Jennifer StackhouseGrowing passionfruit

Now I don’t want to gloat, but here it is winter and we’ve been enjoying delicious, homegrown passionfruit for months. Which is just as well for my vine’s survival, as we didn’t see any crop at all last summer. Spring and most of summer went by with lots of growth but few flowers. It was if you recall a cool, grey summer along the east coast, but towards the end of summer the vine gave up sulking and burst into flower. By the first days of autumn it was bedecked with green fruit.

Often this late crop just sits on the vine and then is discarded before it ripens. But this year the crop held on – despite frosty mornings and cold, windy days – and has ripened.

The fruit hasn’t ripened all at once but gradually giving me a steady supply to eat fresh with a spoon or as a topping for yogurt or fruit salad. Now the chooks are back in production I should lash out and make a pav, which is surely the traditional place to use passionfruit.

 

 

Passionfruit is an interesting plant but not without its problems. It is one of Australia’s favourite backyard crops but I’d venture to say it brings more questions to talkback garden shows than even lemons do.

The main concerns revolve around fruit (or I should say lack of it) but gardeners are also concerned about when to prune it and how to feed it. More recently suckers are showing up as a problem too.

Pests – from passionvine hoppers to rats – also raise concerns. There have even been questions asked about passionfruit on this site.

After many years of both growing passionfruit and also advising others, I’ve decided that to grow a strong, productive passionfruit vine is part good gardening and part dumb luck.

The first thing to realise is that passionfruit grow on vigorous vines. This means they need space both above and below ground and also need support in the form of a trellis or a fence.

They also need full sun, good drainage and shelter from the cold. Fertilise vines with pelletised chicken manure or citrus food, spreading fertiliser along the root system. Water well particularly after planting, while times are dry and when plants are flowering and crops are maturing.

 

Passionfruit Nellie Kelly

Nellie Kelly, a large-fruited black passionfruit, is the most popular homegrown variety and the one I am growing, but others you’ll come across at the nursery are Panama Red, Panama Gold and Pandora. These last three do best in warm or at least coastal climates. I wouldn’t expect any of them to fruit here in Kurrajong.

Another bone of contention with passionfruit seems to be whether or not they need a ‘friend’. Some Panama varieties for instance fruit better with cross-pollination (that is two vines) but Panama Gold Select is self-fertile. Nellie Kelly is also self-fertile.

Popular in days gone by was the banana passionfruit (Passiflora mollissima), but it is now considered a weed. This species was popular as, not only easy to grow and it grew on its own roots, but was it is self-fertile and produced lots of elongated yellow banana-shaped fruit.

For decorative rather than fruiting passionfruit there is the beautiful scarlet passionflower, Passiflora coccinea, also known as red granadilla and for cold climates there are ornamental forms of the blue passionfruit, but I’ve not seen these growing in Australian gardens.

Decorative Passiflora coccinea (photo by Bouba)

Passionfruit though are basically are warm climate plants. Tropical, subtropical and warm coastal zones grow the best passionfruit although there is a passionfruit farm just up the road from us in Kurrajong Heights – or at least there was one. The passionfruit flourished in what is a frost-free microclimate with fertile soil.

Cold conditions and wet soils can lead to poor growth, death of the vine or poor fruiting so always plant passionfruit in a warm, sunny, sheltered spot with free-draining soils. Passionfruit need lots of space for their root systems so don’t grow them in pots.

In tropical and subtropical climates, passionfruit vines fruit within six months of planting. In these climates spring-planted vines may be fruiting by late summer and fruit production continues through winter.

In temperate zones vines however can take 18 months to reach maturity – so that’s a year and half before you can expect them to begin flowering and fruiting. That’s a long wait! Indeed, a spring-planted vine may not flower and fruit until its second summer so that’s quite a long time when plants may only survive for five years before they are hit by virus disease and die.

But a lack of fruit isn’t always just due to immaturity. Lack of regular water, lack of pollinators or even sudden cold winds can all take their toll on fruit. Too much shade can also slow ripening and this is where pruning can be effective. In late winter or early spring carefully remove some of the tangle of stems so that fruit and flowers when they appear are better exposed to the light.

‘Fluffybum’

Fruit that falls from the vine but isn’t black may be ripe (so always check) but it can also be dropped if the weather suddenly turns cold or the plant lacks water. Pest insects such as passionvine hopper feeding on the vine can also lead to fruit drop. Watch out for these insects while they are young. They appear as ‘fluffy bums’ – that’s the name given to the cute-looking nymphs. They are easier to deter with a jet of water or control with a chemical spray as juveniles than as adults (which resemble lacy-winged moths).

But getting back to passionfruit. Fruit colour at ripening can be variable. Usually green fruit ripens to purple or black but some ripe fruit may not be highly coloured. If green fruit drops to the ground it is always worth tasting it to see if it is ripe, despite it not being highly coloured. Ripe fruit left on the ground may get sun burnt so regularly collect fruit. Also keep the ground around your passionfruit clear of weeds or long grass so it’s easier to find fallen fruit.

Fruit that forms but contains little pulp may have been poorly pollinated, but again there can be other things going on such as stress due to insect pests, cold or lack of regular water.

