Growing Fuzzy Kiwi: Plant a Couple and Stand Back

Growing Fuzzy Kiwi: Plant a Couple and Stand Back

blog_boz_and a bunch of kiwis

Boz is befuddled; he, like so many other kiwi aficionados, had no idea that this delicious fruiting vine grows well in a temperate climate. Yep, these fuzzy little puppies (Boz included) are not tropical in origin or range. Vashon Island, Washington is comfortably anchored in Zone 8a, where freezing temperatures occur regularly. The kiwi thrives here.fuzzy kiwi vine and fruit in winter

The above photo was taken in the winter, a good time to prune. Below you can see what happens if you don’t get around to it: the kiwi vine sets its sights on consuming a farmhouse.

fuzzy kiwi vine takes of the south side of the houseMy kiwi vines are so vigorous and meandering, that I fear a long nap under one would result in my entanglement. My two robust vines (you need a male and a female vine) reached the attic story of my two-story house and came crashing down in a winter storm last year. It needs to be pruned and trained on a trellis.  (Item 623 on my to-do list.)

blog_boz_kiwi

Boz would regret eating this kiwi now. Picked before the first frost, it is rock hard and sour. I store them in my cold pantry and let them ripen on the counter when needed. It’s February, and they are still ripening nicely at room temperature.

 blog_kiwi_fruit_vineI harvested about 40 pounds of fuzzy kiwis this year. Had I trellised and properly pruned, the number would have been even higher.

2009_07_29_heatwave_kiwiAn under-leaf view of immature kiwi in mid-July. The wilted leaves are a result of record-breaking heat that day.

blog_kiwi_fruit_upcloseIn the fall, the leaves drop and I pick the kiwi. The photo above is from November before freezing temperatures prevailed.

creeping kiwi vine The kiwi seeks new ground and things to grasp. If left unchecked and unpruned, my front porch would disappear beneath its boughs.

Tips and what you should know about growing kiwis:

  • Kiwis are dioecious; there is a female plant and a male plant. You need both for fruit production
  • The vines are extremely vigorous.
  • Minimal pest or disease problems
  • Ripen best off the vine, pick anytime before a freeze
  • Select a sunny site with good drainage
  • Build a trellis system for best results, a very strong trellis (Do as I say not as I do.)
  • Fruit grows on current season’s wood.
  • Consider the Hardy kiwi which has smaller clustered fruit, is more manageable and enjoys (as its name suggests) greater cold hardiness

Related links: Growing Kiwifruit, Hardy kiwis for cold climatesNutritional Info, Hardy Kiwis (fuzzless)

What I was blogging about a year ago: When Good Plumbing Goes Bad



49 thoughts on “Growing Fuzzy Kiwi: Plant a Couple and Stand Back”

  • Boz cracks me up! Tom is there anything you can’t grow? What talent you have.

    BTW I thought of you yesterday as I was putting up more Shaker Lemon Pie filling – I’ve lemons, lemons and more lemons.

  • I had no idea. Kiwis. Wow.
    How do you determine whether you have a male or a female plant, especially when the plants are larger? I tried plant blue berry bushes a while back and was told to get at least four so I would *likely* have at least one of each. Is that the best way? There isn’t some anatomical/ cellular difference that can be seen? I’m clearly showing my lack of gardening knowledge here, but have wondered this for a long, long time.

  • Renae, I can only tell the difference when I buy them, at which time I label them. Or in this case, I had two vines already planted, one with fruit and one without, so it was easy to tell.

    As for blueberries, the only reason to plant four, I would say is to plant bushes that extend the harvest season. Blueberries can be early, mid, and late season harvests; it just depends on the variety. Now’s the time to find them in nurseries and plant them. They are highly ornamental and with stunning fall foilage so consider them as an edible landscape plant.

  • Hi M.A., you know I just like eating them fresh, though I may explore jam recipes as I have some really ripe ones begging to be used.

    I eat them skin and all. Just cut the stem and bottom end off and then quarter on the longitude. Great texture and flavor all in one.

  • I put two hardy kiwis in last spring which did not so much for me. I tasted some last fall at the farmer’s market but I prefer the fuzzy ones. I was under the impression from reading the raintree catalog that those wouldn’t do well in Seattle?

    If you say they will I might just yank out the hardy and put in some fuzzy…

  • Annette, that’s good to know as I’ve never eaten the hardy kiwi before. And yes ma’am, fuzzy kiwi are crazy happy in our neck of the woods. Mine pulled down a one story trellis if you need further proof.

