Muscadines 2023

Cordon Desiccation. It is getting close to pruning time for our muscadines so I thought it would be a good time to talk about how to minimize desiccation of the cordon and have a vine that is healthy for 20-50 years or more. A big difference between pruning fruit trees vs muscadines is in how they heal over the cut. Fruit trees if cut properly have the ability to callus over the wound but muscadines don’t. I did a quick drawing to illustrate how two different cuts can influence how much desiccation occurs depending on where you cut. This is probably old news to long-time growers but it might help if you’re new to growing muscadines.
Edit. A causes the least damage


Recommended pruning time for muscadines is between January 15th and February 15th. I’m a bit north from you so will probably wait until February.

1 Like

Here in southernmost coastal-influenced CA it is Dec. 15 - Jan. 15.

1 Like

So you planted your muscadines and they have been in the ground for one or two years.

This information is solely intended for the new growers and it is certainly not the only way/method to get good results. If you’re already confident in what to do I would skip over to another post because this won’t help you. This illustration is intended to show three common growth patterns when spurs first start to grow off the cordon. This will mostly occur on a one or two year vines. If you follow these suggestions in my opinion you will be off to a good start pruning.

A. This is common and all you need to do is to leave 2-3 buds

B. This spur is divided near the cordon and I would leave 1- 2 buds on each division.

C. My least favorite is the one that grows out and divides a longer distance from the cordon. You have choices as to where to cut. If you go out to the split and leave about 2 buds, fruit will likely form. If you go back and cut about 3” from the cordon you might not get any fruit. I have seen both cuts used. I would prefer to take the fruit loss and cut back to about 3”.

Note. You still need to make each cut away from the node to reduce desiccation.


Sitting here enjoying my semi frozen Black Beauty muscadines. These aren’t as easy to eat as my seedless Oh My but the flavor is outstanding. It won’t be long before our vines start to grow. Are you ready?


Curiously they won’t ship their bareroot vines to California. Looking at the current CA requirements there is no ban on Vitis so Gurney’s must be unwilling to meet basic requirements of horticultural sanitation.

california.pdf (363.7 KB)

1 Like

Have you tried the variety Florida fry?

1 Like

This winter I started my fruit tree and vine pruning late, and as I did kept coming up with some new projects-a transplant here, clearing a blackberry thicket to make ONE more planting spot, moving some wood chips, spreading leaves, cutting down two unproductive trees, etc… As a result of all that productive distraction, my muscadines are still unpruned. Hopefully tomorrow.


Never tried FF but it will probably be good.

I put up a trellis for 4 of my muscadines last week. The trellis is made from 8 ft T-posts with a “T” at the top welded on. The cross-member is 4 feet long with a hole punched through each end using my arc welder. I ran high strength galvanized steel wire so that two canes can be produced by each muscadine plant. They will be separated enough on the trellis so that very good production is possible. More sunlight on leaves equals more production with muscadines.

I also pruned all of my muscadines and dug up a dozen rooted cuttings. I will plant most of them over the next few weeks.


Rethinking 20’ per vine. Most sources I see refer to 20’ being the amount of vine needed (10’ on each side of the trunk). This system has performed well for a long time. Over the last three years I have been thinking more in terms of pounds of fruit per foot of vine/wire. My early opinion (no proof) is that more pounds can be achieved at closer spacings. Currently I have some spaced at about 16’ and some at 14’. The remainder of my vines are at 20’ spacing. How do you space your vines? Any thoughts and opinions are welcome.

1 Like

I used 16 feet between vines in the row and 15 feet between rows for about 18 years. The most vigorous vines overgrew the trellis each year. This was “T” trellis with two wires and each vine making fruit on two main canes. You would think 32 feet of fruiting vine would be enough, but not for some varieties. Darlene was extremely vigorous routinely growing twice as large as the trellis size it had. Ison and Big Red were relatively happy with that spacing. Both produced heavily each year. Black Beauty was a bit too vigorous but with heavy pruning could be kept in control. So to answer your question, yes, you can use 16 feet between vines in the row and 15 feet between rows. It is best to use highly productive varieties such as Summit, Ison, Big Red, etc.

