There are many cultivars of grapes grown throughout the world, and most of them are cultivated hybrids, selected for flavor or color traits. Most of these cultivars won’t grow anywhere but in the warmest of the USDA zones, but there are some cold hardy grapevines, zone 3 grapes, out there. The following article contains information on growing grapes in zone 3 and recommendations for grapes for zone 3 gardens.
About Grapes that Grow in Cold Climates
Grape breeders realized that there was a niche for grapes that grow in cold climates. They also noticed that there was an indigenous grape that grows along river banks throughout much of eastern North America. This native grape (Vitis riparia), while small and less than tasty, became rootstock for new breeds of cold hardy grapevines.
Breeders also began hybridizing with other hardy varieties from northern China and Russia. Continued experimentation and re-crossing have resulted in more improved varieties. Hence, we now have quite a few types of grapes to choose from when growing grapes in zone 3.
Grapes for Zone 3 Gardens
Before you select your zone 3 grape varieties, consider the plants’ other requirements. Grapevines thrive in full sun and heat. Vines need around 6 feet (2 m.) of space. Young canes initiate flowers, which are self-fertile and pollinated by wind and insects. Vines can be trained and should be pruned prior to leaf emergence in the spring.
Atcan is a rose grape hybrid developed in Eastern Europe. The fruit is small and good for white grape juice or eaten fresh if sufficiently ripe. This hybrid is difficult to find and will need winter protection.
Beta is the original hardy grape. A cross between Concord and the native Vitis riparia, this grape is very productive. The fruit is excellent fresh or for use in jams, jellies, and juices.
Bluebell is a good seeded table grape that can also be used for juices and jam making. This grape has good disease resistance.
King of the North ripens in mid-September and is a heavy bearer that makes excellent juice. It is good for everything, and some folks even use it to make concord-style wine. This grape is also fairly disease resistant.
Morden is a newer hybrid, again from Eastern Europe. This grape is by far the hardiest green table grape out there. The large clusters of green grapes are perfect for eating fresh. This variety, too, is difficult to find but well worth the search. This hybrid will need winter protection.
Valiant is out-selling Beta for its distinct improvements over the latter. The fruit ripens earlier than Beta. It is the best cold hardy grape and useful for everything except winemaking. If in doubt regarding which grape to try in zone 3, this is it. The downside is that this grape is highly susceptible to mildew diseases.