Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension, P.O. Box 68, LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068  Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

Passion Vine - An Attractive Exotic Perennial

Looking for something new for the garden?  How about something with exotic, attractive, silky looking flowers, something edible, something easy to grow, something that will grow up a fence or a trellis, something that be used to cover unsightly features or problem spots in the yard , something that attracts butterflies?  The passion flower or passion  vine embodies all these noteworthy characteristics.  The passion flower is a rampant climbing perennial vine with attractive 3-5 inch blossoms that range from shades of blue, purple, white, red or crimson depending on the species.

Passion flowers (Passiflora spp.) are found wild in North America, South America and Australia.  They were given there name by early Spanish missionaries to South America who saw in the peculiar arrangement of the flower many features relating to the Crucifixion.  The flower consists of an outer ring of ten petals, which were thought to represent the ten apostles who witnessed the crucifixion or passion of Christ.  Within the petals is a ring of filaments suggestive of the crown of thorns, the five stamens were said to represent the wounds and the three stigmas the nails.

Several ornamental passion flowers are available in Florida, and should not be confused with the  fruiting types. Ordinarily, ornamental vines do not bear fruit. These are the Red Passion-flower, (Passiflora coccinea) and 2 hybrids (P. alato-caerulea) and Passiflora 'Incense' ( P. incarnata. x P. cincinnata). These hybrids bear spectacular blue and mauve flowers, respectively.

Several varieties including the purple passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), the yellow passion fruit (P. edulis var. flavicarpa); and the giant granadilla (P.quadrangularis). produce edible fruits which are known for the delightful exotic flavor of their juice.  Passion fruit is cultivated commercially in several tropical and sub tropical areas including Australia, Hawaii, South Africa and Brazil.  The unique flavor of the juice is used to formulate a number of juice blends and punches including Hawaiian punch.

Passion vines are sub tropical in nature and most require relatively warm weather to successfully set fruit.  Vines may be killed to the ground in the advent of severe frost but will generally grow back from the root when the weather warms up.

Passion vines are well adapted to our loose sandy soils and have even become naturalized in some areas.  Large stands of wild passion vines may be found along the banks of the Caloosahatchee in the vicinity of Port LaBelle.  A balanced fertilizer that supplies nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in approximately equal proportions, as well as essential micro nutrients is adequate for passion vines on acid, sandy soils.  On alkaline soils, foliar sprays may be needed to avoid chlorosis.

Fertilizer should be applied in early spring before growth begins. Light applications should be given 4 to 6 week intervals through October in southern Florida. Passion vines are heavy feeders, but over fertilization will damage the roots, and possibly destroy the plant. The amount to apply depends on the size of the plant, and can be determined by experience. No more than (4-6 oz.) of low analysis (6-6-6, 5-7-5, etc.)  fertilizer should be applied at one time.

Passion vines are natural climbers and should be provided a trellis or planted near a fence or wall that they can clamber up and catch the sunlight.  Passion vines are useful in decorating patios, arbors, fences and walls.  Passion vines tend to be quite vigorous especially on fertile sites and must be pruned regularly to keep them under control.  If left unchecked they are capable of climbing and possibly smothering nearby desirable trees and shrubs.

Seedlings set in the spring will spend most of the first season in vigorous vegetative growth, although a few flowers and fruit may appear in late summer on the yellow passion fruit and ornamental types. Vines grown from cuttings flower more profusely and set more fruit the first year than do seedlings.

Nematodes and fungi that invade the roots are the most common pests on Passiflora species in Florida. The purple passion fruit is impossible to grow in many parts of south Florida unless grafted on the root of the yellow passion fruit or another nematode resistant species. Passion vines are the favored larval food of a number of butterflies including the gulf and variegated fritillaries and the orange and zebra long wings.  Insecticides should be avoided if attracting these winged creatures is a priority.  Caterpillars will chew some leaves but will not cause any long term harm to the plant.

The passion vine is a versatile flowering vine that just might have a place in your yard.  Good luck and good gardening.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

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