Saturday, 28 July 2012

Grapevine propagation: green cuttings.

Here is an easy way to propagate (clone) grapevines very quickly and in large numbers.  It is best done in mid-summer, when the vines are actively growing and the shoots are just starting to toughen a little bit.  With this method, you take green cuttings (as opposed to dormant cuttings taken in winter), dip the bottoms in rooting hormone ( ''Dip 'n Grow'' type...) and put them in rooting medium to root. 
   There are many advantages to doing it this way.  Cuttings can root in as little as a week or two, and start growing vigorously as soon as they root, giving you a very good sized plant by fall to add to you vineyard.  Many times, they will grow to the same size as a dormant cutting plant started much earlier in the summer.  You can start many plants with one shoot ( taking a cutting every 2 nodes ), a few ''mother'' vines is all it takes to provide you with hundreds of plants by the end of the summer.  I especially like to use ''suckers'' growing from the bottom of the trucks.  They seem to root better for some reason, but any unwanted shoot will do.  Another advantage is that you are doing this in the summer where your plants will be outdoors, not taking up space in the house.  Also, no need for grow lights, heat mats or complicated setups.
   The only disadvantage would be for grafted plants where dormant bench grafting would be the preferred method.  Here is the step by step...

Rooting chamber.

1)  Prepare your rooting ''chamber''.  I use those plastic storage containers with an attached lid (see pictures) but any sealable transparent container will do.  I drilled a few holes in the bottom for drainage and filled the bottom 3-4 inches with moist peat moss.

2)  Take green cuttings off of a mother vine.  Make sure it is healthy and disease free.  Your cuttings will be in a high humidity environment so any mildew or rot at this stage will just be amplified tenfold...  To make your cuttings, use a very sharp knife ( x acto style), make sure it is very clean and dip it in rubbing alcohol to disinfect.  Scissors don't work as well because they seem to pinch the cutting instead of cutting it, inflicting serious damage to the base of the cutting. 

Fresh cuttings in rooting medium.
  All you need here is 2 nodes.  Remove all the leaves off of the bottom node and make your cut just below it.  This is where the new roots will form.  At the top, I leave only the smallest leaf.  If too large, I will cut part of the leaf off to keep the cutting hydrated.  A large leaf will do more harm than good at this stage because it will let a lot of moisture evaporate and the plant doesn't have roots yet! 
   Then, I dip the cutting in the rooting hormone and insert it in the peat moss right up to the upper leaf.

3)  After a few days, check a few of the cuttings to see where they're at.  They should look like this...

Root are on their way!

This is when I start slowly opening the cover little by little everyday to SLOWLY acclimatise the vines and get them used to less ambient moisture.  Again, do this very gradually.  Open too quickly and the cuttings will wilt and die.  I like to do this over the course of a week. 

Ahh! Fresh air!

4)  After 2 week, give or take a few days, the cutting should have rooted and look like this...

Rooted cutting.
More rooted cuttings...

5)  Simply pot individually in potting soil, water and watch them grow. 

  I like to grow them in 1 gallon pots for the rest of the summer but they could be transplanted in their permanent location right away.  In the ladder case, proceed very gently.  These are a lot more fragile then hardwood cuttings.  This is why I like to keep them in pots until the fall, wait for the first frost, and transplant then while they are dormant.  This allows the plant to establish its roots somewhat, and be ready to go by next spring.  Transplanting in the field too late in the summer should be avoided because newly transplanted vines need a lot of water and excessive watering will promote new growth.  This, in turn, will delay the ''hardening off'' process and the plants will be less likely to survive the winter. 
   By transplanting the vines dormant in the fall, transplant shock is avoided and the initial watering (at transplant time) will not affect the dormant plant. 

   By spring,  these plants will be at the same stage (or very close...) as a hardwood cutting started much earlier the same year.

Happy cloning!


  1. Are you saying that once the green cutting has rooted and after it goes dormant---late fall---you can pop it into the ground and all will be good until spring? I live in Upper Michigan and it gets REAL cold here in the winter....could they stay in pots all winter too?

  2. Hi Jack,
    Thanks for your comment. I like to grow green cuttings in pots in the summer because I find it makes the whole process (watering, monitoring, ease of access...)easier to manage. Plus, I can move them around as I please. I have tried transplanting them many different ways and the method with the best success rate for me seemed to be transplanting them while dormant in the fall. I've had a survival rate of close to 100% that way. For some reason, it seems the roots were better established come springtime, and the plants started growing vigorously right away as soon as the plant budded. Plus, transplant shock is completely avoided. I've also tried transplanting them in late summer, but those plants had a growth spurt as soon as transplanted, and didn't seem to harden for winter as well that way. So survival rate was greatly reduced to around 60-75%. Now the cuttings can also be put in the ground as soon as they root in mid-summer with great results, but I prefer to leave them in pot for the reasons mentioned above. I've also overwintered them in pots (referring to your 2nd question), and this works too. But the roots should be protected by burying the pots in the ground so they are not above ground level, or storing the plants in a more sheltered area. And to avoid transplant shock, they need to be planted in the ground way before they start budding. For all those reasons, I just prefer to transplant in the fall. Just more convenient and easier. Also, the plants seemed to respond better that way.
    Now every growing site has different conditions, and results may vary slightly, but as for winter temperatures, we are probably in a very similar range. I am in zone 5a here in Ontario and the temperature regularly dips down to -25/-30 C (-13/-22 F) with an occasional -40 C (-40 F). Also, keep in mind that I use this method for hybrid grapes only. Grafted vines are completely different as they are grafted while dormant in early spring.
    I hope this answers your questions.
    Thanks again for visiting!

