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Growing Lilikoi – aka Passion Fruit – in Seattle

July 06, 2009

Successfully growing passion fruit (lilikoi) — not just lovely passion flower — is my most exciting gardening challenge this year.

Passiflora edulus

Passiflora edulus

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.

Passiflora edulus 'Frederick'

Passiflora edulus ‘Frederick’

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…

12 Comments

  1. balbert says:

    I can’t wait for our passionfruit. yum!

  2. Anne says:

    Wow, this is amazing! I just realized I have these guys growing in the hard red clay of my side yard. I’l have to check on the green eggs!

    I have an acre here near Charlotte, NC. The darned red clay can break a shovel! But it’s so fertile, and I have these passion fruit, morning glories, trumpet vine, and other interesting “weeds” happening. We’re tackling the side yard as we can, piling on as much organic material as possible. My neighbors think I’m nuts ’cause I won’t bulldoze all the weeds and just pile on a ton of soil. Patience, grasshopper, is a virtue!

    Thank you for your blog – most enjoyable!!

  3. Gustoso says:

    If they don’t bare any fruit, add some old nails into the soil nearby. Good luck.

  4. rhaglund says:

    Gustoso, What’s the point of adding the nails?

  5. Bob says:

    maybe nails add iron or some other chemical to help fruit ripen?

  6. […] ago, in July,  I wrote a first article singing my praises of this fruit, choking back my impatience with the fruit ripening slowly, and […]

  7. kevin says:

    wow, my mouth is watering from just reading your article. I fell madly in love with passion flower in Mendocino, CA. I’m in southern CT and feel forturnate to coax my angel trumpet to flower which it has done nicely this summer thankfully. Always wished I had the space for a greenhouse. Cheers!

  8. Marie says:

    I would love to start growing LILIKOIs in Costa Rica?

    how do I get started?

    Aloha

    marie

  9. Marie, best option is to look for a consultant in your area to find out your best options for your location. Odds are it’ll grow like a weed in Costa Rica!

  10. […] thermostats to monitor the heat/cold, and we’ve been adding wire for seasonal climbers like lilikoi, cucumber and […]

  11. Pam says:

    Our soil on the Big Island has quite a bit of nitrogen due to the fallen leaves of the Monkeypod trees, and the lilikoi vines seem to love it.

  12. Pam – I fell in love with lilikoi in Hawaii. You are so fortunate to enjoy them fresh & in season!

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