Learn the secrets to growing passionfruit with our troubleshooting guide
Passionfruit vines bear beautiful large purple and white flowers
The passionfruit vine is characterised by starry flowers and distinctive leathery-skinned fruit.
Native to the Amazon region of South America, it was named by Spanish missionaries who believed sections of the petals resembled the crown of thorns from the crucifixion.
There are more than 50 varieties of passionfruit vine, many of them suited to growing in Australia, including Banana, Hawaiian, Norfolk Island, Yellow Giant, Panama Gold, Panama Red and Ned Kelly.
The wrinkled fruit contains vitamins A and C, potassium and iron, and is good for salads, desserts and in drinks. The passionfruit pulp can be bottled, made into sauce or eaten fresh. Passionfruit is also believed to have health properties, with some Brazilian tribes using it as heart tonic.
The passionfruit vine can be propagated from cuttings but is best grown from seed. It should be planted in full sun (at least six hours a day) in a spot with no trees or competitive roots.
Provide a strong structure for the vine to climb on and prepare light, fine, deep, well-dug soil with organic matter. Add straw to retain warmth and scatter a metre of chook manure pellets around the hole. Water well and repeat this again a few months later.
Passionfruit vines are heavy feeders and need plenty of water and well-drained soil. Add mulch around the root system, to reduce evaporation and protect it from the hot sun.
Leave the vine to climb in its first year, then pinch out the top bud to encourage lots of side shoots.
The passionfruit vine grows up to 10 metres a year.
You can expect fruit about 18 months after planting.
Passionfruit have a high water requirement when fruits are approaching maturity – if the soil is dry, fruits may shrivel and fall prematurely, so water frequently for short periods during dry times. Pick the fruit when the skins start to wrinkle.
After the second year, prune lateral branches once a year in late winter.
Note that a fertiliser high in nitrogen promotes plenty of leaf growth at the expense of fruit and flowers. Therefore, well rotted cow manure and compost are better choices.
Also note that the growth should be from the graft section of the vine, rather than the rootstock, as this won't produce fruit.
TIP Put used teabags at the base of established vines, leaving them to seep into the soil as fertiliser.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Why is my passionfruit vine not producing fruit?
You can expect fruit about 18 months after planting. If your vine is not fruiting after this time, it may be due to one of the following reasons.
- Passionfruit vines are heavy feeders and need plenty of water. A dry plant will not produce fruit, so ensure the soil is moist.
- Heavy rain during the flowering phase can ruin the viability of the pollen and cause a lack of bees for pollination. You can pollinate DIY-style using a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from one flower to another.
- Overfertilising results in flowers but no fruit. Passionfruit usually only needs fertilising twice a year, after pruning and again after fruiting.
- A fertiliser high in nitrogen promotes plenty of passionfruit leaf growth at the expense of fruit and flowers. Fertilise with compost, citrus foods, chicken manure or well-rotted cow manure. You can even put used teabags at the base of established vines, leaving them to seep into the soil as fertiliser.
- Passionfruit require at least five hours of direct sunshine a day. They should be planted in a sunny spot with no trees or competitive roots.
- Make sure you are pruning your vine correctly.
Why is fruit falling from the vine before mature?
This could be due to a cold snap or the plant not getting enough water.
Passionfruit have a high water requirement when fruits are approaching maturity. If the soil is dry, fruits may shrivel and fall prematurely, so water frequently for short periods during dry times.
Why is the fruit empty?
Empty fruit on a passionfruit vine could be caused by overfeeding, particularly if you are using a fertilizer high in nitrogen.
Compost, chicken manure or well-rotted cow manure are all better options. Make sure you water deeply at least once a week – the water should soak in through the extensive root system, encouraging passionfruit full of pulp.
Note that empty fruit could also be the result of inherent weaknesses in seedlings. If this is your problem, you may unfortunately need to start from scratch.
What type of passionfruit can I grow in Australia?
There are more than 50 varieties of passionfruit vine and many of them are suited to growing in Australia.
These include Banana, Hawaiian, Norfolk Island, Yellow Giant, Panama Gold, Panama Red and Ned Kelly.
What type of passionfruit is best suited to a tropical climate?
The best ones to grow in a tropical climate are the Sweet calabash, Jamaican honeysuckle, and Sweet or Giant granadilla.
The Panama red is also ideal for a hot climate.
What is the best type of passionfruit to grow on a commercial scale?
Two species worth considering for large-scale growing are the excellent and hardy Nelly Kelly and the Super Sweet AV1 because it bears regular fruit and has good disease resistance (an important quality when growing on a commercial scale).
Why are the leaves on my passionfruit vine turning yellow?
Stop leaves from yellowing by feeding with a citrus food around the root zone two or three times between spring and late summer.
Adding a sprinkle of Epsom salts to the watering can will also help.
How can I stop ants from eating the passionfruit flowers?
Ants hate strong odours so try planting ant-repellent herbs such as mint, pennyroyal, rue or tansy near trouble spots.
Alternatively, keep ants away by sprinkling a trail of salt, cayenne or black pepper around the base of vine, or drawing a line with chalk to stop them climbing the vine to the flowers.
When/how should I prune my passionfruit vine?
Encourage growth by pinching out the top buds to promote side shoots. Growth should be from the graft section of the vine, not the rootstock.
Prune back hard in spring. Cut back one or two of the main stems to about one third of their length and trim the laterals, cutting out some of the denser growth completely.
This allows better air circulation and fruit development in the following season. After the second year, prune lateral branches once a year in late winter.
How often should I fertilise?
Overfertilising passionfruit results in flowers but no fruit.
It usually only needs fertilising twice a year, after pruning and again after fruiting. The best seasons to fertilise are spring, autumn, and early or late summer.
What type of fertiliser should I use?
A fertiliser high in nitrogen promotes plenty of passionfruit leaf growth at the expense of fruit and flowers.
Therefore, you are better to fertilise with chicken manure, well-rotted cow manure, citrus foods or compost.
You can even put used teabags at the base of established vines, leaving them to seep into the soil as fertiliser.
When should I harvest my passionfruit?
Harvest passionfruit when they are fully sized and coloured – they are at their best when slightly wrinkled, so pick the fruit when the skins start to wrinkle.