The passion fruit is a berry that grows on the passion fruit plant. You can get yellow or purple passion fruits, and the purple passion fruit is slightly smaller than a lemon with a deep purple hue. The other fruit is bright yellow, and this is also slightly larger at the size of a grapefruit. Both fruits are ovoid to spherical in shape, and both have an outer shell that is slippery and hard. The inside of the fruits has hard black seeds with a transparent pulp. The pulp is what you’ll eat, and it’s sweet tasting, soft, and aromatic.
You can halve the passion fruits and eat them raw with a small sprinkle of sugar or dice them up and add them to fruit salads. The pulp works well as a dessert topping for ice cream or cakes, and you can juice the fruit or make jelly or jam out of it. You can compare the flavor of the passion fruit to guava.
The botanical name for the passion fruit plant that produces purple fruit is Passiflora edulis, and the botanical name for the yellow fruit producing passion fruit plant is Passiflora edulis flavicarpa. You’ll find it growing in droves in semi tropical or tropical regions around the world, including in Hawaii, California, and Florida in the United States.
The flowers on the passion fruit plant are two to three inches wide, and they have five whitish-green sepals with five white petals and a fringelike growth that comes out of a deep purple base. If this sounds intriguing and you want to know how to grow the passion fruit plant in your home, read on.
This tropical fruit has a lot of different uses, including reducing it down to a jam or jelly, or you can eat it raw.
Passion Fruit Plant – Quick Overview
|Common Name(s):||Purple granadilla, water lemon, passionfruit, and passion fruit vine|
|Days to Harvest:||80|
|Diseases:||Fusarium wilt and woodiness virus|
|Fertilizer:||High potassium mix two to four times a year|
|Pests:||Snails, caterpillars, and root knot nematodes|
|Scientific Name:||Passiflora edulis|
|Soil:||Loamy, well-draining, and fertile|
Growing Conditions for the Passion Fruit Plant
Just like any tropical plant you have, the passion flower plant has specific care requirements. For the plants to be able to grow and thrive, the following outline will help you set the right conditions.
You want to fertilize your passion fruit plant between two and four times each year. Commercial growers usually get fertilizers with an NPK ratio of 10-5-20. Generally speaking, most home gardeners should use a fertilizer with high potassium content to keep the plant happy. If the soil already has higher nitrogen levels, pick out a fertilizer with lower nitrogen content. Too much nitrogen in the soil promotes leaf growth on the passion flower plant, and this reduces the amount of fruit. The same thing happens if you fertilize it too much.
Since you’re going to water a lot, it’s essential that your soil drains very well. Without the ability to drain, the growing medium can get soaked, compacted, and not be habitable for your passion fruit plant. You can easily amend it with pumice, perlite, or sand if need be. The pH levels in the soil should stay between 5.5 and 6.5 to make it more resistant to disease and encourage good fruit production.
To ensure that your soil is ready for your passion fruit plant, you can get a soil test kit or take a soil sample to your local agricultural department and have them test it. Whichever growing medium you have, it has to be fertile. It requires a high amount of nutrients that the soil won’t usually be able to give it by itself. This is why you should add mulch to the soil when you finish planting it and compost.
Sun and Temperature
The passion fruit plant adores light, and it has to get full sunlight for six to eight hours on most days to produce the best fruit and blooms. It will tolerate a little shade in extreme heat, and zones 10 to 12 are best to keep it outside all year round. If you plan on growing it inside, you want to put the whole container in the sunniest south-facing window in the house. The temperature needs to stay well above the freezing mark, especially for the yellow passion fruit plants.
Watering & Humidity
This is a very fast-growing vine that produces fruit, so you’ll want to give it a lot of water. You should water them consistently so the soil never dries out. When they’re fruiting, the passion fruit plant needs more water than usual. During the winter and fall months, you can reduce your watering sessions. However, you should be very careful not to overwater a plant because this can cause root rot. Also, don’t allow the water to pool around the plant or completely saturate the soil.
If you can, try to set up an irrigation system to keep up with the watering demands of the passion fruit plant. This will also help with the humidity levels because, as a tropical plant, it needs more humidity. If you live outside of growing zones 10 to 12, it may be a good idea to run a humidifier by the plant to keep it happy.
