If you enjoy the kiwifruit typically found at supermarkets and have wondered about growing them yourself, you're in luck. Kiwifruit, also known as Actinidia deliciosa, can be grown in many home gardens under the right care and conditions. Native to Asia (not New Zealand, as many may assume), kiwifruit is a woody vine that can be used to cover an arbor or similar garden structure where it will be both aesthetically pleasing and productive.
Best planted in early spring or late fall, kiwifruit will grow quickly in size, often adding between 6 to 12 feet a year. That being said, only mature female vines will produce fruit, and many won't do so until they're at least three years old. The best fruit production often occurs when the vine is eight years or older, and it can continue to produce for forty years or more.
|Botanical Name||Actinidia deliciosa|
|Common Name||Kiwifruit, kiwi, Chinese gooseberry|
|Mature Size||15–30 ft. tall, 6–10 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||7–9 (USDA)|
Growing kiwifruit can be a bit involved, but the payout—tons of delicious, sweet fruits—is more than worth it. The fruit is actually classified as a berry, with each kiwi measuring about 3 inches long and shaped like an egg, with a fuzzy brown exterior. Kiwifruit vines are ideal to grow on a wooden structure such as a gazebo, trellis, pergola, arbor, or fence.
When planning where to plant your kiwifruit vine, make sure you have enough room and supports for at least two vines, since you will need both male and female plants for successful pollination of this dioecious species. The flowers can be cream or yellow in color and will have a slight perfume to them. Proper watering and pruning are especially important for kiwifruit vines since the fruit is formed on year-old wood.
Plant your kiwifruit vine somewhere where it can receive full sun or partial shade throughout the year. The more sun the plant gets, the better its fruit production will be, and you should aim for at least eight hours of light a day.
Kiwifruit vines prefer soil that is acidic, with a pH level between 5.0 and 6.8. When it comes to soil composition, the vine isn't super picky but does best in a blend that is fertile, moist, and well-draining. When planting your vines, space each one approximately 10 feet apart to give them plenty of room to grow and thrive.
Your kiwifruit vines will need consistent watering and are not at all tolerant of drought. Because of this, you should never allow their soil to dry out. That being said, they also don't like wet feet, making well-draining soil especially imperative. If you notice any browning or drooping leaves on the vine, that's usually a sign that your plant could use more water.
Temperature and Humidity
True to their semi-tropical nature, kiwifruit prefers moderate temperatures, though they do need a period of cold (around 45 degrees Fahrenheit for at least a month) to set fruit. Additionally, the vines can tolerate hot summer temperatures up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit, though they will need additional water to compensate. When it comes to humidity needs, kiwifruit has no special requirements and will do just fine in the humidity levels of their USDA hardiness zones.
Kiwifruit vines do best when planted in soil that is high in organic matter and nitrogen. If nitrogen isn't present in your soil upon testing, you'll want to amend your mixture with a fertilizer high in the nutrient. Regular feedings are especially important as the vine is growing and getting established. Plan to feed your plant upon planting, in early spring, and in summer after the flowers die off using a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer blend.
Properly pruning your kiwifruit vines not only helps encourage more fruit growth but also ensures the vines don't become unruly. Starting with a strong framework (via a trellis or other structure) is essential—from there, trim around the main stem frequently until it grows tall enough to begin to form a canopy overhead. The best time to prune your kiwifruit vine is during the winter season when the plant is dormant.
Common Pests and Diseases
Kiwifruit vines are susceptible to a variety of common pests like spider mites and thrips, both of which can be easily controlled with horticultural oil. Another common issue for kiwifruit vines are pests that feed on the plant's fruit, mainly leafroller caterpillars and Japanese beetles. Your best bet is to pick the fruit frequently and encourage birds, which are natural predators of these bugs, to visit your garden.