  3. Fred...thanks for your July 2012 instructions and your experience propagating grapes in the summer...when I first started growing grapes I had helped a grape-grower neighbor out here in Somerset, WI (-40 degree winters)prune his vineyard in mid winter...we tossed the cuttings in the aisles and I asked "what do you do with all these cuttings...?"he said "come spring we load them in tucks and burn them" me it was like leaving money on the table to burn them...but he offered me to take all I want... so after some instructions from Lon Rombough's "The Grape Grower" I potted them in my basement all that winter...come Spring they were about 4 ft high in 6 inch pots and ready to harden off and clipping attrition rate was about 20-25% during the basement potting. Last winter here in Wisconsin was unusually harsh and I lost many upper vines, but the roots were OK and they began to come back...

    This summer...I plan you follow your experiences and instructions after I do some past due pruning (I had allowed the vines to re-establish themselves since grape yield had been poor)...I don't use commercial root enhancers...I prepare "willow water" from willow trees and soak the clippings overnight just prior to potting them. Thanks Fred for your help...George

    1. Hi George,
      It sure is nice to find a source of cuttings as you have. Most of us have to order them and have them shipped! I too have read ''The grape grower" and found it to be an incredible source of information. As you experienced, I have also found that there is normally quite a bit of winter kill especially in the first year when the vines are immature.. But they always seem to come back with a vengeance in the spring even if the damage seemed to be down to ground level. I've had some that looked completely dead and as I was getting ready to pull them out, noticed they actually had new shoots coming straight out of the ground. It is surprising how resilient they can be.
      Although I have never tried it, I've heard of the willow water as you've described. Certainly a good option to commercial root enhancer as I've read it has very good results.
      Thanks for your comment and best of luck!

  4. I tried this and the leaves fell off. I'm not sure if the cuttings are going to root or not. It has been about three weeks with no real roos showing. Is this a lost cause?

    1. Hi,
      From what you're saying, my best guess is that the humidity probably wasn't high enough and the cuttings probably wilted from dehydration. It is very important to keep the humidity at 100% especially at the start because the cuttings don't have roots yet and are very vulnerable. So the container should be sealed and the rooting media should be kept saturated with water. Proper temperature might have also been a factor. A temperature of approx 80 to 85 degrees F is ideal for fast rooting. Beware of excess heat also. Anything over 90 F can harm the plants. So avoid hot locations (direct sun) because the air temperature in a sealed container like this can climb very quickly and damage the cuttings.
      I apologize for the delay and hope this is useful for your next attempt.

  5. Hi, I'm not sure if this blog is still active, but I propagated two plants using your method this summer in New Hampshire. I took the cuttings from a family estate that was sold this year so there is a lot of sentimentality. This is my first experience with grapes and I'm really nervous that I'll kill them over the winter. When in the northern zones is an appropriate time to plant dormant vines? I was thinking about keeping one plant in the pot over the winter and planting one. How do I even know when it is actually dormant?
    Thank you very much for your advice, Cassie

    1. HI Cassie,
      Yes, this blog is still active and I apologize for the late reply.
      The easiest way to tell if a vine is dormant is when the leaves fall off in the fall. This normally happens at the first frost and is a very quick process. You can technically plant the dormant vine any time after this. I prefer to plant it in the fall as mentioned in the post because I feel the plants get a better ''start'' in the spring, but it can also be done in the spring. It is preferable to do so before the plants ''wake up'' and start budding. Keep in mind a dormant vine is very resistant to changes in its environment so whether it overwinters in a pot or in the ground makes little difference. As long as the temperature doesn't go down below the particular variety's tolerance. If you choose to overwinter in a pot, a cold dark room (basement) is ideal. Watering should be kept to a minimum and is only needed if the soil gets completely dry.
      Thanks for your comment and best of luck.

  6. Hi, what hybrids are you using?

    1. Hi,
      I've used this method for Marquette, Frontenac, Foch, Baco, and more with very good results. As long as the cuttings are healthy, this should word for any variety. The only exception would be for pure vinifera varieties where grafting to a rootstock is necessary for disease prevention.
      Thanks for your comment.

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  8. Fred, This is a wonderful system. Thank you for sharing. My first batch, started in mid-July, yielded about 25 plants. My later batches, started in August, have been much slower to root and I am wondering if the shorter days might be the cause. This is making me think I should bring the boxes inside, put them on a heat mat and turn on the grow lights. Your thoughts? Thanks again, Dorothy

    1. Hi Dorothy, thanks for your comment.
      For some reason, green cuttings seem to root a lot faster if the cuttings are taken when the plant is growing actively at the beginning of the summer when the stems of the shoots are still green and tender. I find that cuttings taken later in the summer have a lower success rate. This might be caused by the fact that the plant has started hardening off for the winter and is less prone to propagate easily. Also, cuttings taken earlier in the summer will have more time to harden properly, will have a more established root system and therefore will have a better survival rate through the winter.
      Thanks again and good luck with your vines!

  9. Hello!

    Great tutorial. It's well-written & the photos match perfectly to the words. I wish to thank you. Your information to Dorothy O'Brien is particularly valuable. You state, "when the stems of the shoots are still green and tender... at the beginning of summer" is the quickest rooting.

    It's great you also state, "cuttings taken earlier in the summer will have more time to harden properly." This is a double dose of the cats meow.

    Cheers, and kind thanks.


  10. thanks , i am gonna try this ...

    well I did lol, last night