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How To Grow Passion Fruit Vines

One of my favorite plants and fruits is the passion fruit and knowing how to grow passion fruit vines is relatively easy.  This vining herb has fragrant lavender and white flowers that are followed by delicious fruits.  First, let’s explore the history of this fascinating fruit that not everyone is aware of. 

Passion fruit vine or maypop: Passiflora incarnata - image via Hunda, Creative Colia Commons

Passion fruit vine or maypop: Passiflora incarnata - image via Hunda, Creative Colia Commons

Passiflora incarnate (also known as maypop, purple passion flower, true passionflower, wild apricot, Christ’s bouquet, crown of Christ, Christ’s thorn, Jesus’ passion, and wild passion vine) is a perennial herbal vine.  It would surprise many to know that it is the single most common wildflower in America. Native peoples are known to have used this fruit for both food and medicines since colonial days.  Even the Cherokee people had their own special word for this fruit, “Ocoee.”  It is the state flower for the state of Tennessee.

The over five hundred varieties are not just limited to the Americas.  The passion fruit and flower are known throughout the world, especially in Japan, India, and Africa. 

The name passion flower and especially passion fruit, are frequently used with sexual or romantic innuendo, but the real story is the “passion”  in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion and used it to teach Christianity.   Using mainly the Blue Passion Flower (P. caerulea) showing most elements of the Christian symbolism, as the story goes:

  • The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance.
  •  The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
  •  The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
  •  The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
  •  The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
  •  The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
  •  The blue and white colors of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.

Outside of the religious connotations and myths, the passion flower is compared to the face of a clock, being the “clock flower” in Israel and the “clock plant” in Japan.  In India they have their own religious connotations to a similar method of teaching beliefs making use of the passion flower.

Purple Passion Fruit - Image: David Monniaux, GNU, Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Types of Passion Fruit Vines

There are three leading kinds of passion fruit types, along with some lesser popular varieties and closely related vines.  The proper names for those three varieties of passion fruit are: Passiflora edulis (the purple); passiflora edulis f.flavicarpa (the golden or tropical) passion fruit; and the Panama Red.  Of the three main passion fruit, the purples are the sweetest, but the golden are larger.

How To Grow Passion Fruit Vines

Purple Passion Fruit Bloom - Image: Cary Bass, GNU, Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Passiflora edulis – Purple Passion Fruit

This variety is believed to be native to Brazil.  However, it is the best known variety to grow in cooler climates.  Because germination can be slow and somewhat iffy if you live in a cooler climate, sow them indoors in flats or individual cells using the following method:

  • Plant 3/8” to ½” deep
  • Keep moist and at a constant temperature of 85 degrees to 90 degrees F/ 29 to 32 degrees C until germination
  • One method is to place the flat on a heat mat.
  • Once true leaves appear, transplant into larger seed cells
  • When the seedlings are 3” to 4” tall transplant outside
  • Space twelve inches apart
  • Trellis or staking is best for containing growth (remember passion fruit vines can easily grow fifteen to twenty feet long in a season)
  • Do not expect the passion flower the first year
  • Fruits only ripen in warm, sunny climates
  • Cut back shoots in fall after frost and mulch roots heavily during the winter
  • Requires well-drained or sandy soil.
  • Full or part sun is preferred
  • Harvest in the fall

Passiflora edulis f.flavicarpa - Yellow or Golden Passion Fruit

Two ripe golden or tropical passion fruits, one of them opened to show the edible seeds. - Image: Fibonacci, GNU, Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

The golden varieties of passion fruits are more suited to warmer or tropical climates.  Essentially the instructions for growing them are the same but in temperate climates it is not necessary to start them outdoors.  Nor is it necessary to mulch heavily, although I do recommend mulching the first couple of winters or at least protecting from any freezes as with all tropical plants.

Uses For Passion Fruit

  • Passion fruit plants are often cut when flowering and used fresh or dried in medicinal teas.
  • The roots of passion fruit vines are also harvested in the fall to be used fresh or dried for effective sedative and sleep aid.
  • As a nervine herb it is useful for nervous condition
  • Passion flower is also used to treat high blood pressure, headaches, neuralgia and asthma
  • All passifloras are larval food for several butterfly species and very popular with wildlife.  Here in Florida, it is a favorite nesting and hiding place for doves and their peeps.
  • Recent studies show that passion fruit is useful for treating withdrawal symptoms from addiction to alcohol and drugs

Caution:  Consuming too much passion fruit or juice can be harmful. 

Caution: Individuals taking the following prescription drugs should only consume or use passion fruit after consulting their physician: 

  • Any blood thinning medications
  • Ambien
  • Dilantin
  • Elavil
  • Lunesta
  • Pamelor
  • Plavix
  • Sinequon
  • Sonata
  • Valium
  • Xananx
  • Warfarin

Caution:  Because of the invasive nature in some climates, passion fruit seeds cannot be shipped to certain locals (Texas, for example). 

 If You’d Like To Know More!