Fertilizing Passion Fruit

My husband and I went to your presentation at Del Mar, you taught us a lot of information, Thanks! We have 2 frederic passion vine, that are suppose to fruit, 2 years old we got flowers but zero fruit. We have one red that has never even flowered but has spread. The 1st year used Dr Earth flower fertilizer. The 2nd year used organic fruit fertilizer. What type & brand do you recommend for organic fertiziler for this plant since it has not fruited?

Answer from Pat:
Your passion fruit vines (Passiflora edulis’Frederick’ and P. edulis ‘Red Rover’ or ‘Red Ambrosia’) are sweet, good-tasting varieties of fruiting passion fruit vines, but they are tropical vines most successful in a warmer climate than coastal San Diego may provide. The easiest variety to grow here in San Diego County is the purple-fruited one. Usually passion fruit begins to bear fruit after a year or two, but we have had some strange temperature swings and cold nights. Too much chilly weather when the vine is young might slow down the beginning of bearing. So I would not yet give up hope of success.

Passion fruit vines prefer full sun along the coast, or a little light shade in interior zones. They want deep, well drained, fertile soil and a warm protected location,such as against a south facing reflective wall away from wind. They bear best when the ground is kept dry during the coldest portion of the year, which has not been the case this year. If given adequate food and water, they grow fast to large size—often as high as 30 feet—and respond well to nitrogen fertilizer. They can get crown rot if subjected to soggy soil or planted too deep and if well grown can adapt to dry conditions better than wet ones. They respond best to deep and infrequent watering instead of shallow and frequent watering. If a passion fruit vine becomes too tall one can control its size by cutting it back in early spring after it resumes growth.

If you read over the requirements above and you see that you haven’t fulfilled some, then I would take that as an indication of what might be the matter. I have several guesses as to what your problem might be: First perhaps the vines are in ocean wind where there is not enough heat. Second: if they are growing in wet soil in winter perhaps combined with poor drainage that could prevent flowering. And third, most importantly: No bees mean no fruit.

I think one of your main problems is failure to understand that passion fruit vines are gluttonous feeders and high bloom ingredients—phosphorus and potassium— are not enough. These plants love fertilizer and this mainly means nitrogen. It’s a great idea to begin feeding at planting time and plant them on top of a dead fish or several handfuls of fish entrails and skin or a bunch of dead fish heads to give them a big feeding boost at the beginning of life. Yes, I mean throw a whole dead fish in the bottom of the planting hole, then add a bit of top soil and stick the plant on top of that and fill in the ground. That plant will take off like gangbusters. (Get spoiled fish, skin, bones, or fish entrails free from fish markets.) I would also mulch the top of the ground over the roots with well-rotted horse manure. If you apply manure next fall before the rains then you don’t even need to age the manure. You can just put it on top of the ground ahead of the rains and let the rains was the nitrogen into the ground. Just keep it 6-inches or 8-inches away from the crown of the plant so it won’t get crown rot.

Passion fruit vines do not require a pollinator, but they do require pollination by bees so the fact that you had flowers and no fruit says to me your problem was lack of bees. (See my video on this topic under videos.) If you have no bees that would explain why you had flowers but no fruit. Next time you see flowers make sure there are bees. If no bees you should hand pollinate.

To hand pollinate passion flowers look inside the flower. The sticky bump in the middle of the flower is the stigma in the middle. This is the female part of the flower and the anthers around it are the male which bear the pollen. In the late morning or early afternoon when the pollen is dry take a small sable brush and twirl it to pick up pollen from the anthers and then dab the pollen onto the stigmas of other flowers. Do this when the pollen is fresh and bright yellow and continue every day or two as long as you see flowers. You need to play bee and do what bees do. They go from flower to flower and from plant to plant they just don’t pollinate one flower and fly away, they do them all. This mixes the pollen and produces good pollination. Another way is to clip off the anthers with pollen intact with a pair of clippers that grab such as flower shears, drop all the anthers from several flowers into a small container and mix it around with your brush then go dab this mix on the central sticky stigma you will see sticking up in the center of each flower. If you have left over pollen you can cover tightly and store it in the refrigerator over night and use the next day.

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  1. For years these vines have taken over my back yard and it bears so much fruit but I have no idea what to do with the fruit. Can they just be eaten as they are on the vine? Do you have any other ideas or recipes? Thank-you.

  2. Jodie,

    You can pick the fruits straight off the veinn cut it in half and make a drink out of it. I use honey to add sweetness. It is a very refreshing drink. I love drink them, but have not have luck with my tree. A lot of flowers and not fruit. I have to go to a special fruit stand to buy them and they are quite pricy so enjoy your fruits.


