Oh, those wonderful muscadines. Vitus rotundifolia is the native grape of the Southeast, long enjoyed by Native Americans and equally prized by European explorers and settlers. At Roanoke Island, a 400-year-old plant, the Mother Vine, was still cultivated by the nonagenarian owners of the property, Jack and Estelle Wilson, until their deaths in 2018. That Mr. and Mrs. Wilson could maintain an acre of this one plant at that advanced age should give you a hint that this is perhaps the easiest and most reliable of backyard fruits.
Since this vine should easily outlive you, take time to choose one or two cultivars you will really enjoy. Ison’s Nursery in Brooks, Georgia, has a great selection. The all-female varieties, which require a self-fertile vine planted near them for pollination, have bigger fruits, but to me they’re like over-large raw oysters, just too much of a wet mouthful. You only have to plant a single vine if you choose a self-fertile cultivar. A one-wire trellis gives the best air movement to help with diseases. There aren’t many, and you can add disease resistance to your checklist when choosing so that you probably never will need to use a pesticide. Vines need nearly full sun and well-drained soil. Keep those weeds under control. I use mulch, which helps retain moisture, too.
Resist the idea of a decorative or overhead structure to support your muscadine as you must have full access to the main vines, or cordons, for annual pruning. Cutting off almost all of the previous year’s growth early each spring is absolutely critical. Vines bleed sap when they’re pruned, but this is normal. Rowland Alston used to say, “Nothing influences the quality and quantity of muscadines more than proper pruning.”
You can find all the information you need about getting started with this wonderful fruit by searching “Muscadines, Clemson HGIC.” You’ll be rewarded with lovely green leaves, delicious fruits, and long lengths of pruned vines you can use to make baskets, wreaths, or as the framework for a hat covered with flowers!