Growing Kiwi Vines in Your Landscape

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 theĀ 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 the 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 7 through 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 through 8.

Size

These long woody vines (lianas) can be up to 30 feet long and 10 feet 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 inches across, though they are often smaller. They can have an oval or circular shape. At the base, it is cordate or heart-shaped. You will find little red hairs on the juvenile shoots and leaves. As the leaves mature, it shifts to a dark green and loses its hairs. If you look underneath the leaf, you will find that it is white in color and has 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 kiwifruit is actually classified as a berry. Each is about 3 inches 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 it tastes like the unrelated gooseberry, which is why it is sometimes called a Chinese gooseberry. It can be quite juicy, so it is good to know that there is a fool-proof method of removing kiwi stains from clothes if you happen to spill any of it on you.

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.

Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are usually not much of a problem. The following are 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