Passion Flowers

Growing and Caring for Passion Flowers (Passiflora)

Passion Flower Bloom

Passion flowers are exotic looking tropical plants that can actually be grown in much milder areas. There are many different passion flower plants and there is considerable variety between the species. Some passion flowers are vines, some produce edible fruits. Passion flowers look extremely exotic, so it’s a surprise to find them growing in fields along the sides of the road. If you'd like to give them a try, here are some tips for growing your own passion flowers at home.

Overview and Description:

The genus Passiflora contains over 400 species, so the common name Passion Flower can be a bit confusing. To muddle matters further, most are vines, but some are shrubs, annuals, perennials and even trees. What they all share are exotic flowers that only remain open for about 1 day. They have a wide, flat petal base with several rings of filaments in the center which surround a stalk of sorts, that holds up the ovary and stamens.

  • Flowers: 5 or 10 petals in a flat or reflex circle. The ovary and stamens are held atop a tall, distinctive stalk which is encircled by delicate filaments. The stigmas start out high above the anthers and slowly bend backwards to come closer for pollination. Colors include: blue, purple, pink, white and red.
  • Foliage: The most commonly grown forms are vines that climb and cling by tendrils. The leaves are alternate and either lobed or ovate.

    Botanical Name:

    Passiflora

    Common Name(s):

    Passion Flower, Passion Vine, Maypop, Granadilla

    USDA Hardiness Zone:

    USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 - 10, depending on species.

    Mature Size:

    Varies with the type of passion flower you are growing. Most are vines: 15-30' (4.5 - 9 m) x 6-8 ft. (2-2.5 m)

    Exposure:

    Full Sun to Partial Shade

    Bloom Period:

    Most passion flowers grown in gardens will repeat bloom from mid- to late summer

    Design Tips:

    Although passion flowers are native in many regions of the Southern U.S., they can become a nuisance, to the point of being invasive. Check with your local Cooperative Extension or DEC to see if you should avoid passion flowers altogether or if certain species are preferable.

    A lot of gardeners prefer to grow their passion flowers in containers. Passion flower grows quite happily in a pot and you have the convenience of being able to move it to a sunnier site or even bring it indoors for the winter. Plus, it limits the spreading by rhizomes.

    Suggested Varieties:

    • Passiflora alata 'Ruby Glow' (Fragrant Granadilla) - 4" flowers with cranberry petals and rich purple filaments. Very fragrant.

       

    • Passiflora edulis - The species usually grown for the edible passion fruit. There are two types of passion fruit. A small, purple fruit and a larger shiny yellow-orange fruit (P. edulis flavicarpa).

       

    • Passiflora incarnata (Maypop) - A subtropical passion flower native to the southeastern U.S. P. incarnata is also used medicinally.

    Passion Flower Growing Tips:

     

    Sun: Passion flowers need at least 4 full hours of sunlight a day; more in cooler climates and some partial shade in the hottest areas. Plants may need winter protection in Zone 6. In zones cooler than zone 6, they will be winter-killed.

    Soil: The soil should be well-draining, but rich. Passion flowers grow and bloom best when the soil is kept moist. They don’t handle drought well. Soil pH can be in the neutral range, anywhere from about 6.1 to 7.5.

    Planting: The addition of compost to the planting hole will help retain moisture. Some type of support is needed for the vines to grow on. It can be a trellis, a structure or even another plant.

    Most varieties of passion flower can be purchased as plants. They can also be propagated from either seed, softwood cuttings, layering or rhizomes.

    Growing Passion Flower from Seed:

    To save seed, allow the fruits to ripen completely. Open the pods and remove, clean and dry the seeds before storing.

    Passion flowers seeds can be difficult to sprout and hybrid varieties will not grow true from seed. Start seed by soaking for 1-2 days in warm water. Viable seed will sink to the bottom of the glass. Floating seeds can be discarded.

    Start seed in damp potting mix. Place seed on surface of soil and pat down, but don’t cover. They need to be exposed to light, in order to germinate. Place the pot in a plastic bag and seal to retain moisture. If you can provide bottom heat to the pot, you’ll have a better chance of sprouting. A heat mat or even the top of a refrigerator should work.

    It can take weeks or months for passion flower seeds to sprout. Keep the soil moist at all times. When sprouts do appear, keep them out of direct sunlight until there are true leaves and don’t handle the plants until they are large enough to transplant, with several sets of leaves.

    To Grow Passion Flower as a Houseplant:

    Provide bright, indirect sunlight, but keep out of drafts. Minimum indoor temperature is about 50° F.

    Passion Flower Maintenance:

    Passion flowers are low maintenance during the growing season and do not need to be deadheaded. Pruning is basically done to keep the size in check, to remove dead wood and to make the plant fuller.

    Some vines will not need any pruning, but pruning will result in a fuller plant. Pruning can be done in late winter or early spring. In cooler climates, the vines may die back to the ground anyway.

    To protect borderline plants during winter, stop feeding in late summer. Mulch the area around the roots, once the soil temperature drops.

    Problems & Pests:

    It seems the more tropical the climate, the more pests there are to attack passion flower. But generally the plants have minimal problems. Insects pests could include: scale, spider mites and white flies.

    Leaf spotting is generally caused by a fungus disease. Remove affected leaves, to slow the spread, and treat with a fungicide if necessary.