How to Grow Kiwi Fruit

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Growing kiwi fruit

My earliest memory of kiwi fruit was when, as a young lad, I was taken off to the grocery store to buy one of these fabled fruits. In those days (mid-1980s) kiwis were seen as terribly exotic – at least to British shoppers. They cost a fair bit too, and so these small, fuzzy fruits were handled with reverence, brought home gingerly in their brown paper bag then sliced in half and spooned out with genuine excitement. To me they tasted of far off lands – somewhere sunnier, lusher and far more mysterious than the pedestrian suburbs of my youth!

They still carry an air of the exotic about them. But did you know that kiwis are a textbook case of marketing spin? Once more commonly known as Chinese gooseberries, the kiwi fruit got its second name from – no prizes for guessing – the New Zealanders, who cornered more of the market for growing them over the course of the 20th Century.

Once considered exotic, kiwi fruit (aka Chinese gooseberry) can be grown at home in many areas

Nowadays kiwi fruit is more widely grown, so that today you can buy half a dozen fruits for the same money that would have got you just one not so long ago. I grab a net of kiwi fruit every week to drop into my morning smoothies. They are full of vitamin C, so I see them as a delicious defence against coughs and sniffles.

Growing Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit originates from East Asia. They love sunshine and grow best in climates that are consistently warm. In more temperate climates you can still enjoy good results by growing them against a sunny wall where they can romp away to reach – get this – 10m (30ft)! A warm wall also somewhat protects tender spring growth from frost damage.

The vines grow okay in shade too, but at the expense of any fruits. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because this is one stunning vine, with chunky, heart-shaped leaves, red stems and pretty, fragrant flowers.

Such a lofty climber needs very sturdy supports. A series of horizontal wires properly anchored into the wall or fence every 45cm (18in) should give them the leg-up they need. Use a thick-gauge wire and tighten them into place with robust vine eye screws. You could also try growing a vine up a pergola or trellis – assuming it’s strong enough for the job.

Kiwi fruit vines are rampant, and need sturdy supports

The plants are naturally dioecious, meaning the female and male flowers are borne on separate plants. ‘Hayward’ is one of the most popular female varieties with ‘Tomuri’ a good male companion planted approximately one to every six females. But not all of us have the space for multiple kiwi vines – and what if the male plant doesn’t bloom at exactly the right time? This uncertainty has disappeared with the advent of self-fertile varieties, which make things a lot simpler. One plant should suffice but like many self-fertile plants, pollination is even better when two or more plants are involved, and there’s one variety that crops up time and again for reliability: ‘Jenny’.

Plant your kiwi fruit into nutrient-rich, moisture-retentive soil. If you are planting against a wall then set the plant at least a foot away from the base so the roots don’t sit in a rain shadow. Space vines at least 3m (10ft) apart so they don’t get tangled up in each other but are still close enough to improve pollination. If you’re thinking about growing them in a greenhouse, don’t bother – unless you want it to completely take over in there to the detriment of everything else!

Kiwi fruit needs regular pruning to keep it productive

Pruning Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit are not shy and retiring. They’re bold, brazen and will quickly become a thicket of stems and foliage if left to their thing. You have two choices to keep them tamed: train them into a formal espalier shape, or hack out the oldest stems every winter after they have finished fruiting. In reality the latter is a lot easier and perhaps more conducive to its rambling nature.

Fruits develop on side shoots growing from canes that are at least one year old. You want plenty of older canes for lots of fruit, but not too old that they become less productive. Stems older than four years are generally good for cutting completely out in order to allow younger, more vigorous stems to replace them. Don’t worry if you can’t tell which stems are what age – you’d be a champion pruner to work that one out – just aim to remove canes that look the oldest and thickest. Cut canes right down to ground level. Aim for an even spread of canes that will allow plenty of light to reach all parts of the plant.

Fresh kiwi fruits can be made into a delicious vitamin-rich smoothie

Harvesting Kiwi Fruit

For all their bravado the fruits themselves are a long time coming, especially in cooler climates. Fruits typically ripen by mid-autumn, often just a few weeks ahead of the first frosts. Pick them when they look brown (because of the hairs) and give a little when pinched between finger and thumb. If a frost threatens but the fruits aren’t quite ready, harvest them anyhow and bring them indoors where they should continue to ripen. Keep the fruits in a cool, dry place and they should store for up to six weeks.

Back outside, lavish love on your kiwi vines; they may seem indestructible but that doesn’t mean they don’t need looking after! Layer on a thick mulch of organic matter such as well-rotted compost in early spring, and keep vines well-watered should you be lucky enough to enjoy a long, warm summer.

Have you grown kiwi fruit before? I’d love to hear how you got on with them and your favorite recipes using them. Please tell all in the comments section below.

