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Kiwi Fruit: How to Plant and Grow Kiwifruit & Hardy Kiwi Plants | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Grow Kiwifruit: The Complete Guide

Caption

Fruit of the kiwifruit plant, Actinidia deliciosa.

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Pixabay
Botanical Name
Actinidia deliciosa, Actinidia arguta, Actinidia kolomikta
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Flower Color
Hardiness Zone
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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Kiwifruit

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Did you know that kiwis aren’t native to New Zealand? Kiwi plants can be grown on a vine in both colder and warmer regions. These tasty and nutrient-rich fruits are an excellent choice to grow in your own home. Learn more.

About Kiwifruit

There are two main types of Kiwifruit plants grown in home gardens: Kiwifruit and Kiwiberry. Both types of kiwi are frost-susceptible, so this plant is best grown in areas with a frost-free growing season of at least 200 days.

  1. Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) is the fuzzy brown variety you’ve likely seen in stores. They are typically about the size of an extra-large chicken egg. In the early 20th century, the plant was exported from southern China to Europe, the United States, and New Zealand, where most kiwifruit is grown today. Kiwifruit grows in zones 8 to 9.
     
  2. Kiwiberry (Acinidia arguta) produces a smooth, green, grape-sized fruit. They are grown often for their attractive, pink-variegated foliage and fragrant flowers. Native to northern China, Japan, and Korea, this exported plant is sometimes called “hardy kiwi” or “Northern kiwi.”

As the name suggests, the hardy kiwi (Actinidia Arguta) does best in colder areas (USDA zones 4 to 7) and can even survive subzero temperatures. You can buy hardy kiwi plants at Walmart.

Hardy kiwi fruit. Photo by waldenstroem/Getty Images
The smooth, grape-sized fruit of the hardy kiwi (aka kiwiberry) plant. Photo by waldenstroem/Getty Images.

Note: If you are considering growing kiwifruit in your garden, know that both a male and a female plant are required to produce fruit. The male plant produces flowers, while the female plant produces both flowers and fruit. (However, one reportedly self-fertile variety of hardy kiwi is called ‘Issai’ if you only have space for one plant!)

Planting

When to Plant Kiwi Vines

  • Plant kiwi plants in the spring after the threat of frost has passed.  
  • Kiwis typically begin bearing fruit 3 to 5 years after planting.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Kiwi vines need a sunny spot to produce the best growth and fruit.
  • Plant in a protected area of the garden to avoid wind damage. 
  • Plant the vines on the north side of the yard in colder regions to minimize the risk of freeze-thaw damage in early spring, when plants are especially susceptible.
  • Kiwi plants require well-drained soil, as they are prone to root rot if kept too wet.
  • Kiwi vines are slow growers and need sturdy supports. Erect a tall, heavy-duty trellis system that can support the vines that can grow 15 feet wide and 20 feet long, and produce up to 100 pounds of fruit.

How to Plant Kiwi Vines

  • To get a good crop from kiwi, you’ll need to plant male and female plants. The females produce the fruit. 
    • Tip: The best ratio is said to be at least one male plant for every six female plants.
  • Plant the vines 10 to 15 feet apart.
  • When planting, you may need to trim the roots if too long. 
  • Plant vines just deep enough to cover the roots well with soil.
  • Water well at the time of planting.
Growing

How to Grow Kiwi Vines

  • Unless it has been rainy, give the plants supplemental watering during the height of summer or during other dry periods.
  • Do not fertilize in the first year. After that, fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer or soybean meal in the spring.
  • Start training the flexible vines up a support during the first year of planting. 
  • Prune the lateral growth (if not flowering) 2 to 3 times during the growing season. 
  • Kiwi plants flower and fruit on old wood. 
  • Regularly remove water sprouts (vigorous shoots originating from older wood) and shoots from the trunk.
  • Prune female vines during the winter months, when the plant is dormant. Prune male vines in early summer after bloom.
  • In cold areas, the vines of hardy kiwi may die back to the ground each year. Remove the dead stems and mulch with leaves or straw.

Kiwifruit on vines.

How to Propagate Kiwi Vines

  • Kiwi can be propagated from seeds. Here’s how:
    • Remove the seeds from a mature kiwi and let the seeds dry for two days. 
    • Place the seeds in a container with moist perlite and refrigerate at 40°F (4°C) for 2 months. 
    • Plant the seeds 1/8 inch deep in moist sterile potting mix and cover the container with plastic wrap.
    • Place the container in a warm, bright spot and moisten the soil.
    • When seedlings start growing, uncover the container. 
    • When the plants have four true leaves, transplant them into individual pots.  
    • When the plants are several inches tall, transplant them outdoors.
  • Kiwis can also be propagated from softwood cuttings (cuttings taken from new growth during the summer): 
    • Cut a kiwi stem into six-inch lengths and cut off any growing tip. 
    • Put the cuttings into a glass with an inch of water.
    • In about three weeks, the cuttings will have tiny roots at the ends of the cuttings.
    • Plant the cuttings in pots or plant outdoors.
Harvesting

When to Harvest Kiwi Fruit

  • The fruit typically reaches maturity in September/October, which can make it susceptible to early fall frosts in some areas. 
  • Harvest the fruit when they are soft to the touch and ready to be eaten. 
  • Alternatively, if early fall frosts are a concern, harvest kiwi fruits when they are still firm but have black seeds. This fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. Remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften for a couple of days before eating.

How to Store Kiwi Fruit

  • Store firm kiwi in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to six weeks. 
  • Freeze firm whole hardy kiwis on a cookie sheet and then put them into plastic freezer bags.
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Wit and Wisdom
  • The kiwi was once referred to as “Chinese gooseberry.”
  • Hardy kiwi is rich in vitamins C, A, and E, potassium, fiber, calcium, and iron.
  • Hardy kiwi fruit is also known as kiwiberry, baby kiwi, dessert kiwi, grape kiwi, and cocktail kiwi.
Pests/Diseases
  • Root rot can occur if plants become waterlogged.
  • Phytophthora crown rot
Cooking Notes

Raw kiwifruit is rich in a protein-dissolving enzyme called actinidain. This makes the kiwi unsuitable for use in dishes that contain milk products or gelatin. If these dishes are not served immediately, the enzyme starts to digest the proteins in the dishes, destroying the texture. In gelatin-based dishes, the enzyme can prevent the liquid from solidifying.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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