Cold Hardy Grape Varieties: Tips On Growing Grapes In Zone 4

By: Liz Baessler

Grapes are a fantastic crop for cold climates. Grapevines do have different levels of hardiness, however. Keep reading to learn more about cold hardy grape varieties, particularly how to pick grapes for zone 4 conditions.

Cold Hardy Grape Varieties

Growing grapes in zone 4 is no different than anywhere else, though additional winter protection or prepping may be necessary in some instances. The key to success largely depends on your zone 4 grape selections. Here are some good zone 4 grapevines:

– Hardy down to zone 3, this concord hybrid is deep purple and very strong. It’s good for jams and juice but not for winemaking.

Bluebell – Hardy down to zone 3, this grape is very disease resistant and good for juice, jelly, and eating. It performs very well in zone 4.

Edelweiss – A very hardy white grape, it produces yellow to green fruit that makes good sweet wine and is excellent eaten fresh.

Frontenac – Bred to be a cold hardy wine grape, it produces heavy clusters of many small fruits. Primarily used for wine, it also makes a good jam.

Kay Gray – Less hardy of the zone 4 grapevines, this one needs some protection to survive the winter. It produces excellent green table grapes, but is not very productive.

King of the North – Hardy down to zone 3, this vine heavily produces blue grapes that are excellent for juice.

Marquette – Relatively hardy down to zone 3, it performs very well in zone 4. Its blue grapes are a favorite for making red wine.

Minnesota 78 – A less hardy hybrid of Beta, it is hardy down to zone 4. Its blue grapes are great for juice, jam, and eating fresh.

Somerset – Hardy down to zone 4, this white seedless grape is the most cold tolerant seedless grape available.

Swenson Red – This red table grape has a strawberry-like flavor that makes it a favorite for eating fresh. It is hardy down to zone 4.

Valiant – Thought to be the toughest of the cold hardy grape varieties, reportedly surviving temperatures as low as -50 F. (-45 C.). Very popular for its toughness and flavor, it’s a good choice in cold climates. It is, however, very vulnerable to mildew disease.

Worden – Hardy down to zone 4, it produces a large amount of blue grapes that are good for jams and juice and has good disease resistance.

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10 Hardy vines you should know

Unfortunately for gardeners in more intemperate climates, most interesting vines are annuals, tropical or completely invasive. If you are on a search for vines that will remain robust perennials in your zone, here are 10 hardy vines you should know.

Arctic Kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta)(pictured right)

Arctic Kiwi is a hardy vine most gardeners have never heard of. It is best known for its large pink and white variegated leaves and is hardy to zone 3. This beauty will grow in many different situations from full sun to partial shade, fertile soil to dry, clay soil. Arctic Kiwi grows best on a lattice, trellis or fence and can reach over 10 feet tall.

Arctic Kiwis can also set tasty fruit, similar to the common kiwi only small and purportedly sweeter. However, Arctic Kiwis are dioecious, meaning that a male and female plant have to planted in close proximity in order to set fruit/seed. The stunning variegation shows up best in male plants and mostly in more mature leaves on plants that are several years old. [1]

5-leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata)

Talk about a vigorous and hardy vine! Five-leaf Akebia, also known as chocolate vine, will cover whatever structure you put it on and can grow up to 40 feet. Just like the name implies, the leaves are 5-lobed and resemble miniature hands. In late spring, you can sometimes spot inconspicuous dark purple blooms that waft a spicy fragrance into the air. This deciduous vine can also be used as a ground cover and is hardy to zone 4. It will tolerate many different soils, but needs full sun to make the best show. The woody stems need to be cut back throughout the season and in the fall to keep a lush plant [2] .

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

Climbing Hydrangea is a beauty worth seeking out and waiting for. Though it is slower to establish than others on this list, Climbing Hydrangea is treasured for its fragrant, lacy, white bloom clusters which appear in mid summer and will grow vigorously once well-established. Even when not in bloom, the plant's glossy, heart-shaped leaves and shedding bark make is a stunner all year round.

Climbing Hydrangea does best when planted near and allowed to climb brick walls, tall trees or other sturdy structures because it attaches using aerial roots. It will do best in partial to full sun and is hardy to Zone 4. [3]

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

Other great non-invasive Honeysuckles include 'Gold Flame' Honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii) and Brown's Honeysuckle (Lonicera x brownii).

