Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora Incarnata) Care and Benefits

There are hundreds of different species in the passionflower family, all of them absolutely gorgeous. 

Aside from their beauty, they have a whole host of medicinal benefits that make them a double-whammy in your garden.

Read on to learn exactly how to grow, care for, and use the purple passion flower.​

Passiflora Incarnata Overview

Common Name(s)Purple passion vine, purple passion flower, passionflower, holy trinity flower, apricot vine, may pops
Scientific NamePassiflora incarnata
FamilyPassifloraceae
OriginThe southern united states
HeightUp to 25 feet long
LightFull sun
WaterLow
Temperature60-75°F
HumidityModerate to high
SoilPeat moss-based potting mix
FertilizerFeed every two weeks in the spring with a fertilizer diluted by half, and once a month in the winter
PropagationTake 3-4 inch stems, cut just below where the leaf is attached to it, place in moist soil and keep sealed for the first couple of weeks
PestsRoot knot nematode, fungus that causes fusarium wilt, cucumber mosaic, bacterial spots

​The purple passion flower is a fast growing vine that can reach up to 20 feet or more. Both the fruits and flowers are edible on some varieties and many food items are made from the plant.

The unique flowers are about three inches wide and they have several petals accented with a purple fringe. The wonderful fragrance this plant gives off resembles that of carnations. The fruits, called may pops, are generally about two inches in size and are ripe when the fruit turns yellow. The fruits taste like a guava. To be fully ripe for eating, the fruits should fall off naturally.

The Passionflower has large leaves that can reach 5 or 6 inches long and they have serrated edges. They generally have from three to five lobes that alternate along the stem. Flowers bloom where the leaf stem is attached to the vine. Passiflora incarnata really needs something to climb on, and look great at fences or running up a trellis.

Types of Purple Passion Flower

There are numerous species of the passionflower, most of which are tender tropical vines. Passiflora incarnata is different in that it is a deciduous plant and will survive through winter freezes!

Purple Passion Vine Care

This plant grows from the roots and can quickly take over a whole area. Make sure that you plant this one in an area that won't be affected by the plant spreading, or where you'll still be able to mow the lawn.

Butterflies love this gorgeous flower, but keep in mind, so do bees! Although, the plant is generally pest free, you may find that the caterpillars love to eat them!

Light

Passionflowers love full sunlight, but it don't do very well on really hot days and needs a little shade. The plant should be planted where it will only get direct sun about half of the day.

Water

Purple passion flower does best when it is given a lot of water and then allowed to just slightly dry out before watering again.

If you over winter the plant, gradually stop watering and trim the plant when the foliage dies. In the spring when new growth starts to appear, the normal watering schedule should be resumed.

Soil

A good quality garden or potting soil will work fine for this gorgeous vine. Just make sure that the roots have plenty of drainage. These vines have shallow roots and a thick layer of organic mulch can really help the plant flourish.

Although passionflowers prefer to be in sandy, well draining, fertile soil, they will grow in heavier soils that contain clay. Here's a simple soil recipe for passionflowers:

  • ​2 parts loam
  • 2 parts peat
  • 1 part perlite or sand

Fertilizer

A well balanced fertilizer can be used every four months. It should supply the plant with phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. 

Pruning​

Because passiflora incarnata is a vining plant and a fast grower, you may want to prune it from time to time. Here are a few good reasons to prune:

  • ​You want to bring an older vine back to life
  • You want to promote better growth next year
  • You want to train a young passionflower vine

The best time to prune your purple passion flower is in late winter. The plant won't be growing much, so any pruning won't affect the growth of the plant or shock the plant at all.

First, prune any obviously dead plant material. Then, remove all stems except ones that have plenty of buds. As a general rule, do not remove more than 33% of the plant's total size, otherwise you risk killing your plant.​

Propagation

There are three main ways to propagate the passionflower: by layering, from seed, and from cuttings.

From Cuttings

To propagate passionflower from cuttings, take 6" cuttings from your plants. It's important to take them from mature plants, often in the fall.

You can root them in a variety of growing mediums, but perlite, sand, or vermiculite work well. While you can use a rooting hormone to speed up the process, it's not absolutely necessary.

By Layering

Layering is a great way to propagate passionflower, especially if you don't have to keep track of all of your cuttings until they're rooted and ready to transplant.

To layer, just take the leaves off of a stem section and then bury the stem under the soil. Place a stone or pin on top to keep the stem underneath the soil. If you water the stem section well, it should root in 2-3 weeks.

From Seed​

Take an over-ripe seed pod from an existing plant and separate the seeds from the pod. Clean thoroughly and allow the seeds to dry. All the fleshy coating on the outside of the seeds must be removed. As a sidenote, you can eat the ​aril, which is the gelatinous covering around the seed. It's quite tasty.

Let the seeds dry in a dark, warm place. When spring comes, soak them for a few days and then plant them in relatively sandy soil​.

Be forewarned: passionflower seeds can take almost a year to germinate​. 

​Speeding Up Passionflower Germination

The seeds contain a chemical that naturally slows their germination. Cool, moist soil, slowly removes this chemical. But, you can pretreat them and induce faster germination. It's best to just forget about them after you plant them and be pleasantly surprised when they do show up a year down the road.

Success has been met when the seeds were soaked for 24 hours in 5% ethanol cider, changed every 12 hours. Faster germination has also been accomplished by an overnight soaking in gibberellic acid.

Harvesting and Using

Unlike most of the ornamental plants I cover on Epic Gardening, you can actually harvest and use purple passion flowers!​

Harvesting Your Passionflower​

Harvesting is best done in fall. To harvest, simply strip off the leaves of the plant​. You must then dry them using one of the following methods:

  • Use a food dehydrator
  • Use a drying screen
  • Place them outside in a paper bag

Once the leaves have dried, place them in a cool, dark area in a container that is airtight.