Lots of flowers but no fruit may be due to poor pollination. If the weather is cool, wet, windy or even overcast during flowering, pollination and fruit set may be poor. A lack of pollinating insects (often made worse by bad or cloudy weather) can also affect cropping. Hand pollination (using a dry paintbrush to transfer pollen to the female part of flowers) can overcome some pollinating problems and is most successful done early in the morning.

Encourage bees and other pollinating insects to vines by planting herbs such as borage.

My biggest beef with passionfruit however is suckering. Most passionfruit are grown as grafted plants to overcome problems with fusarium wilt and other soil-borne fungal diseases. Home garden plants are usually grafted on to blue passionfruit (Passiflora caerulea).

Blue passionfruit is a vigorous plant that may sucker particularly where there is root disturbance or if the grafted part (the scion) dies. It produces inedible yellow fruit, but this fruit also helps it to spread.

Distinctive 5 lobed leaves on suckering understock

Watch for suckers (look for the distinctive five fingered, blue-green leaf as well as its blue flower) and remove suckers or seedlings promptly. If a vine dies carefully dig up the root system to avoid future problems.

There are other rootstocks and I do wish they were used more for home garden varieties. Commercial vines are usually grafted on to Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa, a rootstock developed in Queensland that is disease resistant and not prone to suckering.

Some varieties are also grown from seed or cutting to overcome suckering problems. Panama Red and Pandora may be sold as seed grown plants which means they are growing on their own roots.

Passionfruit make excellent screening plants and add a lush leafy tropical feel to the garden. But, if you plant one, remember that they’re not always going to be trouble free, but most come good and produce truly delicious fruit. Speaking of which, I’ve just collected eight eggs from the chooks and a dozen fruit from the passionfruit so I am about to whisk up that pavlova to celebrate.

[Like to know more? Here's another post on Growing Passionfruit by Marianne Cannon]

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80 thoughts on “Growing passionfruit

  1. Peter Goslett on said:

    How I envy you the ability to grow fruiting passionfruit. I used to live in Normanhurst, on Sydney’s North Shore, and we had a big old house that had both regular passionfruit and banana passionfruit. I don’t quite understand why banana passionfruit should be considered a “weed” as we found their fruit to be absolutely delicious. I have grown a couple of passionfruit vines in New York City, but they don’t really thrive, and now, as a result of your article, I believe I understand why. They have always been potted, living outside during the summer and inside during the winter so they wouldn’t freeze. They have occasionally given flowers, and from the photos accompanying your article, is would guess that they are the variety Passiflora caerulea. I suppose that, because they need more room than a pot allows them, they just do not thrive. Thank you for the insight!

  2. carol on said:

    Hi Jennifer, what an informative and enjoyable reading this has made. So, I might not get fruit as soon as I thought, the bees seem lacking, but are plentiful in the rest of the garden so that is one clue as to why. Having the confidence to work with the brush and hand pollinate has always seemed to be so technical but we will have a go. Once again thank you for all the information.

  3. carol on said:

    Hi Jennifer, thankyou for the above informative article. We are finding lots of bees in the garden, mainly in the bottlebrush at this time, which is on the other side of the garden, but they have not found our passionfruit. So there is something to investigate, we are going to have a go at the brush to hand pollinate, but our confidence in doing this has been lacking, but if we do not try we will never know. But thankyou once again for the article. I am enjoying Garden Drum.

  4. Lovely blog, Jennifer. I have had an interesting experience with my passionfruit vines this year, too. I planted two different varieties ( red and black) about two metres apart on the front north/west facing fence. I had been told they would cross pollinate thus.

    I had rich and verdant growth of leaves and then flowers, turning into a stack of green skinned fruit which stayed just that – green. From May to June to July, the fruit stayed the same colour, although grew in size and number. They stayed mostly attached to the vine, with maybe a handful dropping off.
    Eventually I started taking them off the vine and cut them open and voila, they were full of ripe, sweet pulp. So I harvested them, green and all, and slurped my way through dozens. The rest, I gutted and froze the pulp, and well, you know the rest; ice cream sundaes, pavlova etc etc.

    Question is: why didn’t the skin “ripen”?, ie change colour ?

    Thanks,
    Julie.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Some varieties are not as black as others is the only thought I can offer! It is always worth doing what you did – cutting open the fruit and tasting it.

  5. Dirtgirl on said:

    My passionfruit vine is now entering its 7th year! It started off as a $2 plant and was placed in side garden but did nothing over 18 months, so was duly moved to a spot alongside the carport. From there it has just flourished and I tend to prune it back quite brutally by at least a third every year. Whilst we had a ‘scant’ year last Summer due to the ongoing rains, this year it is again loaded with fruit. We were told that Passionfruit only last 4 yrs, but ours seems determined to keep on producing! I freeze lots of pulp for use throughout the year. Our biggest yield was 35 kgs two years ago.

