How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Passion Fruit

The passion fruit vine produces lovely, lush foliage, stunning flowers, and delicious fruit. Gardening expert Rachel Garcia reveals all the tips you need for a successful harvest.

Two brightly colored pieces of passion fruit attached to the vine dangling from high with countless leaves and other fruits receiving light under the sun

Contents

Do you have a passion for tropical treats and funky flowers? If so, then passion fruit is the perfect choice for you! This is a fast-growing climber that will add intrigue to your garden and flavor to your dinner table. 

Passionfruit vines are not for the faint of heart. These are vigorous plants that will climb to the treetops and explode in colorful blossoms and plentiful fruit. Even though they’re easy to grow, these plants need lots of water, nutrients, and pruning. But the harvest is well worth it!

You might think the name comes from gardener’s love for the fruit, but these plants actually have a religious history. In the 1700s, Spanish settlers thought the flower to be symbolic of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. They named it based on the Latin meaning of passio: suffering.

No actual suffering here though, because passion fruit is a delight to grow. With a little time and energy, this plant will quickly become the MVP of your garden and kitchen.

Overview

Countless green round crops with round figure still attached to vines, making them dangle from above shaded by the plants scattered leaves
Plant Type Fruit
Family Passifloraceae
Genus Passiflora
Species Passiflora edulis
Native Area South America
Exposure Full sun
Height 10-15′
Watering Requirements High
Pests & Diseases Caterpillars, root-knot nematodes, snails, woodiness virus, fusarium wilt
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Rich, well-draining
Hardiness Zone 10-12

What is Passion Fruit Vine?

Passion fruit originally comes from Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. In the US, it’s widely grown in southern California and Florida. Because it’s a tropical plant, it thrives in zones 10-12. In fact, the warmer the climate, the easier it will be to grow. Only very rarely do these plants tolerate light frost.

The vine spreads out to three to five feet wide and can climb 10-15 feet – or taller! It has evergreen leaves that are lobed and glossy dark green. Blooming starts in early spring and produces fruit in about 80 days.

Passion fruit is a medium-sized, round fruit that’s reddish-purple or yellow in color. The rind, when cut in half, looks like two bowls full of lumpy jelly. It’s also chock-full of vitamins that benefit your immunity, thyroid, and red blood cells. You’ll find that the fruit stores well and works in lots of delicious recipes.

Eating passion fruit isn’t the only benefit of this plant. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a plant with blossoms as spectacular as this one. The white and purple blooms have long petals, wavy filaments, and chunky carpels and stamen. It’s so bizarre-looking that you have to see it to believe it.

The downside to passion fruit vines is that they don’t live long. Most will only make it to five or seven years tops. After three years, the fruit production slows, which is why commercial growers replace them that often.

Passion Fruit Varieties

When choosing your vine, be sure to choose a cultivar of Passiflora edulis. This species is edible, unlike many others in the Passiflora genus. You have lots of choices, because there are over 50 varieties of Passiflora edulis. However, there are other species that have a wider hardiness range, and edible fruit. Here are some of our favorite varieties of P. edulis:

Passiflora edulis (Purple Passionfruit)

Multiple, round passiflora edulis dangling from vines with a deep green color, fruits appearing almost dark purple in some parts in a shady spot
This plant thrives in cool temperatures.

This is one of the basic species. It’s reddish-purple in color and one of the sweetest passionfruits. If you want something like this plant that grows well in cooler climates, choose P. incarnata.

Passiflora edulis ‘Panama Red’ and ‘Panama Gold’

Four pieces of dark-colored crops of the passiflora edulis f. flavircarpa if the Panama Red variety, looking almost red-purple with a dark vibrant hue receiving light under the sun
The red variety has a red-purple color that almost appears brown under sunlight.

Both Panama species are tropical passion fruits that stem from the yellow variety. Despite this, the Panama Red is still red-purple. This variety is usually found in Australia.

Passiflora edulis ‘Nellie Kelly’

‘Nellie Kelly’ plant growing light green produce covered with wide serrated leaves with vines scattered around along with spiral shaped stems
‘Nellie Kelly’ is resistant to many pests and harmful diseases.

This is a vine that’s highly recommended for cooler temperatures down to zone 9. It’s also highly pest and disease-resistant. This is achieved by grafting one variety – usually black passion fruit – with a blue passion fruit rootstock.

Passiflora edulis ‘Black Knight’

Multiple pieces of green crops appearing to gradually changing colors with deep and light hues of red, dangling from a vine
They change color over time into an almost-black purple.

