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What are your tips for growing passionfruit?

Passionfruit.jpgPassionfruit are warm climate plants so think tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate. On saying that, they can survive and thrive in micro-climate pockets but if summer isn’t long enough or hot enough they won’t produce fruit. 


They are hungry. Horticulturists will call them ‘gross feeders’ gotta’ love that expression. Well-composted manure and quality compost as well as controlled release fertiliser are a must.


They will tolerate full-sun through to semi-shade with the rough rule of thumb being the hotter the climate the more shade they will in-fact require.


Now, here’s the biggie, the main cause of passionfruit failure – soil and water. They need really free draining soil. Their ideal soil is a fertile sandy-loam. Too dry and they will suffer and probably survive, too wet and they will die. Quickly. A waterlogged plant can die almost overnight.


A problem can arise when you have added extra composts and manures too close to the root ball. Even if the soil is perfect the additives hold too much moisture. And if you’ve added too much of them? Likewise. Soil goes gluggy. They will not tolerate clay soil or soil that even only occasionally gets waterlogged. If you have such a situation then plant them in a decent sized mound above the clay. They are also surface rooting with fine roots so you need to keep them well mulched, personally I favour lucerne or pea-straw for these sorts of things.


The biggest problem with planting is that to generalise about how to do it correctly, beyond a couple of basics, is asking for disaster. Why? Simple: too many variables.


These include – type of soil, type of plant, type of climate, time of year.


Here’s the closest you could come to a safe generalisation about planting & then I’ll dissect a few of the points to demonstrate the hazards of generalising.


Step 1: Dig a planting hole to at least twice the pot width and slightly deeper than the pot.

(This is fine if you have a good free draining soil. If you have clay then it will kill most plants. Never dig into a clay-pan. You must plant above it and this may mean creating a planting mound and adding a clay breaker to the soil to help break-up the clay beneath your planting. Digging into a clay pan and then dropping a plant in is like putting the plant into a saucer of water. With watering & rain it will drown.)


Step 2: Carefully remove the plant from the pot, position in hole & check depth. The top of the potting mix on the plant should be sitting at the same height as the surrounding soil. Adjust hole depth if required.

(Tick, tick, tick.)


Step 3: Improve the soil that will go back into the hole by adding compost or manure and fertiliser.

(This is the most risky area of generalisation… Any compost or manure added must be very well broken down or composted. ‘Well rotted’ in old gardeners' lingo.)


Step 4: Backfill the hole with the improved mix. Create a watering wall ‘dam’ around the perimeter of the hole. Spread fertiliser on the surface. Water well.

(Tick, tick, tick.)


Step 5: Stake plant if required.

(Staking must use at least 2 stakes and be done so as to avoid the root ball. When tying the tree/shrub it should still be allowed a little movement in all directions to allow ‘reaction wood’ to develop. This wood is the equivalent of tree muscles that help it resist falling over or snapping in prevailing winds.)


Step 6: Apply mulch around the area, water well and you’re done.

(Make sure mulch is at least 40 to 50mm thick and clear of the trunk by at least 50mm. Any fertiliser spread should be suitable for both the plant and for use when planting.)


Fresh manures and composts that aren’t reduced to fine 'crumbs' should never be used. There is too much risk of them scorching or continuing to break down in the soil and introducing all manner of fungal disorders or turning soil anaerobic, that is, free from oxygen and smelly.


Likewise any fertiliser – it must be suitable for use at planting time & suitable for the plant variety.


My personal favourite is Scotts Osmocote Plus Organics. I have never had a bad outcome with any of it.


Then you have the issue of plant variety. Different plants need different amounts of organic matter. Add lots of compost when you’re planting a grevillea or banksia or kangaroo paw & you’ll be lucky if they last a week.


Don’t add lots when you’re planting a Murraya or a lilly-pilly and they’ll not perform well.


Then there’s the soil… if it’s sandy you’ll need double the compost & manure. If it’s a silty-loam then a 1/2 of the ‘regular’ amount.


And the climate – too much organic matter added to a soil in a high rainfall climate can result in the soil around your plants holding too much moisture and going anaerobic.


And finally, time of year – personally I use less compost etc. if I’m planting in Autumn/Winter as the risk of it staying too moist for too long, not breaking down & causing fungal problems is higher.


Now… I haven’t said any of this to try and overcomplicate things, just to help folks realise that just a little research before planting and using the right products will generally give you a truly awesome outcome! - Adam_W

If you dig sheep manure in with the root stock, you may over-fertilised and effectively "poison" the plant. A friend recently added Dynamic Lifter in with a Chinese Star Jasmine - very tough plant in my experience - and it almost died. We lifted it, dug out the planting hole and replaced it with clean soil and it sprung back to life. Most horticultural experts (which I am not) seem to suggest you apply the fertiliser over the top of the soil after planting. Even slow acting organic fertilisers apparently. - simondavis

Before planting my grafted Nelly passionfruit I chose a site that had the roots in shade and the vine itself able to attach to a wide trellis that was subject to full north sunlight and west sunlight.


Then on either side of where I intended to plant the passionfruit  plant I dug two holes about 60 cm feet deep into each hole I added a cattle liver in each hole (had to order from the butcher). The livers were huge. then covered each liver with 15 cm of pulverized 12 month old  sheep manure.


Then, without disturbing the holes with a liver, I dug the hole where the passionfruit was to go. Added 15 cm of gypsum in the bottom of that hole and forked it in a little. Then planted the passionfruit and filled the rest of the hole with the soil in the vicinity.


For the first year it hardly moved. In the second year it took off like a racing car at the start of a race. Mulched around the plant, keeping any mulch 15 cm away from the stem at all times. Rarely watered it as the roots are cool. It is the leaves that are drawing energy from the sun. Gave it a top up just recently with some Neutrog fertilizer as it has lots of flower buds. My rule for my garden is to focus most of my effort on the soil and the plant will respond accordingly.