  6. Ian on said:

    Hi, Jennifer.
    I have a Nelly Kelly Passionfruit, this is its second year, it is very vigorous but with very small fruit with nothing inside, just an empty shell, lots of buds falling off what is the problem ?
    it gets lots of sun and water (I think)
    hoping for an answer

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Hoping for some fruit too I bet! I’ve found that deeply watering passionfruit at least once a week, making sure the water soaks in along the extensive root system really encourages all those flowers to make fruit that’s full of pulp. where you are finding dry passionfruit it is usually due to incomplete fertilisation (that is the female part of the flower just didn’t form seeds due to a lack of pollen). The passionvine hopper (pictured above in the blog) can also affect fruit formation so try to control that on your plant as well. There is still plenty of time for fruit to form and to ripen as passionfruit crop well into autumn and even through winter if the conditions are mild. Jennifer

    • Gordon on said:

      Hi, I had nelly Kelly black grafted vines many years ago and had the same problem as you describe, I had fully formed casings but empty inside.
      I went to the McEwans garden centre and took my fruit with me to show the extremely talented gardener who worked there.
      Immediately on viewing the fruit he said to me that I had an earwig problem where at night they come out and nip off the seed heads of the flowers which hence is the fruit.
      That night I went out with my torch and there were earwigs everywhere, they were living between the fence rails and palings and active at night.
      I mixed a spray of earwig active insecticide and sprayed.
      The new flowers produced large black fruit and absolutely full of nice sweet seed.

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  8. simon on said:

    Can you please give some suggestions as to how I can get my passionfruit vine to throw flowers earlier. I have no problem getting them to set when they do turn up but March flowering means passionfruit in winter, which is no good. I was told to prune in september but that has not helped either.
    I am in Perth.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Pruning may have delayed flowering. Deep watering in spring and early summer should help encourage lots of flowers. I have noticed here in my Kurmond garden bursts of flowers after heavy rain or deep watering. Early blooms also may need to be hand pollinated if there is little bee activity when the flowers are open. Last year (2012) I had a mass of late summer and autumn flowers which matured into delicious passionfruit ripening right through winter (despite some cold nights and frost). When the passionfruit begins to re-grow at the end of winter also feed it with a flower and fruit fertiliser and feed again after rain in late spring or summer. Jennifer

      • simon on said:

        Last year they started flowering in about march and I asked a gardening guru how to rectify the late flowering and she suggested pruning in september,but this has not helped.i also reticulate 3 days a week and have tried citrus fertilizer and also potash but no flowers as yet.

        • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

          I can only say that passionfruit flower well if they are getting the right conditions, which are lots of water, full sun and regular feeding and a warm climate,. What you are doing sounds like good feeding and watering but if the soil is really porous and drains and dries fast, it may not be enough. As well as using the fertilisers for fruiting I would mulch with about 5cm of well-composted manure around the base of the plant and also try using a soil wetting agent to make sure you are saturating the soil. When conditions are dry – which they are in Perth and were in Sydney in spring – passionfruit do not flower well. You may need to increase watering. Remember too that passionfruit have an extensive root system so you may not be watering and feeding the entire plant adequately. Near by plants may also be competing for the food and moisture. Also look for and remove any suckers. Pests can also cause problems including passionvine hopper (small triangular green adults, fluffy bum young). And, if the vine is suckering that too reduces flowering as it puts the plant under stress.

  9. Geoff Knuckey on said:

    My passionfruit is now about one year old, growing well but no flowers. I am thinking it may be a dodgey plant. Should I pull it out and start again. I live in Perth.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Passionfruit are not necessarily mature until they are over 12 months old so it could be worth persevering until next spring. However, do check that your plant is still the fruiting form and not the understock (see story above). With Perth’s sandy soil, passionfruit do need regular water and fertiliser to get established. Citrus food is a good all round food for passionfruit.
      Jennifer

  10. joy waterhouse on said:

    jennifer thank you for your info – but I have a self sown single vine. first year has produced a massive 100 plus crop in full sun, (sadly neglected) and have had a look today to see it in bud again. how many crops can I expect each year. The only luxury this plant has had is a handful of dynamic lifter..and good watering… when should I give a trim? I thank you most sincerely, joy

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      It depends where you live. In subtropical and coastal areas with a temperate climate passionfruit can fruit almost year round. Inland where I am we tend to get two distinct crops – one in late spring or early summer after the first flush of flowers an another in autumn which may continue to ripen into winter. Passionfruit have flushes of flowers and if these are pollinated they’ll tend to fruit so you can have fruit over many months. Here at Kurmond in the low Blue Mountains where we’ve had masses of rain the passionfruit are flowering and fruiting but I’ve had to hand pollinate them as the bees have disappeared from the garden since the massive heat wave. Good luck with your vine. Jennifer

  11. Magnus Allcock on said:

    HI all, Had a Panama Red here in Townsville. It produced about 250 fruit in its second year and same in its third then it died. I dont know why? I would like to grow another in the same spot and i would mulch more, which might give me more years. My problem is the possum got 460 of the 500 fruit. Any ideas?

