Thursday, November 12, 2009

Passion Fruit

One of the few fruits in my garden is passion fruit, Passiflora edulis "Frederick". I posted a photo of the very first fruit off my vine in this week's Harvest Monday post. Thomas commented that he was curious to see what the plant looks like and I wasn't sure if I had posted a photo of the plant, other than the beautiful flowers. So, I thought I would write a post about growing passion fruit. This is a good refresher for me!

Here's a photo of the beautiful passion flower.

The name of the plant comes from the fact that colonizing Spanish missionaries used the flower to explain the crucifixion (passion) of Jesus to converts. The three styles represent the nails used to put him on the cross. The anthers represent his wounds. The filaments symbolize his crown of thorns. And the 5 petals and 5 sepals represent his apostles (not including Peter and Judas).

There are hundreds of species of Passiflora, both fruiting and ornamental. Most of the plants are native to the tropics and will not grow outside in temperate zones. This post is only about growing purple fruited Passiflora edulis, which is subtropical and can grow and fruit as far north as the San Francisco bay area in California. In my zone 9 climate the vine will grow in a spot that is not subject to too much frost. The plants will tolerate brief periods of cold down to the high 20F's and may die to the ground if we get a freeze. They will generally grow back after being knocked down by a freeze.

Here's a photo of some fruits hanging on the vine now. The remind me of dangling earrings.

The fruits start out green and turn purple as they ripen. They can be picked when they turn completely purple, but the best way to harvest passion fruits is to let them fall from the vine. The fruits should be further ripened indoors at room temperature until the skins start to shrivel. After that they can be stored at about 50F for 2 to 3 weeks.

Here's a shot of the upper part of the plant growing on the fence that surrounds my vegetable garden.

In colder climates like mine (cold for passion vines!) the plants should be grown in full sun in a spot that is protected from wind and frost. Against a wall would be an ideal spot. Overhead protection would help to prevent frost damage. You can see that I have neither protective measure here, but the nearby oak trees do provide quite a bit of shelter. This corner of the garden faces south and is the least frosty area in the vegetable garden. The plant made it through a couple of heavy frosts  last winter, just losing some leaves. In areas that are hotter than my cool coastal climate, the vines would do better in partial shade.

In my cool winter climate the plants should be pruned in the spring. Prune after the harvest in warm winter climates. The plants can grow 15 to 20 feet a year when they are established and happy, so they need to be pruned to keep them in check. I doubt that my plant will ever be that vigorous, but I'll prune lightly next spring to promote new vigorous growth. The deer help with the pruning by eating anything that grows outside the fence and is within their reach!

Here's a shot of the whole plant. Rather scraggly when seen in its entirety.

The plants do quite well in large pots. It would probably do fine if I were to plant  it in the ground but I'm sure I would lose it in no time flat to gophers. They will grow in most any type of soil so long as it is well drained and has a fairly neutral pH. Fertilize regularly with high potassium fertilizer such as 10-5-20.

Here's the second piece of ripe fruit and a few more ripening, and some of the seeds.

Passion vines can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, or by layering. I'm going to try growing some plants from seeds. These may not come true since "Frederick" is a cross between "Kahuna" and "Brazilian Golden" , but I think it will be interesting to give it a try. I've seen various recommendation for growing the plants from seed, but the most important things seem to be to use seeds freshly extracted from the fruit and scoring the hard seed coats. The seeds need warmth to germinate so I'll be putting them on heat mats under grow lights.

Now I'm going to finish slurping the pulp out of that fruit - yum!

Here's a couple of information packed websites I found about growing passion fruit:


  1. Michelle,
    I learned a lot from this posting! I did not know that the Spanish missionaries explained the crucifixion like that. Here in the eastern US were have a light blue passion vine much like yours. I have seen it in Ohio even very invasive and the fruit we always called it maypops. They seem to be hollow inside and when you sterp on one they pop hence the name.

  2. I love passion fruit juice. I used to drink it until I found out it was the culprit for giving me heartburn. Sadly I can't have it anymore. Ah well I can't grow it in my zone 6 garden anyway.

  3. Michelle, I have passion fruit vine envy! There's a nursery in Connecticut that I visited not too long ago that sold them and I considered buying one as a house plant. I don't think it would have been successful. Sometimes I wish I lived in a warmer climate so that I could grow subtropical fruits. Oh well.

    I will definitely be looking at your meyer lemon marmalade recipe! Thanks!

  4. Randy, I've heard of maypops but didn't know how they got their names. I wonder where the "may" part of the name comes from. The stories behind the name of plants can be so interesting.


    Daphne, I don't think the entire crop of fruit off my vine would amount to a glass of juice so there's no danger of bringing on an attack of heart burn (I get that these days). The fruit is quite tart though, so I can see how drinking the juice regularly could cause problems. It's such a treat just to have one piece of fruit once in a while though.