  3. Jodie,
    I fail to mention that after you cut the fruit, scoop out the flesh and seeds. Throw away the skin. D

    • If you have plenty of flowers but no fruit on your passion vine this is due to lack of pollination. Probably you have no bees. Passion fruit vines are self-fertile so you do not need another vine. If you have a true passion fruit vine and not a variety grown only for flowers, then what you should do is hand pollinate. Get an artist’s paint brush (like a watercolor brush) and twirl it around in the center of the blossoms and go from flower to flower like a bee. Sounds like you have no bees, so you had better play like a bee and pollinate those flowers by hand. Do that and you should have plenty of fruit. If someone is spraying with malathion or some other spray near your house they may be killing all the bees or if someone is feeding their lawn with a commercial fertilizer containing white grub control that is what is killing your bees. Spinosad can also kill bees even though it is labeled as being safe.

      • Thank you very much. I will try that tomorrow and will get back and give you updates later.

        • Also, I should have said, continue hand pollinating, more than once. I would try once a week on a regular basis or even more often at first. The best time of day is in the morning but after the pollen dries off. (No dew.) By pollinating several times you ensure getting good fresh pollen on freshly opened flowers.

  4. Your problem is easy to resolve. Passion fruit plants have a very tricky situation. They cannot be use to plonize itself, you need two plant to do hand cross-polinization, try that and you will see amazing results. It is not a fertilization problem or bee problem, that pollen is to heavy for the bee we have in the US.

    • Thank you so much for explaining the pollination of passion fruit plants. (i.e.: hand-pollination is often necessary in U.S.A. due to our domestic and native bees not being the right insect for pollination.) This is hugely helpful information, and I hope many gardeners read it and plant two of them and then hand pollinate them using a sable artists brush and dabbing one flower after another.I thank you so much for bringing this to our attention!

  5. It’s my first year here at the new house and I can’t believe that I have passion fruit vines in my front yard. I was getting lots of flowers, but then they started getting eaten by caterpillars. Is there any way I can get rid of the caterpillars without using pesticide?

    Please assist.


    • Ornamental passion vines, especially blue crown passion flower (Passiflora caerulea) are the favorite food of the orange-striped and black-spined caterpillars that are the larvae of Gulf Fritillary butterflies. Gulf Fritillary butterflies are attractive and never harm anything else in the garden. I love them so I simply let these caterpillars eat the leaves— they never touch the flowers or fruit. Occasionally Gulf Fritillary butterflies will also lay their eggs on the vines of edible passionfruit, which is perhaps the case with your vines. Or possibly your vines are being eaten by green loopers. (Go out at night with a flashlight and see what the problem is.) On vines with edible fruit I can understand you want to find a way to get rid of them. One way is to hand pick them. To do this, go out every night with a flashlight and pick off the culprits when they are out and about on top of leaves and you can easily see them. Birds can be a help getting rid of green loopers also, but are no help with colorful and spiny caterpillars that are advertising the fact that they would make an unpleasant meal. Another way is to spray with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Purchase a fresh bottle since it does not last and spray once a week for a while. It is not as effective as it used to be. A third way is to spray with Spinosad, which is also a “natural” substance made of a fungus that attacks caterpillars. The problem with Spinosad is that even though this stuff has the OMRI label of approval, it is not harmless. It works better than Bt, but it kills bees. I personally do not recommend using it. If you have no bees, you’ll get no fruit.

  6. I have a passion fruit vine I live in new england I would like to know how to winterize this plant? Thanks

    • Passion fruit vines are non-hardy plants, native to tropical and subtropical climates. They are not adapted to growing outdoors in New England and I fear there is no way to winterize them so they will survive outdoors in the ground through a New England winter. They can, however, be grown in warm greenhouses. If your home is warm and you have a sunny, south-facing room or glass porch, you could transplant it into a large pot and grow it indoors in winter and move it outdoors in summer.