Poor Man's Ginseng (Codonopsis pilosula)

Poor Man's Ginseng is a perennial vine native to Asia. This hardy, twining vine prefers moist, loamy soil and full to partial sun. It is hardy to Zone 4 and flowers throughout the summer [4] .

Poor Man's Ginseng is also used as an herbal remedy asthma, lethargy, and cough among other ailments [5] . (*Please talk to your doctor before using any herbal remedies, these sources have not been checked for medical accuracy.)

Grape (Vitis)

For a productive and interesting hardy vine, why not give grapes a try? They are very easy to grow and can flourish in average, well draining soil. Grapes need full sun and most varieties are hardy to zone 4. Grape vines climb using tendrils which attack to trellises or arbors easily. The woody stems need a sturdy, permanent structure to climb on as grape vines are very long lived. You can find grapes in varieties meant for eating raw, making wine, or drying as raisins. Color varieties come in white, purple, blue, red, black, and green [6] .

Cream Pea Vine (Lathyrus ochroleucus)

Also known as Common Vetchling, this beautiful vine is often found wild in woodland areas and is native to most of Canada and the northern U.S. It is a slender, climber perennial with common pea-like leaves and stems. The white blooms consist of 5-10 flowers per raceme which appear in mid summer. [7]

Wisterias are a classic choice if you are searching for a very hardy vine. There are all sorts of rumors swirling about Wisteria: they're invasive, they are impossible to make bloom, they are impossible to make grow, etc. Depending on your climate and the particular place you put a Wisteria, any or all of these rumors could be true. Whether you love them or hate them, Wisterias can be a beautiful addition to your perennial garden. Keep in mind that there are 3 different kinds of Wisteria, each with its own merits and visual qualities.

Wisterias need a very strong support, whether it is an arbor, trellis, or wooden swing. They are vigorous growers and their arching stems can grow several feet each season. It will take a Wisteria many years to bloom if grown from seed, so starting out with a grafted or vegetatively propagated plant will give you a jump start. Wisterias prefer well-drained acid soil and once established, don't need much extra water in the summer months. No matter which Wisteria you choose, you'll surely be adding a beautiful and romantic spot in your garden.

A favorite among perennial vines, clematis offer a wide range of colors and growing habits. Most clematis are hardy to zone 3, making them a beautiful and resilient vine for difficult climates. Clematis can be intimidating because of the different pruning groups and sometimes picky growing conditions. However, they are actually much easier to keep than most people think. You just have to know a few certain tricks. Give them shaded roots and obey the rules of their individual pruning groups and you will have a flourishing, floriferous vine. Check out these articles for further information on pruning groups and cultivars.

Don't be discouraged by cold, ruthless winters. There are plenty of beautiful vines out there that you can grow in colder climates. We don't end up sacrificing attractiveness or interesting foliage on account of hardiness. Dig in!

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Somerset Seedless Grape Vine

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Product Details

Product Details

  • Botanical Name: Vitis labrusca 'Someset'
  • Height: 4-6 feet.
  • Spacing: 6-8 feet.
  • Depth: Plant at the same depth as in the nursery. Plant so the roots are below soil level.
  • Spread: 1-1 1/2 feet.
  • Light Required: Full Sun
  • Pollinator: Self-pollinating
  • Yield: Heavy yields.
  • Size: No. 1, 1-Yr Vines
  • Fruit: Medium-sized, red table grapes with a juicy, firm, crisp texture. Sweet, strawberry-like flavor.
  • Zone: 4-8
  • Form: Perennial vine, grape.
  • Flower Form: Small, 5 petaled, held in narrow panicles. Not ornamental.
  • Soil Requirements: Highly organic, well-drained soil.
  • Growth Rate: Moderate growth rate.
  • Pruning: During late February or March, proper pruning will help maintain a grapevine's potential of producing a good quality fruit crop, develop good vine structure, increase sunlight exposure into the canopy, promote the development of next year's fruiting wood
  • Foliage: Medium green foliage.

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Question & Answers

Question & Answers

Most times, orders having items with different shipping schedules are held in full until the entire order is ready to ship based on your grow zone.

Plants will be shipped at the proper planting time for your area of the country using the shipping timeframes outlined below. We continually monitor weather conditions for extreme hot or cold and adjust shipping schedules as needed. Due to hot weather conditions, we are unable to ship most plant items in July and August.

The type of product you order or the weather in our area to yours may affect the anticipated shipping schedule, shifting earlier or later, depending.

