If you are a fan of the fuzzy kiwis you see in the grocery store but live in a cooler climate, the hardy kiwi can be a great choice for your garden. These little fruits have a similar taste but are hairless, sweeter and tolerate colder temperatures.
They are produced on woody vines known as lianas that are best grown on trellises for support.
This vine is known as Actinidia arguta and is related to the more familiar kiwifruits like the fuzzy kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa). It belongs to the Actinidiaceae family.
There are many common names associated with the hardy kiwi. Others include dessert kiwi, yang-tao, hardy kiwifruit, cocktail kiwi, baby kiwi, tara vine, kiwi berry, northern kiwi, bower Actinidia, arctic kiwi or grape kiwi.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones
You can plant the hardy kiwi if you live in Zones 4 to 8. It is native to China, Japan, Korea, and Siberia.
Size and Shape
This is a trailing liana that will be at least 25' long at maturity and can far exceed that length under good growing conditions.
This vine is able to grow in locations that receive full sun to part shade.
The serrated leaves are elongated and can be two to five inches long. They may turn yellow in the fall before dropping off. 'Silver Lining' is a variegated variety.
Most plants of this species are dioecious and the flowers are male or female. They are white, fragrant and found in small clusters.
The green, brown or reddish-purple berries are the size and shape of grapes (approximately one-inch long). The skin does not have hair and you can eat them without peeling. They are usually sweeter than fuzzy kiwis. Pick them when they come off the vine easily or collect fallen fruits.
In some areas this fast-growing vine can become invasive, so check with your local extension office or garden center before you purchase some plants.
You may have some problems if you or your neighbors have cats. This plant smells like catnip and they may dig up the vines or otherwise destroy your plant.
Most varieties are either male or female and you will need at least one of each for fruit set on the female. 'Meader' and 'Arctic Beauty' are available in either form, so check whether it is listed as male or female when ordering. 'Issai' is a self-fruitful variety, meaning that it has a perfect flower and is able to pollinate itself. You can boost fruit yields from 'Issai' by adding a male variety.
Female varieties include:
- 'Ananasnaya' (also known as 'Anna')
- 'Arctic Beauty' (known as September Sun™)
- 'Ken's Red'
- 'Red Beauty'
Male varieties include:
- 'Arctic Beauty' (known as Pasha™)
This liana grows rapidly and a strong trellis can help direct and support new growth. They can also be trained up a pergola for an attractive display.
In the colder zones, provide shelter as possible. Early spring shoots and flowers can be damaged by frosts and cause a drop in fruit production.
It is possible to grow this in a container of suitable size.
Since fruits occur on the growth formed during the past year, pruning should be performed during winter to encourage good fruit set. The California Rare Fruit Growers advise that you cut back old canes to the part where a new shoot formed during the previous year. This will stimulate new growths that will be next year's fruit-bearing canes. Pruning can also help keep spreading vines in check as needed.
The CRFG also suggests that you give them a fertilizer with a high level of nitrogen for the first part of the plant's growing season.
Pests and Diseases
Diseases you may find:
- Botrytis rot
- Phytophthora crown and root rot
- Sclerotinia blight
Pests that may attack:
- Japanese beetles
- Leaf rollers
- Root-knot nematodes
- Two-spotted spider mites