    Magnus

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Not sure why the vine died and possum proofing is so tricky as it is hard to net or block access which are the only sure methods. You may have to consider pruning and training the vine so it can be netted in the future. In the meantime you could try putting exclusion bags over some of the fruit to see if that saves some of them. I know it sounds arduous but give it a try.
      The things that can kill vines include virus and damage to the main stem. However three years is quite young for the vine to succumb to virus disease.
      Jennifer

  12. SpicyRedHead on said:

    I have a fairly new Passionfruit vine, approx 2 yrs old that has suddenly filled with flowers which have now become huge fruit, probably as big as a tennis ball and heaps of them. I am wondering what type it is, as I planted a few along that fence in the hope that one would do the right thing and produce. I have mislaid the labels, but know I definitely bought a Panama Red as well as a Nellie Kelly. However the fruit on this vine is totally different in shape and size to my old regular run of the mill Passionfruit that turns deep purple in Summer. The fruit seem to have been green for quite a while and I am wondering if due to it being Autumn, they will take a lot longer to ripen? It receives plenty of sun, is on a fence and we also fertilised with Alpaca manure.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      My Nellie Kelly passionfruit vine is also covered with round green fruit at the moment (late April). If your fruit is very large however it may be that it is the Panama that is cropping. Either way the fruit may or may not ripen over the months ahead. If the weather stays mild and the passionfruit is in a warm, sheltered location you may find yourself in the delightful position of being able to harvest ripe passionfruit right through winter. But, if conditions turn cold, the fruit may fall to the ground unripe. It is however always worth cutting open fallen fruit to check for ripeness. I have my fingers crossed for a warm autumn to ripen the fruit on my vine (and yours). Jennifer

  13. Ross Smith. on said:

    Hi Jennifer, great lot of info. I have a few queries.
    I have a “Golden Nugget” vine which has massive yellow fruit, about orange size, beautiful. The vine, (in it’s 2nd. year) has grown on the fence
    about 7m each way. Should i prune it back, if so how, & how much.
    Also i’m not sure about these suckers, what they are, where they grow.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Unless you are in a part of the world that doesn’t really experience winter I’d leave pruning passionfruit until spring. That said, if it is invading other plants or structures it can be cut back anytime. Passionfruit don’t need to be pruned to be productive. It is done more to open the vine up or keep it trained into its own area. Suckers are the shoots that come from the roots of some passionfruit grown on understock. The understock provides a stronger root system than some varieties would normally have, which is why it is used. However, the understock used by many growers is very prone to sending up shoots that try to take over the world. Particularly problematic is the blue passionfruit. If the variety you are growing isn’t grafted, there’s nothing to worry about. There’s a picture of the foliage of the understock in my story to help identify any strange growth you may find. Jennifer

  14. Elisabeth Cavalieri on said:

    We have beautiful big passionfruit starting to purple and have now yellow flesh inside. Unfortunately the possums and birds/bats are getting to them. Have nets around but they still find their way in. Can we pick them now and let them ripen inside?

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      The passionfruit will ripen if you pick them. Try to pick them with a small piece of stem attached. I have some ripening in my fruit bowl as we speak. The fruit is sweeter I think when left on the vine but there’s nothing sweet about passionfruit-hungry possums! Jennifer

  15. Terry Cheng on said:

    I have planted some passion fruit vines. They have been growing for about 6 months now. They look growing well as they have plenty of leaves and are climbing all over. However, I have a problem. They have never flowered, not even a single flower?
    Will you please what is happening to my passion fruit plants?
    Thank you!

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Passionfruit especially in cool and temperate areas don’t reach maturity until they are at least 18 months old. These plants will flower in spring and you should get fruit after that. In spring feed the vine with a pelletised manure or a fertiliser formulated for fruiting plants and I think it will be fine! Jennifer

  16. Alice on said:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I have a grafted Nellie Kellie passionfruit that I planted nearly 2 years ago. The vine faces west. This year has been the first year that it’s started producing flowers, and I was hoping for some fruit, but the flowers would just drop off! A few days ago I found a fruit starting to develop, but that dropped off too (it’s only the size of an olive). I recently mulched it and trimmed it a bit (accidentally cut through a branch with buds on it, oops) and I fertilise it every autumn and spring with citrus food. Is there more I can do for it? I got it a Panama friend, but it’s not old enough to flower yet, and next door has a vine a few metres away from mine.
    I really just want some fruit :(
    Alice

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      If you have flowers and fruit forming you must be in a warm part of the world! Passionfruit flowers and tiny fruit drop if they haven’t been fully pollinated or if it is just too cold. If you are in a warm part of Australia then try hand pollinating the flowers taking ripe pollen from the anthers and spreading it to the female part of the flower. Use a cotton bud or very small brush and try it at different times of the day or even over several days as the pollen and stigma may mature at different times. If you are in a cold area, just wait until spring and try it then. Also, unless you are in a warm area I’d be concentrating on giving the vine fertiliser in the warmer month – not in autumn. Nellie Kelly doesn’t need cross pollination so the Panama you’ve planted isn’t going to make much difference to the Nellie Kelly, although the Panama may need cross pollination to fruit. You’ll probably end up with more fruit than you can imagine when the weather warms and all the vines become productive! Jennifer

      • Alice on said:

        Thanks Jennifer, I am in Newcastle, NSW so we have fairly mild winters. I will try to get up fairly early to hand pollinate as I can see some flowers ready to burst open. The vine is against a fence and has a windbreak from a shed so it stays fairly warm. I might try to propagate some lemon geraniums in pots to put near the vines to attract some bees.
        The Panama should be right for pollination, it’s entwined with a choko vine which attracts loads of bees.

  17. Hayley salamon on said:

    My passionfruits went crazy about mid march to may, rich purple colour but they are shrivelling and dropping off the vine and when I cut them open they are white crystally seeds with no pulp and a sour smell… Last year we had amazing succulent fruits… What do I need to do to save my poor vine :( ??