Liver is very nutritious. For people and for plants. Liver is possibly the most nutrient-dense food in the world. It's packed with essential nutrients, rich in protein and low in calories. Plants need nutrients just as much as people need nutrients.


Passionfruit vines like a very nutrient rich growing medium. A couple of large raw bull livers are perfect. Once you have the livers home, get them into the ground as soon as possible. Dig the hole deep so that no local dog can smell the livers and so that you too cannot smell anything as they slowly enrich the soil below. I dug the hole 24 inches deep (60 cm metric) and I chose to also cover them with some sheep manure, just to get the party started below the ground and then covered it all with ordinary soil.


The worms in your soil will think they have died and gone to heaven when they find the liver. Then the worms will further enrich the soil around the buried livers as worms urinate and defecate often, and that too enriches the soil further. Worm urine is more dilute than human urine, but just like human waste - worm urine has ammonia as well as urea. Thus the ammonia and urea waste products from the worms will also enrich the soil around a passionfruit. - Suzie72

Passionfruit should face north. They need good drainage, but shouldn't dry out. They need plenty of calcium (pulverised egg shells go well) and plenty of potash (wood ash is ok). - bergs

My best tip is to keep the roots cool with mulch. Also increases water holding. They're worth the effort when you get them going. - robchin

Earwigs will eat plant matter but I have never heard of them stripping an entire plant. You would need a frightening number of them to do that & they generally only go for more tender material. I’m actually thinking that this total defoliation is more likely caused by something bigger – large caterpillars or possums. Sounds like the earwigs you have are introduced European earwig which is known to swarm. They are nocturnal so you can often find them hiding in mulch, etc. during the day and get rid of them that way.


Here are some good tips from Sustainable Garden Australia on dealing with earwigs. I reckon I'd by netting the next plant with some bird net & see if that works. - Adam_W

I am in Brisbane, supposedly the best climate for them, but I did all of the right things and they still failed. I had a light well drained soil with added compost. I placed the plant at the same height as it was in the pot and in a position that got 6 hours of sunlight per day. I spread a little organic fertilizer (for fruit trees), keeping it away from the trunk of the vine. I got lots of green growth but in 3 years not even a single flower let alone any fruit.


I assume it was getting too much nitrogen from somewhere but I had used a fertiliser higher in phosphorus and potassium so who knows. I tried again at my community garden and just did what my father had done. He always placed a couple of fish heads in the planting hole, covered them with 6 inches of soil and planted the vine on top of this. Voila, success!! Give it a go. - pjturner2008

I'd recommend investing in a good quality soil like Scotts Osmocote 25L Garden Soil Premium Planting Mix and a controlled-release fertiliser like Scotts Osmocote 500g Citrus Fruit Controlled-release Fertiliser is also a must. If you run into a clay layer when digging, that really need to be addressed, you don't want to plant directly on top of it as you'll end up with a passionfruit with roots that are constantly wet.


It's great to hear the liver trick and method is still producing results. - MitchellMc

I moved my very sad and young potted passion fruit to a huge black plastic pot late last year I think it was. Reason for that is that I've had problems with suckers in the past, so I hope to keep that at bay in a large pot above ground.


That is now at a wire dividing fence in the back yard in full sun and I'm planning to build a wood planter box around that tub to make it look better and to keep the direct heat off the pot.


The plant really came to life in Autumn and grew about 20 or so fruit. I hand pollinated the flowers as they opened up.


I'm planning on a second plant and I'll give that liver tip a go. - rattle

The most prolific passionfruit vine I’ve seen grew in full sun, untouched and in deep rich red volcanic soil, but then I think us kids grew in it too. I planted my seedling in a shallow rocky garden bed and mulch only as I’m new to gardening and haven’t got a clue but learning and it’s going gangbusters… in spite of me. - JadeS

I've been giving mine liquid Seasol roughly every 3 weeks and keeping it watered and it is producing a lot of flowers and some rather nice sized fruit. It's still a young plant and not  that big really, but it's looking so healthy. I think I'll keep the water and Seasol routine going while it's fruiting and see how things turn out. - rattle

If you don't want to plant in the ground then just plant in a larger pot. Also, something that many people don't think about is the need for some plants to have two. Feijoas for instance need two trees within distance of each other to grow fruit and from memory we had two passionfruit plants as well. Also passionfruit are climbers so you need to have a trellis or something that they can be trained to grow on. - woodenwookie

Kind of a Big Deal

@Meloncat  Here’s some great advice from @MitchellMc 🌿😊

Becoming a Leader

Good old-fashioned but highly valued plant Passionfruit. Remember they are gross feeders once they start fruiting so make sure you keep the food up to them. A fertiliser for fruiting plants is ideal once it has established. 

Amassing an Audience

Hand pollination of flowers to improve fruit set may be needed where pollinating insects such as bees are scarce. Take the pollen-bearing anthers from a mature flower and transfer the pollen to the central stigma of each flower and you should have a great crop of passionfruit in a few months' time!

Kind of a Big Deal

Here in Perth I grow a variety called Sunshine Special. It’s a non grafted variety which I personally love and prefer. No suckers popping up or the understock taking over. Also why I love this variety because it’s tolerant to our cold weather. 
They need plenty of water in the hotter months and mulch the soil to keep the roots cool. I give them plenty of Sulphate of Potash to increase flowering and fruit production. Also have flowering plants around them to attract beneficial pollinators into the garden to help increase pollination. 
I only give them some Rock Minerals once in awhile as you don’t want to give them too much high nitrogen. They are just starting to flower again right now. They fruit for quite some time and I actually get heaps of fruit in Autumn. 

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