  • I HAVE HAD GOOD LUCK WITH KIWI, BUT IN SOME AREAS YOU NEED TO PILE OF STRAW OR LEAVES AROUND THE TRUNK OF VINE TO PREVENT SPLITING FROM A COLD SPELL. MOST GOOD NURSERYS HAVE SEVERAL VARITIES. EDIBLE LANDSCAPES, AFTON VA. IS ONE THEY DO REQUIRE SUN.

  • Good points all, Ervin. My kiwi are growing on the south side of my house, so they so up the heat in our cool climate. It’s a great choice for exposure, a bad choice for support structure. One day I’ll get that arbor made and redirect them from enveloping the house.

  • I planted a boy & girl fuzzy kiwi either 2 or 3 years ago in Portland, OR. I have been training the girl along a strong trellis, and just yesterday I found flower buds on each plant for the first time! I am so excited! I got them from One Green World. With their beautiful red fuzz covered new vines, and broad leaves, I even recommend male varieties to friends who are looking for a decorative vine that does not produce fruit.

  • I recently moved into a new residence in Vancouver WA and discovered this strange looking plant! A neighbor lady told me it was a kiwi, but that it will never produce because its too cold. I know otherwise. however, I think it needs to be moved. It is mostly under a cedar tree. It looks like it has been pruned all the way to the stock previously, so when it started trailing, I was in awe..
    My question to you is, can you advise on when/how to move it and what is the best propagation method? I’d like to get a couple plants going and grow them in several places to find the best spot. And perhaps its not producing because it has no mate??? how do you tell and where would I get a mate?? I want baby kiwis! I’ve checked other sites but still in question. thanks!

  • Hi Debi,
    Here’s what I would do.
    1. Don’t move it. It rarely works with an older vine. You’re better off just to buy two new vines, a male and a female or keep the old and train it toward the sun.
    2. I’ve never had luck propagating kiwi by cuttings.
    3. Just train the old vine with one central lead to the sunniest part of your yard, say along a fence or build a trellis.
    4. Once you reach the right spot trim side shoots about a foot out as these will become the fruiting cane.
    4. Top dress around the old vine with compost and some rich new soil. I’d even add some time release fertilizer.
    5. Determine what vine you have and plant the opposite sex within ten or twenty feet.
    6. Here’s how to tell by the type of blossom, top photo male, and bottom flower female: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/kiwifruit/1/2/2
    Good luck! Tom

  • Do you think these vines would do well trailing down a large tiered area? I don’t really have a suitable area to trellis them, but a few long tiers. The two tiers are about 10 feet long and in total end up being about 8 feet high.

  • Hi KiwiFace (love your name), Kiwi would be happy to crawl down a tier or two. When mine broke the trellis and hit the ground it took off just where it left off and crept along the ground. It’s actually quite beautiful, a crazy crawler but beautiful nonetheless.

  • I used to grow them in Va. If fruit has gotten too soft for your taste they make good sherbet. I jsut bought a pair here in Hawaii. It may not get cold enough for them here to fruit. If so, I’ll at least have a good arbor. Anybody know how they do in zone 10?

  • Really? That is what I said the whole time I was reading this post. That is amazing. I had no idea where or how Kiwi’s grew. This has been a true learning lesson for me…I love it. Thanks, Tom.

  • Same story as you, just older and had to wait for retirement. Lost my 5 year old male kiwi when a careless helper skinned the main stalk. Now i need a new male. At 71 I don’t want to wait another 5 years for a new male to mature. Tried your 2 sources with no luck as to older stock. Any ideas? My kiwis are not very vigorous. Maybe it is the acid soil. The living female covers 20 ft of fence thinly. The male was 1/3 of that. I have 25 fruit trees with good results except the persimmon and the quince. My 30+ blueberries do very well. All my plants came from Raintree. Any hints on bud grafting? Enjoyed your site. Steve

  • Hi Steve, thanks for the kind words and visit.
    As for large size kiwi plants, you might try One Green World Nursery, Burnt Ridge Nursery, or contact KiwiBob, a gentleman who really knows his kiwi and may know where to buy or pickup a large kiwi transplant. His contact info is on this page: https://sites.google.com/site/kiwifruitsalad2/home
    And you may also want to check out the Fruit and Orchard forum on GardenWeb: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/fruit/
    Steve I’ve never bud grafted, so can’t help you there. You may want to circle your kiwis plants with a wide ring of composted manure, that really helped mine. Keep it off the trunks though. Vigorous growth one year, fruit the next. Good Luck!
    Here’s his email

  • Hello,
    I just got two fuzzy kiwi that I ordered, 1 male and 1 female. Just curious, is it safe to plant them now? It’s only February, and I’m worried that the cold will be too much for such young vines… Being in Mukilteo I’m not expecting a huge freeze, but you never know around here!