Watering this plant is a very delicate balance. You want to water it enough to keep it thriving without drowning it.
Pruning or Training the Passion Fruit Plant
Since this is a quick grower, you’ll have to work to keep up with it. Pruning is critical to help keep the passion fruit plant’s size in check and prevent issues with pests. In cooler spots, you’ll want to prune it in springtime when the plant first starts growing. The new growth where you prune it will produce many blossoms. In the tropical regions, you want to wait until the fruits fade before you do any pruning.
When you prune this plant, you want to get rid of any dying or dead stems. If you have very full and lush vines, make a point to thin out the middle so you get good air circulation throughout the passion fruit plant. Cut back a third of your plant to keep it to a manageable size.
This is also the point when you can start training your passion fruit plant to climb up an overhead support like a T-post or pergola. All you have to do is secure the plant to the support and it’ll start to climb. We recommend using a fiber-based thread to secure your plant because wire will cause damage. If you can redirect your plant, prune back any stems that are going in the wrong direction.
Pollination and the Passion Fruit Plant
The pollen from the passion fruit plant is very sticky, and this works well for insect pollination. However, it’s not so good for wind pollination. If you don’t have a lot of bees in the yard, you’re not going to get the plant to produce fruit. Encourage bees to come to this plant by planting other plants that attract them.
If you’re not having a lot of success, you can hand pollinate your passion fruit plant. They are such bountiful and large plants that it’s much easier to encourage the bee population. You can cross-pollinate the yellow plants with a different cultivar, but you can’t with the purple. If you have yellow, pick another cultivar and plant it by the first one.
Bees are the main pollinators of the passion fruit plant, so it’s essential that you take steps to lure them to your yard to ensure you get fruit.
Passion Fruit Plant Propagation
For propagation of the passion fruit plant, seeds are the main method. However, this may not always be the case since hybrid seeds aren’t currently viable and purple passion fruit plants are more prone to issues with Fusarium wilt. Because of this, many people turn to stem cuttings for propagation. We’ll outline both methods below.
Propagation From a Seed
You can get the seeds from a store-bought passion fruit to germinate and grow your own passion fruit plant. To start from seed, you will:
Pick the Seeds
Pick out a ripe passion fruit that has a slightly crinkled rind from your local grocery store and halve it. Once it’s open, carefully extract the hard seeds. The more ripe your passion fruit is, the more likely the seeds are to germinate and do well. Wash away any fruit pulp from the seeds and let them dry on a paper towel.
Prepare the Seeds
To improve your chances of having your seeds sprout, you should rub them between a sheet of sandpaper and then soak them for 12 hours overnight in water. If you don’t plan on planting the seeds right away, it’s important that you store them in an airtight container or in a sealed envelope.
Germinate the Seeds
To begin the germination process, you want to bury the seeds in a container filled with a small amount of seed mix or soil that is roughly an inch deep. Sow the seed just below the surface and water it to get the soil to settle. Make sure to keep the soil moist, and it’s possible to add a seaweed solution to encourage faster germination.
Water the Seeds
Water the passion fruit plant seeds regularly to keep the soil moist but avoid saturating it. Keep the container in a warm place, and water them until they sprout. Some seeds will germinate within two or three weeks, and some can take a month. Other seeds can take four months to sprout, so you’ll need patience for this process.
Re-pot the Seedling
Once the seedling reaches roughly four inches high, you want to repot it into a bigger container that is roughly six to eight inches in diameter. Gently dig the seedling out while you take steps to protect the root system and transfer it to a bigger pot with fresh potting soil. When you get the seedling situated, you’ll want to water it immediately. Give your passion fruit plant support to climb, and give it six weeks to develop a strong centralized vine system that is roughly eight inches high. This is when you know it’s ready to transplant out in the garden on a trellis.
Prepare the Soil
Pick a space in your yard or garden that gets full, direct sun for six to eight hours a day to plant your passion fruit seedling. Combine mulch or fertilizer with the soil to enrich it, and test the pH levels to make sure they fall within the standard range. Loosen your soil to ensure proper drainage.
Plant the Seedling
Dig a hole in your selected space that is twice the size of the root ball on your seedling. Remove it from the original container, being careful with the root system. Bury the plant roots with fresh potting soil and fertilizer before watering it. If you’re going to have several passion fruit plants in the same area, allow for 10 to 12 feet of space between each one.
