Passion Fruit Growth Stages

Nothing hits the spot on a hot summer day quite like a passion fruit smoothie. While I live a bit too far north to grow this tropical vine in my own garden, there are plenty of gardeners in more temperate parts of the world who enjoy homegrown passion fruit straight from the vine!

There are hundreds of species of Passiflora, also known as passion flower, primarily native to Central and South America. The species most commonly known as passion fruit is Passiflora edulis. This species consists of two varieties: purple passion fruit (P. edulis Sims) and yellow passion fruit (P. edulis flavicarpa).

Whether you’re growing Passiflora as an ornamental vine or for its yummy fruit, this article will guide you through each of the passion fruit growth stages that every plant in the genus goes through.

Conditions for Growing Passion Fruit

Passion fruit forms on a perennial vine that can grow over 30 feet tall over the course of several years. Most plants live up to 5 to 7 years on average. 

While some Passiflora species are hardy up to USDA Zone 7, the edible passion fruit plant is generally only winter hardy in Zones 10 to 12. These vines are evergreen, meaning that they retain their foliage practically year-round.

I recommend planting passion fruit in the spring so that it has all summer to establish itself. It takes about 12 to 18 months for plants to reach the flowering stage. Flowers and fruit can develop at almost any time of year but the peak season is in the summer months.

Passion fruit is adapted to under-story conditions, so the vine will grow well in either full or partial sunlight. There’s a bit of a balancing act required here: excess sun can burn the leaves but too little sun can impair flower and fruit production.

Since passion fruit forms on a climbing vine, you’ll need to provide some type of sturdy support. The vine has grasping tendrils that will happily cling onto almost any structure within reach (but you’ll still want to train the vine to control its shape). If you want to make your passion fruit operation as efficient as possible, try growing the vines like you would grapes on a large arbor.

Conditions for Growing Passion Fruit

Passion Fruit Growth Rate

This vine can grow incredibly fast if all of its needs are met. There have been cases of passion fruit vines growing as much as 20 feet in a single season! Lateral stems (where the fruit normally forms) will grow an average of 3 to 6 feet per season.

It’s easy to see how this growth could get out of hand if left to its own devices. Regular pruning can help control the size and shape of your passion fruit vine and encourage better fruit production. The general rule is to prune back up to one-third of growth each year.

Growth Stages of Passion Fruit

Passion fruit is usually ready to harvest about 12 to 18 months after planting. Some plants will produce in just 6 to 8 months!

Once a passion fruit vine is established, you can expect at least one good harvest per year in the summer. Many vines produce a second, smaller harvest in the fall. In tropical climates, it’s normal for passion fruit to flower and fruit practically year-round.

Though we’re focusing on P. edulis, the edible passion fruit, in this article, the following growth stages also apply to other species of Passiflora. Just keep in mind that there may be slight differences from one species to another, such as how quickly certain stages occur after planting.

1. Seed Germination

Cultivated passion fruit vines may be started from seed or vegetative propagation. Seeds are the plant’s natural reproduction method. If you want to experiment, you can even start a passion fruit plant yourself using a seed from a store-bought fruit!

Passion fruit seeds are dark with a pockmarked texture, typically measuring about 2.5 millimeters. Each fruit contains around 250 individual seeds that are suspended in the edible flesh.

Seed Germination

Like most seeds, passion fruit germination is triggered by warmth and moisture. Temperatures between 68 and 86°F are ideal. The soil should be damp but never soaking wet.

It takes 14 to 21 days for fresh passion fruit seeds to germinate. Seeds that are old or planted in subpar conditions can take 60 days or more to germinate.

Sprouting starts with the emergence of the radicle (the plant’s first root). Then comes the hypocotyl (the primary stem) and cotyledons (embryonic leaves). Passion fruit seeds contain two cotyledons.

2. Seedling

Although the seed is hard at work growing beneath the soil, this progress isn’t very obvious until the hypocotyl and cotyledons break through the surface. This begins the passion fruit seedling stage.

Seedlings are young plants that, at least during the first few days, are still reliant on energy stored within the seed. The cotyledons are one such energy source, although some cotyledons do perform a small degree of photosynthesis as well.

Cotyledons are very simple in appearance and will not look like the mature leaves of a passion fruit plant. As long as the cotyledons are the seedling’s only leaves, it can be hard to tell one type of plant from another (this is one reason why gardeners should be careful to label their seed starts!). 

The passion fruit’s first true leaves will emerge in the next 7 to 14 days. These leaves are serrated with a shiny surface. Successive leaves will be larger and usually darker in color.

