened
cane, and poorly matured, yellowish wood. Cross-section of good,
well-matured cutting showing small, tight pith in center, round cross-
section and dense, light green wood.

Rooting occurs best at the nodes, hence the advantage in having
several nodes per cutting.

If you take your own cuttings, choose clean, healthy wood with no
discolorations from fungus or other disease, though fungus disease
(black rot, downy and powdery mildew, and anthracnose) will not harm
the cuttings if the wood is well matured.

Disinfect such cuttings with a 5% chlorine bleach solution before
growing them, to keep disease from spreading into your vineyard. Try
to observe the vine in bearing to be sure it is healthy - some virus
diseases can reduce crop, allowing the vine to grow more, so it looks
big and vigorous when dormant, but is unfruitful.

Vines grown from cuttings of a virus-infected vine will also have the
virus. If possible, take cuttings after there has been enough cold
weather to kill any poorly ripened wood, to insure getting mature
wood. Bundle the cuttings with plastic twine or insulated wire that
won't rot or corrode and mark them with plastic or other rot-
resistant material. Use metal or plastic tags with embossed letters
or permanent ink that won't wash off in moist conditions.


Simply put them away until you are ready for them.

When making your own cuttings, wrap them in moist paper or pack them
in material such as damp peat, in a plastic bag.

Keep cuttings refrigerated or store them in an unheated building, in
the crawl space under the house. Avoid places where they will
freeze. Freezing, will not harm them, but can take water out and
dessicate them. The ideal temperature is 32-33o F (0-1oC). Properly
stored, cuttings can be held for as much as a year or more.

Large quantities of cuttings can also be stored by burying them in
pits of sand (to prevent waterlogging) on the north side of a
building. They are buried upside down with 6-18 inches of sand over
them, covered with tarps and boards. As spring arrives, some or most
of the sand is removed so the bottoms of the cuttings warm and callus
in preparation for planting.


Callus is the white tissue that forms on cut surfaces of the cutting,
and can also appear in lines along the sides of the cutting. It is
from callus that roots form.

Callus may not always be obvious, but it must be there before roots
develop. Once roots start, they grow in cooler conditions than are
needed for callus to form. A grape cutting pushed into soil will
just sit until the soil is warm enough for callus to form, so it
usually only grows a few inches the first year. But by pre-callusing
the cuttings before planting, they can grow much more than they would
otherwise, often enough to establish the trunk of the vine, if not

A callused cutting planted in it's permanent location, kept weeded,
watered, and well composted, can establish it's roots in place as it
grows a top and can often grow enough to allow it to bear a cluster
or two the next season. This has been done in commercial vineyards.

Nursery-grown bareroot vines have to grow a year to re-establish
their roots, before being trained up the second year, and can finally
start to bear the third year, a full year after a cutting planted at
the same time.

Before callusing, be sure your cuttings haven't dried in storage.
Standing them in an inch or two of willow water overnight will let
them "refill," improving rooting.

There are several methods to callus cuttings, according to your
situation. While rooting hormone isn't absolutely necessary, it can
hasten callusing and increase the number of roots.

Method 1. Small amounts of cuttings can be callused by wrapping them
in moist paper or sphagnum in a black plastic bag. This is the way
your cuttings arrive if purchased, so if they have been stored
properly, they are ready to callus. Put them in a warm area that
stays constantly at 80-85oF. The top of a refrigerator is a good
place as the waste heat from the condenser collects there. Callusing
should occur in one to two weeks. Buds may push and produce white
sprouts, but this isn't harmful, though care should be taken to avoid
breakage as the cutting must use energy to grow more shoots. Plant
as soon as the cuttings are callused and roots start to appear.

Method 2. Plant the cuttings in a pot of a mix of 3 parts perlite to
1 part peat, by volume. Set the pot on a heat mat set to 85oF
(25oC), in a cool area, or even outdoors in a protected area. This
heats the root zone and encourages callusing, but the top of the
cuttings, being in cool air, will not push buds as readily. The idea
is to get roots before buds push too much so there is an existing
root system to support the new growth when it appears. Rooting occurs
in one to two weeks in most cases.

See sources for a company that sells heat mats.

Method 3. Plant the cuttings in a one gallon black pot of the 3:1
perlite-peat mix and set it in a sunny location where the pot can be
warmed by the sun. The pot should be no larger than one gallon as
the warming effect of the sun will penetrate a larger pot too
slowly. Avoid excess watering as that will cool the mix and slow
rooting. This is a slower method, often taking as much as a month,
and the buds will often start to grow before the roots are formed,
but it works well enough for home use.

