The muscadine grape is native to the Southeastern United States and was the first native grape species to be cultivated in North America. The natural range of muscadine grapes extends from Delaware to central Florida and occurs in all states along the Gulf Coast to east Texas.
Wild muscadine grapes are dioecious, having male and female reproductive organs in separate plants. This is due to incomplete stamen formation in female vines and incomplete pistil formation in male vines. Male vines account for the majority of the muscadine grape population. Muscadine grapes bud in the spring and require 100-120 days to mature fruit.
Wild muscadine grapes bear dark or bronze colored fruit, with usually 4 to 10 fruits per cluster. Bronze-fruited muscadine grapes are also known as scuppernong. There are over 100 improved cultivars of muscadine grapes that vary in size from 1/4 to 1 inches in diameter and 4 to 15 grams in weight. Skin color ranges from light bronze to pink to purple to black. Flesh is clear and translucent for all muscadine grapes. Cultivars of muscadine produced in North Florida, fall into two categories: those that are used for fresh market consumptions and those that are used for processing into wine, juice or jellies.
Some recommended cultivars for fresh market are: Black Beauty, Black Fry, Fry, Granny Val, Farrer, Pam, Southern Home, Summit, Supreme, and Sweet Jenny.
Recommended cultivars for processing into wine, juice and jellies are: Alachua, Carlos, Noble and Welder.
When planting Muscadines, site selection is key. Muscadine grapes will perform well throughout Florida, although performance is poor in soils that are calcareous or are very poorly drained. Also keep in mind that they need to be trellised and trained for best yields. One and two wire systems are the most common forms. The first year, set a 5-foot stake next to each plant. Then, tie the stake permanently to the tope wire of the trellis. As shoots appear from the plant, select the healthiest shoot and tie it to the stake. Remove all other shoots. The selected shoot will become the trunk of the grape vine. As it begins to grow, keep it straight by typing it to the stake in several places. You should remove all base and lateral shoots as they appear but leave at least one lateral shoot to grow out each way on the bottom trellis wire. Cut off the top of the trunk, once it reaches the top wire. This will encourage lateral branching along the top wire.
For nutrients in the first year, a ¼ of a pound of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 fertilizer will suffice. Apply the fertilizer in a ring pattern, about a foot away from the plant as soon as shoot growth begins. Repeat the fertilizer application in May, July, and September. Fertilizer rates should increase each year, but never exceed six pounds per vine per year. Grapes need a generous supply of water to survive in our area. In fact, more first-year grapes die from lack of water than from any other cause. Be sure the plants receive an inch or more of water weekly.
For pest management, weeds can sometimes be a problem with muscadine grapes. To control weeds, use an herbicide, or you can cultivate around the plants. The muscadine grape has a very shallow root system, however, so be careful when you're weeding around the plants. Mulches can be helpful in controlling weeds, as well. Muscadine Grapes are rarely bothered by insects or diseases. Only apply fungicides and insecticides when there is a specific need.
As for established grapevines, pruning should be done during the dormant season from mid-January to mid-March. The standard rule is to remove last year’s growth (fruiting wood), leaving spurs (growth from the cordon) with 2 to 4 nodes every 6 inches of the cordon (arm of the vine). Spur renewal may be needed every 3 to 6 years. After 5 to 10 years, it is not uncommon for cordons to lose vigor and die. Simply select another young shoot to train along the wire to become the new cordon. A grapevine pruning bulletin with diagram can be found here: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/baker/docs/pdf/horticulture/educator-resources/Grapevine-Pruning.pdf
The muscadine grape crop will mature from August to early September. Just in time to produce jellies for the holiday gift giving season. For more information on muscadine grapes contact Gulf County Extension at
Information for this article is from the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “The Muscadine Grape” by Peter C. Andersen, Timothy E. Crocker and Jacque Breman: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS10000.pdf
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.