My current planting of muscadines is laid out with a lot more room but still using “T” trellis with two wires separated by 4 feet. All else being equal, I prefer wider spacing. I did not have enough room at my previous location so had to compromise by spacing closer.


Gentlemen, I would love some direct feedback from y’all based on your experience growing muscadines. I’ve got 2 each of Summit, Tara, Carlos and Darlene, and I am trying to figure out the best orientation for my 4 trellises. I had assumed I ought to run them east-west as they would get the most sunlight that way, but when I consulted the Interweb the general consensus is that the most sunlight is achieved running north-south. East-west I would only have about 44 feet in length available, north-south I could easily do up to 90 feet in length, but in order to keep the end trellis out of the shade of the tree line I would need to decrease the spacing between the rows from the suggested 15 feet.

In case it has bearing on the direction that you suggest, I am growing the muscadines in a vertical curtain method.

1 Like

In my opinion it makes little difference between north-south and east-west orientation. Personally, I have mine running east-west but that is because of giant post oak trees on the north side. It is important to get the maximum amount of hours of sunlight to the vines.

I don’t know much about the vertical curtain method. Seems overly complicated for muscadines.


My vines run east/west because they fit my space best that way. If I understand the vertical curtain correctly it is one wire over another. I have tried this method and did not like the results. The lower vine/wire is shaded and the fruit is harder to pick. Pruning is more difficult.

1 Like

The specific vertical curtain method that I settled on is called Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP). One of the main reasons I selected it is for ease of harvest, but there are additional benefits. I do recognize that muscadines haven’t had as much experimentation applied to them as have the more commercial varieties, so it is a bit of trial by fire.

About this method: “The trellis and training system that I recommend most often is a 9-wire VSP system. It has a trunk wire, two fruiting wires, and three catch wire pairs. I like this VSP system for most new backyard vineyards because it has so many nice features. With this VSP system, the fruit is easy to pick without having to bend over or reach up high for long hours during harvest. This VSP nicely exposes the fruit to the sun, wind, and pesticides. After appropriate leaf pulling in the fruiting zone, you will experience dappled sunlight exposure on the grapes. The canopy also looks like a prudently manicured hedge when the canes are tucked up into the catch wire pairs. To keep out the birds, side netting is also easily used with this VSP system because the fruiting zone is easily accessible and the nets can be rolled down and tied to the trunk wire when not in use. All of the new shoot growth will come out of the top of the canopy and eventually begin to drape down and possibly shade the fruit. The excessive shoot growth can be easily hedged off the top, while still retaining sufficient length shoots that can become next year’s fruiting canes.”

This article appears to be focused on European grapes for winemaking. It does not mention muscadines by name or species. I have grown both species side-by-side and in my experience the muscadines have a different growth characteristic. I’m not sure they are a good match for VSP.


I would be cautious about implementing trellis systems adapted to vinifera grapes where muscadines are concerned. The reason is simple. Muscadines grow about 3 times more vigorously than most vinifera. The result for a vertical trellis would be a mashed up tangle that requires a lot of hours to manage. I agree that Top Wire Cordon systems are inefficient for muscadines, though you will find that is what most commercial wine producing muscadines are grown on. Another place you will have problems is with his recommendation of buds per linear foot. Use that method on muscadines and production will drop dramatically after 2 or 3 years. Muscadines vary significantly in the number of fruiting buds a vine can support. Highly productive varieties need a lot more wood removed in winter pruning. Why? Muscadines tend to load heavily one year then go into winter stressed which kills the vine. Two things are required to prevent this. The first is to prune highly productive vines to a single bud per spur. The second is to fertilize the plants after fruit is harvested so the plant has time to absorb nutrients needed over winter.

As with all growing topics, choose carefully, you will be using this system for a lot of years.


I agree completely with @Richard and @Fusion_power that the VSP development has been primarily for European grapes and thus will need to be adjusted accordingly to muscadines, especially the pruning methodology. I am mostly trying to keep the harvest zone easily accessible.

That article for European grapes you linked to above is comprehensive. Is there a similar one for muscadines?

1 Like