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      When passionfruit start to shrivel and fall they are usually overripe. What you describe suggests that they didn’t get properly pollinated indicated by the lack of seeds and pulp in the fruit. In the spring, I suggest you give the plant a feed with a pelletised chicken manure or a flower and fruit fertiliser. When the weather is dry, give the vine a good soak.
      When it begins to bloom, try some hand pollinating of the flowers especially if there are few bees around. Hand pollinating involves taking the pollen from the flower and transferring it to the female part of the flowers where the fruit forms.
      Jennifer

  18. zak on said:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I have just planted 2 nellie kellie plants in my vegie patch against the fence.
    im also going to have tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers in the same veggie patch which is about 5×5 m.
    just wondering if the passionfruit or tomatoes will be fine growing close by each other?
    thank you

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      The bed sounds quite big at 5m by 5m but, as the passionfruit grow, you may encounter roots when you try to plant extra vegies. This year should be fine however but as the vines grow, keep well away from the roots of the passionfruit. If they are disturbed by digging or cultivation you will cause the plants to sucker – to be avoided at all times. The extra water and fertiliser that you’ll be giving the vegies will help the passionfruit to grow big and strong!
      Jennifer

      • Zak on said:

        Thanks for your reply Jennifer
        How much room should I leave from the passionfruit plant
        To the tomato plant. For example is half a meter enough?
        Thanks – zak

        • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

          Leaving 0.5m is probably enough for this first season as the root system will not yet have spread into the surrounding soil. After this summer however the plant will have grown extensively so for future plantings keep them as far away as possible from the rootball of the passionfruit plant to avoid disturbing the roots as this can lead to suckering. When planting near an established passionfruit dig very carefully and move further out if roots are encountered.

          • Marnie on said:

            Thank you so much for all this helpful information! We are in the upper Blue Mountains and hoping our passionfruit vine will produce fruit this year (it is now almost two years old). It is well watered and fertilised and I can see some flower buds forming. Is there anything else you recommend for our particular climate ?
            Marnie

  19. Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

    Passionfruit are starting to flower now (October) so it is time to get the cotton buds or dry paintbrush out to do some hand pollination to encourage early fruit set. Also as it has been dry in many areas deep water the vines now, weed around the base of the plant and then add some compost or mulch along with pelletised chook manure. Passionfruit don’t like cold conditions so growing in a warm, sheltered spot is very important.
    Jennifer

  20. Dale Mountney on said:

    Enjoyed reading your article, thank you. We have had success with passionfruit before but the plants seems to be struggling to grow with some stalks dying back. They generally look unhealthy. The beds are covered with pine bark, would that make any difference?

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      If it is uncomposted pine park your plant may be suffering from lack of nitrogen due to nitrogen drawdown as the bark composts. In addition, if the mulch is more than 5cm thick it may be stopping moisture reaching the roots. If the mulch is too thick, scrape some away and add some blood and bone or even citrus fertiliser to the area. Water it before adding the fertiliser.

  21. Melissa (Northern Beaches Sydney) on said:

    Thanks for your article Jennifer – I’ve enjoyed reading it.

    We have a grafted Nelly Kelly Black passionfruit vine – I can’t remember how old it is maybe it is now 5 years old – this is the 3rd year I have been hand pollinating the flowers (as we don’t have any bees that visit our yard) – it tends to start to get new growth late in August, early September – at this time I tend to tidy it up – removing old growth, weeding the garden bed the vine grows in, give it a good feed of dynamic lifter (citrus fruit & flower) – this year I used the new dinofert product and mulch the garden bed. All the new growth buds well and produces loads of flowers – I was going to try and let it do it itself this year, as hand pollinating takes a bit of time and effort. I did see a bee in my backyard for the first time ever at the beginning of spring on the lavender plants (I have planted bee attracting herbs and lavender to try and encourage bees so I don’t have to hand pollinate) and even fruit growing as early as August but sadly the bee didn’t stay long and the early fruit I saw must have dropped off as it was no longer there when I went to do my spring tidy up. A week ago we had a handful of fruit growing but not as many as I’d like so I started hand pollinating again. Hand pollinating for me is very successful and we probably now have over 100 fruit in various stages of growth. I pollinated 42 flowers today!

    I have noticed some “fluffy bums” and the green passion hoppers (their wings are not lacy but pale light green, I didn’t actually know what they were until I read your article today – or that they were a pest (I thought the green things were a type of moth and had no idea about the fluffy bums). What can I do to get rid of them?

    Some of our vine is also growing under our pergola and as it doesn’t get natural rainfall some of the leaves are susceptible to scale and this encourages the ants. What can I do to get rid of the scale?