    Thomas, I'm surprised that you can grow Meyer lemons, do you have them in a greenhouse? BTW, the marmalade recipe is a spicy one, but just omit the chiles to make regular marmalade.

    Perhaps you would like some passion vine seeds to try growing just for fun?

  5. What an interesting fruit, I must try it someday. I'm not sure if they even sell these in Idaho stores. You make them sound so good.

    Thank you for all the good information in your last post. I am going to change a few things in my garden next season and hope to use some of the amendments you suggested.

  6. Mr. H., I imagine they will be hard to find in Idaho as they are not easily found even here in California. The first time I tried them fresh was when I grew my first vine years ago in a previous garden.

    Oh, I am happy that you found some useful information in my last post. I hope that your changes work out well! From what I've seen of your garden in your posts it looks like you are doing quite well already.

  7. Interesting choice. I'm not sure that Passion Fruit would be what I'd choose if I had only a few fruit. But it really does look delicious, and what a great way to hide that fence.

  8. Town Mouse, So now you have me curious... what fruit would you grow if you could only have a few? I think the passion fruit ended up in my garden not because I'm so passionate about passion fruit (ha ha), but because it is easy to grow in containers and because it is something that I do like on occasion but can't find (or when I do find it it's not worth buying).

    One of my projects for this winter is to find the right places to plant the 2 fig trees and black mulberry bush that I've ordered bare root. I would also love to have another Blenheim apricot tree... someday.

  9. Michelle
    Thought they're obviously not an Aussie native plant, passionfruit almost have the status of bing our national fruit here. Lots of them are grown here, and the fruit are plentiful in the shops.
    They grow like crazy in Sydney, but usually only last five years at best. But they go from seedling to fence-coverer in one summer.
    Oddly enough, passionfruit problems are one of the most common topics on gardening radio talkback shows. Usually the problem is mysterious lack of cropping despite rampantly healthy growth. The answer to that is also a bit mysterious, but highly variable weather just at the time of fruit set and flowering is the most likely cause.
    Good luck with yours. Glad we don't get gophers!

  10. Jamie, I did see a lot of references to growing passion fruit in Australia when I was reading up on them, but I didn't realize they were that popular! And I did read that they are short lived, possibly because of nematodes. I also read that they pollinate best when it's humid, so I'm surprised they pollinate here, it's very dry unless it's foggy (fog helps?).

    You are SO LUCKY you don't have gophers - the little .... arrrgh

  11. A really interesting post - I learnt a lot, because I didn't know before why they were called passion flowers/fruit. Your fruit looks delicious. We have the variety that has orange fruit, which is edible but not that tasty. It is usually more or less evergreen as it doesn't lose all its leaves in winter here. Maybe we should try growing the one which would be nice to eat!

  12. Chaiselongue, you should have no problems growing the purple passion fruit in your climate. Give it a go!

  13. Michelle,

    I think the name May Pop came from the fact that when you step on them they may pop, once a certain age they are like lemon sized balloons. I also forgot to mention that if you get spiny caterpillars they could be fritillary butterflies. The Variegated and Gulf Fritillary both use passionvines as well as some longwing Fritillarys.

  14. Randy, thank you! That makes sense, they may pop. I'll be on the lookout for spiny caterpillars in the passionvine, we supposedly can see Gulf Fritallarys here, but I've not seen one yet.

  15. I've seen scads of them around here, but usually not the fruiting kind, I don't think.

  16. Stefani, there are a lot of ornamental passion vines that grow in the Bay Area, so that's probably what you've seen. The fruiting ones seem to be kind of rare.

  17. It would be no use trying to grow it here, to much wind and too frosty in the winter, but the wind would be the main filler I think. My parents had one growing up their wall in the UK, and although it was growing in a sheltered spot I don't know whether it was the edible sort. A very interesting post.

  18. Hi Michelle.
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  19. Hi Michelle, while growing up in the Caribbean, we enjoyed a drink made with the passionfruit. The ones we grew had a beautiful yellow colour with a tough outer skin and were very tart. I've been wanting to grow a plant for the longest, but the ones I see here are ornamental. Your account of growing, harvesting and using the passionfruit brought back a pleasant memory. Will have to give my local plant nursery a call. Here in the southeast they should tolorate the short winters.
    Great blog with lots of information. Thanks

  20. Lemongrass, Passionfruit should grow quite well for you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  21. Michelle, I loved this post. Thank you for sharing all that wonderful information. I want to grow my own passion fruit now. Do you know if I can grow it indoors? Thanks! :)

  22. Very cool I just started some passion flower and I'm in zone 5a. They will be inside during the cold months and outside during the summer. I wonder if they will be able to persevere the dry summer months of utah. Did you ever notice wilting of the the foliage during dry days even with good watering?


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