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Successfully Growing Fruitful Lilikoi in Seattle

September 18, 2009

Passionfruit is my passion and growing it has been my obsession this season. As other plants have rapidly flowered, put on fruit, ripened and hit my plate, our passionfruit vine has plodded slowly on its path to fruition.

Freshly fallen Passiflora edulus 'Frederick'

Freshly fallen Passiflora edulus 'Frederick'

Months ago, in July,  I wrote a first article singing my praises of this fruit, choking back my impatience with the fruit ripening slowly, and sharing the beauty of this plant’s flowers and early fruit formation. In it I wondered if the fruit would actually produce the nectar I so crave. Yesterday, I found my answer.

Rolling on the floor of the greenhouse, abscised from the vine, was a single purple orb the size of a small hen egg. Fortunately, this fruit has a naturally hard, waxy outer shell that protects it when it falls, ripe, from the vine. It must fall from the vine, not be cut, to ensure ripeness. Still, looking at it on the floor of the greenhouse, I couldn’t be sure if it really contained anything worth eating. I’ve been fooled in the past by other, ornamental passifloras, which form empty, fruitless orbs after flowering.

Delicious Passion Fruit

Delicious Passion Fruit

Then, I cut it open. Immediately, the kitchen was filled with the unmistakable fragrance of passionfruit. The orange-yellow seedy fruit dripped from the knife, and I could barely contain my joy at this special triumph — unique, beautiful lilikoi from my own backyard.

Finally, Bob and I each claimed a half of the fruit, toasted our success with the fruits themselves and began to slurp and crunch the sour-sweet, juicy perfumed fruit. Closing my eyes, I was transported briefly to Maui where I first indulged in this wonder. Each tiny taste was a treat beyond compare, and fortunately several more fruit continue to ripen on the vine for more special treats in the weeks ahead. Despite overwhelming success with many other fruits and veggies this year, these tiny purple treats make me happiest of all.

I look forward to enjoying the next lilikoi that falls. I have plans to crunch and slurp it up as I stand beside the half open greenhouse Dutch door, inhaling the burnt-sugar fragrance of our yellowing Katsura. What a way to welcome in autumn, just days away, and wave good-bye to the fruitful brilliance of an amazing summer.

Will the vine survive the winter as promised? That remains to be seen, so stay tuned next spring to find out. Given my love, nay obsession, with this bit of deliciousness, I’ll be working hard to see it through come sleet, snow or freezing rain.

Want more Lilikoi? Read Part I here.


  1. […] Here’s the rest of the story, updated later this summer… […]

  2. balbert says:

    That was some yummy lilikoi! Just like Maui.

  3. […] yellow then orange then red. There aren’t many, which isn’t terribly discouraging. My passionfruit experiment of 2009 didn’t yield many fruit last year, but this year its output has at least doubled. So, I hope […]

  4. […] Here’s the rest of the story, updated later this summer… […]

  5. david says:

    Thanks for the article. Without a greenhouse, can any of tge passion fruit varieties survive western WA winter?

  6. David, there are passion flower vines that will survive without a greenhouse in Western WA, but we’re not aware of any fruiting varieties that will. Let us know if you find any, please!

  7. […] greenhouse is standing steady. From it, I harvested habanero peppers, leafy greens and even another ripe lilikoi today. Heck, the passionfruit vine is even forming new flowers in November though I seriously doubt […]

  8. holly bine says:

    Maypops or passiflora incarnata produces tasty fruit and does not need a green house in Seattle. The only thing is that it does not like its roots being wet all winter so its best to plant it in full sun, with excellent drainage under an eave next to a house. {Sales comment omitted by blog moderator.} They die back in the winter but come back in middle spring for me. If you ever see the white variety of this plant I highly recommend it!!!!

  9. Thanks for sharing Holly. Have you actually produced fruit on this passion fruit vine? We’ve spoken with many who grow ornamental passion vines in Seattle, but we have yet to find someone who has successfully harvested fruit outside a greenhouse on any vines. Since the vines tend to die to the ground and emerge pretty late in spring on plants grown without protection, those we’ve spoken with (and us) have found the plants don’t tend to flower early enough to produce ripe fruit. If you’ve had luck, please share your details!

  10. Jay says:

    Can you please update us on what happened?

    I ordered a passionfruit vine from fastgrowing trees that was advertised for zone 8. I dont have a greenhouse for it and am really worried about what will happen to it during winter.

  11. Jay,

    I’m not sure what update you’re looking for, but I can say that it did overwinter just fine in the greenhouse for several years. We had one year with a sustained freeze, and I brought it into our heated daylight basement for part of that winter to help it through. Eventually, the plant did give up the ghost for reasons that did not appear to have anything to do with weather. Without a greenhouse, in too harsh a zone, you may want to bring yours inside for winter. Good luck!

  12. Jay says:

    Did you plant the vine in a pot? You’ve mentioned that you brought it indoors during a sustained freeze -did you transplant it from the ground it was planted in? I am wondering if getting a greenhouse will work if I leave my gauava tree planted in the ground…

  13. Ours never went into the ground. And, yes, it came into the heated basement during the worst of winter. Our greenhouse wasn’t heated beyond passive solar, so when it got really cold out, the greenhouse protection wasn’t enough. Had to keep it in the pot in order to move it about. Not sure how much protection your guava will need. Good luck Jay!

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