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In all cases, we choose the fastest, most efficient way to send your orders via the U.S. Postal Service or FedEx. Large orders or large items may be shipped to you in multiple packages.

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Zone Four Gardening Tips

The best thing you should know when gardening in planting zone four, beyond fertilizing and watering skills, is how to give yourself a longer growing season.

Since this is still a relatively cold area, your growing season isn’t as long as other places. Therefore, you must find ways to give your fruits and vegetables the necessary time they need to produce.

Your first option is to construct a greenhouse. If you choose a cold-frame style greenhouse, this will give you the opportunity to begin growing items early and protect them from the frost to help them have a longer period for harvest.

However, if you choose to go with a heated greenhouse, this would allow you to produce certain vegetables year-round.

You could even choose to grow dwarf fruit trees as part of your container garden and move them in and out of a heated greenhouse as the weather permits if you choose to grow fruit trees which wouldn’t normally do well in your area.

The next option is to use raised garden beds. These beds will thaw faster than the earth around them, and they’re easier to work with.

Raised garden beds make life easier on your back and also give you a smaller area to work with which makes amending your soil and thawing the soil a little easier too.

Also, however you choose to grow a garden, plant either north to south or south to north. This will give the plants the maximum amount of sunlight during the day. This is important when you grow in a colder climate.

Lastly, whether you use a greenhouse or not, remember to start your seeds indoors to give them time to germinate and sprout prior to planting. This will give your crops a head start whenever possible.

This will allow you to transplant seedlings, which can give you a month or more of grow-time which won’t have to be accounted for outdoors.

Edible of the Month: Grapes

Table grapes are the perfect backyard crop. They require little space if trained properly, produce fruit the second year after planting, and can be eaten fresh, as juice, or in jams.

It's a wonder more home gardeners don't grow their own grape vines. Grapes have a reputation for being hard to care for, and their vigorous growth too weedy to handle. However, with proper pruning, your grapes can produce an abundance of fruit for the table and even for juice or wine making.

Grapes are prolific. The second year after planting they will produce fruit. In three years you'll get up to 15 pounds of fruit per vine. Two vines are probably enough to support a household of grape lovers.

Besides being easy to grow and prolific, grapes are also tasty and good for you. Not only are they a rich source of vitamins A, C, B6, and folate, they contain essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron. Grapes also are loaded with antioxidants, such as resveratrol, that reduce the risk for Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and cancer. So, grow a few vines of grapes in the backyard for fresh eating and, if you're ambitious, for making a little wine and juice, too. Here's how.

'Pink Reliance' table grape is a seedless variety that can grow in cold-weather areas. It has attractive pink new shoots in spring.

Grapes are broken into three general groups. American grapes (Vitis lambrusca) are the most cold hardy (to USDA zone 4) and most widely adapted of the grape species. European grapes (Vitis vinifera) grow best in sunny climates with warm summers and mild winters, such as in California. They are only hardy to USDA zone 7. Crosses between these two groups and with other lesser species abound. Many of these hybrids are adapted to cold climates, allowing vineyards to sprout up in places normally too cold to produce wine grapes. In the South, the muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia) is a native, vigorous vine that adapts well to the heat and humidity. It's hardy to USDA zone 7 and can produce up to 30 pounds of fruit a year when mature.

There are hundreds of grape varieties to choose from. Some varieties take a long time to mature or have limited hardiness, so be sure to select ones adapted to your climate. Some muscadine varieties are self-fertile, while others need a pollinator to produce. Here are some of the most popular grape varieties to try in your garden.

