Have you ever bought passion fruit in supermarket and wondered if you could grow these sweet beauties in your garden? Well, sorry, unless you have a conservatory or a heated greenhouse, you can’t, not here in Britain. But even if you can’t grow those we can eat, you can grow passionflower outdoors here in Britain, and you can get fruit, just not the same variety you buy. The passionflower considered one of the easiest to grow outdoors is Passiflora caerulea and when I ventured in to the world of passionflower growing I simply got a sucker from a friends’ garden. That was in April 2011, and the sucker was about 1m long, a single branch. I put it in a pot and let it establish. The sucker grew like mad over the summer and got too tall to handle in a pot so late autumn 2011 I had to decide where to put it permanently.
I had a beautiful small conifer in my garden for many years, inherited with the house, but for some reason it had died. I had not yet got around to take it down, so the branches were cut a bit and voila! I had a perfect frame for my passionflower! On the photos you can see how that sucker grew from the first photo taken in September 2011 through to the last photo taken November 2013. My passionflower/dead conifer now resembled a lovely tree and as passionflower is evergreen, my ‘tree’ is green all year round. Summer 2012 I got TWO flowers, I was very proud of those, had not expected any. Summer 2013 was a very good summer and I had HUNDREDS of flowers on my Passiflora caerulea, the last one in late November - and I got probably around 40 fruits. I had a taste of the fruit, just to be able to say I had tasted them, but they were just as disappointing as I had read they would be – the fruit simply doesn’t taste much at all, perfectly edible, and not poisonous when fully ripe, but not much of a culinary experience. Best left to the birds! I have put some photos of the fruit in the first comment box to show you what the fruit looks like, there were not enough space here to put all the photos together.
Growing passionflower has been an exciting experiment so far, and much easier than I thought. The extremely cold and long winter and spring we had in 2013 did not harm the passionflower in any way, neither the exposed position it has in my garden – must be a tough plant, probably tougher than getting credit for. I have read that Passiflora caerulea is now growing wild in most parts of Greater London, to huge nuisance to the highway maintenance department clearing roads and railway sides, the plant is sprouting up everywhere thanks to birds eating the fruit and dropping the seeds around. By the way, the edible ones you buy in the supermarket comes from a variety called Purple Passionflower, Passiflora edulis, and that is a much tender plant not suited for the UK winter, but with a greenhouse you can grow it.
Passiflora caerulea is best grown for the spectacular flowers, and they really are a sight, especially when you get them in a large amount. The flowers are really intricate up close and I think they look a bit alien! My plant grew so big in 2013 that this spring I had to prune it for the first time – a big challenge considering it is scrambling up a 4m tree stump. If you search online, there will be many different advice on when and how to prune a passionflower, but for outdoor growing here in Britain, early spring time would probably be best. I did mine in February, but because of the mild winter we had, mine never had a dormant period and continued to grow during the winter. My first pruning was a bit of a ‘chop a bit here – chop a bit there’, but I don’t think that’s going to matter at all once this monster plant has put on a bit growth again, I can see already that it is fast covering my tracks. Considering a Passiflora caerulea takes up to 10 years to become mature, mine is still a baby, albeit a very big baby. I really love it down at the bottom of my garden with the woodland plants, it brings height into my very small patch and I look forward to seeing how it will develop in the years to come. I suppose anyone can do with a little passion in their lives so I can warmly recommend this plant with these gorgeous flowers!
P.S. My Passiflora caerulea sends out suckers every now and then, I dig them up before they get too big and pot them up. There is one plant for free for anyone who do a plant swap with me :-)