Amy-Lynn Albertson: Time to prune your muscadines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
N.C. Cooperative Extension

As a rule, muscadines are very vigorous vines that require annual pruning to restrict growth and encourage yearly bearing. When pruning, the wounds may “bleed” or exude sap. This looks life-threatening, but as documented by scientific research, it poses no harm to the vines. The best time to prune is right after your favorite team loses or after losing an argument. A little anger helps because you really need to take a lot of the vine off each year!

You will want to develop a central trunk. This is permanent on a muscadine vine. This will always be the main trunk if the plant lives 100 years.

Suppose the vines have been neglected for many years. In that case, you first need to return each vine to the basic framework of a main trunk, branching into two permanent arms called cordons. You may find this basic scaffolding within your mass of vines.

If not, create it anew by selecting a pair of young canes from the top of the trunk. Each should be three to six feet long. If you already have two established cordons, your goal is to cut back the young growth arising from these arms, leaving short shoots, called spurs, with two to four buds each. This year’s fruit will come from these buds, located on last year’s growth. You may find that you have a thicket of spurs along your cordons, in which case you can thin them by removing every other spur cluster. Next, remove any tendrils that have wrapped around the cordons or spurs.

If they are not removed, the wiry tendrils can girdle and kill them. Also, remove old fruit stems since they are sites for overwintering diseases.

Muscadine grapes are a great addition to any home garden. They are native to the Southeast and have very few disease and insect problems. Muscadine is high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C. Research has shown that muscadines also promote digestion and aid in weight control and disease prevention.   

If you want to grow muscadines, you can place an order with Rowan County Cooperative Extension. We have “Cowart” for sale, a large black muscadine perfect for eating or making juice, jelly and wine. “Noble” is a smaller black muscadine with large clusters and high yields. “Carlos” and “Tara” are the bronze varieties for sale. Tara is a large fruit with good flavor, and Carlos is a smaller but heavy producer. We also still have blackberries, peaches, pecans, plums and apple trees available. The deadline to place an order is Feb. 23. Contact Rowan County Cooperative Extension at 704-216-8970 to order or for more information on pruning or other horticulture topics.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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