I had a problem and passion fruit solved it. I live on a dirt road and my vegetable garden starts only twenty feet from the road. I wanted both privacy and dust catchment. Because there’s a chain link fence between the road and my garden, I was able to plant a passion fruit vine, and it has grown into an edible and evergreen wall.
I’ve since planted more passion fruit vines to cover other fences and a rain tank. Maybe you need something covered — because it’s ugly or for privacy or for dust catchment — and a passion fruit vine can be the solution.
What follows is what I’ve learned about growing passion fruit in Southern California from my own vines as well as those of friends.
More than edible
First and foremost, passion fruit is delicious, tangy sweet, and everyone in my family loves them. My young sons get so excited when they get to eat one of these purple eggs. I give each a half and they lap the pulp up with their tongues (often suctioning the empty rind onto their chins for fun at the end).
I, however, eat my passion fruit by scooping the pulp out with a spoon. (I’m so refined.)
Harvest is year-round. The fruit is not messy when it drops from the vine, as it doesn’t splatter or rot. It lies on the ground getting sweeter and waiting for you to notice it.
I’ve grown four varieties: Frederick, Possum Purple, Red Rover, and Nancy Garrison. They’re all very similar in appearance, growth habit, and taste, but I’ve had the best luck with Frederick and Possum Purple. As far as taste goes, Possum Purple is my slight favorite as it seems to consistently get a little sweeter than the others. That may be particular to my plants in my location though, not sure.
Each is self-fruitful so you don’t need more than one passion fruit vine in order to get fruit. Insects do the pollination work, and honey bees certainly enjoy the flowers. Here is a honey bee on a passion fruit flower on the first day of winter, December 21, 2017:
More than evergreen
Before I settled on a passion fruit vine for privacy and dust catchment on my fence, I’d tried many other plants. I grew tomatoes and trained them up the fence, I let green beans climb it, as well as peas. But I soon learned that I wanted something perennial; I didn’t want to put in new plants every couple months. So I planted blackberries and raspberries. The blackberries and raspberries have now been moved to a spot with afternoon shade, however, because the fence gets all day sun in the summer and sometimes burns the berries. I planted grapes there too, but they have no leaves to provide privacy from December through March, so that didn’t work.
With passion fruit though, the vines look good all year. The leaves are glossy green, although its flowers are the real draw. Blooming in every month of the year, passion flowers are complicated and colorful.
Once a passion fruit vine gets going it will extend over a dozen feet long in a single year’s growth, grabbing onto anything it can with its tendrils. The one plant that I have in front of my vegetables is fully covering 12 strides, or about 30 feet, of fence — would be more except I keep it pruned back. It would probably be twice that length if I never pruned it.
Thankfully, passion fruit vines are enjoyable to prune, having soft leaves and stems. I prune mine at least once a year, often in the late winter, but also often whenever the mood strikes.
I’m in Sunset Zone 20 or 21, and usually once each winter my vines get their tips burnt from a frosty morning. It’s welcome since I’m going to prune them back much further before they start growing intensely again in early spring anyway.
Got light frost this morning, incidentally, with a temperature reading on my porch of 36 degrees (so a few degrees lower out in the yard) and zero damage to passion fruit vines or fruit.
Passion fruit vines don’t seem to care whether they get watered by drippers or sprinklers. I’ve used both with fine results. And I’ve found that watering about once per week in my sandy loam soil is enough during the summer. The neat thing that I’ve stumbled upon with passion fruit vines is that once they get a year old you can continue giving them water often and in high volume and you’ll get lots of fruit, but you can also water them infrequently and with less volume — similar to grapes — and the vines will still look good but produce less fruit.
I had another problem a couple years ago. I put in a rain tank on the south side of our house and wanted to keep it cool and pretty. Another passion fruit vine saved the day. I wrapped the tank in wire mesh and planted a vine in August of 2016.
Within a year, it was covering the tank completely and needing some taming. Here in December of 2017 it looks like this.
Neighbors put up an ugly cinderblock wall? Let a passion fruit vine beautify and edify it. Want a year-round shaded pergola or arbor? Passion fruit. Have a dead tree? Use it as a scaffold for a passion fruit vine to climb.
Want a few more details on passion fruit? Read this passion fruit page from the California Rare Fruit Growers.