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Growing Passionflower: Passiflora

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Overview
A member of the Passionflower family, the Passiflora genus has about 500 species, three of which are successful in Phoenix.

Description
Form: Climbing vine.
Lifespan: 3-7 years for Passiflora edulis under commercial cultivation.
Leaf retention: Evergreen but frost-deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 20-30' long.
Species of Note for hot, dry climates:
Passiflora edulis 'Frederick' - grown commercially for its juice
P. incarnata x cincinnata 'Incense' - an ornamental that needs hand pollination to fruit
P. caerulea: Blue Crown - a fruiting ornamental.
Flowers: An elaborate structure, 3-4" wide, consisting of three stigmatas (female), five stamens (pollen-bearing male), many dozen filaments, 10 petals and five green sepals underneath.
'Frederick' has yellow-green stigmatas, purple and white filaments and white petals.
'Incense' is fragrant, has white stigmata and stamens, wavy purple filaments and purple petals.
Blue Crown is fragrant, has purple stigmatas, yellow-green stamens, white and blue filaments, and white petals. Each flower lasts only one or two days.
Bloom: 'Frederick': mid-spring into fall and year-round in some locations, 'Incense': mid-spring through summer, Blue Crown: mid-spring to early summer. Bloom start is further into summer for northern locations.
Self-fruitful: Yes except for 'Incense' which needs hand pollination using cross pollination from a second plant.
Years before fruiting: 1-1/2 to 2.
Fruit: Round or ovoid, 1-1/2 to 3" wide, a smooth, waxy, leathery rind. 'Frederick' has purple fruit. The rind contains aromatic, membranous sacs filled with orange-colored, uniquely flavorful pulpy juice and many small hard, dark, edible seeds. 'Incense' has flavorful, yellow fruit, edible gelatinous pulp and dark seeds. Blue Crown has orange fruit with soft, sweet red pulp and seeds that can be mixed with other fruit or juice for an exotic flavor.
Months for fruit to ripen: 2-3. 'Frederick' is ripe when ready to fall from vine. 'Incense' is ripe when slightly dented or wrinkled. Blue Crown is ripe when fully orange.
Storage after harvest: Fruit continue to ripen after harvest and can be refrigerated in sealed plastic bags up to 2 weeks.
Leaves: Green, palmate with three lobes on 'Frederick', three or five lobes on 'Incense' and five fingers on Blue Crown.
Stems: Climbs using tendrils. Herbaceous at first, then becomes woody with age, except in regions with winter freezes where it will die to the ground and come back from its roots.
Roots: Shallow, spreads by root suckers. Aggressive in moist soils in warm locations. 'Frederick' is sometimes grafted onto Passiflora edulis flavicarpa: Yellow Passionfruit, which better withstands soil diseases.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A caterpillar host for several species of butterflies including the Gulf Fritillary. Birds and mammals eat the fruit.
Toxic / Danger: All parts poisonous except ripe fruit.
Origin: 'Frederick' and Blue Crown - South America, 'Incense' - North America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 'Frederick' 8-10, 'Incense' 6b-10, Blue Crown 6-10. Dies to ground in freezing temperatures and comes back from roots in spring.
Sunset climate zones: H1-H2, 5-9, 12-24.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Somewhat.
Sun: Afternoon shade is needed for most cultivars when temperatures are over 90°F, however more sun produces more flowers and fruits.
Drought tolerant: No. Prefers high humidity.
Water after becoming established: Water deeply, but gradually taper off from twice a week to once every two weeks to encourage roots to grow deep and wide. Insufficient water causes fruit wrinkling and drop. In winter, water less often.
Soil: Well draining, moist, moderate organic content, pH 6.6-7.5 (neutral).
Fertilize: Use aged compost. A slow release nitrogen fertilizer may be necessary.
Mulch: A 4" layer of aged compost, leaves, shredded bark or wood chips helps moisture retention and avoids heat stress for shallow roots.
Planting: The plant can also be grown in large containers.
Prune: To shape anytime when vine grows out of bounds. Remove dead and damaged vines after danger of freezing temperatures has passed. Flowering occurs on new vine shoots.
Litter: Flower and fruit drop if not harvested. Dead vines and leaves in regions with freezes.
Propagation: Cuttings are true to parent plant. Seed, which does not always breed true, can be soaked 24 hours in hand-hot water and allowed to cool. Replace water within 24 hours or plant seed immediately.
Pests: Butterfly caterpillars may temporarily defoliate leaves, but plant will recover.
Uses: Ornamental, edible fruit.

Comments
The many cultivars and hybrids of these plants can make identification problematic. Rating Passionflower fruits by taste from high to low: 'Frederick' is best, followed by 'incense', the native eastern species P. incarnata called Maypop, then Blue Crown.



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Flower, fruit and leaves of Passiflora caerulea: Blue Passion Flower


Passiflora edulis: Passion Fruit leaf




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