  7. pablo rodriguez

    I have the yellow passion fruit and it needs to be pollinated by hand. My problem is that before I get to them the honey bees do and they are not able to pollinate the flowers, I need carpenter bees that I do not have.They honey bees are getting to the flower before they open. How can I control the honey bees from eating the pollen? Last year I did not have this problem.I live in Miami,Florida.Thanks

    • Honey bees don’t actually eat the pollen themselves. They collect pollen by means of “pollen combs” on their back legs and carry it back to their nests where they use it to make “bee bread”, which they feed to their young. Depending on the type of flower involved after one bee has visited a flower there might not be adequate pollen left for another bee—or for you if you are playing bee— to collect more. If this is the case with passion flowers, your solution is to reach the flowers a few minutes earlier than the bees or exactly when they first become active in the morning. Honeybees won’t bite you unless you swat them or accidentally grasp one in your fingers. I sometimes see people act frightened and try to bat bees away. This makes bees alarmed and causes them to buzz around in an angry way. A calm person, on the other hand, can work in the garden in close proximity with honeybees and never be harmed. Another solution would be to cover the vine with a floating row cover, such as Reemay, every evening then remove it the next morning just prior to hand-pollinating the flowers. The Reemay would ward off the bees and save the flowers for you to pollinate. The best way for gardeners in California and the Southwest to attract a population of carpenter bees is to grow wisteria and provide wood, such as a wooden pergola, in which they can drill their nests. Unfortunately, wisteria is rampant and highly invasive in Florida and the Deep South and for this reason should never be planted there. Carpenter bees are large and shiny black. Since I have a wisteria-covered pergola, they abound in my garden and these bees do not bite.

  8. We have a passionflower that produces lots of flowers and through hand pollination has now many fruits coming. Within one day however now all the flowers appear to open without any pollen on their antherns. What is happening?

  9. I live in Los Angeles & have a passion fruit (yellow) that has lots of fruits but they have began to shrink and are now falling off. When cut open the inside is very dried. What can I do?

  10. Hi, I bought a purple passion fruit for two years now and it bear fruits. When I bought that passion fruit vines, it also came with “another different vines” inside the same bucket. Now that vines also bear fruit, but it doesn’t look like passion fruit at all and I don’t know whether if it edible or not. The vines have small white flowers and the fruit is color green. So can anyone please tell me what is that fruit and is it edible?

  11. I have research and found out that fruit is called “araujia sericifera”, a type of milkweed vine. Is the fruit edible? why is it came/grow with my passion fruit? Should I eliminated ASAP or else it will hurt my passion fruit? Thank you!

  12. I bought passion fruit vine which have a lot of flower,and two fruits. The problem is after plant , the main leaves turn to light yellow, from center. Please give suggestion .

    • In fall and winter passion fruit vines often go yellow and drop leaves. However, if you planted too late and planted incorrectly this might be the problem. The correct time of year to plant passion vines is early summer. Passion vines are tropical vines. Tropicals should be planted in summer and planting early enough so they have plenty of warm weather during which to become established before the onset of cool temperatures and wet winter weather which they do not like. Plant with good drainage and in the way I’ve described above in my main article on this topic and that way you will provide adequate nitrogen. Yellow leaves usually mean lack of nitrogen.

  13. Hi I live in south Florida minuets from the beach and have a massive passion vine it flowers often but wont fruit what should i do (we have bees!)

    • Some varieties need cross pollination. Some hybrids don’t bear as well as older less hybridized varieties. I think the one’s that don’t bear need cross pollination with a compatible variety. Planting another vine might help but I cannot help you with which one to choose. Additionally, don’t let the plant dry out, fertilize with bloom ingredients as well as nitrogen. Water a lot. Don’t let the vine dry out. If you have bees obviously pollination is not the problem, but the lack of cross pollination might be. Consult with members of the Rare Fruit Society for advice on successful varieties in your area.

  14. I have a new vine and transplanted to a bigger pot with great soil and fish emulsion as fertilizer. I have it outside at back fence, no wind and facing south.
    It has continually dropped leaves even though it looks healthy. It may be going through some shock as my husband had it in his car for a couple of days, christmas present. ha! what can you tell me?
    Leaves are green…

  15. Hi, I grow passion vine in our butterfly house. It is about 8 years old now and after I watered it well the other day, I started to notice the new growth turning white. I have not fertilized mainly because we have button Quail birds in there and didn’t want them eating fertilizer. What would be my best options? The birds poop quite a bit, not sure if it contributes. I have to be careful of what i put in there so it dose not smell also, small room all glass on 1 1/2 sides. It is heated through winter also.

    • Fertilize it with fish emulsion. The smell soon dissipates. You can also find some types that advertise they have no odor. Birds do not have the ability to smell.

  16. Can I use 17-7-10 on my passion vine Im getting ready to plant it in a galvanized bucket I live in San Antonio Tx. Its called a passionflora vitiolia crimson passion flower Thank u for any help u can give me

    • Even with ample holes made for drainage, planting a passion vine in a galvanized bucket is doomed to failure. Passion vines need more root space than provided by a galvanized bucket.

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