  • Hi Katy,
    It is safe to plant them now in Western Washington. They are hardy, and I believe it’s better to get the vines in the ground rather than to keep them in a shipping box or bag where they have a real tendency to either overheat or freeze as their roots are exposed, usually in a minimal amount of shredded paper or sawdust. Good luck!

  • Hi,
    It was interesting to learn a lot about kiwis…I am from kathmandu and the climate here is not very hot though but warm enough..i have my kiwis for the last four years and have not borne any fruit so far how long do i have to wait for my kiwis to fruit…my kiwis have already starting budding but no flowers only leaves…please advise
    thanx

  • Tom, your website is awesome! Thank you for sharing so much gardening info- I live on Harstine Island and can totally use all your information- I didn’t realize you could grow Kiwi’s here-
    So I found Hardi Kiwi’s online- but I’m wondering if there is a certain seller you recommend? And when did you plant them?
    Thanks!

  • Hi Lael,
    Now is a great time to buy and plant kiwis, but there’s really not a bad time in our area. Most local nurseries carry kiwi vines. May I add, that fuzzy kiwi are crazy vigorous. If you want a more gentle grower with smaller fruit but still delicious, try fuzzless hardy kiwi vines. Don’t forget to buy two plants, a male and a female. Online I like One Green World and Burnt Ridge Nursery. Good Luck!

  • Hi Tom,
    Thanks for keeping us all “in the know”, your site has been a great resource. I wrote back in February and took your advice, planting both kiwi right after they arrived. I’m a bit concerned about the male plant. While the female arrived with buds which have since opened to reveal some nice looking leaves, the male plant had no buds on arrival — and still doesn’t. What do you think? Did I get a dud, or are the male plants simply slower to get moving in the spring? Thanks again!

  • Hi Katy, some bare-root vines take a little longer to break dormancy, especially the first year after transplant. I’d contact the seller and ask them how long you should wait, I would say another week or so if the other plant is already budding. If the vine has a little side twig or branch, try snipping it off to see if the flesh is green. If it’s dry and brittle, your plant may have been DOA, dead on arrival. Reputable nurseries usually replace dead plants, especially if you planted it immediately upon receipt. Good Luck, let me know happens.

  • Thanks for all the great Kiwi info. I have a question, I picked up one male hardy kiwi and two female plants today. Once I saw the plants in person, I discovered that there is a fuzzy kiwi plant growing on the back of our property! It has been there for at least 4 or 5 years it looks like. I’m wondering if you can tell me if my male hardy plant will polinate the fuzzy kiwi if it turns out to be a female or do I need a male fuzzy to pair with the female fuzzy and a male hardy to pair with a female hardy? Thank you for your help!

  • Hi, I am from NZ and just want to share with you that kiwi fruit are also good in a range of things as well as just as they are. You can make jam, chutney, they go great as a sweet element in chilli sauce, and help make a delicious meat marinade. (I believe they have a property in them that aids in tenderising in the marinade) You can also have them as juice and there are some great coctails the contain Kiwi……….oh i forgot icecream sauce, or kiwi friut coulis………….I think once you start to experiment there will be all sorts of things you can do. Enjoy! Can provide recipes if any one wants 🙂

  • I think the best way to propagate most vines is to find a low growing branch and throw a couple of shovelfuls of dirt over it leaving some green on both ends. After a month or so you can see roots growing from the branch and then you can cut it off from the main stem to replant. This works for grape vines, honeysuckle vines etc. always grow best if you don’t chop them off the main plant before they root.

  • Hi Tom,
    Enjoying reading the many comments here. We live in the Lake Tapps, WA area and planted 2 male and one female “Blake” ‘Actinidia Deliciosa’ plants in around 1985. Fortunately for us, one of the females died. I say so because the other female plant is so vigorous we can not keep up with it. Both plants are south facing and have gone up beyond the 4 X 8 trellis we constructed. This year they are fruiting all the way up about 50 feet or so in a couple of helpless Maple and Cedar trees located behind the trellis. We do not climb up to harvest them but wait for them to fall and pick them up at that time. They do not get injured when they fall on the forest floor but the grey squirrels are happy to nibble on them if we are not prompt in our efforts.