    Kind Regards

    Melissa

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Melissa
      Great to hear about such as well-loved passionfruit vine.
      Hopefully more bees will come. You could investigate having a native hive in your garden to help with pollination.
      I would continue with the pollination and I think you’ll enjoy some fruit set. Keep the plant well watered by deeply soaking it once a week.
      You can use eco or pestoil on the scale problem but as it is brought about by the difficult conditions it will be an ongoing battle. Perhaps you could prune out the worst affected branches.
      The passionfruit hoppers are very hard to control other than hosing them off, trying to squash them (very hard as they are fast movers) or using a soap-based or neem-based spray. They can cause the fruit to drop. Jennifer

  22. John on said:

    Appreciate your expertise in regards to passionfruit. We plated 3 vines about a year ago…. they took of but now spring is here the are all dying! Could it be the mushroom we dug into the soil when we planted them? We have numerous other fruit and vegis growing well, but the passionfruit! They are in a good sunny, well drained soil against a paling fence. If you had any ideas we would appreciate it. Thank you John

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      It could just be drying out if it is recently planted. Water well. But do check the pH of the mushroom compost – it could be highly alkaline or maybe is causing root burn. If so lift plants carefully, gently wash soil from roots and repot in potting mix. Dig some aged manure into soil, water well, cover with mulch and leave for about six to eight weeks. The replant (perhaps one at a time to make sure it is okay). When planting into freshly prepared soil always put a layer of site soil or potting mix into the planting hole to make a barrier between the potentially damaging fertilisers in the improved soil and the roots. This prevents root burn.
      Sometimes you also find that plants have not taken at the graft so the top part dies. It is very important to remove these plants roots and all or you’ll just end up with a mass of rootstock.
      Jennifer

  23. Ericka on said:

    Hi,
    I noticed my passion fruit are dropping their flowers. I have tried hand pollinating and using a liquid leaf fertilizer and still nothing. It is getting cooler here. I was wondering if that could be the problem. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Ericka

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      If it is getting cooler then it is probably getting too late for your vine to form fruit. It really does depend on how cold it is getting where you are. May be leave it for now and then resume in spring when warm weather returns. Jennifer

      • mary on said:

        hi our passion fruit vine started to produce flowers about a month ago being october which was very exciting. so far its has only produced 4 passion fruit. the last flower I hand pollenated and it has been a success most exciting some of the flowers fell off. My next question is how soon will another lot of flowers appear. The vine is along a fence line in a fairly sheltered area and we live on the gold coast, it is getting water almost every day as our weather is very dry at present. regards Mary.

        • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

          Yes passionfruit are flowering and fruiting in most areas now (in Australia anyway!). In areas that are very dry it is important to thoroughly saturate the plants at least once a week. Also apply a citrus or fruiting fertiliser over the root system. If you do this you will notice the difference. In the warm conditions we have the fruit should reach full size and ripen quickly. The vine will keep getting flushes of flowers from now until autumn. Jennifer

  24. ray on said:

    hello I have a nelly kelly passionfruit, it is three years old, it has never flowered or made any fruit. ( it may have very minimally flowered once, can’t totally remember) but definitely no fruit ever. it grows well and I didn’t know about big pruning till last year and this year missed it due to study.
    It is sending weedy shoots all over my garden, they are a real pest!!
    I’m not sure if i should pull it out and start over. It probably hasn’t had the most love, but not ever a single fruit and no flowers even?
    Not sure what to do with it?

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Ray – Don’t pull it out, but do check that it is still the Nellie Kelly and not the understock (have a look at the leaves and compare them with what’s shown in this blog). What it needs is some good soaking rain (if you are on the east coast of Australia it will have had that this week) and some plant food such as citrus food. If you haven’t had rain, let the hose run gently under it for a while. If you see flowers try the hand pollination method I describe in the blog. Jennifer

  25. Daniel Sharp on said:

    I have a passion fruit vine 20 feet long with a three inch base. It looked . like it was dying so I checked its base. Its all rotted with holes in it from insects. What would be eating this plant and what would I get to fix it? Thank you

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      It could have a borer in the stem and it may be difficult to save. All I can suggest is to clear any debris away from around the stem. Scrape away any rot, paint it with a fungicide paste (mix it up with a little water to do this). You could also water over the root area with AntiRot. Also skewer the holes with some wire to make sure there are no insects still inside. It is possible to inject or squirt a little insecticide into the holes as a precaution. Keep the plant well watered. Remove any suckers that appear from the root area. As passionfruit can take a year or more to reach productive size (depending on where you live) perhaps plant a new vine in another part of the garden to take over if this one doesn’t make it. Best wishes Jennifer

  26. I have the yellow big passion fruit its on its second crop just inside 12 months 1st crop great second crop drops early showing signs of wrinkles and brown markings on the skin I have cracked the fruit it didn’t taste to bad could have been a bit sweeter which tells me its dropping to early the brown spot is not all the way through the skin but not far as you can apply a bit of pressure and puncher through to the fruit I have been growing passionfruit for years never had this happen before can you advise or help please kind reguards gerry

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Gerry, you don’t say where you are, but the fruit may be dropping as it has been stung by fruit fly (which is unusual as the skin is so tough and thick) or some other insect may be feeding including the passionvine hopper. Very dry conditions can also lead to fruit drop before it is mature. I agree – if the fruit isn’t sweet then it is probably dropping prematurely. it is very difficult to control insects on productive plants as most chemicals are not suitable. If it is dry I would flood the root area with water to make sure the vine is well watered.
      Jennifer

  27. jodie on said:

    Hi, I have a passionfruit vine which is producing hundreds of flowers which are all falling off. Not one has developed into a fruit. The vine has been fertilised with a citrus fertiliser and is well watered. It also faces north so gets full sun. There is plenty of bee activity and I have hand pollinated it as well with no luck. I am in melbourne. How do i get it to fruit? We have just moved in to the property so I don’t know how old the vine is.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Flower drop without fruit forming is usually due to either lack of water or lack of pollinators. I would recommend really deep watering – just leave the hose to run on it or set a small sprinkler under the vine, checking that the water is soaking in to the soil. A good heavy fall of rain is usually what’s really needed. Remove all the nearby grass and weeds to avoid competition for moisture and nutrients. Continue to persevere with the hand pollination. Sometimes it needs to be done several times to ensure that the female part of the flower is receptive and that the pollen is fully ripe. Also check over the vine for pests. Passionvine hopper can lead to flower and fruit fall. These little insects either seen as juveniles known as ‘fluffy bums’ (pictured in the blog above) or as moth-like insects, can be hosed off or controlled with an all-purpose garden insecticide. Jennifer

  28. pamela on said:

    I need help. My passionfruit vines are healthy and bushy. I get the flowers but no passionfruit. Have tried lime, sulphur of potash; and a feed of 5 different things (as advised at Bunnings). I even did the brush thing all to no avail. Maybe, I am not doing the brush correctly. I have not seen any bees or insects to pollinate either vine. I am at a loss as I do not know what else to do. I live in Tweed Heads, NSW, but at present down at my son’s at Wallabi Point NSW.

  29. Dale on said:

    We have a grafted Nellie that has been in a large tall pot for almost two years. As we knew nothing about passionfruit, the first season it went unpollinated, and we started to think we had a dud plant. After some research, we found out that the flowers had to be pollinated, and thus we went and purchased a soft brush and hand pollinated each and every flower that appeared.

    This season, we had an abundance of fruit – yellow empty fruit! Of all the fruit we had, only 1 had any seeds, so they were replanted in a case of wishful thinking.

    The plant gets watered every 2nd day (we live SW of Melbourne and it rains often), and it gets a feed of raw liver every 6 months. It also gets a share of worm castings once a week. We have it growing on what was our vertical garden, so it covers 3 pallets, and seems to be healthy.

    I’m thinking that growing it in a pot is having a detrimental effect, so maybe at the end of next winter / early spring, we should prune it right back and replant it, this time in the ground. In the meantime, we will start preparing it’s new home if needed.

    Any suggestions?

  30. Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

    It sounds like you have understock growing and have lost the grafted form. The understock produces small yellow fruit as you describe. It is not satisfactory to grow a passionfruit in a pot and quite likely the roots have escaped from the pot into the soil below. Have a look at the photos of the understock in the main part of the blog to confirm the identification. The plant also has an acrid smell. Jennifer

  31. raymond thompson on said:

    i have 2 panama red passion fruit vines on a trellis. the vines are in good condition no visible pests or disease. flower buds form but do not open. i live in lismore nsw

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Tricky. Try watering the plants deeply and giving them a dose of citrus food or a fertiliser for fruiting plants. Remove any competing weeds. Try hand pollinating some of the flowers to see if you get something happening. Jennifer

  32. Susan on said:

    My huge home grown passionfruit is covered in flowers and green fruit in all sizes. BUT I have a problem with rats eating through the flower stems. They don’t eat the flower, they just eat through the stem. I hear them in there and I wack the vine to scare them away but every day there are maybe a dozen flowers lying on the ground. I have rat bait in the garage but obviously not the type they like to eat. I have lost hundreds of potential passionfruit. Although there are still hundreds to come. I ate my first fruit today even though the skin was only just flushed with colour and it was perfect.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Rats! Don’t talk to me about rats! I had rats living under my vine too. Mine may be better farmers than yours however as they waited until the fruit formed before attacking it. Some of the rats were removed by Larry the Pug, who fancies himself as a ratter, and I am worried the rest are still there with an eye on the autumn crop.
      It is very hard to stop rats getting access to passionfruit vines or even to keep the rats out of vegie gardens. The fact that you have lots of fruit is a bonus though. You could try protecting the fruit with exclusion bags but this would be tedious and may not be effective. However, it would be worth a try. Rat traps are another option and can be placed around the area. Of the rat baits there are now some new generation baits available which are said to have lower rates of secondary poisoning. Secondary poisonings occur when other animals (owls, kookaburras, dogs for example) eat the poisoned rat and is why rat control by baiting is so problematic. The active ingredient difenacoum is said to have lower rates of secondary poisonings. It is included in the Bait & Kill range from Brunnings and may be in other products too.
      Jennifer

      • Argus on said:

        If your weather is conducive to them, pythons make excellent rat repellant. It doesn’t matter what size – it could be a children’s python, to a rainbow python to an amethystine python, rat’s are a delicacy.

        Back to our passionfruit vine, we have decided to keep it going so as to act as a wind break. We intend on planting two more vines in early spring, but will spend the time until then getting prepping the soil and nailing some trellis / arc mesh to the fence.

        • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

          A great idea! And biologically friendly. Jennifer
          PS Not recommended if you own a chihuahua.