Maintain the Plant
To fruit and flower, the passion fruit plant can take anywhere from 18 months to two years from the time you plant it. During this time, it’ll need regular maintenance. Water the plant regularly, and ensure that the soil is well-draining and loose to prevent root rot. Prune any wilting tendrils. To winterize it if you live in a colder planting zone, you want to spread out a two-inch thick layer of compost around the root system to protect the roots from the colder temperatures.
Harvest the Fruit
When your passion fruit plant starts to fruit and flower, you want to leave the fruit alone so it ripens fully. The color should get very vibrant and the rind will start to wrinkle. At this point, you can let it fall to the ground or pick it as it’s ready to eat.
Maintaining your plant is key to getting a nice harvest, and you want to give your plants a strong start when they’re small too.
Propagation From a Seedling
If you don’t want to try and grow the passion fruit plant from seeds, you can go and buy a germinated passion fruit plant from your local nursery. The following will outline how to set your passion fruit plant up for success with this method.
Buy an Established Seedling
The first thing you have to do is locate and buy your seedling. You can also plant a cutting from one of your current plants to propagate a new plant. Either way, you want to water it frequently.
Re-pot the Seedling
When the seedling is around four inches high, it’s time to repot it. You’ll get a bigger pot that is between six to eight inches in diameter. Gently remove the seedling from the current pot and put it in fresh planting soil in the new pot. You want to water it as soon as you get it settled in the pot. Give it support for the vines so it’s ready to go as they grow. After six weeks, you should see a strong central vine that is roughly eight inches high. It’s ready to transition outside at this point.
At this point, you can follow the instructions we outlined above for planting and growing a passion fruit plant from seed as they’re exactly the same.
Harvesting and Storing Passion Fruit
The blooms on this plant are pretty, but the fruit is the most popular reason why people choose to grow this plant. As soon as the delicious fruits make an appearance, all of your hard work will pay off.
When the fruit is ripe, it’ll be heavy, vibrantly colored, and detach from the stem easily. As it continues to ripen, the skin will start to wrinkle slightly and the fruit will take on a sweeter taste. It falls from the plant when it’s ripe, and this makes it much easier to access. When they fall, the fruit won’t rot, bruist, or easily attract pests. So, this allows you to collect them when you have time instead of rushing out right away. You can also pick them when they’re not fully ripe, but avoid picking green fruit.
To eat them, all you have to do is carefully cut up the fruit into two halves to give you a jelly-like pulp. Scoop the pulp out of the inedible rind using a spoon. It’s also easy to remove the seeds.
You can eat your passion fruit raw, store it, or use it in a huge range of dishes to give it a sweet, tangy taste.
It’s best to eat the purple fruits when they’re fresh to make sure they’re as sweet as possible. The yellow fruit is typically broken down and used for juice or preserves. Both will last a few weeks whole and unrefrigerated, but you can make them last longer by popping them into the fridge. If you pick the fruit when it’s not completely ripe, all you have to do is leave them sitting on the counter for a few days to allow them to ripen. The skin will wrinkle as it ages.
You can freeze just the pulp, the whole fruit, or the juice. It works well in dressings and desserts, and you can even make butter out of it. Passion fruit preserves are very nice, but you’ll need a pressure canner or a water bath.
Care Tips For Passion Fruit Plants
The following tips can help you address any issues you may run into when you try to grow the passion fruit plant, and they’ll help give you the best chances of having a full harvest.
1. Fertilize the Depleted Soil
If the soil starts to look unhealthy or dry at any point, you should add some 10-5-20 fertilizer to help encourage new growth. Keep in mind that using a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content will encourage your plant to produce large leaves while stunting the fruit production. Pick one that has a lot of potassium, and add it to the soil around the plant in the spring and summer months.
2. Give a Sunny Location
This plant absolutely needs a lot of sun, with a minimum of six to eight hours on most days for it to do well. They do best when you plant them in full sun with 60% to 80% humidity levels, and this can be difficult to replicate inside.
3. Plant in Well-Draining But Moist Soil
Passion flower plants thrive when you put them in well-draining but fertile soil that has a pH range of 6.5 and 7.5. Add organic matter like compost or mulch to the soil if it looks like it’s too dry and sandy.