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Show Comments


"I live in South Dakota, and I'm going to try an Arctic Kiwi. Do these growing tips generally apply to hardy Kiwi as well? "
Amanda on Monday 9 March 2020
"Yes Amanda, these growing tips apply to all kiwi fruits Arctic kiwis too."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 9 March 2020
"I have two old vines planted at each end of a large trellis. It is totally twisted up and is impossible to pick the fruit (if we get some) because I just can't get in there. These plants were already on the acreage when we bought it. Should I cut it back to stumps and start again??"
Lizi Hofer on Monday 16 March 2020
"To prune overgrown kiwi vines start by removing all stems that are on the trellis. Cut them right back to about an inch/2cm from where they emerge from the main stem. Now cut back any crossing branches and others that are rambling or obscuring branches below. The root system will be robust and will thrust out new growth, which can be tied in and trained."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 19 March 2020
"Hello sir I am from district kangra himachal pradesh India, I have grown Kiwi saplings from kiwi seeds. These saplings are six months old but now I am facing problem of caring them. These saplings are planted in pots. Our region temp. remain in winter approx 7 degree and in summers approx 35 to 40 degree Celsius. Please guide me."
Jai pal singh on Friday 15 May 2020
"You have a good climate for growing kiwi fruits. One thing I would check, if you can, is the variety you are growing. Is it a self-fertile variety? If not then you may need a pollinating partner to ensure the flowers are pollinated, as most plants are either female or male. You will also need to get it planted next to adequate supports. Even if it isn't self fertile, it is still a beautiful plant to grow in its own right."
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 17 May 2020
"I'm currently trying to grow the kiwi fruit plant from seeds. I've found 2 different ways so I'm doing half of the seeds on damp/wet paper town in a container slightly open and the other half of the seeds in a cup with water. Both of these are on the kitchen bench away from direct sunlight. The temperature indoors varies between 20 and 25 during the day and sometimes at night goes down to 18 but not for more than 4 hours. Does this sound reasonable to you Ben? Should I make any twick? PS I started with the seeds on the 18th-19th of July 2020."
Gus on Tuesday 21 July 2020
"Hi Gus. The temperature range sounds perfect for kiwis, so that's all good. I've never grown them from seed - only plants - but I think you have all angles covered with your germination methods. Good luck with them."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 27 July 2020
"Hi I live in Newcastle NSW Australia. What is the best time to plant the Kiwi fruit vine? Thanks Anston"
Anston Francke on Saturday 5 September 2020
"Generally late autumn is the best time to plant, but I would say you'd be fine planting now (early spring in NSW) so long as you are on hand to water the vine thoroughly the moment it starts getting hot and dry. The vine will need regular watering in its first year, to help it establish."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 September 2020
"I am on chalk, but with rich soil of reasonable depth (varies, but there's enough soil to be double dug in most of the garden). Is it worth trying a kiwi - probably Issai? Accounts seem to vary as to whether they are ok on chalk."
FloweringTree on Sunday 29 November 2020
"Kiwi fruits prefer a slightly acidic soil, so nutrient deficiency is the main problem when growing in a chalky soil. I would think you would be okay if you could improve the soil with lots and lots of garden compost, which tends to err on the slightly acidic side. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 30 November 2020
"I do like to purchase kiwi plants , may I get from U what is the price per plant"
Anuj Baran Sarkar on Thursday 18 February 2021
"Hi Anuj. Unfortunately we don't sell seeds or plants. It may be worth doing an online search for plant nurseries close to you. They will also be able to offer varieties of plants best suited to your local climate."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 18 February 2021
"We have had fruit on our buying for a number of weeks now possibly even months they are still very very hard I’m wondering can I cut them off the vine and will they ripen on their own"
Steve Murray on Sunday 2 May 2021
"Hi Steve. They're best ripened on the plant if it's still relatively warm. They'll get there eventually. But if it's turning quite cold and frosts threaten, you may be best taking them off the plant to bring indoors to finish ripening. But leave them on the plant for as long as possible."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 4 May 2021
"Hello I live in Virginia I've had my kiwi vine now for 3 yrs it has not yet produce fruit yet..last yr and this yr vine looked very strong and had lots of blooms..but they all fall off before they can do anything. What am I doing wronge"
Deborah Wisner on Wednesday 2 June 2021
"Hi Deborah. Some kiwi fruits are self-fertile, so you only need one plant. But others are either male or female - so you'd need both to make sure you have successful pollination and fruits. Check what you have and make sure you have a partner for it. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 June 2021
"How do you tell if you have a male or female plant? I am wanting to grow some from seeds from fruit I've purchased. Growing in Macedon Ranges, Victoria Australia."
Beth on Sunday 17 July 2022
"Hi Beth. The female flowers have a protruding bulge in the middle of the flowers, which is the embryonic fruit. The male flowers just have lots of stamens, with pollen at the end of them - yellow in colour. Look on a search engine and you'll see the differences well illustrated. Unfortunately you will need to wait for the plant to flower to be able to tell what you have."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 18 July 2022
"Howdy, I live in SW WA, temperate with frosty winters and am interested in knowing what plants, fruits or veg are good compaion plants for Kiwi Fruits. Thanks - your info is great btw"
Deb on Sunday 15 October 2023
"Hi Deb. According to our Garden Planner, lemon balm, marigold and marjoram all offer proven benefits to kiwi fruits - likely due to their ability to attract pest predators. They would also look fantastic growing at the base of a kiwi fruit."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 17 October 2023

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