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Get it right and you’ll be plucking bucket-loads of fruit from your passionfruit vine; get it wrong and you won’t see a single sausage! Linda Ross has the answers.
Passionfruit love warm conditions and well-drained soil. Gardeners in temperate zones will have good and bad harvests depending on winter’s weather. A dry period seems to be looming so it’s a good time to start with a new vine. Find a warm, sunny, sheltered spot that drains quickly.
Choose a strong vigorous vine from your local nursery. Plant close to a trellis or fence. Passionfruit grow by tendrils and need a structure to twine onto. Wrapping a telegraph pole with some chicken wire to 3m high, and planting a passionfruit at the bottom, is a great way of using the verge outside your home! Nurture new plantings with regular water and a handful of chicken manure. Vines flower in spring and summer, with fruit ready to pick between late summer and winter. In temperate zones like Sydney passionfruit may take 18 months to fruit and flower.
Feeding is essential: passionfruit need regular chicken manure, blood and bone and potash. Liquid potash is ideal. Water during flowering and fruit production.
Prune in spring. Cut back one or two of the main stems to about a third, trimming the lateral stems and cutting out some of the denser growth. This will allow better air circulation and fruit development in the following season. Vines need to be replaced every five years or so, as they become straggly and non-productive.
The bane of passionfruit growers is the fact that many sucker, revealing the understock (P. caerulea). This has much thinner, five-lobed leaves, a blue flower and no fruit! Remove suckers and if a vine dies make sure the entire rootstock is removed otherwise suckers will come up for years.
Look for plants grafted onto a non-suckering rootstock called P. edulis flavicarpa, which was developed in Queensland and is also disease-resistant. You’ll find details on the plant label. Alternatively, grow passionfruit that have been grown from seed or cutting.
- Fruit failing to form after flowering is due to poor pollination. Try pollinating with a paintbrush (transfer pollen from male part to female part). Encourage bees by planting rosemary, lavender or borage in the vicinity.
- Fruit failing to ripen can be due to late flowering and low winter temperatures. Fruit may ripen on a sunny windowsill.
- Fruit falling from the vine is usually due to wet weather, lack of water or cold. Taste fallen green fruit in case it hasn’t coloured but is still ripe inside.
- Reduce suckering by not digging near the vine.
- Fusarium wilt is the main disease of passionfruit. The condition is less likely with grafted varieties. The first symptom of a fungal disease is wilting leaves and spotting on leaves and fruits, which then begin to fall. Use Eco-fungicide and spray with Yates Antirot.
- Common insect pests of passionfruit are sapsuckers and scale insects. Prevent with fruit fly traps and regular sprays of EcoOil.
Ned Kelly is a common garden variety with black skin and juicy fruit. This is a good place to start. But is tendancy for the rootstock to sucker needs to be watched.
Panama Red needs to be planted with another passionfruit. It has large red-skinned fruit and is grafted.
Panama Gold is self-fertile so can be planted on its own