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Growing Seedless Grapes

by Stark Bro's on 03/27/2014
Seedless White Grapes

Grapes are the “queen of fruits” in many parts of the world. They are a treasure trove of anti-inflammatories, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients — including antioxidants, found in grape skins. They’re low in fat, calories, and are cholesterol-free, so there’s no guilt when you’re snacking on grapes!

Seeded grapes and seedless grapes can both be grown at home, but growing seedless grapes is more popular for how easy they are to grow as well as harvest and snack on.

How are seedless grapes ‘seedless’?

Putting common fears at ease, seedless grapes are not created in a lab through genetic modification. The biological occurrence known as “stenospermocarpy” is what causes the berries of grape vines to be seedless. More accurately, this is a mechanism in the plant that generates underdeveloped seeds, or tiny seeds that are barely visible, within the fruit.

Vestigial Seeds in Red GrapeThe vines still require pollination to develop fruit, but the grape’s seedlessness means the plants are not going to propagate themselves from seed. Most grape cultivars are propagated from grafts or rooted cuttings anyway, which ensures your grapes have the characteristics you expect from the variety you select to plant.

General Types of Grape Vines

  • Table Grapes (seeded or seedless)
  • Wine Grapes (commonly seeded)
  • Muscadine Grapes (commonly seeded)

The most common seedless grapes are table grapes. It’s possible to use varieties of table grapes for juice and even wine, but they are ideal for fresh-eating. Their sugar content is lower than that of a traditional wine grape, and their flavor is more appreciable when eaten fresh.

So, now that you know a little bit about them, why not grow a home-vineyard of your own healthy seedless grapes?

Here are a few seedless grape varieties we recommend for the backyard vineyard:

1. Somerset Grape | Seedless Self-pollinating Color: Red/purple

A unique, strawberry-like flavor. Bears heavy, compact clusters of medium-sized table grapes that are good for fresh-eating and making jelly. Vigorous, disease-resistant, and cold-hardy vines. Fruit ripens in August.

2. Gratitude Grape | Seedless Self-pollinating  Color: White/green

Exceptionally crisp and juicy. Bears gorgeous, tight clusters of bright, sweet-tart, crack-resistant, thin-skinned fruit. Developed at the University of Arkansas. Fruit ripens in late August.

3. Thomcord Grape | Seedless Self-pollinating Color: Blue/black

The best of both worlds! Offspring of parents: Thompson and Concord. Fruit retains the rich flavor of Concord and the light sweetness of Thompson. Vines are heat-tolerant. Fruit ripens in August.

1. Somerset Seedless Grape  2. Gratitude Grape  3. Thomcord Seedless Grape

Sometimes a seedless grape variety will develop tiny seeds (vestigial seeds/seed remnants) if cross-pollinated by seeded grapes. To ensure that your grapes remain seedless, plant these varieties at least 75 feet apart.

Growing Seedless Grape Vines

Choose the right site. Pick a sunny southern location with loamy, fertile soil and very good drainage. Mark off spots approximately eight feet apart and install an arbor or trellis post at each spot*.

Dig the hole. Assess the size of the vine’s root system and dig a hole approximately twice as large. Place the grapevine in the hole, spreading out the roots, and back-fill with soil until the hole is three-quarters full. Water to settle the soil. Finish filling with soil and water again.

Prune after planting. Cut back the plant to two buds. These should be encouraged to grow in opposite directions along the trellis. Each successive year, prune off old/dead canes to leave room for the most vigorous canes.

Water as needed. New plants need more water than established vines; water weekly for the first year, especially in hot/dry spells.

Read more about planting and growing your own seedless grapes in our Growing Guide Plant Manuals for Grape Vines.

*Once you decide to grow your own seedless grapes, remember that the vines require a support system — like a sturdy fence, arbor, or trellis — as they grow and mature. The support should be in place before planting, or very soon after.

» Watch this great “DIY” video from the Oklahoma State University: Building a Grape Trellis.

If you don’t have room to turn your backyard into a vineyard, The Fruit Gardener’s Bible book has wonderful instructions on growing grapes in containers — perfect for small-space gardening!

Shop All Seedless Grapes »

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips

24 comments on “Growing Seedless Grapes

  1. Rich on said:

    I planted six seedless grapes on a trellis and five of the six did great. One of them seems to be the runt of the liter and although alive and growing, it grew maybe a third of what the others did. I’ve now pruned them all back to the size of the runt. Is there a good chance the runt had a bad year and this could be his year? There is life in him…he’s just…slow…

    • Sarah on said:

      It may be the variety naturally isn’t as vigorous as the other 5, or it may be the spot the one vine is planted in has fewer nutrients than the other 5 spots (it may sound strange, but it’s possible!). If you haven’t fertilized your grape vines during the growing season, you might try that this spring when they start breaking dormancy and budding out. You can use a water-soluble fertilizer like Stark® Tre-Pep® Fertilizer or organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, compost, crab meal, or cottonseed meal as alternatives.

