How to Grow Kiwi



kiwi
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Days to germination: Started from seedlings
Days to harvest: 3 years
Light requirements: Full sun or light shade
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Well-drained soil, no extra fertilizer
Container: Possible, in very large pots

Introduction

There is no mistaking these little fuzzy green fruits that are sometimes still called Chinese gooseberries.

Kiwis grown on vines that get reach 15 feet in length and may not be suitable for anyone with a small area for gardening. They are somewhat hardy in cold winters, and some can be grown in areas up to zone 3. Varieties known as “hardy” kiwis are better for colder regions, though the Hayward kiwi is the most common for home-growers (zone 5). Arctic Beauty is a good one for northern gardeners.

They do need a winter chill in order to produce fruit, so you can’t grow kiwi anywhere warmer than zone 8. Different varieties have different temperature requirements, so you should try to buy plants that suit your climate. Some have lovely pink and green variegated leaves that can make kiwi an attractive hedge in the garden.

The fruit is high in vitamins C and A, potassium, copper and is filled with tiny (but edible) black seeds that make an attractive pattern when the kiwi is sliced. Most people peel them, but the fuzzy skin is edible if you don’t mind how it feels. It’s almost always eaten fresh, though it has the unique ability to tenderize meat and is sometimes used that way.

Starting from Seed

Because kiwi plants need a fairly precise chilling period in order to germinate, most people just by seedlings, or rooted vine cuttings.

At one time, kiwi’s were only available in either male or female which meant you had to be careful to buy the right “gender” of plants and you needed 2 of them in order to have any fruit. But you don’t need to actually plant in pairs. One male vine can pollinate many female plants.

There are some modern varieties of kiwi now that are self-fertile, making this unnecessary. The Jenny is one such variety. At your average garden center, it’s likely that you will have the Hayward variety which means 2 plants.

Transplanting

Dig your soil well, and add some compost at planting time. Considering the size a kiwi vine will eventually reach, you should allow for at least 5 to 10 feet on either side of each vine. Each plant should have it’s own support (see below). If you have male and female plants, make sure to plant the males within about 20 feet of the females in order to get good pollination and fruit development.

Choose a spot that either gets full sun or a bit of afternoon shade. A sloping area will help with water drainage because water-logged roots is a big problem with kiwis.

Pests and Diseases

Kiwi doesn’t have that many insect enemies in the garden. There are a few 4-legged pests that you should plan on keeping away from your kiwi vines. Deer are sometimes attracted to the leaves, and kiwi has an odd effect on cats. The seem to take to kiwi as though it were catnip. It’s easy to lose a new plant to an over-zealous feline so you may need to put up a fence if there are roaming cats in your area.

Growing Instructions

As long as your soil is fertile, you shouldn’t need to add any extra nutrients or fertilizer. Use a mild formula (10-10-10) or you may risk burning the roots. Once planted, you should water very regularly for the first year. After that, only when the weather is really dry.

Kiwis will produce a large, heavy vine (especially when laden with fruit) so you will have to provide a very sturdy support structure in order to keep your plants secure. Plan this out before planting your seedlings. If you try to build a trellis around a plant, you will almost certainly end up doing it damage.

A horizontal wire system, similar to what is used with grapes can work well with kiwis as well. Two sturdy stakes placed 5 feet on either side of your vine. Run 2 wires between them, one at 3 feet and one at 6 feet high. As your kiwi vine grows, train or tie the main branches along wires to provide a solid framework for your plant.

Like other vine fruit, your plants will be more productive if you take the time to keep them properly trimmed and pruned. Cut out any dead branches and any extra vines outside the main body of the plant. Do all of your pruning when the plant is dormant, during the middle of the winter. If it’s too close to spring, the vines may start to bleed sap and make your kiwi vulnerable to disease.

If you are growing a male and female plant, your male one won’t be producing any fruit so you can prune much heavier to keep it small.

Containers

With a large enough container, you should be able to grow any variety of kiwi but the Issai kiwi is an ideal option for potted growth. It’s also self-fertile and produces a smaller vine than most. The fruit is not as sweet though.