4. Propagate Using Cuttings
You can easily get a cutting from new growth from your existing passion flower plant to create a new cultivar. Fresh seeds from one of your passion fruits also work well. If you plan on using a cutting, you’ll want to trim the lower leaves before planting it in a small pot and putting it in a warm place for 90 days. Keep the soil moist throughout this time.
5. Protect the Plant From Diseases and Pests
Use a liquid fence or a mesh covering to protect your passion fruit plant from snails, aphis, gulf fritillary butterflies, or nematodes. These are all common pests in the United States. Treat the plants each spring with fungicide to stop fungal diseases from spreading, like crown rot or fusarium wilt.
6. Water Generously
Passion fruit plants need a lot of water for them to grow, but it’s critical that you make sure your soil drains well so you don’t drown the plant or encourage root rot. Water it generously and regularly while ensuring good drainage.
7. Winterize the Plant
If you live in a tropical planting zone, you shouldn’t be surprised if your plant fruits and flowers all year-round. However, it won’t survive if the temperature dips below 32°F. If the temperature does drop this low, you’ll want to add a two-inch thick layer of compost over the root system to shield it from the cold.
Even if your plant isn’t fruiting, you have to work to maintain it to ensure that it’s healthy enough to produce fruit when the time comes.
Common Problems with the Passion Fruit Plant
The passion fruit plant isn’t without a few problems, just like any other plant. However, knowing about them ahead of time can help you be proactive and solve them if they do pop up.
- Fruit Dropping – If your plant is producing fruit but they’re dropping off the vine, it could be due to fruit flies, fungal diseases, or irregular watering.
- Not Fruiting – One very common complaint about this plant is that it refuses to produce fruit. There are several factors that could be the cause, but low or very poor pollination is usually it. The work bees do can change depending on the weather, including fluctuating temperatures and heavy rains. Over-fertilization can also be a problem as it encourages your plant to grow leaves instead of fruit.
- Spots – If you find spots on the vine leaves and fruit, it’s usually a fungal disease that causes it like brown spot and alternata spot.
- Yellow Leaves – Maybe you’re wondering why the leaves on the plant are turning yellow. The most common reason for this is woodiness virus, but a nitrogen or magnesium deficiency could cause it too.
Passion Fruit Plant Pest Problems
If you want to grow the purple cultivar, you’ll have to keep an eye out for pests. The purple passion fruit plant is much more prone to having issues with pests than the yellow cultivar, but they can impact yellow varieties.
There are many caterpillar species that like to eat the foliage of this plant. When they eat the foliage, it reduces the leaf’s surface area, and this reduces the photosynthesis the plant can do. The fluid the caterpillars secrete causes the leaves to dry out and the entire plant looks lifeless. Caterpillars can also eat the flowers, stems, and fruits.
If you see caterpillars on the plants, you should pick them off and look for eggs on the vine. Remove them by hand and put them in soapy water to get rid of them. You can control larger infestations with an insecticide. As a bonus, many passion flower plant species have developed defenses against this pest, including sticky hair, poison, and ant attractants.
One overlooked garden pest are root knot nematodes. These are very tiny worms that will attack the roots of your plants. They can cause root deformities, including root knots, hairs, and bumps. This causes the roots to have a hindrance when it comes to delivering water and nutrients to your plant, and this will stunt the growth.
To prevent nematodes from attacking your passion fruit plant, you want to take care of the soil. Till it two or three times each fall and remove any dead or dying roots. Add organic matter to the soil and use crop rotation to keep the soil healthy. If you have a huge issue with nematodes, apply an organic nematicide.
Snails can be a problem for your plant if you live in California. When it comes to this plant, the snails will destroy the leaves. This can weaken young plants, and they leave behind a mucus. Keep the area around your plant clear of debris to remove the snail’s hiding places. You can treat them at night using a bucket of soapy water, and put organic barriers around your passion fruit plant.
Passion flower plants can produce tasty fruit if you get the growing conditions correct, and this quick guide outlined how to do just that. If you live in a tropical region, you’ll have more luck growing this plant, but it can be done with a little patience, a lot of humidity, and warm temperatures.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.