    I no longer water them but have done so recently this summer due to our dry conditions. I no longer fertilize them either. They have naturalized in this location and could never be moved to another location. The trunks are at least 6-7 inches in diameter.

    You said you saved your Kiwi’s in a cool storage room. We store Kiwi’s on a cement garage floor and sometimes put them in a spare refrigerator. A few months seems to be the extent of the storage time in either situation. What temperature is your cool storage room ?

    We have been making a Kiwi Liquor with our fruit and eat plenty fresh ones as well. Even so, we have had as many as 1400 Kiwi’s in any one given season. Our friends and neighbors are reluctant to open the front door when they see us with a shopping bag of Kiwi’s in hand. Any that remain and go past their prime, end up in our compost bin and help out our garden in other ways.

    Yes, Kiwi’s not only grow but they do indeed thrive here in the Pacific Northwest.

    • Hi Frederick, what a great update on growing Kiwis in the Pacific Northwest. Yours sound bionic! Mine are vigorous but not that unbridled. My cool pantry is likely about 50 degrees or so. I put them in egg cartons, too. I may have to try kiwi liqueur per your recommendation. Thanks again for the great comment on kiwis. Tom

  • Hi Tom, we live on Cortes Island, BC and have moved into a place with an established garden with mature Kiwi plants. There are about 200 or so on the vine right now. They are still hard but quite large and the racoons and ravens are starting to bite into them to see if they are ripe. Wondering if we should pick them already, and put them into cold storage or if it is too early. How do we tell? The racoons got all our grapes, so we would at least like to harvest some of the Kiwis…. thanks, Elke

    • Hi Elke, I feel your pain, as the raccoons got about half of my grapes and plums. As for the kiwi, I usually wait until our first frost to pick mine, but I really can’t see why you couldn’t pick them now, cold store them and then take out a dozen to ripen when you need them. I find it takes anywhere from one to three weeks to ripen at room temp. Actually I put mine in my cold pantry, and that’s how long it takes there. Good luck!

  • I am harvesting kiwis now in Va. (loads of them) Can I possibly prune those vines now as well. They are out of control. Or should I wait until February. Say Now. Thanks

  • Tom, I was so pleased when Ryan Googled info about kiwis today and found your page. He says to me, “Hey, isn’t Tall Clover Farm Tom’s blog?” And then we read all about your amazing plants, and I remembered seeing them in the flesh last time we were on Vashon. While we are complete and utter novices at gardening, we somehow wound up with a male and female fuzzy kiwi plant after our latest visit to Portland Nursery. Sounds like we need to figure out a trellis situation, stat. I’ll get Kitty to help us with placement, everything she touches turns to [green] gold. Here’s to maybe having more kiwis than we know what to do with in several years. Kiwi pie?

    • Anna, I recommend a strong trellis or arbor away from the house. Mine is out of control and now about 20 feet in each direction. I have a complete canopy of shade from its leaves as the massive vine is now covering the arbor. Good luck, and don’t park a stroller under it. 😉

  • I’ve had my kiwi plant (male and female) for 4 years. It’s producing something new I’ve never seen before. But I can’t tell if it’s kiwi fruit, or just new growth. How do I tell? Thx!

    • It may be the bud for the blossoms that are starting to develop. Give it a week or two and you’ll see it growing and producing a flower and then if a female flower, it will produce the fruit. Good luck!

  • I’ve been looking everywhere for info on what happens if I don’t pick the fruit before the first heavy frost! Any tips on how to tell if they are damaged? We inherited some mature vines when we moved into a new home so it’s been a bit of a crash course in kiwi care. We are in the Netherlands and our first frost was cold enough to ice over some of the canals and a few feet into the lakes, do you think they are still edible? How can I tell? If they are damaged are they still good for cooking?

    Thanks for any advise you can offer!

    • Hi Chandra, if the kiwis endured freezing weather and were damaged, they will quickly rot when picked and brought indoors. Kiwis usually stay pretty firm when picked and you actually can let them ripen off the vine and that may take from a couple days to a couple weeks, depending on variety. But if picked after damaged by frost, they go mushy quickly and have a watered down flavor. Good luck!

  • So glad I found this blog! Do you propagate kiwis plants from cuttings? Or sell dormant cuttings? If so I would love to buy some seeing as your particular plant does so well here. I am located In Poulsbo on the Hood Canal. Thanks! Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer, I’ve not had much luck propagating my kiwi, but the good news is fuzzy (and other varieties of) hardy kiwi are readily available at local nurseries and garden departments, especially in the coming months as each restock with new inventory. Good luck!

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