Passionflower Benefits

Aside from the raw beauty of the passionflower, they confer a whole host of medicinal benefits if you use them properly.

For many years it was used in over-the-counter sleep drugs, but became less popular in the late 1970s / early 1980s. US pharmaceutical companies were less interested than their European counterparts in studying the plant.​

As a sleep aid, it can work well on its own, but is best used in conjunction with a few other herbs that are well-known to promote restful sleep:

According to WebMD, the generally-accepted benefits of passionflower include:

  • ​Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Hysteria
  • Asthma,
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pain relief
  • ...and much more

As you can see, passionflower is possibly effective for a wide variety of conditions, although there isn't as much research into its properties as there needs to be to be fully confident in some of its effects.

That said, it's safe for use for almost everyone if taken orally in small doses. It's not recommended to take for longer periods of time due to some potentially toxic substances that are safe in small amounts, but not large concentrations.​

Problems

Goal: Outline the different problems that can occur when growing this plant and how to combat them. Can be broken into three subsections: growing problems, pests, and diseases. revent and/or combat them.

Open with a few sentences on how prone this plant is to pests, diseases, and problems. Then, go into the specifics:

Growing Problems

Overall, passionflower is resistant to most diseases and pests, but there are a few that can give it some trouble.

Pests

Aphids are the most troublesome pest for passionflower vines. 

Diseases

Aside from the common diseases that affect most plants, your passiflora incarnata may suffer from root knot nematode. This causes the roots to thicken to the point of killing the plant entirely.

To avoid root knot nematode, it's best to avoid the purple-fruited subspecies and opt for the yellow-fruited subspecies...these ones are more acidic and resistant to this affliction.

FAQs​

Goal: To answer common problems and questions about planting, caring for, harvesting, or storing this plant.​

Q. There are so many varieties of passionflower, which should I choose?

A. Some good varieties to choose are P. mooreana, P. karwinskii, and P. 'Guglielmo Betto'.

Q. What is the history of the passionflower?

A. The name "passionflower" comes from the passion of the Christ. Missionaries named it as such because the three stamens of the flower represent the wounds of Christ, and the 12 petals represent the 12 apostles. The corona of the plant also is symbolic of the crown of thorns.

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  • Melody Lawrence

    I bought 2 purple passion plants this past week. I was l was lucky enough to speak to Dave from Dave’s Garden. He,s one of the last great bussinessman left hear in the USA. With all these sm buinessman getting pushed out I hope he stay’s It would be a great loss to all of us. I’ve looked for 25 yrs looking for a purple passion & i found it here at Dave’s corner.I just got ot today so I can’t give any progress yet.

  • Nancy Kilbourn

    I have a small passion vine that I bought at the drug store. The rabbits have eaten it to the ground several years so I have not had a blossom yet, in three years. Now it is in a safe place, outside, but I notice a new plant coming up from a root. Can I cut that new growth and plant it back at the main parent stem, or elsewhere?

  • Beth Morse

    I have had purple passion plants covering my fences for 4 years. They spread, trail, climb, and are fantastic. No care is needed to have these plants thrive; however, you will need to spend plenty of time pulling up the new shoots which spring up everywhere. This is the first time my plants (covering approximately 60 feet of fence) have produced fruit and there are hundreds. Very unusual and absolutely breathtakingly beautiful!

  • Brian

    I have a purple passion vine growing in a pot in my pool enclosure area in FL. The plant is a year old and it was only about three feet tall when I purchased it. Now it has grown up to the roof and along the overhang soffit areas of my house. it is very healthy and is continualy getting new growth. It is about 20 feet high now, but I have never had any fruit or flowers on my plant.
    My questions is does it need the bees and birds in order for it to blossom with flowers or fruit. It is in a completely screened in pool enclosure where no bees or birds can get to it.
    Tahnk you
    Brian

  • Anonymous

    It is mid April and there is no sign of life from my three purple passion vines. Are they dead or is it too early to see growth? Vivian

  • PlantLady

    Brian it all depends on what type of plant you have. Some are self pollinating, but can sometimes be pollinated simply by wind. It can take from 1 to 3 years for the plant to start flowering and producing fruit.

  • Lowell

    I planted two 3′ plants around my pool area in east central Florida. One purple and the other an Edulis I believe (white with a lot of blue). I stretched that plastic chicken-wire over a cabana metal frame and waited. In short, the purple one shot off like the shuttle and made a wall of one side and a complete roof for the old cabana frame. Flowers, buds, millions of Gulf- Fitillary and Zebra Longwing butterflies, cocoons and caterpillars, and easily 20′ of growth. The white one gave us a couple of flowers, two fruit. This spring, boom! – the purple one has exceeded last years growth. White one, gone to the great arbor upstairs. — Question: this year, the bottom 2-3′ have browned out with few if any leaves … the rest of the soaring canopy is green and flowery and magnificent. Should I shield the bottom? Is this normal? Is it too much water, not enough? thanks

  • misty carver

    I have had a one growing in my yard for like 3 years and I didn’t even no what it was tell now!? Its taking over my hole yard. I have no idea where iit came from. 🙂 but its pretty.

  • Art Phoun

    The passion flowers have a unique structure, which in most cases requires a large bee to effectively pollinate. In the American tropics, wooden beams are mounted very near passionfruit plantings to encourage carpenter bees to nest. The size and structure of flowers of other Passiflora species is optimized for pollination by hummingbirds (especially hermits like Phaethornis), bumble bees, wasps or bats, while yet others are self-pollinating.^*;`

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  • Carlos Rami

    Will I get rid of limp dick by eating passion flower? is it an aphrodisiac?