If you’re limited to container growing, this is the perfect fruit for you. The Black Knight hybrid is a dwarf plant that’s perfectly happy being contained. It’s deep purple in color and tangy-sweet in taste. Because it’s a red passion fruit, Black Knight grows well in cooler climates.

Planting

Passion fruit needs a little more preparation before planting than other plants. However, once it’s in the ground, you’ll agree that these are easy vines to care for.

When To Plant

Hands holding small passion fruit seedling with green leaves.
Spring is the best time to plant passion fruit.

Passion fruit starts should be planted in the spring for fast fruiting (in about six months). It can also be planted in the fall but will take longer to bear fruit.

If you’re growing from seed, start them about a month before you want to plant. This time frame depends on how old the seeds are. Fresh seeds germinate in a couple of weeks while older ones may take months.

Where To Plant

Passiflora edulis held up to the sun by a person with multiple other produce attached to the vine receiving the similar amounts of sunlight
This plant loves being under the sun.

Passionfruit plants are ambitious growers, so you won’t be able to transplant once they’re established. Because of this, take extra care to choose the perfect spot for your vine to grow.

These plants need full sun to really thrive. However, they should be protected from extreme heat and strong wind. Keep in mind that the roots need plenty of space and have no problem climbing over neighboring plants.

You have to give these plants something to climb, whether a trellis, arch, fence, or pergola. Some gardeners even let the plants climb trees (this will cause some damage to the tree). If you’re concerned about potential frost, plant the vines next to a wall or fence for protection.

In cold climates, passion fruit can grow indoors in containers, or you can grow certain species in cooler zones. Potted passionfruit needs a fairly large container for extensive roots. You’ll also have to provide support for the vines to climb. If you can, put the container outside in full sun after the frost is gone and bring it back in before the cold comes.

How To Plant

Hands holding black passion fruit seeds ready for planting.
Select your seeds from a reliable seed supplier.

Passion fruit is best if grown from seed, but only the right seed. If the variety is a hybrid, it’s unlikely to grow and/or bear fruit. Select your seeds from a reliable seed supplier so that they’re viable. You can take the seeds from a store-bought fruit, but only if it’s not a hybrid. Plant the seeds immediately, while they’re still fresh.

As we mentioned, fresh seeds germinate faster than old ones. If you took them from the fruit yourself, they’ll only take 10-20 days to germinate. Store-bought seeds are usually older and will take a couple of months to germinate.

Plant the seeds ½ to 1 inch deep in a well-draining potting mix. When they’re 8-10 inches tall, transplant them into their permanent home. The seedlings need to be small to conserve water while the roots get established. If you waited too long to plant, prune back the stem a bit.

Before planting your seedlings or store-bought starts, prep the ground with organic fertilizer. These plants need lots of nutrients to sustain their rapid growth. Next, dig a hole that’s the depth of the root ball and twice as wide. If the roots are compacted, gently massage them out before planting.

Mulch is a must. Apply a thick layer all around the plants, but don’t put it right next to the stem. Now you can give your baby plants a good drink of water and let them get settled. You may need to tie the vines to the support until they get the idea. You’ll also have to replenish the mulch as often as needed.

After following these directions, you can expect to harvest in six months. Tropical passionfruits usually bear fruit faster than the purple variety.

How to Grow

Like most tropical plants, passifloras have specific care requirements. For your plants to really fulfill their potential, follow these guidelines for success.

Light

Bright, vividly green crop still on the vine placed to receive direct sunlight to help the plant grow
They ripen well with abundant sunlight.

As a light lover, this vine has to receive full sun to produce the best blooms and fruit. It will tolerate some shade though, especially in extreme heat. If you’re growing indoors, place the container in the sunniest south-facing window you have.

Water

gardener eagerly watering plants with a hose on a sunny day
These plants need plenty of water to grow well.

These vines grow fast and produce juicy fruit, so they need lots of water. Water them consistently so the soil doesn’t dry out. You may need to give extra water when the plants are fruiting and less during fall and winter.

However, be careful not to overwater, as this can cause root issues. Don’t let water pool up on top of the ground or completely soak it.

You can set up an irrigation system to keep up with the watering demands. However, keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not watering too much or too little.

Soil

A close-up of a farmer's hand holding a handful of crumbly brown soil. The farmer's fingers are gently sifting the soil through their fingers, and they are looking at the soil closely. The soil is a rich brown color, and it looks moist and healthy.
Drainage and soil quality are important for these plants to flourish.

