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We all have fond childhood memories of eating passionfruit and, fortunately, it's one of the easiest fruit to grow in the home garden.
Spring's the ideal time to start a new passionfruit plant. The vines are warmth lovers but, even in cooler areas, they'll flourish if they're planted where they can grow and climb against a sunny, sheltered wall.
Although there are many different varieties, the traditional black-skinned passionfruit is still the overwhelming favourite. You can save seed from a good quality piece of fruit – it will germinate readily at this time of year – but it's easier to purchase a young potted seedling. If you want a guaranteed performer, choose one of the grafted varieties but always keep a lookout for growth emerging from below the graft point and cut it off immediately. The rootstock comes from a particularly vigorous variety (that's why it's been chosen for this job) and, if given half a chance, it will overtake the desirable top.
Black passionfruit are self-fertile, which means that you'll only need one vine. This is fortunate if your space is limited, because a healthy vine can cover a large area. Pruning isn't strictly necessary, although it can be helpful to thin out very crowded sections so that every part of the vine has access to air and sunlight.
Passionfruit are very hardy but they'll always produce much more fruit if they're well cared for. Choose a sunny spot and dig in some fluffy organic matter (such as cow manure or compost) before planting.
Once the plant is growing well, spread a layer of organic mulch over the root area. Prevent collar rot by keeping the mulch well clear of the stem. Water with Yates Waterwise Soil Wetter to ensure moisture can penetrate through the mulch.
Passionfruit have shallow, but extensive, root systems that can cover a large area. It's important to remember this when applying fertiliser. For an established plant, try to spread fertiliser over a circle that covers at least a metre out from the trunk. Feed with Thrive Granular Citrus Food in early spring and again in early autumn. A mid summer feed with gentle, organic Dynamic Lifter pellets will help keep the soil in good condition.
Don't be too disappointed if your spring-planted passionfruit vine doesn't fruit in the first year. It's more likely that the plant will put its energy into growing and will then flower and form fruit in the second year. Be patient – the crop will be worth the wait.
Watch out for insect pests, especially at flowering time. Yates Nature's Way Insect Spray will control pests like thrips and, because it has no withholding period, the fruit can be washed and eaten straight after spraying. There's another sap-sucking pest called, appropriately, passion vine hopper that comes in two forms. The juveniles have white fluffy tails and jump away when disturbed. The adult looks like a small, flat-winged moth. Treat both with Yates Nature's Way Pyrethrum.
Passionfruit vines can also be susceptible to fungal and viral diseases. Try a copper spray (such as Champ DP) to control fungus, but virus-infected plants can only be pulled out and replaced with a healthy new plant. Plan on starting a new passionfruit vine every four or five years.
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