Growing Kiwi Vines in Your Landscape

The Proper Latin Name Is Actinidia deliciosa

ripening organic kiwi fruit (Actinidia deliciosa) on plant vines
Ripening organic kiwi fruit (Actinidia deliciosa) on plant vines. Getty Images/GomezDavid

If you enjoy the kiwifruit found at supermarkets and want to grow kiwi vines in your own garden, look for the Actinidia deliciosa variety. This fuzzy kiwi comes from China and is a woody vine or shrub. You can use it to cover an arbor or similar garden structure where it will be both aesthetically pleasing and productive.

This is a National Fruit of China and is originally from that country, not New Zealand as many may believe.

The latter country was the first to start producing this fruit commercially for international consumption. 'Hayward' is the variety that is usually grown.

Latin Name

The Latin name given to the fuzzy kiwi is Actinidia deliciosa and it is in the Actinidiaceae family.

Common Names

This is the type of kiwi that is usually found in grocery stores. It can be called kiwi, fuzzy kiwifruit, kiwi fruit, Macaque peach, yang tao, Chinese gooseberry and fuzzy kiwi. The name was chosen because of its resemblance to the kiwi bird of New Zealand and is now used for all members of the Actinidia genus.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones

You can grow this species in Zones 7-9. Make sure you have protection from frosts as it will kill the vines, especially in Zone 7. If you live in a cooler climate, try growing the hardy kiwi. It is a related species (Actinidia arguta) that can be planted in Zones 4-8.

Size

These long woody vines (lianas) can be up to 30' long and 10' wide, making it an excellent cover for surfaces like arbors and fences.

It may also be more of a climbing shrub.

Exposure

Full sun or partial shade will be acceptable for this vine.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit

Each leaf may be almost 10" across, though they are often smaller. They can have an oval or circular shape. At the base, it is cordate. You will find little red hairs on the juvenile shoots and leaves.

As they mature, they shift to dark green and lose the hair. If you look underneath each leaf, you will find that they are white in color and have distinct veins running throughout.

The flowers can be a cream or yellow color and have a slight perfume. Pruning carefully is important since they are formed on year-old wood. Each plant will have either male or female flowers.

You may be surprised to learn that the kiwi fruit is actually classified as a berry. Each is about 3" long and shaped like an egg. The outside is fuzzy and brown. The fruits sold in stores have green flesh with black seeds in a circle around the middle. Some think that the taste is much like that of the unrelated gooseberry, which is why it used to be called the Chinese gooseberry.

A related species sometimes available for sale is the golden kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis), which can be yellow or green inside. Varieties like Zespri® Gold feature a golden hue. EnzaRed™ features a distinct red ring around the middle.

Design Tips

Make sure you have enough room for at least two kiwi vines since you will need both male and female plants for successful pollination of this dioecious species. You could try growing 'Jenny', which is a self-fertile cultivar.

This is an excellent plant to grow on a wooden structure like a gazebo, trellis, pergola, arbor or fence. You can also train it along wires to form an espalier along a wall. It will add color with its rich green leaves and the support will help the vines grow better.

Growing Tips

You will need to find a location that can provide acidic soil. You can work on making your soil acidic as long as the current pH is not highly alkaline.

It is important to keep your kiwi vines watered at all times since they do not handle drought well.

There are several methods of propagation that can be used to grow new plants. You can use grafting, cuttings, budding or seed germination. Since seeds are not true to type and you are likely to get plants that are much different than the parents, the other methods are preferable.

Maintenance and Pruning

You will need to prune your kiwi vines twice yearly in winter and summer. When you are first planting it, according to the Royal Horticultural Society, train a couple of shoots for each horizontal wire (if using an espalier) or along each beam for other supports. Over time you will continue to pinch and cut away shoots and laterals for optimal fruiting. More specific details can be found on their site.

Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are usually not much of a problem. The following are ones known to attack kiwi vines sometimes.

  • Black-lyre Leafroller Moth (Cnephasia jactatana)
  • Boxelder Bug (Boisea trivittata)
  • Greedy Scale (Hemiberlesia rapax)
  • Latania Scale (Hemiberlesia latania)
  • Leafrollers
  • Oleander Scale (Aspidiotus nerii)
  • Rootknot Nematodes (Meloidogyne hapla and Heterodera marioni
  • Armillaria Root Rot (Armillaria mellea)
  • Bacterial Blight
  • Bleeding Canker
  • Botrytis Fruit Rot (Botrytis cinerea)
  • Crown Gall (Agrobacterium tumefaciens)
  • Leaf scorch
  • Phytophthora Root and Crown Rot

Ways to Enjoy Kiwi Fruit

You can also check out this fool-proof method of removing kiwi stains from clothes if you happen to spill any of this scrumptious fruit on you.