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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

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

Some seedless grape varieties may develop tiny seeds/vestigial seeds or seed remnants/traces depending on the variety and the climate in which they are grown. Some seed development is even attributed to cross-pollination by seeded grapes, but it may not be the case.

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

41 Comments

  1. Rich permalink

    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…

    • 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! :)

      • Dan permalink

        Compost is not fertilizer. In fact most compost has very little nitrogen and may even take up nitrogen to continue the break down of carbon.

        Compost is great for water holding capacity, and if well finished can help to store added fertilizers (particularly P & K) as well as micronutrients. Compost also helps keep the beneficial soil life active that will release soil potential nitrogen… but compost own its own should not be recommended as a fertilizer.

        • Thanks for correcting me, Dan! I know compost isn’t a “fertilizer” since it can’t be measured in NPK value, but I meant it as a soil conditioner. You’re right on all points :)

    • desert permalink

      I planted 3 varieties of seedless grapes about 8 or 10 years ago, the plants took off immediately and they produce every year..but the problem is, the grapes are tiny, about the size of peas sometimes…not sure what to do to increase the size of them??

      • Unless there are other reasons (weather, disease, etc.) that are keeping your fruit from sizing, these two things should help:

        1. Pruning! This involves removing old wood to keep nutrients going to the the year-old fruiting wood and also removing leafy layers from the remaining vines. You don’t want to remove ALL of the leaves, just enough to get some light to the fruit buds and developing fruit.

        2. Thinning! One of the most common reasons for small fruit, whether it’s grapes or apples or what-have-you, is overbearing. If a grape vine has a lot of fruit clusters on it (and that’s in the vine’s opinion rather than yours) it will often drop fruit or have a lot of small fruit. If you thin the fruit, leaving a few stronger clusters to remain, you should notice that your grape vines bring the fruit to a larger size and with a better flavor. Quality over quantity :)

        I hope this helps!

  2. Phil permalink

    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

    • 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. :)

      • JMCervini permalink

        I would check and see if cedar posts are available in your area…their natural makeup deters rotting.You can stain the portion of the post that is above ground for weathering resistance and appearance if you want to.Good luck!

    • Jeff permalink

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

    • Dave Gaetano permalink

      I paint the bottom 2.5′ of salt-treated posts with rubberized foundation coating (8″ above ground, the rest under). Do NOT paint the very bottom (the grainy end) as this leads to rotting posts.
      I do this both to increase longevity of the posts and to reduce roots’ access to the treated wood. It’s also helpful to put a small layer of stones in the hole under the post.
      Posts seem to be most vulnerable to rotting at and just below the soil line.

  3. Wayne permalink

    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 permalink

    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?

    • Good question Rochelle!

      I’ve heard that seedless grape varieties may develop seeds if they are pollinated (especially if by seeded grape varieties). If that’s true, and if you have wild grapes growing nearby, then they may be the culprit? I’m not certain this is true for seedless grapes becoming seeded though. I’ll have to look into it more.

      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 year-to-year and by variety in that climate.

      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.

    • Dave Gaetano permalink

      Where did you buy the grapevines? I once bought 14 “seedless” vines from two big box stores. All but 3 had seeds. Obviously the labels were haphazardly applied and erroneous.
      Only buy from a reputable nursery. That’s my practice now.

  5. Angie permalink

    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.

    • 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

    • Jack Kramer permalink

      I’m an organic gardener, so what I’m about to say may seem strange. I’ve done some reading on the pro and con issue of genetically modified plants and have concluded that there’s a lot of unfounded concern about GMOs. A recent article in Scientific American magazine pointed out the following. “The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques — which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another — genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, is less likely to produce an unexpected result.” There’s often a good reason to develop a GMO hybrid, for example drought-resistent corn. Also, one thing that concerns some people is the fact that it’s chemical companies that are “tinkering with nature”. But these are subsidiaries, not the same entities that produce poisonous substances. (Think of corporations such as General Electric with many and varied industrial subsidiaries.) Throughout nature there are plants that have inborn properties that make them poisonous to one species of insect but not to another. If you’re concerned about the consumption of GMO produce then you have lots of company. Unfortunately, I think much of the concern is based merely on some bad press.

      • Dave Gaetano permalink

        “GMOs are just as safe as other foods”
        I would really like to see the lab studies behind this statement.
        From what I’ve read, long-term independent lab studies on most (all?) GMO foods are virtually non-existent.

  6. Bruce E Goff permalink

    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.

    • 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 permalink

        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.

  7. Joanne Helms permalink

    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?

    • 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.

  8. leeza toohey permalink

    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.

    • 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!

  9. Paul Holloway permalink

    I purchased some Glenora seedless grapes from Starks a number of years ago. My clusters/ bunches are never as full as I see in the catalog or in the store. What do I need to do? Thank you for your answer!!

