Passion fruit can be expensive if you get them fresh from the grocery or supermarket.
Why buy passion fruits when they are so easy to grow?
The passion fruit vine is an excellent low-maintenance fruit-yielding addition to your garden.
The Basics of Passion Fruit
Passion fruit or Passiflora edulis is a fruit-bearing vine native to Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.
The passion fruit is one of the species of passionflower.
The P. edulis is famous for its fruit, which is soft to firm, sweet, juicy, and seedy. It is a type of berry and is round to oval, with a leathery rind which is about 0.35 to 0.5 inch (9 to 13 mm) thick, including the thick pith.
This perennial vine has two main varieties, the P. edulis f. edulis which has purple fruits, and the P. edulis f. flavicarpa which bears yellow fruits.
There are about 250 tiny black seeds in each passion fruit berry, about 0.01 inch (2.4 mm).
The passion fruits are about 1.5 to 3 inches (4 to 7.5 cm) in diameter.
The passion fruit vine produces at each node a single flower about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) wide. These flowers have about 0.15 to 0.2 inch (4 to 6 mm) sepals and petals, which form a fringe. The sepals of the passion fruit vine are green, and the petals are white with a rich purple base.
Planting Your Passion Fruit
You can plant passion fruit in the spring from seeds, cuttings, or by getting a young plant from a nursery. You can plant in summer or autumn if the weather in your area is too cold in the spring for passion fruit.
If you start with a passion fruit plant in spring and the weather conditions are ideal, you can expect fruit in about six months. If you plant in autumn, you can expect it in about 12 months.
Passion fruits need lots of nutrients to keep up with their fast growth and need an organically-rich and well-draining soil to grow on. You can mix compost with the soil to add more nutrients.
This climbing vine grows naturally in tropical to subtropical climates and needs full sun with protection from harsh winds. There are some varieties, particularly the purple ones, that can handle some light frost, but a warmer climate is ideal.
When planting from seeds, grow them in containers and plant the seedlings when they are about 8 inches (20 cm) high. If they become bigger than that by the time you can plant them, prune back to 8 inches before planting to reduce moisture loss while the plant establishes.
Take note that some hybrids do not grow to type when grown from seeds. Another thing is that some passion fruits planted from seeds can be more susceptible to diseases.
Plant young passion fruits about 2 feet (61 cm) apart, and make sure that they have supports to climb on. It can be a fence, trellis, stakes and poles, anything that your vines can crawl on as they grow.
Whatever support you will use, make sure that it is strong enough as the plant can get quite heavy, especially when it bears fruit.
Make sure to put a thick mulch around the passion fruit plant to help keep moisture in its roots.
Caring for Your Passion Fruit
Passion fruit loves moisture, so give it plenty of water, while making sure that it will not be waterlogged. Waterlogged roots will cause issues for your plant.
Feed your passion fruit with an organic slow-release fertiliser. Be careful when using commercial fertilisers as they usually contain too much nitrogen, which could stunt your plant’s growth, make it less productive, and make it vulnerable to diseases and insects.
Prune your passion fruit after the fruiting season to keep them from overgrowing their support and prevent tangles of dead vine. Overcrowding could make your passionfruit susceptible to diseases.
In colder climates, prune in spring.
Common Problems with Passion Fruit
The most well-known passion fruit disease is the Passion Fruit Woodiness Virus, which can attack the plant at any age. Some symptoms of this virus include distorted yellow leaves and smaller hard fruits with scabs and cracks.
Sap-sucking insects like mites and aphids cause the woodiness virus. Other ways the passion fruit can get this disease is by spreading through propagation if the scions are infected, or contaminated tools are used.
Another disease that can affect passion fruits is the Cucumber Mosaic disease, with symptoms including yellow mottling on the leaves at random points on the vine. Another sign is the distortion of the passion fruit’s leaves which could curl and twist, looking like a shoestring as the leaf surface is restricted.
Unfortunately, there is no management or control of the cucumber mosaic virus once your passion fruit vine is infected.
Passion fruits can also be infected with Bacterial Leaf Spot or Scorch. Symptoms of this disease are clearing of the veins, wilting of the leaves, and deterioration of the pulp of the fruits, especially younger ones.
A fungal disease that can be damaging to passion fruit is the Collar Rot disease. As the name suggests, the disease presents at the collar of the vine–the stem at the soil level. The branch will turn brown and necrotic, and this will prevent the transport of food and water to the rest of the plant.
Other pests that can affect your passion fruit vine are the passionvine hopper, scale, and mealybug.
Passionvine hoppers are about less than half an inch (1 cm) long with triangular transparent wings with mottled brown pattern. The nymphs have brown markings on their pale pink body. Hose them off and their sooty mould and apply the appropriate pesticide for passionvine hoppers, such as pyrethrum and cyfluthrin.
Scales are either black, brown, or red lumps on different parts of the plant, such as the twigs, leaves, fruit, or stems.
Mealybugs are creamy and waxy and are hidden in the veins. You can also tell that there are mealybugs if you see sooty mould and ants. You can scrape the scales off using a soft toothbrush and remove the mealybugs by hand. Spray with horticultural oil. You may need to repeat the application of the horticultural oil in a few weeks.