Larger quantities of cuttings can be bundled in lots of 50 - 100 and
rooted in the 3:1 perlite peat mix in benches with bottom heat (heat
cables or hot water pipes) set at 80 - 85oF (25oC) in the root zone.

Ideally, beds should be outdoors or in an unheated, or even
refrigerated, room to retard sprouting of the buds while the cuttings
callus and root, as in method #2. This reduces the likelihood of
shoots that can break off during planting.


Cuttings callus and root in a short time, so don't start callusing
until the planting site is ready so the cuttings can be planted
immediately. Once cuttings have a ring of callus on the base, or
roots are starting to appear, it's time to plant them.

Cuttings may be planted: 1. directly in the spot where you plan to
grow the vine; 2. in a garden row where you can grow them until fall,
then transplant the vine when it is dormant; 3. in a pot. In the
last case, you can start cuttings early in the year, then transplant
them into their permanent location from the pot as spring advances,
or even grow them in the pot all summer and set them out in the fall,
if fall planting is possible in your area.

If you lack means to keep the young vines watered in the permanent
location, it is better to grow vines in your garden or pot and
transplant them as dormant vines, which are able to take more stress
when they are planted in the permanent location.

Plant cuttings with half or more of their length in the soil to help
protect them from dessication. In very hot, dry areas the cuttings
can be covered with a mound of loose soil at first. Keep the soil
loose and watch for buds breaking through. When buds start to grow,
pull the soil mound away from them.

If some of the roots or shoots break during planting, it isn't a
disaster, but avoid it if possible as the cutting must expend energy
to grow more. If white shoots die or rot back a bit, new shoots will
start from the base of the old shoot.

Water an inch or more a week with willow water until the shoots get
to six inches long, then start using a weekly feeding of a balanced
organic fertilizer, such as fish (mixed according to directions).

Before the shoots are about 6 inches long, the roots are not
developed well enough to get full benefit from fertilizer. If you
use drip irrigation, the fertilizer can be applied in the water.
Stop fertilizing by mid summer and reduce or stop water soon after
that to allow the vine to harden before frost.

I have used mycorrhizal fungi with my grapes and find that these
types of fungi, which associate with the roots and help the plant
take up nutrients are a definite benefit to the plants.

They can be applied directly to the roots or watered in after
planting. Applying them to the roots before planting seems to have
the most effect. If you do use the fungi, stay with a strictly
organic fertilizer as chemical types will inhibit or destroy the


Green cuttings are used mainly with grapes that do not root from
dormant cuttings, such as varieties derived from Vitis lincecumii or
V. aestivalis, or Muscadine grapes (Muscadinia rotundifolia), or when
dormant cuttings are not available.

Muscadine grapes started from green cuttings have a success rate of
70 to 80% versus 1 to 2 % from dormant cuttings. Green cuttings can
also be used to multiply a variety quickly.

Make green cuttings from any vigorously growing shoot. Avoid shoots
that have stopped growing and are starting to harden off and turn
brown. Take cuttings as early as possible in the spring to give the
young vine extra time to harden off unless you can keep the vine in a

Cuttings should be 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long, with two or
three leaves. Remove all but the top leaf and cut that one in half
if it is full size, but leave it alone if it is a young, undersized
leaf. Cuttings with no leaves at all very seldom root.

Dip the green cutting in rooting hormone and plant in the same 3:1
perlite peat mix used for dormant cuttings. The ideal place to plant
is in mist bench with a heat cable in the bottom of it to hold
temperatures at 85oF (25oC) in the root zone. Done this way, the
cuttings will usually root in 6-9 days and be ready to pot up.

Keep them under mist or in high humidity for a few days until the new
roots can keep the plant from wilting. When held in a greenhouse and
forced with extra compost, the new vine can itself provide material
for more cuttings within two or three weeks. With this system of
using each new batch of rooted plants as sources of more material, a
few cuttings can become thousands in six weeks.

A simpler alternative is to use a one gallon black plastic pot, with
a clear plastic bag over it, supported by wires, or use tires for
your container. Glass covers will create a greenhouse effect.

This creates a humid chamber that keeps the cuttings from wilting
until they root. If the pot is warmed by sunlight, rooting is slower
since the pot cools at night and may take three weeks to a month. If
the pot is sent on a heat mat, to keep the heat constant, rooting is

Vines started from green cuttings need more protection when set in
the vineyard and should be surrounded by a bottomless milk carton or
other device to shade it until it can withstand direct sunlight.

Either way you do it, your new grapes will give you pleasure for as
many years as you want them to.

Bevanron of EarthNSky Farm   Sleep well tonight, for somewhere in the 
ocean's depths, MY son is protecting YOUR freedom.

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