Plant your vines in a 10 to 20 gallon pot, and make sure the support is very stable. Given the size of the vine after a few years, it will easily topple over with just a pot of soil for an anchor.

Water when they dry out, and limit fertilizer use as mentioned above.

Harvest and Storage

You will likely start to get some fruit from your kiwi vines after 3 years, and a full harvest after around 6 years. The Arctic varieties can even start to fruit after just one season. If your vines are healthy, you can get more than 50 pounds of fruit each year. Once your plants are established, they can keep producing kiwis for up to 50 years.

Kiwis are ripe to harvest when they are just starting to soften. The true test is to try one and see how they taste.

Fresh kiwis will store well in the refrigerator, for up to 5 weeks. If you keep them in a plastic bag with a moist bit of paper towel, they can last 3 months or longer.

You can also freeze it, but it will be very soft once you thaw it out.

43 Responses to “How to Grow Kiwi”

  1. Nikki Ehni  Says:

    Will seed from a store bought kiwi (probably Hayward) produce both sex plants or will the males be sterile?

  2. LeAnn Craddock  Says:

    I live in Bakersfield CA and just put the kiwi seeds I bought in the freezer to grow next yr. Or should I plant before frost. What time of yr do I plant and am I in the right zone?
    When you say vines, I thought kiwi’s were trees?

  3. brian  Says:

    Hello We planted a kiwi tree 2 years ago.
    the first year we had flowers with no fruit to follow.
    Well I found out you need a male to get fruit.
    this year we have fruit and was happy.
    after checking them out i noticed they only got the size of a quarter.
    Is this common for the first year of fruiting ?
    I hope we are not missing something and that next years crop will have bigger fruit.
    is there any one who can help me with my Question.

  4. Mil  Says:

    Thanks for all this info on the kiwi. We have a male and female, but since I am a neophyte, I thought I better learn more about this plant this fall.

  5. Administrator  Says:

    What type of kiwi are you growing?

    Most of the US can only grow hardy kiwi, which are small, grape sized, and fuzz free. So if that is what you have, your fruit size is entirely normal.

  6. Marcel  Says:

    Well first I bought the fuzzy Kiwis Plants and there about 3 feet tall and its a male and a female and it has flowers. Im not sure if I move them from the pot to the dirt now or after the the flowers are gone.

  7. Emily  Says:

    Hi, so I live in upstate New York and I have them wetted on a paper towel. All this male and female thing is confusing. Could you explain?

  8. elaine  Says:

    i have planted kiwi vines this year plants were around three feet high i have planted two females and one male the male plant has wite flowers on it and the females just growing up the trellis which plant gives the fruit male or female or both please

  9. Diane Frederick  Says:

    I have 4 female plants, established about 3 years and 1 male plant that I got at the same time. The male is still only about 6 inches tall while the females are 6 or 7 feet. They have never flowered or produced fruit, what do I need to do to get them producing?

  10. Administrator  Says:

    it can take awhile for the plants to mature to be big enough to flower and fruit. Only the females fruit, but both flower, and they need to flower at the same time.

    Mine took about 4 years to fruit I think, maybe 5. Also, a late spring frost can ruin fruit production for the year. If it frosts after the vine buds are swelling, that’ll do it.

  11. CONNIE BERTONE  Says:

    I HAVE TWO HEALTHY LOOKING HARDY ARTIC KIWI VINES- THE FEMALE IS LARGER BUT BOTH PLANTS ARE OVER 6 FEET TALL. I TRIM THE TOP VINES SO THEY DO NOT GET ENORMOUS BUT HAVE LET THEM BRANCH OUT TO ABOUT 8+ FEET (INTERTWINED). THE PLANTS ARE MORE THAN 2 YEARS OLD BUT WE HAVE NOT SEEN FLOWERS (NOR FRUIT-OBVIOUSLY) WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? WHEN/ WHAT MONTH DO THEY FLOWER?

  12. Administrator  Says:

    2 years is new, give it time, mine took like 5 years.