Since you’re going to be watering so much, well-draining soil is important. Without it, the growing medium can quickly get compacted, soaked, and uninhabitable for subtropical plants. Amend it with compost, sand, perlite, or pumice as needed.

The soil also needs a pH of 5.5 – 6.5 for good fruit production and disease resistance. You can test it with an at-home soil testing kit or go to your local agriculture department or university for help.

Last, the growing medium needs to be fertile. Passiflora edulis requires a lot of nutrients that soil usually can’t provide on its own. That’s one of the reasons why mulch is so important for this species. You’ll also want to add fertilizer as needed.

Temperature & Humidity

Passion fruits growing on the vine with vivid green color with yellowish spots thriving in a garden
The right temperature can vary slightly based on the variety.

Zones 10-12 are best for keeping it outdoors year-round. The temperature needs to be well above freezing, especially for yellow varieties.

Not surprisingly, these tropical plants rely on high humidity. If you live in dry areas outside the tropics and zones 10-12, you may want to supplement with a humidifier.

Fertilizing

Adding fertilizer to plant soil for plant nutrition and strengthening roots
Potassium-filled fertilizer is ideal for this plant.

Fertilize your passionfruit two to four times a year starting in the spring. Commercial growers typically use fertilizers with an NPK of 10-5-20. Overall, gardeners are encouraged to use fertilizers high in potassium.

If your soil is already high in nitrogen, choose a fertilizer with little of it. Too much nitrogen will promote leaf growth, which takes away from fruit and flower growth. The same thing can happen with overfertilization.

Pollination

Large flower of the Passiflora edulis with prominent green stamen surrounded by tendrils with purple hue turning white, attracting multiple bees on a sunny day
This plant has large flowers but may need help attracting many pollinators.

Passionfruit pollen is extra sticky, which is great for insect pollination, but not wind. If you don’t have enough bees in your yard, you’re just not going to get fruit.

Encourage bees to check out your passionfruit tree by luring them with other bee-attracting plants. You’ll find that your passionfruit vine pollinates better in warm and humid weather than dry or extreme temperature weather. Planting a Passiflora species native to your region ensures pollination.

If needed, you can hand-pollinate the blossoms. But these are such large and bountiful plants that it’s much easier to encourage the bee population. Unlike the purple variety, yellow passionfruit has to be cross-pollinated with a different cultivar. Choose another yellow variety and plant it nearby. 

Maintenance

Passiflora vines and snips after pruning.
Pruning is necessary to encourage and direct this plant’s growth.

Passion fruit is a speedy grower, so you’ll have to keep up with it. Pruning is essential for keeping the size in check and preventing growing problems and pests. In cooler climates, prune at the beginning of the growing season. The new growth from where you pruned will produce ample blossoms. In the tropics, wait until after the fruit fades to prune.

When pruning, eliminate all the dead or dying stems. If you have particularly lush vines, thin out the middle so there’s still good air circulation throughout it. Cut back a third of the plant at most to keep the size in check.

You can train the vines to climb an overhead support like an arbor or T-post. Just tie the vines to the support and the tendrils will find it. I recommend using a fiber-based thread to secure them since wire can damage the stems. If they can’t be redirected, prune back any stems that are growing in the wrong direction.

Propagation

Passion fruits held by a hand while still attached to plant with vivid green color dangling under shade of its leaves and vines
Cuttings are an effective way to propagate this plant.

Seeds are the main method of propagation for passion fruit. However, this isn’t always the best choice since hybrid seeds aren’t viable and purple passionfruit seedlings are more susceptible to Fusarium wilt. Because of these issues, many gardeners turn to stem cuttings.

The process for stem-cutting propagation is standard. Choose a healthy, mature branch and, with a clean knife, cut it off three to four leaf nodes down. Remove the bottom leaves so there are only two to three at the top. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and stick it upright in a well-draining potting mix.

Keep it moist but not soaking. In about 90 days, the roots should be established and new growth will be large enough to transplant (8-10 inches).

Harvesting

Woven basket containing multiple passion fruits, moist after harvesting during a sunny day
Taste changes according to the variety you’re growing.

The blossoms are pretty, but the harvest is easily the most popular reason to grow these vines. All the hard work you’ve put into your garden will pay off as soon as these delicious fruits make their appearance.

When ripe, passionfruit will be fully colored, heavy, and come off the stem easily. As it ripens more, the skin will wrinkle slightly and the fruit will taste sweeter. It falls off the vine when ripe, which is much better than hauling out the ladder.

