Passionfruit are a delicious tasting healthy snack. A quintessential feature of any West Australian backyard a passionfruit fruit vine will bring years of joy. But if you’re thinking about growing your own passionfruit in Perth, there are a few important tips to take the worry out of growing this popular backyard crop.
The easist to access types of passionfruit in Perth are Passiflora edulis (the black passionfruit) or Passiflora flavicarpa (the yellow or red varieties).
Passionfruit are vigorous climbers and will need a solid support structure to grow unencumbered. Passionfruit vines live for about five years, and don’t fruit the first year, so it’s ideal you get them off to a trouble free start. Importantly, passionfruit require a minimum of eight hours of sunshine a day. If they receive less, they will fruit less, so this is particularly important for home growers.
Passionfruit are hungry and will require lots of minerals and potassium, in particular magnesium sulphate. Prepare the soil at least two weeks before planting your seedling.
Aged chicken manure or sheep manure, good quality compost and Grow Safe fertiliser must be dug in along a trench 30cm deep and at least 2m in length.
Passionfruit are tropical vines and require adequate summer watering to give juicy fruit. If the leaves suffer from water shortage, the vine takes it from the fruit leading to poor quality fruit. In the peak of summer passionfruit will suck up 60 litres of water per day and it’s important to water along the whole root run of the plant. Be mindful of water restrictions in your area during the Perth summer.
Where do passionfruit grow best:
Passionfruit vines are versatile but are best suited to subtropical and temperate climates, provided there is protection from frost when young, which makes Perth ideal.
When to Plant passionfruit:
The best time to plant a passionfruit vine is in the spring season. Before planting, prepare your soil by incorporating compost and chicken manure to an area around one to two metres wide. The best soil for passionfruit vines is rich in organic matter and well-drained with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball, gently tease the roots, plant the vine and water well. Mulch around the base with wood chips or pea straw, being careful to avoid the stem.
Passionfruit vines can also be grown in large pots as long as they have an adequate support structure if you a short on space.
The best passionfruit varieties to grow at home
There are over 80 varieties of passionfruit vine including Banana, Hawaiian, Norfolk Island, Yellow Giant, Panama Gold, Panama Red and Nellie Kelly. Cultivars can differ in cold tolerance, so always check the label before buying. The kind you’ll most commonly find in Aussie backyards is the Nellie Kelly – a cultivar that has been bred to withstand cooler temperatures and resist pests and diseases. In more tropical regions, Panamas grow best.
This is the most popular style of passionfruit currently grown in Australia.
They are a deep purple colour, with medium-size fruit with rich orange-yellow pulp and black seeds.
Nellie Kelly, Black and Sunshine Special are some of the varieties and they fruit very well.
They are all self-pollinating.
Passiflora flavicarpa has large, juicy fruit with skin colour ranging from light yellow to a rich red, and zingy flesh with a sweet flavour and lots of juice.
These are Panama Red, Panama Gold and Pandora.
They are all self-pollinating.
When to prune passionfruit vines:
Leave the vine to climb in its first year, then pinch out the top bud to encourage lots of side shoots. Passionfruit vines don’t need pruning to encourage fruiting, but they may need it to remove overgrown growth or keep the vine under control.
- Passionfruit flowers are pollinated by insects and the pollen is heavy and sticky. The European bee or the native Carpenter bee are the most common pollinators of passionfruit. If pollination is poor, you will need to include bee-attractant plants such as lavender, hyssop and thyme near your vine.
- The second cause requires an understanding of plant morphology. Passionfruit flowers are not self-fertile. Many varieties are self-incompatible, therefore cross-pollination is necessary for seed and fruit set, with a different variety. To complicate things further the flowers are also self-sterile due to the anthers that develop below the stigma and the bee has to crawl around the flower to put pollen higher up the flower on the stigma. The purple passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) is mostly self-compatible but selected varieties and hybrids may be partially self-incompatible. A single passionfruit can produce up to 350 seeds but you will need a minimum 100 ovules to develop into seeds or the fruit will be empty and hollow.
- The third cause is disease. Some passionfruit develop woodiness virus which is transferred by sap-sucking insects. There is no cure — you will have to rip the vine out.
- The fourth cause is due to wet, cold weather during flowering; the rain affects the pollen which then dies. Avoid overhead watering at flowering time. If you are growing the Granadilla, Sweet Lilikoi or Sweet Calabash you will need another variety to cross-pollinate.
- Not fruiting: A common complaint of passionfruit growers is a lack of fruit. There are a number of factors that could be to blame, but poor pollination is the most common. The essential work of bees can be impacted by changes in weather such as consistent, heavy rain, and fluctuating temperatures. Over-fertilization can also cause your vine to grow but without flowers and fruit.
- Fruit dropping: If your passionfruit is fruiting but the goods are dropping off the vine, it could be due to irregular watering, fungal diseases or fruit flies.
- Yellow leaves: Wondering why your passionfruit leaves are going yellow? The most common cause is woodiness virus, but it could also be down to magnesium or nitrogen deficiency, or “winter yellows” brought on by cold, windy weather.
- Spots: If you’re noticing spots on your vine’s leaves and fruit, it’s most likely due to fungal diseases such as alternata spot or brown spot.
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