A popular fruit-bearing climber in Sydney gardens, passionfruit plants have glossy, lobed foliage and can grow lustily along a fence or on a sturdy arch, holding on with their strong tendrils. The delicious, purple-skinned fruit generally ripens in January and February in our climate. The passionfruit vine originates in South America.
The plant needs certain conditions to do well. It requires a full sun, frost-free position, and another important requirement is perfect drainage, as the roots are susceptible to rotting if they are subject to wet soil, which can cause sudden death. However, in dry weather, make sure the plant is given some water, and is well mulched. Pollination of the large, ornamental flowers can be affected by rain or wind, compromising the formation of fruit. In this case, it is possible to hand-pollinate the flowers with a small brush.
The fruit can be attacked by cockatoos, possums and rats - I have resorted to enclosing each fruit in a small muslin bag with a drawstring tie! This can also help if fruit fly is a problem. I have found nets unsatisfactory to exclude large pests and had a good harvest when using the bags. The fruit can be picked when the skin is purple and still smooth; but wait till the skin wrinkles a bit before eating. They can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks; the pulp can also be frozen in ice-cube trays.
The vine should be pruned in late winter by removing all unproductive wood and cutting back fairly hard overall, as it can grow to a height of 4-6 m and also become very tangled and congested if not controlled. It can be fertilised at this time. 'Nellie Kellie' is a popular grafted variety. If suckers appear from below the graft, be sure to remove them near their base with secateurs as they can take over and become a menace. It is prudent to plant a new passionfruit vine every three years as they seem to have a shelf life!