Grape Propagation

Thankfully, grape propagation is pretty easy.  Grapes are actually prone to make more plants.  All we provide are the right conditions and some patience.

Plants grown off of the parent are clones of the parent with the same genetic makeup.  So if you want to continue your Grandmothers vines at your place, just follow the process below.

Grapes can be propagated from hardwood and softwood cuttings, grafting, layering and from seed (hybrids).  The easiest method is layering. 

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Propagating Grapes by Layering

Layering is the most fool proof grape propagation technique.  We've always had a vine produce roots when done this way.

  1. Select long 1,2 or 3 year old vines (still flexible) that are low on the plant.  Using these will not affect the production of grapes above them.
  2. If the vine(s) you picked has branches, prune them off to the first bud (node) on the branch.  See pic at right.  The end result is a single vine still attached to the parent with short spurs.
  3. Position the vine so that one of the spurs touches the ground without it feeling like the vine is going to snap (low stress).

    Position Options
    Positioned in line with arbor:  If the vine is long enough and you can lengthen the arbor, this is the easiest way to propagate grapes.  You will not even have to dig up and replant the new plant.

    Positioned anywhere near the parent plant:  You can start many plants this way but you will have to dig them up.

  4. Prepare the ground at this spot, if necessary.  ie. Remove grass, weeds, and loosen soil.
  5. Push the spur into the ground at your chosen spot.  Grapes grow roots more readily at their nodes.  If your grape is not a very vigorous variety, it may be necessary to scrape a small area free of bark and dip it in rootone.  This isn't necessary for our plants.
  6. Place a pretty heavy rock over the spur to keep it stable and ensure good soil contact.  The rock should not be very wide (<5") since a wide one will stop water getting to the node. You can also secure it with a landscaping staple.  They are pieces of metal bent into a U shape about 6" tall.  You can make your own from a metal clothes hanger.
  7. Stake the free end of the vine if it is weak and floppy.  You don't want the wind to grab your vine and damage fragile roots.
  8. Watering is not necessary were we live (central PA).  But, if you live in an arid area or are in the middle of a drought, water the vine deeply once a week (any week you didn't get rain).  Deep watering encourages the formation of deep roots.  This in turn develops a drought resistant plant.
  9. Prune off any grape flowers or growing grapes, during the growing season, that form on the propagated vine.  Allow leaves but keep them to a minimum between the parent plant and the ground contact point.  Allow more leaves at the end of the vine.

    The purpose is to direct energy to root formation.  It's also to convince the plant that this new spot is a good place to grow (plenty of light, water, etc).  If a plant isn't getting enough energy from a vine it will sacrifice it and grow a new one somewhere else.

  10. Check for root formation about every 3-6 months.
  11. Cut the connecting vine when dormant once enough roots have formed to support the new vine.  Should have a firm connection to the ground.
  12. Relocate if not in line with the arbor:  See Re-Planting section below.

Grape Propagation multiplied:  The number of plants you want to propagate is only limited by the number of appropriate vines on the parent, their length and the amount of space around the parent plant.  You can contact the vine to the soil in multiple locations at a node each time.  The vine will root at each location increasing the number of plants.  You can also lay the entire length of the vine flat on the ground although its harder to tell where the roots form and where to cut.

Is your parent plant an overgrown jumbled maze?  If it is, prune before starting your grape propagation project. Click for our pruning page but keep in mind you will want to leave vines that are low on the plant for propagation purposes.

1st bud is circled.
Step 2

Cultivation:  Keep the area around the propagation vine free of weeds for about 6 - 12 inches.  But don't dig too deep or too close or you could damage newly formed roots.  Grass growing around the vine doesn't seem to cause any problems.  But you'll need to keep it trimmed.

Step 5
Step 6

Be Patient:  Roots form faster while the layered vine is connected to the parent.  It gets a lot of energy from the parent so don't be in too much of a hurry to break that connection.

Mulch:  Bark mulching will improve soil quality and help retain moisture.

Chicken Proofing - They will remove the mulch and a good bit of the soil looking for bugs.  You can protect young plants roots with rocks that are too large for the chickens to move.  Stones should not be so large that big areas of soil stay dry.  Alternatively, you can lay wire mesh, such as chicken wire on top of the mulch.  Secure it to the ground with landscaping staples.

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This is a new grape propagated by layering.  The large root system ensures it will transplant successfully.  As a general rule, the plant should not be bigger above ground than its roots are below ground.  If yours is, prune back the canes until they are the same length as the roots.

Most roots in hole.  A few near surface.

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  1. Water the plant if the soil is dry.
  2. Dig up the plant:  Vine roots grow long and deep.  Carefully trace and lift the surface roots to keep them as long as possible.  Dig deep with a shovel to keep tap roots intact.  Some are bound to break so don't worry if they do.
  3. Keep the roots damp with spray from a hose or watering can while you dig the new hole.
  4. Dig a hole slightly bigger than the root ball. Dig the hole as deep as the longest root.
  5. Mix some manure or slow release all purpose fertilizer with the soil that was removed from the hole.
  6. Hold the plant over the hole with the top of the roots just below the top of the hole.  Most of the roots are placed to go straight down into the hole.  Grapes send out surface roots to increase nutrient uptake.  If there are enough roots, set a few to run a few inches below the surface.
  7. Replace the amended soil into the hole, with your other hand.  Try to avoid air pockets and make sure the soil is firmed against the roots.
  8. Water thoroughly
  9. Add mulch.  If you have chickens, add stones or cover mulch with wire mesh such as coated chicken wire or hardware cloth.  Pin the mesh to the soil.