  13. susan  Says:

    i live in york england, i have a kiwi thats female, its the one called jenny, now i no it can take a few years to get fruit, iv got it growing up a south facing wall which gets sun all day long, its stands around 5 ft tall and now im training it to grow along horizontal wires,but iv hears that any growth over 3 years needs to be cut out, also i have arount 13 stems growing should i thin them out, and do i cut out growth over three years old, thank you for your help,

  14. Kae Guzzardi Timms  Says:

    Is anyone growing kiwis in the NE GA area? I have a male & one female and they are growing well, but lost one of the girls. I’ve had them for 3 yrs.and planted them in the GA red clay for 2yrs. but they never flower,so does anyone know what’s up? Kae

  15. mary fitzgerald  Says:

    i planted 2 vime 8 yrs ago susposed to be male& femalle but theu not blosomed at all let alone produce fruit they are very hardy

  16. Tammy Ritter  Says:

    Last summer my husband(not a gardener) transplanted my kiwi plants next to the marsh. They were in planters which he took them out of & placed in ground. Last summer was my third year having them so they are very entwined on two trellises. They were beautiful in spring but every leaf died (no fruit) in summer. I am sure it is because of new location near salt water. Should have I transplant them back into containers or move them as far away from salt water as possible? Either way it is going to be hard because of trellises. Thank you

  17. Constance McQuoid  Says:

    i have some kiwis and they are producing but they don’t seem to ripen.
    Also the second variet I plant and have smaller leaves and no red fuzz on the canes. I liked the other variety better.

  18. Peter Veasey  Says:

    Will a Issai Kiwi pollinate a Hayward female?

  19. Terry Kennedy  Says:

    I planted two kiwis about 4/5 years ago. They are growing like crazy but not producing any fruit or flowers. Im wondering if the store made a mistake with the tags and sold me two females or two male plants?

    Thank you
    Terry

  20. Administrator  Says:

    They would still flower, they just wouldn’t set fruit. Chances are they’re still too young to flower, or you have some nutrient deficiency that prevents it, but I’m guessing they’re just too young still (since as you say, they’re growing like crazy). The other possibility is the flower buds keep getting killed by frosts. If your kiwi’s early spring leaves regularly get zapped by frosts, they is going to kill the flower buds too. If your kiwi’s leaves never get zapped though then that won’t be the issue. Once of these years it’ll just erupt in fruit, or at least flowers. Both male and female flower, but only the female will set fruit.

  21. Beth Burton  Says:

    We just purchased 2 male and 3 female kiwi vines and are getting ready to plant them. I noticed the leaves on one of the male plants look droopy. Do you think it is because we had a sudden change in the weather here in Virginia last week and it was in the 80s or could I have watered it too much? How can I help the plant out? They were so hard to find and we don’t want to loose one.

  22. Sue  Says:

    I have 1 plant I bought 2 years ago this year it had lots of flowers but they dropped off and no fruit. I have been told I need a male how do I no a male from a female.

  23. martin brennan  Says:

    i have a 30 year old plant,full of whitesh flowers ,planted 2 male [no flowers]? is there a way of manually pollinating.

  24. Edita Laurel  Says:

    I planted one male kiwi about 4 years ago – with a plan to plant a female (but never gotten to it yet). OK – I will buy a female this year. The male’s leaves turn whitish pink – and the flowers – which came in profusion this year – are so fragrant that I cut a twig or two, put them in a vase, and put the vase where I needed fragrance. The scent is stronger than lily of the valley’s, and the graceful twig is perfect for a simple flower arrangement. Try it folks!

  25. Mary ThompsonBOKSTEYN  Says:

    Well, I don’t know HOW one is supposed to TELL if they have a M. or Fe. plant!! BUT!! I planted 4
    Kiwi 4-5 years ago. Nothing happened. Then 3 died. The one remaining flowered last year but no
    fruit. THIS last week (June 18/13) the leaf growth was more lush than we have ever seen and lo and behold THERE were tiny babies galore!! Why? I could not say. Don’t know what KIND of plant I have, but am thrilled at what this little lone is doing. Zone 3-4 Alberta, CANADA.

  26. DB Tamang  Says:

    hello, I am just going to start kiwi farming. pls, inform me that which time is better for planting?