3. Vegetative Growth

Once the seedling has established a good foundation (which includes the root system as well as early top growth), it will focus nearly all of its energy on getting bigger and stronger. The bulk of this phase usually lasts 12 to 18 months but vegetative growth continues throughout the vine’s lifetime.

How the young vine grows during this period will look very familiar if you’ve ever grown something like a wisteria vine or climbing rose bush. Knowing these structures is especially important if you want to train your passion fruit plant to be as productive as possible:

  • Main trunk — Even 30-foot-tall passion fruit plants originate from a single, central stem. A strong, secure main trunk sets the stage for all future growth.
  • Branches — As the main trunk grows, it will start branching out similar to a tree. Training these branches to grow perpendicular to the main trunk is a good way to keep the vine tidy and promote better fruit production later on.
  • Lateral stems — Lateral stems grow from the vine’s branches. This growth is where flowers and fruit will form. Many gardeners train the lateral stems to grow perpendicular to the branches (or parallel to the main trunk).

Each structure relies heavily on the one(s) listed directly above it — i.e., if you want healthy branches and lateral stems, you need to ensure a strong main trunk develops early on in the vine’s life cycle. 

Don’t be surprised if lateral stems don’t appear until well into the vine’s second year of growth. This is why passion fruit rarely flowers in the first year.

4. Flowering

Flowering can start as soon as the passion fruit develops lateral stems. As I mentioned above, this usually happens approximately 12 to 18 months after planting. According to the University of Florida, passion fruit most often blooms in the summer and early fall, and each flower lasts about a day.

One thing is definitely true about the passion fruit flower: it’s unique. There’s a lot going on here at first glance.

passion fruit flowering

Passion fruit flowers have flat, open-faced petals and prominent reproductive structures. The pollen-covered anthers and female style are both located in the center of the flower. 

The curly ‘strings’ that cover the passion fruit flower are called corona filaments. These interesting filaments contain nectar and help lure bees and other pollinators to the reproductive structures of the flower.

Both purple and yellow P. edulis plants have purple-ish flowers — this naming convention instead refers to the color of the fruit. However, other species of Passiflora do have flowers of varying colors.

Note that passion fruit flowers only bloom on new growth. This isn’t a big deal early on in the plant’s life but it means routine pruning is very important to encourage vigorous flowering (and fruiting) later on.

5. Pollination

Though the male and female reproductive structures of a passion fruit flower are extremely prominent and close together, most varieties are self-sterile. In other words, the pollen from a flower cannot fertilize any flowers on the same plant. To produce passion fruit, you need at least 2 mature vines in the same area.

According to the BeeAware organization, honey and carpenter bees are the primary pollinators of passion fruit in Australia (and likely other parts of the world as well). Passiflora pollen is generally too heavy for successful wind pollination.

Gardeners can also hand pollinate their passion fruit flowers to ensure good fruit production. This process is surprisingly easy and takes much of the ‘luck’ out of a good end-of-season harvest.

6. Fruit Development

After pollination, it takes about 70 to 80 days for ripe passion fruit to form. The immature fruit looks a lot like a small grape and will take the place of the flowers as they fade away.

All varieties of passion fruit start out green but change color as they mature. Edible passion fruit is typically yellow or purple when ripe.

When to Harvest Passion Fruit

For passion fruit, the perfect harvest time varies with the climate and several other factors. As a general rule, however, most passion fruit is picked in the fall. 

An easy way to tell that a passion fruit is ripe is when it simply drops from the vine! But you can also harvest passion fruit just before this happens. Here are the signs to watch for:

  • A rich, even colour (dependent on the variety)
  • Skin that has a slight give when pressed
  • A plump shape overall

Ripe passion fruit can have smooth or wrinkled skin — the wrinklier the skin the riper and sweeter the fruit. Most passion fruit naturally falls from the vine by the time it reaches this degree of ripeness.

If you have enjoyed this article, here’s a link to Pineapple Growth Stages that you may also find interesting.

FAQ Passion Fruit Vine Stages

Do all passion flowers produce edible fruit?

Though several species of Passiflora produce edible fruit (not just the popular P. edulis), this isn’t true of all passion plants. The vast majority are vine plants with purple flowers that produce fruit that is unappetizing at best. Others have fruit that is toxic when ingested (especially if unripe).

How long does it take for passion fruit to grow?

Passion fruit vines grow incredibly fast, sometimes a dozen feet or more in a single season. It can still take at least a year for new plants to mature and start flowering and fruiting. After a passion fruit flower is pollinated, ripe fruit should form within about 80 days.

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.