Although native to Brazil, passion fruit plants have spread widely throughout the tropics. These delicious fruits are now widely grown in numerous tropical countries ranging from Kenya to Uganda, South Africa, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and even China. They are grown both for domestic or subsistence use and also for commercial purposes. Commercial passionfruit plantations now supply tons of fruit to processing plants that convert the fruits into passion fruit juice for consumption. However, the passionfruits can still be consumed directly from the farm even without value addition.
There are two main distinct varieties of passion fruits that are grown globally. These are:-
- The purple passion fruit varieties
- The yellow passion fruit varieties
The purple passion fruit varieties are generally better suited for the higher elevations or higher altitudes. The yellow passion fruit varieties will perform better in the lowlands where the conditions are more “tropical”.
However, both varieties are distributed throughout the tropics and the subtropics. In almost all the major countries where passion fruits are grown, you will find the purple passion fruit and the yellow passion fruit varieties.
Passion fruit plants are perennial. Once you plant them, they will fruit for many years before you need to uproot the plants and start afresh. They were introduced into the tropics outside South America in the 19th century. In Kenya and much of East Africa, passion fruit plants were introduced in the 1920s.
Today passionfruits are widely grown both for domestic and export markets. While the passionfruits can be picked and eaten fresh, the pulp is generally extracted and preserved either by cooling or heating.
The passion fruit juice has a unique and aromatic flavor with a high level of acidity. These qualities make them a natural concentrate. Once extracted, the passion fruit juice can be diluted with water and sweetened to make for a very palatable juice. It also blends well with numerous other juices making it a great choice for the preparation of cocktails. Some people also cultivate passion fruits as ornamental plants to help in beautifying their homes since they spread horizontally and produce beautiful flowers.
The Climatic and Soil Conditions for Growing Your Passion Fruit
The yellow passion fruit variety does well in low altitudes of 0 to 800m. They are generally grown mostly for the fresh fruits market. The yellow passion fruit varieties can also be used as rootstocks for grafting the purple passion fruit variety.
The purple passion fruit varieties, however, will now flower at altitudes of less than 1000m. They should therefore be grown at altitudes of 1200m and above.
Mature passion fruit varieties also have good tolerance for light frost. They can therefore be grown easily in the subtropics.
There are other passion fruit varieties that you can grow although they are not as popular as the above two. These varieties include the banana passion fruit varieties that do well in the highland areas. The banana variety will often climb the tall trees for support. At maturity, it will be yellow in color but it will have a soft and velvety skin and produce pink flowers. The banana passion fruit variety is very different from the other commercial passion fruit varieties, even in shape, and it is normally used in sweetened juices as it does not have a natural sweetness on its own.
All the passion fruit varieties will grow on various kinds of soils. However, the best soils for passion fruit farming are typically the light to heavy sandy loam soils that are of medium texture. The soil should also be at least 60cm deep.
If your location has heavy clay soils, then these have to be drained. If the soils are too sandy, then manure should be added to the soils in order to improve their viability. In order to reduce the incidences of diseases in your soils, ensure that the soil is well-drained and aerated.
Purple passion fruits generally do well in areas with rainfall of up to 900mm in Africa, as long as the rainfall is well distributed. The purple passion fruit vines will require a location where they are sheltered from extreme temperatures. For the purple passion fruit varieties, the optimal temperatures for growing the plants should be 18 to 25 degrees Celsius while for the yellow variety of passion fruits, the optimal temperatures should be 25 to 30 degrees Celsius.
There are critical temperatures for passion fruit cultivars for unique environmental conditions.
Passion Fruit Varieties
While there are two main passion fruit varieties that you can plant, there also exist hybrids between the purple and yellow passion fruit varieties. These can have characteristics intermediate between the two main varieties and will perform well in certain conditions.
The main characteristics of the yellow passion fruit varieties:-
- The yellow passion fruit varieties are more vigorous.
- They have better tolerance for frost.
- Have a more acidic flavor
- They have a yellow rind and produce larger fruits.
- Because the flowers are self-sterile, they have to be pollinated. You can use carpenter bees or pollinate by hand.
- They have better resistance for nematodes and the Fusarium wilt. This makes them a great choice for rootstocks.
- They have brown seeds
The Characteristics of the Purple Passion Fruit Varieties
The purple passion fruit varieties have the following characteristics:-
- They have a purple rind and the fruits are smaller in size.
- Unlike the purple passion fruit varieties, they can self-pollinate. Optimal pollination will occur during humid conditions.
- They have a richer aroma and flavor as well as a higher proportion of juice content at 35% to 38%. However, they are not as sweet.
- The vines of the purple passion fruit varieties are less vigorous compared to that of the yellow passion fruit varieties.
- They have black seeds.
Passion Fruit Propagation and Planting
Passion fruit is propagated in multiple ways ranging from cuttings to seed and grafting. The passion fruit seed should be cleaned of the pulp and then dried in a shade where there is no direct sunlight. It should then be stored in a dark area. Exposure to sunshine will affect the viability of the passion fruit seed.
The germination of the passion fruit seed will take 2 to 4 weeks. It is generally a lot easier to germinate fresh passion fruit seeds than seeds that have been kept for some time. Seeds that are older than 1 month or 2 months will be difficult to germinate.
If you have older seeds, you can soak them for at least 1 day in order to improve the rate of germination.
The passion fruit seedlings should be raised in polythene bags weighing 15cm wide by 25cm deep. In every bag, the seeds should be sown at a depth of 1cm. You can subsequently thin them out and leave only one after a month or so.
If you are planting the cuttings, you can set them in coarse sand before transplanting them in a nursery bed or bags. Passion fruit seedlings typically grow very slowly. They will require between three and four months for them to reach the right height of 15cm to 25cm for transplanting. Before you transplant them, you should “harden off” the passion fruit seedlings by leaving them in a shaded but open area for between a day or two days.
Passion fruit grafting is used as a planting them because it helps prevent various passion fruit diseases. This usually involves using the yellow passion fruit variety as the rootstock because it has better resistance to root rot, the Fusarium collar rot and the root rot nematodes. In some rooted passion fruit cuttings, wedge and whip grafts will be used for passion fruit grafting purposes.
Five to seven weeks after transplanting, each of the passion fruit plants should produce up to 4 healthy laterals. After this initial sprouting, the plants will begin to grow more vigorously. They will start flowering after about five to seven months after you have done the transplanting during which the vines will be about 10m to 15m long.
Lighting is also an important factor to the growth and viability of your passion fruit plants. They are an essential component to the floral development and setting of the fruits. You should train and prune the passion fruit plants to give the shoots maximum exposure to sunshine.
Based on the climate where the fruits are grown, you can have three harvest peaks for your purple passion fruits or one harvest peak. The yellow passion fruit varieties generally have a longer harvest season.
For more passion fruit farming tips, check out our