  • 'Chardonnay'. This European white-skinned wine grape is one of the easiest to grow. The vines are adapted to a variety of climates. The fruits produce a dry white wine with a lemony, nutty, and somewhat tropical fruit flavor and aroma.
  • 'Concord'. This American grape is one of the most widely grown in the country. The seeded, blue-black fruits are have a strong flavor and are good for juice, jellies, and preserves.
  • 'Cowart'. This self-fertile muscadine variety produces large, sweet, black-skinned fruits. The vines are very disease resistant.
  • 'Flame Seedless'. This European grape is adapted to the West Coast. It features vigorous vines and dark red fruits that are resistant to cracking.
  • 'Frontenac'. This hybrid wine variety is very hardy and disease resistant. The black grapes produce a red wine with a cherry aroma and a taste of blackberry, black currant, and plum.
  • 'Himrod'. This American table grape produces large bunches of white seedless grapes with an excellent, honey-like flavor.
  • 'Interlaken Seedless'. This early-ripening American, white seedless variety features small fruits with a strong grape flavor.
  • 'La Crescent'. This hybrid variety is a cold-hardy wine grape. It features white grapes that produces a sweet white wine similar to a Riesling.
  • 'Magnolia'. This self-fertile, productive muscadine variety features large, bronze fruits that are good eaten fresh or made into juice or wine.
  • 'Mars'. This American, blue, seedless variety features disease-resistant, hardy vines.
  • 'Swenson Red'. This American variety produces clusters of red, seeded fruits with a mildly fruity flavor. Downey mildew can be a problem.
  • 'Thompson Seedless'. The standard grape used for making raisins, it also is a great table grape. This European variety has white, seedless fruits that have high sugar content.
  • 'Vanessa'. One of the hardiest seedless table grapes, 'Vanessa' produces medium-sized red grapes with a mild, fruity flavor.
  • 'Zinfandel'. This European black-skinned, wine grape is adapted to a wide range of soils and climates and is very productive. It produces a pink wine with a fruity, raspberry-like flavor and aroma.

A grape field, with its bright yellow fall foliage, can be an attractive addition to your backyard.

Grapes vines can live for up to 30 years, so finding the proper site and preparing the soil well is essential. Grapes grow best in full sun on well drained soil. They don't require highly fertile soil, but soggy or seasonally flooded soils will cause poor growth and root rot. Grapes ripen best at high temperatures so in northern areas plant on a south facing slope to take advantage of the summer sun.

Grape vines are usually planted in spring. The fall before planting till the area and amend the soil with compost. In spring, dig holes 6 to 10 feet apart and 12 inches deep and wide. Shovel a 4-inch layer of topsoil into the holes. Prune the top of your grapevine back to 2 or 3 buds and trim off any broken roots or those too long to fit into the hole without crowding. Set the vine into the hole, slightly deeper than it was grown in the nursery, and spread its roots. Cover the roots with 6 inches of topsoil, keeping the buds above the soil line. Water the new plants well.

Grapes don't require lots of care except for pruning. Pruning is probably the most daunting task for a grape grower. Most home gardeners don't prune grapes enough, resulting in lots of vine growth and little fruiting. Grape fruits form on one-year-old growth only. Pruning heavily in late winter encourages abundant vigorous, fruit-bearing vines.

In winter prune grape vines and attach them to a wire trellis. Remove up to 70 percent of last year's growth to insure a bountiful harvest next year.

At planting time, set up a trellis system to train your grapes. Grapes can be grown on a pergola, wire fence, or wooden post. How you train your grape vine is dependent on the use. Check out our story on Grape Pruning: Three Systems to learn about training grapes. If you want to create larger fruits, prune out every third bunch once they form so more energy goes into sizing up the remaining fruits.

Grapes are deeply rooted vines and don't require high fertility. If a soil test indicates nutrient levels are low or if the vines are growing weakly and have pale leaf color, add a balanced fertilizer in spring when the buds swell. Don't fertilize after that period, because it could encourage late summer vine growth, leading to winter injury. Keep vines free of weeds and water them well, especially the first year.

Grapes are afflicted with a number of insects and diseases. In humid areas mildew and black rot fungus can be problems on grape leaves and fruits, reducing production. The grape phylloxera is a common pest in California, where it attacks roots by sucking juices from them and creating galls, and in the East, where it attacks leaves as well as roots. Galls about the size of peas form on leaf undersides. American varieties are resistant, but other types are not. Japanese beetles, aphids, and mites can also attack grapes, depending on your location and the growing conditions. Netting may be necessary to protect ripening grapes from hungry birds.

To control disease, choose resistant varieties, clean up crop debris well each fall, and spray with an organic insecticide, such as Bacillus subtilis . For insects, hand pick beetles and spray insecticidal soap on mites and aphids.

Grapes don't ripen once picked, so wait until the color deepens and the flavor is sweet. Cut whole bunches from the vine with a sharp knife. Eat grapes fresh, store them in the refrigerator for up to one week, or freeze the fruits to be used in shakes and smoothies in the winter.

Other great grape stories:

Charlie Nardozzi is an award winning, nationally recognized garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert gardening information to home gardeners through radio, television, talks, tours, on-line, and the printed page. Charlie delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. He's the author of 6 books, has three radio shows in New England and a TV show. He leads Garden Tours around the world and consults with organizations and companies about gardening programs. See more about him at Gardening With Charlie.


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