    • Two things may help improve your grape clusters:

      1. If the vines are covered by lots of layers of leaves, the fruit may not be getting the light it needs to be at peak quality. You can selectively pinch away some of the leaves to allow for more light exposure — but not too many! The leaves help to feed the plant and they also protect from scorching sun on bright, hot days. Just pinch a few, enough to let the fruit get some light. If your vine is really bushy with layers and layers of leaves, you may want to remove the layers until your young fruit clusters get some light.

      2. Possibly the more common reason that grapes aren’t their full size and fruit clusters aren’t as full is because there are too many bunches on the vine. The more fruit a vine has to support, the smaller the fruit will be. To remedy this, you can thin out some of the grape clusters so that the vine can bring slightly fewer clusters to a fuller size rather than having a lot of less-full clusters. It’s essentially a quantity versus quality thing, but you can find a balance where you get the most fruit without sacrificing cluster fullness. :)

  10. Jim permalink

    I planted 4 red seedless plants at the beginning of Summer 2013. 3 of the 4 are growing well, the other I contribute the growing slow due to me cutting it with the lawnmower. My question, is that none of the plants have produced fruit yet, so when should I expect to see fruit on the vines? I live in the Northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
    Thank you

    • Grape vines tend to start producing within 2 to 4 years, on average*. Grapes will appear on year-old vines, so pruning is necessary to keep the top growth in balance with the roots and also to remove non-fruiting old would which will encourage fruit development on the younger growth.

      *the grape vine you mentioned that is behind the rest may be delayed, so I wouldn’t hold it strictly to “2-4 years to produce” — environmental factors will have a hand in the years-to-fruit for all fruiting plants and trees, so it’s always an average.

      As a general rule, when pruning, be sure to leave enough old growth to develop leaves in order to support fruit development on the year-old growth (which sets fruit). It’s fine to have enough leaf-cover to shade a little from scorching sun, but don’t allow the vines become overgrown and tangled, since that will limit the opportunity for fruit production and quality.

  11. Phil Jennings permalink

    I would like to know what strength fertilizer to use on my grape vines. One local store says use 4-8-8 and another said 34% Nitrogen OR 10-10-10. I am confused!
    Please help.
    Phil

    • Generally, fertilizing with a mild and balanced 10-10-10 is just fine for grape vines. When you see more extreme variations of fertilizers, it’s usually responding to soil tests and putting back what is deficient in the soil. I’d recommend getting a soil test done (including soil pH) before using any fertilizers with a stronger composition so you don’t end up with a surplus that the vines won’t use anyway.

  12. Alexandra permalink

    Hi Sarah,
    I have ordered five grape plants from your company. Three last spring, they came really strong and good size, and have been growing great all through the summer. Two more I ordered in last year fall. They came as tiny tiny sticks barely with two buds. They do not show any signs of life now. I could not do scratch test on them they are too small. Should I just wait if they are alive or not or ask for the replacement?
    Thank you for your help
    Alexandra.

    • It depends on where you’re located whether they’re going to look alive in late February or still look like dormant bare-root grapes. If they were not to your satisfaction when they arrived, as far as quality is concerned, I’d suggest calling our customer support team (800.325.4180) so we can make a note of that in your account. This helps us control quality of our product.

      Personally, I’d wait to see what they do when things warm up for spring before replacing them, but it’s entirely up to you!

  13. Sandy permalink

    If I live in an area that isn’t allowed for some of your plants can I still get them if I’m growing them in a greenhouse? Grapes for instance.

    • There are two different situations that you might find:

      1. If the issue is that you’re in a zone 4 and the grapes (for instance) are only recommended for zones 7-10, then you can grow them in a greenhouse. We’re able to ship products even if they’re not recommended for your zone for this reason. For example, I am in zone 5 and I have a lemon tree (which is recommended to grow well in zones 8-10) but I grow it in a container and bring it indoors during the winter. This works fine.

      2. However, if an item you’re interested in is “restricted” from shipping to your county/state, then this is a county- or state-imposed regulation. We aren’t able to ship county- or state-restricted items regardless of what type of environment you’ll grow them in. These things are always changing, and we’re always working with counties and states to lift these restrictions so that more people can get different types of plants and trees shipped to them from Stark Bro’s. :)

  14. ley permalink

    I have many grape plants but they produce grape with seeds. now how can I make them seedless.

    • What varieties of grapes are they? Because if they’re varieties known for having seeds (as most wine grapes are), I’m afraid there isn’t really a way to just make them not have seeds. While the degree of seedlessness in a seedless grape varies by variety, their environment/climate may also be what is causing them to have seeds or seed remnants/traces.

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