When they fall, the fruit doesn’t bruise, rot, or attract pests easily, so you can collect them at your leisure (within reason). Optionally, you can pick it from the tree when it’s slightly unripe, but not if the fruit is still green.

And now we’re at the best part – eating! Cut open the fruit and you’ll have two bowls filled with lumpy, jelly-like deliciousness. Ignoring the inedible rind, scoop out the pulp with a spoon. The seeds are edible but can be easily removed.

Storing

Cardboard box containing recently harvested passion fruits.
There are many ways to store Passiflora edulis.

Purple fruits are best eaten fresh since they’re so sweet. On the other hand, yellow fruits are usually made into preserves or juice. Both types will last for a few weeks whole and unrefrigerated and will last even longer in the fridge.

If they were picked slightly unripe, just leave them on the counter for a few days and they’ll catch up. The skin will wrinkle as it ages, but the pulp inside will be as tasty as ever.

You can freeze the whole passionfruit, just the pulp, or the juice. Make it into desserts, dressings, and even butter! You can also can passion fruit preserves using either a water bath or pressure canner.

Common Problems

Luckily, there aren’t many serious issues when it comes to passionfruit – especially if you planted the yellow varieties. Just in case, here’s what to look out for.

Lack of Fruits

Two pieces of passiflora edulis still attached to the vividly green vines with torn leaves surrounding the crops
Pollination can impact this plant’s yield.

A common complaint from passionfruit growers is that the vines aren’t fruiting. If you have blossoms but no fruit, this is probably due to pollination issues.

Have you seen any bees buzzing around? Do you have a second cultivar for cross-pollination if needed? These issues are solved by planting bee-attracting flowers, purchasing a second cultivar, and hand-pollinating for the time being. 

Overfertilization is the other main culprit of fruit absence. Too much nitrogen will go straight to green growth, taking away from the fruit you should be eating. If your plants are rapidly climbing and spreading, but have little to no blooms, you need to cut back on the fertilizer.

Fruit Drop

Three pieces of passiflora edulis with light yellow color fallen, lying on the ground with a fly lying one of the pieces
Falling while unripe is a problem for this plant.

Unripe fruit dropping off the tree is another issue. While it’s perfectly normal for ripened fruits to fall, green ones should stay put. This is typically caused by inconsistent watering, pests, or disease. Make a good watering schedule and stick to it. You’ll also want to inspect the vines for symptoms of pests and disease.

Yellow Leaves

Multiples of passiflora edulis with bright yellow hue dangling from the plant with scattered leaves
Yellowing leaves may signify plant health issues.

If your vines have yellowing leaves, you may be looking at a magnesium or nitrogen deficiency. This is easily remedied by adding more fertilizer. If the yellowness shows up in freckles, you could have a woodiness virus on your hands (explained below).

Pests

If you’re growing a purple passionfruit vine, you’ll have to be vigilant when it comes to pests. These varieties are much more susceptible to the following pests than yellow passionfruit – although yellow varieties can be affected as well.

Caterpillars

Caterpillar crawling on a passiflora edulis vine, having a bright green color in contrast tp the insect's brown hue
Pluck caterpillars to keep the plant’s leaves healthy and intact.

Many species of caterpillars like to gnaw away at passionfruit foliage. Their feasts reduce the surface area of the leaf, cutting back photosynthesis. The fluid they secrete causes the leaves to dry out and the whole plant to lose vigor. Caterpillars may also feed on stems, flowers, and fruit. This is all a natural part of the life cycle of butterflies. I find that passion fruit vines will bounce back from even the heaviest feeding.

If you see a caterpillar on your plant and you’d like to prevent feeding, pluck it off and search the vine for eggs. Remove these by hand and dump them in soapy water to destroy them. Interestingly, many species of passion flowers have evolved defense mechanisms against caterpillars, including poison, sticky hairs, and ant attractants (the ants will kill the caterpillars).

Root-knot Nematodes

Close-up of the roots of a plant affected by root-knot nematodes on a white background. They exhibit a characteristic appearance of swollen, knotted, and galled roots. Infected roots appear stunted, discolored, and have reduced branching.
Worms may attack the plant at the roots.

Root-knot nematodes are an often overlooked garden pest. They’re tiny worms that will attack the roots of your purple passion fruits. They cause deformities in the roots including bumps, hairs, and root knots. Because of this, the roots are hindered in delivering water and nutrients to the rest of the plant, stunting growth.

To prevent nematodes from attacking your plants, take care of the growing medium. Add plenty of organic matter and use crop rotation methods. If the nematodes are out of hand, you can apply beneficial nematode treatments.

