California Wild Grape: Four Seasons of Beauty

If you want a beautiful and affordable roof for your garden, consider planting California Wild Grape (Vitis californica) today! Under its shadow, you will have a relaxing time away from the intense sunshine of California. As seasons come and go, this deciduous woody vine also contributes a stunning, dynamic natural cover that keeps your gardening experience exciting and intriguing.

California Wild Grape in our garden

“Roger’s Red”, the hybrid of  Vitus californica (California Wild Grape) and Alacante Bouschet (French wine grape) in our garden

In the wild, Vitis californica is native to southwestern Oregon and California. This plant is usually found in woodlands, forests and canyons below 4000 feet, scrambling up trees such as oaks, cottonwoods and buckeyes. Although it can also be found near river and creek beds where moisture is available throughout the year, California Wild Grape does exhibit drought tolerance like many other native plants. Once established, it does not need to be watered frequently.

Without much care, this vine naturally grows fast and aggressively with a mature size of up to 40 feet. You can use it to quickly cover a fence, a gate, a wall, or even empty ground. California Wild Grape adapts to various environmental conditions – wet or dry soil, sun or partial shade, clay or sand – and stays charming through different times of the year. Not only does Vitis californica look nice, it also has many ecological benefits. California Wild Grape provides nectar for honeybees and hummingbird moths. In late August, the naturally dried “raisin” fruit serve as the major food source for many species of birds.

As a plant with four-season interest, you will never get bored watching it grow in your garden. Even in the winter, this plant reveals gnarled and peeling bark on the vine branches, which is absolutely elegant. When spring comes, its silver-green leaves and tiny bundles of buds emerge from the twisted vine branches.

California Wild Grape in the summer

Green grapes (early – midsummer)

Purple grapes (mid-late summer)

Purple grapes (mid-late summer)

In the summer, lush leaves shade the green grapes until they mature into deep purple, intensely flavored table grapes that you can use for family desserts, to make jellies, juice and jams, or to serve your guests raw. “Roger’s Red“, the hybrid of California Wild Grape (Vitis californica) and French Wine Grape (Alacante Bouschet), produces deep red fleshed grapes that make delicious wine.

Vitis californica when fall comes

Vitis  californica when fall comes

Milnes 21 Grapevines with fall colors

Your garden will be stunning !

However, California Wild Grape is best known for its sensational fall colors. When September approaches, the leaves change to bright reds, oranges and yellows. As for “Roger’s Red”, the leaves turn deep reds (see above picture). Your garden during this time will be breathtaking, so don’t forget to take some photos!

Aside from many positive attributes, you will still have to be cautious about California Wild Grape. The grapes are toxic to dogs! So, if you have a dog, it is important that you strictly keep your pet away from the plant. California Wild Grape is also subject to usual grape diseases such as fungal problems or mites. Therefore, make sure you discuss these issues with us and we will help you prepare some suitable remedies for your plant!

Despite these small issues, California Wild Grape is considered fairly trouble-free. Nothing can beat the sweet purple grapes and dazzling scarlet leaves in your home garden!

If you want to give it a try, come visit us at California Native Garden Foundation’s Plant Nursery, located at 76 Race Street, San Jose, CA 95126.



 Brewer, Annie. “Vitis Californica – California Wild Grape”. Sonoma Country Master Gardeners. University of California. 1983


Ballentine, Debbie. “Great Design Plant: Try California Wild Grape For Interest All Year”. Houzz Inc., 22 July 2014


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