Background of the passionfruit
The passionfruit vine is characterised by starry flowers and distinctive leathery-skinned fruit. Native to the Amazon region of South America, it was named by Spanish missionaries who believed sections of the petals resembled the crown of thorns from the crucifixion.
There are more than 50 varieties of passionfruit vine, many of them suited to growing in Australia, including Banana, Hawaiian, Norfolk Island, Yellow Giant, Panama Gold, Panama Red and Ned Kelly.
The wrinkled fruit contains vitamins A and C, potassium and iron, and is good for salads, desserts and in drinks. The passionfruit pulp can be bottled, made into sauce or eaten fresh. Passionfruit is also believed to have health properties, with some Brazilian tribes using it as heart tonic.
The passionfruit vine can be propagated from cuttings but is best grown from seed. It should be planted in full sun (at least six hours a day) in a spot with no trees or competitive roots.
Provide a strong structure for the vine to climb on and prepare light, fine, deep, well-dug soil with organic matter. Add straw to retain warmth and scatter a metre of chook manure pellets around the hole. Water well and repeat this again a few months later. Passionfruit vines are heavy feeders and need plenty of water and well-drained soil. Add mulch around the root system, to reduce evaporation and protect it from the hot sun.
Leave the vine to climb in its first year, then pinch out the top bud to encourage lots of side shoots. The passionfruit vine grows up to 10 metres a year. You can expect fruit about 18 months after planting. Passionfruit have a high water requirement when fruits are approaching maturity – if the soil is dry, fruits may shrivel and fall prematurely, so water frequently for short periods during dry times. Pick the fruit when the skins start to wrinkle.
After the second year, prune lateral branches once a year in late winter.
Note that a fertiliser high in nitrogen promotes plenty of leaf growth at the expense of fruit and flowers. Therefore, well rotted cow manure and compost are better choices. Also note that the growth should be from the graft section of the vine, rather than the rootstock, as this won't produce fruit.
Tip: Put used teabags at the base of established vines, leaving them to seep into the soil as fertiliser.
Why is my passionfruit vine not producing fruit?
This can be the result of rain at flowering time, as it ruins the viability of the pollen, or a lack of bees for pollination. You can pollinate it DIY using a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from one flower to another. Second flowerings aren't uncommon and usually lead to small crops of fruit at other times of the year, but overfertilising a passionfruit vine results in flowers but no fruit. It usually only needs fertilising twice a year, after pruning and again after fruiting. It can also fail to fruit if it isn't receiving enough water.
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Check out our recipe for passionfruit frozen yoghurt