Snails

Close-up of a large snail on a green wet leaf in the garden. The snail is a gastropod mollusk characterized by its distinctive spiral-shaped shell, which provides protection and serves as a mobile home. The shell is brown in color and has a dark brown spotted pattern. The soft body of the snail peeks out from the opening of the shell and features a large, muscular foot that aids in locomotion.
Snails can destroy the plant’s leaves and stems.

If you live in California, snails may be an issue in your garden. When it comes to passion fruit, snails destroy the leaves and stems. Snails like to hide under debris, so keep your vine and the area around it clean. Since they’re nocturnal, search for them at night and treat them to a bucket of soapy water.

Diseases

A round green crop of passiflora edulis with discoloration appearing light brown on the vivid green surface
Watch out for symptoms of disease.

Do the leaves on your vines look like they were sprinkled with yellow confetti? The passionfruit woodiness virus is most likely to blame. Along with spotty discoloration, this virus makes the leaves crinkle and the fruit grow small and deformed. Woodiness virus is spread by aphids and occasionally garden tools.

Herbicides won’t eliminate this virus, so prevention is crucial. Only buy plants that are disease-free and use a sterile potting mix. Keep weeds away since they may spread the virus. Eliminating existing aphid populations won’t keep the virus away since it’ll already be spread. You can take precautions to prevent aphids from showing up in the first place, like ensuring you have insectary plants growing to attract their insect predators.

Perhaps the deadliest threat to passionfruit, fusarium will cause death within two weeks. The first symptom will be partial wilting followed by root rot, yellowing, darkness at the base of the plant, and eventually full wilt. The best way to combat this disease is to use resistant varieties. If the virus shows up, use a biofungicide to try to treat it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my passion fruit not fruiting?

If the vines are otherwise healthy, this is likely due to overfertilization or pollination problems. Lay off the fertilizer, plant some bee-friendly flowers, and hand-pollinate the flowers for now.

Do you need two passion fruit vines to get fruit?

If you’re growing a red/purple passionfruit, no. Yellow varieties do have to be cross-pollinated so require a second plant. Choose another yellow cultivar to place by the original.

How do you tell if a passion fruit is ripe?

The fruit will be fully colored, heavy, and slightly soft to the touch. When the skin wrinkles, the fruit is at its eating prime. When ripe, the fruit will naturally fall off the vine.

SHARE THIS POST
A close-up of strawberry plants on a farm, featuring vibrant green leaves and branches, shows a mix of ripe red strawberries ready for picking and smaller unripe green strawberries still growing.

Fruits

11 Strawberry-Growing Mistakes to Avoid This Year

If you crave sweet homegrown berries but your strawberry plants have underperformed in the past, a few tweaks to your growing methods could tremendously improve yields. Strawberry expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey explains the most common strawberry-growing mistakes and how to avoid them this season.

A close-up reveals dwarf lime trees flourishing in brown pots filled with soil, showcasing vibrant green fruits dangling from the branches. The fruits are small and spherical, resembling miniature limes ready for harvest. The leaves are glossy and vibrant, showcasing their lush, healthy appearance.

Fruits

How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Dwarf Lime Trees

If you want to grow limes at home but lack the warm climate necessary for outdoor growing, take a look at dwarf lime trees. These plants remain compact, allowing you to tuck them into planters and grow them indoors. Join farmer Briana Yablonski to learn how to plant and care for these petite citrus trees.

A close-up of the Surh-Anor Pomegranate variety showcasing its plump, crimson fruits, each one bursting with juicy goodness. Behind them, hints of other fruits in the blurred background add depth to the image, while the lush green leaves frame the bounty of nature.

Fruits

9 Best Pomegranate Varieties for Home Gardens

Pomegranates are incredibly low-maintenance, look stunning in the garden, and produce delicious, sweet fruits with a variety of uses. Gardening expert Madison Moulton lists 9 of the best pomegranate varieties for home gardens.

In the foreground of the orchard, a solitary apple tree proudly displays its red apples, ripe for picking. The tree's branches extend gracefully, laden with the luscious fruit, inviting observers to indulge in its autumn bounty.

Fruits

15 Fruit Trees to Plant this Spring

Spring’s moderate temperatures and lengthening days make it the perfect time to plant new fruit trees. But before you pick up any old tree and stick it in the ground, take a minute to learn about some popular varieties. In this article, Briana Yablonski will share 15 different fruit trees you can plant this spring.