      The good news is that “the runt” is still living and the older it gets, the more chance it has to grow. I’m not sure how the weather was for you in the past year, but if it was a harsh year for the smaller grape vine (the response could vary per grape vine), that could be the reason it hasn’t flourished like the others. Let’s see what it does for you this year! :)

  2. Phil on said:

    I can put up an arbor fairly quickly, but I’ve always been hesitant about using pressure treated wood. I know that arsenic and some other chemicals and metals are no longer used. Question is: Can I use the current versions of the PT wood that are now sold. I guess I’m wondering if there are any adverse elements in PT that grape roots might tend to absorb

    • Sarah on said:

      That’s a really good question, Phil. Unfortunately, I can’t speak expertly on pressure-treated wood. I’m going to guess there are standards about pressure-treated wood, but, on that same token, I’m not going to assume that all pressure-treated wood is treated the same.

      It’s a good idea to play it safe: if the pressure treated wood is able to put chemicals/metals into the soil, assume those things may get taken up by your grape vines. Maybe find out more about the source of the wood you intend to use and see if it gives you any insight on whether or not it’s something you want to use for your grape arbor.

      Thinking outside the box here: you can plant your grape vines in large containers and still train them to the arbor you build, so that the roots aren’t in the same soil as the pressure-treated wood. :)

    • Jeff on said:

      Use Cedar. Its more expensive but has natural rot and moisture resistance. (No chemicals)

  3. Wayne on said:

    I think we are in zone 7b coastal Carolina. I have tried some of the thin skinned grapes with absolutely no success. We have plenty of the Muscadines, which do well here. My question is, are there any varieties of the seedless grapes that will grow in our growing zone?

  4. Rochelle Yospe on said:

    I have 3 “seedless” grapes vines I planted a few years ago. The first year they all produced grapes with seeds, one with small seeds, the other two had very large seeds. Last year the one had no seeds and the other two still had very large seeds but better flavor than previous years. Will the seeds disappear in subsequent years?

    • Sarah on said:

      Good question Rochelle!

      Most information sources say that seedless grape varieties may develop seeds if they are pollinated (especially if by seeded grape varieties). If you have wild grapes growing nearby, they may be the culprit. It is common that fruit quality improves as vines establish and mature.

      More commonly, though, it’s the variety and the environment in which they’re growing that determines how seedless grapes are. Seedlessness may vary with the climate/weather and variety year-to-year.

      This excerpt from a Cornell University publication about seedless grapes explains it better:

      The degree of seedlessness varies greatly among seedless grape varieties. Most seedless grapes have vestigial seed traces that range in size from very small to large and noticeable. Seed traces in berries of the same variety may vary greatly in size and in the hardness of their seed coats. Climate is also known to affect seed trace size. Occasionally the seed traces in some seedless grapes are large enough to be bothersome to consumers. Notes on seed remnant sizes are given for varieties in which problems exist.

      You can read more from Cornell University’s article on Seedless Grapes here — including seedless varieties they have found to be more “seeded” than others in their testing there.

  5. Sam on said:

    I planted four varities of “Seedless Grapes” and some how the fruit is seeded. I contacted the customer service department and they told me that if my plants were close to a seeded plant that mine would then become seeded. I don’t know about you but you can not determine from where or how your plants are pollinated. If a plant is seedless what does it matter where it is planted. I even had customer service send me out new plants and the same thing, graoes with seeds from seedless plants. Any suggestions?

    • Sarah on said:

      You’re right, Sam. It would be difficult to determine where the pollen that pollinates your grape vines is coming from. The information you received was also accurate; if there are seeded grapes growing near yours (wild, in your neighbor’s yard, etc.), then the opportunity of wind/insects carrying grape pollen to your seedless varieties is likely.

      The level of seedlessness will vary per variety, like other traits, and it can change from year to year. A Concord Seedless Grape that is cross-pollinated by a seeded variety may have a few vestigial seeds (soft/small seed remnants) — while the same variety in a different location with no other grape plants around, will be truly seedless. This is because cross-pollination can override seedlessness. While most seedless grapes are self-pollinating, and self-pollinating seedless grape pollination uses gravity to take place, wind and small insects can still carry pollen from one variety to another. The same thing can happen to seedless persimmon trees.

      I’m not sure what the culprit is that’s cross-pollinating your seedless grape vines. Personally, I wouldn’t remove wild grapes growing nearby just to keep my grapes from developing seeds/seed remnants, but that may be an option for you. I hope this at least clears up why seedless grapes may still develop seeds! :)

  6. Jan on said:

    I live in Minnesota. Needless to say, we have some very interesting winters. Would a seedless grapevine survive up here? I have 6 different vines, all seeded variety’s. Wondering the pros & cons of seedless if it would survive, and how far from my other vines should it be placed? We live on an 8 acre site, with the current grape vines near one corner.

