“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” ~ Epictetus
I love passionfruit. Ugly and wrinkled on the outside, you could ostensibly mistake it for a rock. Like an agate, break it open and you’ll find gorgeous treasure inside.
But before you rush to plant one in your garden, I must warn you. Be careful who you tell. Because when word gets out you are cultivating these delicious fruit, you’ll become a passionfruit pusher. People will seek you out and want to become best friends. Everybody wants some. And at almost $3 EACH at the shops, it pays to have a reliable
“Psst, you got any more of them passionfruit?”
I have three passionfruit vines in my backyard. One scrambles over the chicken coop and is covered with fruit that falls to the ground as soon as it ripens. I would have easily had 100 fruit so far this season. It is a grafted Nelly Kelly variety I found at my local garden centre.
Two other vines are planted in the same aspect, same soil and ramble over a dividing fence. My vision was that they would climb up and cover the underside of my pergola, covering it with lush green canopy of cooling shade. Husband argued it was a bad idea.
“People will be sitting on the deck, enjoying a civilized chat and then “BOOM” a passionfruit clocks them on the head!”
I honestly hadn’t contemplated that scenario, yet once he suggested it, I decided passionfruit raining down on my guests would possibly be the best thing to happen, EVER. And so, was even more determined to make it happen.
However, my vision remains such. A vision.
Because those two particular passionfruit plants have only produced a measly three fruit between them this season. They are not Nelly Kelly’s, but are grafted, and I found them at my local discount store.
Frankly, they’re on borrowed time. They are vigorous growers, with so many flowers, the perfume is sometimes overwhelming. But the flowers wither and drop before the fruit sets. It’s enough to have me fall to my knees, shake my fists at the sky and cry “NOOOOoooooo!”
The Nelly Kelly super-passionfruit vine is on the left of the picture. The duds are on the right. So close, yet, so different.
I consulted a local horticulturalist for advice, who loudly declared he wished he had a dollar for each question about passionfruit before running me through the standard interrogation…
Expert: Does it get enough sun?
Me: Yep, morning, noon and afternoon sun.
Expert: What are you feeding them?
Me: Homemade chicken-poop-worm-casting-compost & some seaweed soluble fertiliser.
Expert: Hmnnn. Perhaps it’s not getting pollinated?
Me: I have my own beehive and the vine hums during the day with all the bees in the blooms.
Expert: Really? Then it must be a lack of potassium.
Me: I thought that too, but weekly feeds of potassium sulfate don’t seem to make a difference. The other passionfruit gets no potassium at all.
Expert: Righto, how about water then? Do they get enough water?
Me: They both get plenty of water.
Expert: Must be a dud variety then, not suited for Perth’s gutless soil…
Apparently, this is not uncommon. His final advice was to rip them out, and start again. So, before you plant, ask the nursery person about the passionfruit’s suitability to your area.
There are more than 50 varieties of passionfruit, each with their own tolerances and quirks so it’s worth getting some local advice before planting. Generally, passionfruit’s have a sprawling root system that doesn’t like to be disturbed. Once established they can handle a bit of heat, but are thirsty plants, who require a bit of feeding to thrive. They tend not to like frost, but apparently Panama Pink is one variety that doesn’t mind a chilly climate. The pink flowered, yellow fruit varieties are said to be more sour than black and red varieties.
On my last visit to the local nursery I met a few passionfruits who bragged about being Perth-compatible. Apparently, they are grafted onto some pretty robust rootstock that doesn’t curl up and die the minute it meets sandy soil.
I have also sourced some seeds that I’ll pot up and try my luck. There is no such thing as having too much passionfruit. Because, passionfruit don’t live forever. They become unproductive after five to seven years and have to be replaced. It’s important to have a passionfruit succession plan!
In the winter or early spring, prune them back to ensure a flush of fruit in the summer. I actually prune mine all through the season, they get too unruly otherwise.
How about you? Do you have much luck with passionfruit?
Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.