Growing Lilikoi – aka Passion Fruit – in SeattleJuly 06, 2009
Successfully growing passion fruit (lilikoi) — not just lovely passion flower — is my most exciting gardening challenge this year.
I have a bit of a thing for lilikoi; It developed years ago on a first visit to Maui. This vigorous vine produces out-of-this-world flowers followed by an unparalleled slurpy, tangy, tropical-flowery, sweet-sour, crunchy delight all contained in its own reusable cup. Nothing made to taste like it — that hasn’t been made from it — ever makes the grade. It simply cannot be replicated; something is always lost in translation when it is extracted. And, it simply isn’t imported. It’s one of those rare things we actually have to go to its place of growth to enjoy. It’s no lime or pineapple, mango or papaya, or any number of off-season imports we so easily find at the grocery year-round.
So, sadly, since that first lip-smacking, addicting taste, I’ve only had opportunity to really indulge my passion for this delicacy when I’m lucky enough to visit Maui. Hopefully, this summer changes that, and I’ll be devoting myself to my obsession as locally as it gets — right in the comfort of my own garden. Sure a trip to Maui would be fantastic, but a trip to the back patio is much more realistic and still a ton of fun.
Earlier this year, when I’d plopped down the money for a garden greenhouse, I decided to invest in a lilikoi vine from relatively local Raintree Nursery. On the Northwest Flower and Garden show vendor floor, they were offering the Passiflora edulus ‘ Frederick’, among others. Fancy Freddie is advertised to produce fruit in zones just beyond my own. So, now, proud owner of a greenhouse, how could I resist tempting the zonal challenge? Plus, if nothing else, it sure would be lovely twining through the summer greenhouse rafters!
Well, I’m not quite ready to report success. The vines have spread and followed our lead. In June, the first buds appeared and soon after the vines were flowering. Fancy eye shadow brush in hand, I gave the Mommy parts a little bit of help from the Daddy dust for luck. Then, wonder of wonders, suddenly the lovely flowers stopped shrivelling up with nothing to show for their fleeting beauty, and the shiny, drooping shells began to form. Not in just one, but in several all at once. (The photo on the left represents the fruit from the flower shown above.)
This fruit isn’t done yet. It still needs to fatten up — mature. That was always the problem with my once lovely decorative Passiflora ‘Dark Knight”. The flowers were showy & profuse. Outer shells of fruit would form, but the babe was never born and the hull would always shrivel, empty.
So, is there a chance this time? Will Freddie come through with the goods? Will the now-green fruits darken and fall from the vine laden with lilikoi goodness?
Here’s the rest of the story, updated later this summer…