  27. G. David Hargis  Says:

    I have kiwi that is 12yrs old, they just started to produce fruit about 3 yrs. ago but the fruit falls off around sept or so. they get to be about the size of a quarter and about 1in. long, wwhat do i need to do to keep my fruit growing? I live in lynchburg , Va. I have not trimed them just a very little the whole time I had them could that be causing this? Thanks a bunch

  28. cathy brauning  Says:

    I have 4 kiwi plants about 20 years old. I have clay soil and live in a temperate zone on the west coast of no. calif. they didn’t bloom for at least 14 years (the deer kept pruning them) now they bloom every year and get fruit about the size of a huckleberry then fall off. it is so frustrating. i have never gotten to eat any at all. what is wrong. i try to mulch around them in the fall and add fertilizer about every other year and water every 2-3 weeks in the summer. thanks for any help.

  29. Steve Touloumtzis  Says:

    I had nice flower set this year, with no frost issues, but now all the flowers and small fruitlets have withered, almost like when one gets winter moth on blueberries. Does anyone have an idea about what may have happened? Thanks, Steve

  30. Jeffrey Samples  Says:

    I live in SW WA State and I planted a male and a female 3 years ago. The plants face south and are growing up a concrete wall and have now made it up to the top of the roof.
    This spring they flowered but the flowers fell off. I see no fruit. I am beginning to think that the male died. Is there a way to determine the male from the female?
    These kiwis got the name of monster vines at our house. It is about 20 feet to the top of the building and that is where they are now. Comments include “OMG”, “what is it?”,”that is the biggest coleus I have ever seen”, and “Oh yeah, they are all over New Zealand”.
    If the vines wrap around each other on their climb, can that stop flowering eventhough there are layers of the plant ontop of the original climbers?
    Thnaks in advance for answering.

  31. Administrator  Says:

    Cathy if I had to guess I’d say incomplete (or lack of) pollination. Do you have a male vine? Often for many plant species if the female is not fertilized she’ll still develop fruit, the fruit will just fail to mature.

  32. david holland  Says:

    I have 1 kiwi plant eleven years old and 10 plants three years old, none of them have ever had a bloom. Plants are in well drained soil and have plenty of sun. The 10 younger plants were purchased as 6 females and 4 males. Any suggestions why no blooms.

  33. Administrator  Says:

    David if Kiwi is zapped by a late frost it will not bloom. It could be that is happening to you every year. Also I do not think it’ll bloom in shade.

  34. Marco Draghi  Says:

    Hi
    Can I graft a male stem onto a female plat successfully producing fruit

  35. javed ahmad  Says:

    kiwi plants where avliable in islamabad (pakistan)

  36. Wileta  Says:

    We live in zone 3 what time of year is the best time of year to plant a kiwi vine?? We had a male and female vine but one died so we aren’t getting any fruit. They are about 7 yrs old. it bloomed this yr for the first time but no fruit.
    Thanks

  37. Administrator  Says:

    I don’t think Kiwi will make it in your zone Wileta, zone 5 is really the minimum AFAIK.

  38. john  Says:

    how can i know male or female?when it was young.

  39. flora gonzales  Says:

    i was able to grow kiwi from seeds i bought a fruit imported from i dont where i scrape the seeds and place it in a potting meduim luckily they germinated and i planted it in the ground now they are now 6 ft tall and very healthy and this in the philippines in the provine of bukidnon

  40. flora gonzales  Says:

    after reading the previous blogs can i hope for a female and male from one fruit i wish having both sexes will not be a problem

  41. Sue  Says:

    Please show a map of the zones. I live in southern England, but we’re high up on the North Downs, so we’re a bit colder than say Reigate or Epsom, either side of the downs. I have a tray of kiwi seeds and would like to grow them.

  42. Sue  Says:

    Oh, and how do I know which is male kiwi and which is female? That’s if they germinate.

  43. Marilyn Maun  Says:

    I bought 3 female and 1 male plant several years ago. Two of them died,one being the male. I replaced it with what was supposed to be another male plant. Every year they bloom and small fruit set on and then everything totally disappears. What could cause this and is there anything I can do to prevent it? I tried covering it with bird netting, thinking maybe birds were getting them but that didn’t help.

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