    • Sarah on said:

      As long as the seedless grape vines you’re planting are recommended for success in your zone, they should grow well for you! If you’re already caring for seeded varieties of grapes, the same care and maintenance should be applied to seedless varieties. One thing you might notice is a bit more natural fruit drop with seedless grapes — but that’s actually a benefit. Less fruit in the developing cluster means more room for a bigger grape, without the crushing or cracking that occurs in most tight clusters.

      You might already be familiar with thinning seeded grapes to encourage a larger sized fruit. In the case of wine grapes, however, bigger fruit size is usually attributed to “more water” and “less concentration of flavor in the juice”, so bigger isn’t always better. It just depends on what you’re growing the fruit for!

      You will notice that most seedless varieties of grapes are also self-pollinating. Seedless varieties vary in their degree of seedlessness (as mentioned in one of the comments above), but, if cross-pollination occurs, the greater the chance of the development of seeds — be it hard-shelled or vestigial.

      Cross-pollination in grapes is mostly attributed to wind and small insects rather than the traditional nectar-seeking bees. It’s difficult to predict the chance of your seeded varieties cross-pollinating your seedless varieties, just as it’s difficult to isolate the seedless ones you plant to avoid the risk. The most ideal range for pollination happens within 50 feet of one plant and other compatible plants. If you can, try planting seedless varieties at least 75 feet from seeded ones to discourage cross-pollination.

      The biggest pro for seedless grapes is that you are open to experiencing a selection of grapes bred for their natural seedlessness. The con in this case would be that they may still develop seeded fruit if they are pollinated by your existing grape vines.

      I hope this all helps you, Jan! :)

  7. Angie on said:

    Last summer, my husband built a wonderful grape arbor, now it’s my job to find the grapes to grow on it. We refuse to purposely plant any food plants that contain geneticly modified organisms (gmo), so I’m looking to order grape vines (and fruit trees) that can be guaranteed non-gmo. Would it be safe to order from you? or can you recommend someplace that promises non-gmo grapes & fruit? Thank You.

    • Sarah on said:

      Stark Bro’s doesn’t carry any genetically-modified plants or trees, so you can order from us without fear of planting/growing genetically modified products.

      Actually, if you research this, GMO fruit-bearing plants and trees are not even common in the US — unfortunately, I have to amend this statement with “yet”. I’ve read that there are a couple tropicals, like papaya and pineapple, that were modified to avoid certain detrimental diseases.

      Keep your eye out for “Arctic Apples” that are genetically modified to resist fruit browning — of all the stupid reasons to genetically modify a fruit: appearance. These apples are being studied in Washington, but aren’t approved by the USDA for marketing in the United States — but, again, a big “yet” here.

      See references:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonbrowning_Arctic_Apples
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_Apples

  8. Bruce E Goff on said:

    Last year I purchased two grapes from Miller. Since I can’t seem to contact Miller any more, I’ve been trying Stark since they bought up Miller. I planted a Sheridan and a Golden Muskate. Both vines tops were killed this winter, but there is vine growth at the soil level starting. Will these vines be true to the variety, or were these grafted grapes and I need to make sure the vine isn’t growing at the graft union. If grafted, is there a way to be sure if the vine isn’t shooting from the root stock??

    Thanks.

    • Sarah on said:

      These days, grape vines tend to be propagated by rooted cuttings rather than by grafting, so the lower growth you’re seeing is more than likely true-to-name for the varieties you planted. I’d recommend pruning back what got damaged by the winter and train the new growth. Grape vines used to be grafted decades ago, but it’s not standard practice any more.

      • Bruce on said:

        Thanks. I noticed yesterday that one of the vines also has some growth on last years vine at two buds. I’ll let the growth at soil level keep growing and see how well the growth on the vine progresses.

  9. Joanne Helms on said:

    My husband and I have just added 3 seedless grape vines into a raised bed in our garden. We will but be sinking posts and stringing 3 levels of wire, but want to know if there is a “best” kind of support wire to use. Any suggestions?

    • Sarah on said:

      What I’ve heard from grape growers is that you can’t go wrong with a 12.5 gauge high-tensile wire. It’s strong, durable, and it should be easy to find, too. I would suggest looking locally and then maybe comparing prices to online sources like Kencove here to see what your best deal is.

  10. leeza toohey on said:

    My grape vine just started to grow, and we are quite pleased. The other side; which I planted
    first, is just coming green. Another joy. Why did it take so long? Leeza/Dalton, N.H.

    • Sarah on said:

      I’m glad to hear your grape is finally growing well! Sometimes, especially after a harsh winter and a fickle spring (with fluctuating cold temperatures), plants and trees can suffer stress. They usually snap out of it and spring to life, but it may delay them a bit. This spring was definitely one of those seasons!

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