  33. Jane Stacey on said:

    We have just moved into a house with established Maxi Passionfruit, north facing, in Perth. In September there were loads of fruit but we didn’t move in until November once the fruit was finished. We immediately weeded the area and used Lupin mulch to help retain moisture in the soil. Vines have a good soak twice a week. For the last month the vine has grown and flowered vigourously but there is no fruit development. How long does it take before you see fruit doing from the flower? There are loads of bees around. I’ve since heard passionfruit don’t like too much nitrogen, and Lupin mulch is super high in nitrogen. Anything I can do to make the flowers fruit? It’s still warm in Perth. Thanks

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      If there are flowers and they are being pollinated the fruit forms very quickly. I have lots of flowers and fruit forming on my vines now so I expect, especially if you are watering (or if indeed you get some good falls of rain) that fruit will form. Whether it can ripen through winter really does depend on your microclimate. Try hand pollinating some of the flowers to see if that encourages fruit but, if it is forming, you can actually see the fruit swelling inside the spent flower. I wouldn’t give the vine fertiliser until spring – then use a fruiting fertiliser (watering well).
      Best wishes
      Jennifer

  34. Kevin Reichert on said:

    Hi there Jennifer. i have had this vine growing for a number of years and it always flowers, bears fruit that are nice and large, but they never get ripe. what could be the problem – or set of problems?

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      If the fruit forms in autumn then the cold weather may hinder ripening. I have a vine full of passionfruit now that is ripening slowly and I am hopening that the very cold stays away for a bit longer. Deep watering through summer and applying fertliiser does seem to help flowering and therefore fruiting earlier in the year to give fruit a better chance to ripen. Also, always cut open some of the fruit as it may be ripe but not coloured.
      Jennifer

  35. Janette Taylor on said:

    Hello I would like to know the length of time the fruit takes to ripen ? on the vine in weeks /months etc Thank You kindly

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      Janette it can take weeks up to months for fruit to ripen especially in autumn. I have had passionfruit gradually reaching a good size for the past 2 months but staying green and now the fruit is ripening but not a dark black colour. Nearly everyday now I can pick up some ripe fruit that’s fallen from the vine.

      • Janette Taylor on said:

        Thank You very much I guess it’s a matter of being patient (not me at all) But I shall try and wait it’s the first season for my vine. it has many large fruits on it. Also it’s change of season now so the sun has changed directions etc it still has sun but not as much as in Summer & Spring.

  36. Ric Douglas on said:

    I planted a “Nellie Kelly” vine in March 2011 in north eastern suburbs of Adelaide and this year it had its first fruiting with about a dozen fruit in Feb/March of which about 3 were edible and the rest were totally empty inside. It then started flowering profusely and at present I have a couple of hundred fruit on the vine however they are remaining green and not falling or colouring. The late burst of warm weather here has also seen many more flowers on the vine. Are these green fruit likely to ripen on the vine or is it better to pick and take them inside to ripen? The only “fertilizer” I use on the vine is to bury a sheep liver near the root during winter. This worked fantastic on our previous vine and we had a great excess of beautifully tasting fruit. Unfortunately that vine saw its demise in 2011 after about 7 years of great service. Thanks for any information.

    • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

      In temperate zones passionfruit tend to take around 18 months to reach maturity and start producing lots of fruit. The empty fruit you mention are indicators of incomplete fertilisation so no seeds and pulp formed. Hnad pollination can often help produce very well filled fruits. Right now the green fruit on my vine is colouring gradually and falling from the vine and is ripe! Generally passionfruit do need lots of water and fertiliser so I would strongly recommend a complete fertiliser for your vine in sping along with deep watering.

  37. Julie on said:

    HI
    Last year we planted a Nellie kellie and had 6 fruit from it, they were quite large and green, when they fell off the vine the skin was quite tough and very thick, they were filled with beautiful tarty flesh. This year the vine has approx. 400 fruit on it, they are again large and green but some of them have a patch of purple on them, the first fruit to form has dropped off the vine and was nestled in the leaves so I guess it has been there for awhile as it was pale yellow and a bit soft to touch, I have cut it to find the skin again was tough and thick but was full of flesh. I guess I just want to know, how do I know when to harvest them? Or how do I tell they are ripe? I live in Perth, the vine is on a north westerly side fence in well drained soil and well fertilised.

    • Julie on said:

      Actually I have a typo we have approx. 200 on the vine. Now I notice those that have a little purple on them are soft where they are purple but firm where they are green, those that are green are still hard and firm.
      I would appreciate your response?

      • Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

        It sounds as if they are ripening. Certainly the ones that drop from the vine are ripe and the ones that are developing purple colouring. Keep the area under the vine clear of tall weeds or grass (may be mow it) so you can easily see the fallen fruit. Check the vine every day or so to collect ripe fruit. The fruit may keep ripening or it may end up dropping off unripe but keep cutting and tasting what falls through the months ahead.
        Jennifer

  38. Andy Jensen on said:

    Hello, I am currently living in Patagonia at Latitude -41. We get fairly warm summers and mild spring / Autumns with plenty of rain. Will it be possible for me to grow passion fruit and do you have any suggestions on which strain might do best here. Thank You!

    • I have just moved to a similar latitute. We now live in Barrington in North West Tasmania. I have noticed banana passionfruit growing well here, but so far I haven’t spotted any black passionfruit. If you can buy a vine it would be worth trying it in a sheltered, warm, sunny, frost-free spot. The main problem may be not having a long enough season for the vine to flower, set fruit and ripen. Otherwise seek out a banana passionfruit vine to grow – the fruit isn’t to my mind as palatable but the flowers are pretty.

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