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A Victorian backyard favourite for generations, the passionfruit vine can be super productive throughout its relatively short life. They also make fantastic edible screening plants - just remember that they're evergreen so you'll shade out summer and winter sun. A few simple tips will make sure you get the most out of yours and if you don't have one, pop it on your 'things to do in spring' list…
Firstly I hear you ask, why passionfruit? Well nothing to do here but quote from my favourite fruit tree book The complete book of fruit growing in Australia by Louis Glowinski, a Melbourne based urban gardener:
"…the missionaries who accompanied the conquistadors to South America saw this flower a sign to the native peoples of the truth of Christ. The ten petals and sepals represent the apostles present at the crucifixion, the halo of filaments represens the Crown of Thorns, five anthers the five wounds, the three stigmas the nails that pierced the hands and feet, the coiled tendrils the whips"
Blimey! See how imaginative tourists were before Lonely Planet told us what to expect!?
So if you're still with me you'll now realise the passionfruit comes from South America - like so many of our edible wonders in Australia. The main change to the original vines in the sub tropics is that in around 1945 Moorrabin Nurseryman Clarence Kelly started using a European Blue Passionfruit root stock to graft onto. Clarence then went on to trademark 'Nellie Kelly', the hardy black passionfruit most familiar to us all. Here's a stack of them in a nursery igloo.
So if you're purchasing any grafted passionfruit, remember the trunk below the graft is root stock and will generally shoot finer leaves that won't produce much in the way of fruit, instead taking energy from the rest of the plant. So if you see non glossy, finer growth on your vine, track it back to the source and make sure it's not from below the graft of a sucker in the ground. As per last week's pruning post…cut them off like a bad act at Eurovision!
Getting the most out of your passionfruit
Lots of water. Yes now we've had a few seasons of excellent rainfall, it makes sense to plant these relatively thirsty vines. Don't get me wrong, they'll survive dry weather, but your fruit will be lacking in pulp.
Feed them well. I've been told to bury a rabbit at the bottom of the hole before planting, or an ox liver. If you don't have these handy, try an organic fertiliser such as blood and bone or dynamic lifter. Remember we're growing flowers not just leaves so don't overdo the nitrogen component of the fertiliser (think tomato plant suitable fertiliser as a guide)
Pruning. Spring is the time to take around a third of the growth off the vine once established. Unlike fruit trees, the new season's growth is the only way to get fruit so you want to encourage as much as this as possible.
- Hand pollination. Insects are required to pollinate passionfruit flowers, however if their not visible take matters into your own hand. Check out the clip below where a small paint brush is used.
More recently gold and red varieties have become available that are suitable to our southern temperate climate - check out your local nursery and only buy plants that can handle a light frost.