Give this popular fruit the right growing conditions and you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest
Learn about how to grow and nuture this popular vine. Image: Alamy
An extremely vigorous vine, passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) is native to South America, and is the national flower of Paraguay.
It has striking white and purple flowers that are produced before the fruit, and the vine climbs by means of tendrils that twine around a support.
The fruit, which can be purple, red or golden, is full of goodness and low in kilojoules. It contains vitamin C, B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, plus fibre, iron, phosphorus and potassium.
It is delicious whether used to top a pavlova, served with ice-cream or added to salad dressings or fruit salad.
TIP Passionfruit vines only perform well for about five years and then they have to be replaced, so have another one growing to take over the space when you remove the existing one.
Fast-growing passionfruit vines are great for creating quick screening on post and rail fences.
Existing sunny fences, chicken coops and sheds in the garden can be transformed by draping them with a vine. Attach wire or trellis to fences to help them climb.
Make your own trellis by putting up two posts, each 2m high and about 2m apart, in a north-south direction. Run three wires between the posts at the top, centre and base.
When first planted, you may have to train it up the support by tying the vine to the base wire.
Once the vine has reached a height of about 1m, you can nip out the centre shoot, which will encourage side branching.
The flowers and fruit appear in spring in temperate zones and also in autumn in warmer areas.
Where to grow
Passionfruit grow best in subtropical to temperate areas and, while adaptable to cooler zones, they need protection from frost.
Plant new vines in spring, except in the tropics where they should be planted in the dry season.
Vines grown in tropical areas are often short-lived due to heavy rain and root diseases.
The golden passionfruit is the best choice for the tropics.
Caring for your vine
Given the right growing conditions, a passionfruit vine is easy to grow.
POSITION the vine in full sun with protection from the wind.
SOIL must have good drainage to prevent root rot, as passionfruit is very susceptible to this. It is a heavy feeder, so add well-rotted manure or compost to the soil before planting.
FEED in early spring and autumn with a controlled-release plant food for flowers, or a citrus food. Water the soil thoroughly before and after.
MULCH around the plant, as this helps retain moisture in the soil, avoiding the area near the stem.
WATER regularly and deeply, especially in dry weather. The passionfruit vine has an extensive and shallow root system, so soak a wide area surrounding the vine.
PRUNE in early spring by about one-third. Remove any dead wood and cut back wayward shoots to promote new growth. Prune so air can circulate through the foliage.
About 12 months after planting passionfruit, the fruit starts appearing. Let it ripen on the vine to fully develop its sweet flavour.
When ready, the fruit will drop off, or it can be picked when it’s fully coloured and easily pulls free from the vine.
You can freeze the pulp in ice trays or place the fruit in a bag and refrigerate it for a month.
Instead of chopping the fruit in half, cut off the top and eat it like you would a boiled egg with a spoon. This will ensure you don’t lose any of that delicious juice.
Grown from grafts
Most passionfruit, such as ‘Nellie Kelly’, have been grafted to help prevent problems with fusarium wilt and other soil-borne fungus diseases.
Other grafted types include ‘Panama Gold’ and ‘Panama Red’.
Plants are usually grafted onto the extremely hardy blue passionfruit (Passiflora caerulea) or golden passionfruit (Passiflora f. flavicarpa), a disease-resistant rootstock that will not sucker.
Certain varieties are grown from seed, and ‘Purple Giant’ and ‘Purple’ are the most common.
In the kitchen
There are lots of ways you can include passionfruit in your everyday eating.
SQUEEZE the pulp onto cereal or yoghurt.
MIX it into smoothies.
ADD the pulp to an olive oil and balsamic dressing to enhance green salads.
FREEZE in popsicle moulds to make a healthy treat.
TEAM passionfruit with pork and seafood.
ADD it to an apple or mango crumble.
USE it to make jams.
Add it to an apple or mango crumble. Image: Thinkstock
Cause If the graft is damaged or there has been root disturbance, suckering can come from the
blue passionfruit rootstock. The leaf looks different, and is a blue-green colour.
FIX IT Remove the suckers at once. If a grafted vine dies, carefully remove all the root system to prevent growth from the roots.
Passionfruit vine hopper
CAUSE This insect sucks sap from the plant, causing the leaves to wilt and the flowers or fruit to drop.
FIX IT Hose them off, or you can use a pyrethrum-based spray.
Small bumps on the stems
FIX IT Scrape off with your nail or spray with horticultural oil.
Flowers but no fruit
CAUSE This can be the result of a lack of pollinating bees or the weather being very hot, very cold or raining at flowering time.
FIX IT Pollinate flowers by hand using a dry paintbrush to transfer pollen to the female parts. Prune excessive growth to expose the flowers and plant bee-attracting plants such as borage nearby.
CAUSE Fusarium wilt.
FIX IT Remove the vine and do not add it to the compost. Plant a variety that has been grafted onto golden passionfruit.
Flowers and fruit drop and leaves fall at the vine base
CAUSE Lack of water.
FIX IT Water regularly and deeply.
Tiny holes in the fruit
CAUSE Fruit flies lay their eggs underneath the skin of the fruit and the hatching larvae then feed their way to the centre, causing the fruit to rot.
FIX IT Use a fruit fly bait early in the season to detect fruit flies. Destroy the infested fruit immediately, but don’t put it in the compost.