Friday, February 12, 2010

How to: Grow Kiwi from seed

Actinidia deliciosa is commonly known as the kiwi vine. These vines can grow well over 20 feet and develop thick woody stalks making it a sturdy perennial. Depending on the variety of fuzzy kiwi, it may be hardy down to zone 7. For those living in colder climates, Actinidia arguta, or hardy kiwi is available. While hardy kiwi's are smaller and less impressive, they can survive temperatures in the negative fahrenheits!

Seeing as how I don't have access to live kiwi plants, I opted to grow them from seed. It is possible to propagate this plant by cuttings, if you are lucky enough to find some. I used a store bought kiwi just as an experiment, and sure enough most of the seeds have sprouted. Time for germination can be over one month so be patient. You should keep the seeds in a warm (70F) area, either planted in soil or in a moist plastic bag. I was able to achieve germination of my kiwi seeds from planting them in soil, in a bag, and even in a cup of water. So when will your kiwi's produce fruit? My guess is a few years. It's a relatively slow growing vine but definitely an interesting addition to any home garden or greenhouse.

Pollination of kiwi flowers is difficult and requires both a female and male plant. The female plant will bear fruit, while it is essential for the male plant to provide pollen. If you want to grow your own kiwi's then you absolutely must have at least one male and one female. However if you want to maximize your kiwi output it would be wise to only have one or two male plants in addition to ten or more females. The extra pollen isn't really necessary and as you can't get fruit from the male plants there is no use in growing more than a few.

If you choose to grow your kiwi seeds in a soil medium then I would recommend using an all-purpose soil mix. Add in some vermiculite and perlite to keep the seeds happy, constantly moist yet not waterlogged.
This is one of my kiwi's about two weeks after germination. The fuzzy hairs are visible on the leaves in this picture; not only are the kiwi's fuzzy, the whole plant is!

14 comments:

  1. I planted the seeds from a fuzzy kiwi several weeks ago. They have now sprouted, but it is just about time for frost. Any idea about how cold hardy the seedlings are?

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  2. I recommend keeping kiwi seedlings at a minimum temperature of 40F, any freezing temperatures would almost certainly kill them. You prevent them from freezing by putting them inside on a window sill that gets some direct sunlight, or find a way to keep them warm. If you must grow them outside or in a greenhouse, try using a soil heat pad or some sort of heating cord to fend off freezing temperatures.

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    1. "I recommend keeping kiwi seedlings at a minimum temperature of 40F, any freezing temperatures would almost certainly kill them"

      Interesting: The article refers to using a Kiwi from the grocery store I don't know the cultivar but here in CT, I have kiwi plants that survived the winter here in zone 5.
      Probably a different cultivar.

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    2. As far as I could guess, Actinida deliciosa wouldn't fair too well in zone 5. Is it possible that you're thinking of Actinidia arguta (hardy kiwi) these are smaller and typically have smooth skin. Anyways, exceptions always exist in biology, I can only speak from my own experiences. I hope this helps!

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  3. You discuss sprouting Kiwi from seed then mention that one needs a male and a female plant. Other than growing several plants and waiting 3 - 4 years to bloom, is there any way to determine the gender to know which ones to keep?

    Why is this never discussed by any of these authors touting growing from seed?

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    1. Unfortunately I'm not aware of a method to determine the sex of kiwi prior to flowering. If you do some digging you may discover a trick or two, but I think the bottom line is that since you'll be waiting so long, you'd better hedge your bets and plant a few extra so that you can be sure to get some males and females.

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    2. I read online and through a few youtube videos that there is a way to determine the sex of marijuana plants through cutting the stems of some of those plants and dipping them in some hormone liquid to speed up flowering. After a few days that stem would be able to flower and the sex can be determined. I have not tried something like that for my kiwiberries that I am growing from seed, but it would be great of someone had more insight on this topic!

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  4. This is what my whole point is. These articles spell out all sorts of well written directions but never mention the fact that several plants will be needed in order to have a male and a female plant and they will take up a lot of room to grow them for four years.

    This is never brought out in any of these discussions. So, rhetorically speaking, I ask: How many plants do you recommend for someone to grow to have a successful harvest of Kiwi Fruit crop in four years? How much space will they take up in four years before you can be sure that you have at least one male for up to 6 females?

    It kinda puts the kibosh on the whole idea of growing from seed, doesn't it?

    On the other hand, growing one male just for its incredible foliage is good but it will take a while to know that you have a male plant doesn't it? I don't believe you mentioned that in the article either.

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    1. Valid point. I can only speak from my own perspective of curiosity. For me, the whole experience of growing tropical plants in temperate environments is the challenge, as well as the learning experience. In most of my endeavors I have failed, but the reward is in the understanding of plants and the occasional successes against all odds. Furthermore, the point isn't to necessarily commercialize these things, but more to be sure that you have at least one of each sex to ensure that you can get any fruit at all. My only hope in having written these articles is to inspire people to think about where their food comes from, and appreciate the diversity of forms and flavors that exist in nature.

      Lastly, I recognize that this article is rather old and incomplete, and is not the best resource for someone who was serious about creating a long-term plan for kiwi cultivation. There are many more complete and helpful resources on the internet, and I encourage you and others to seek them out.

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  5. How long does it take kiwi fruits bear flowers/fruit from seeds.if you ever got male and female. I have fully grown kiwi of more than 40 and it is 8months old now.thanks

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  6. I understand it takes 3 - 4 years.

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  7. Can I comment on this? I can sex Fuzzy Kiwi fairly easily. The male leaves are long and pointed and the female is not.

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  8. This is interesting, the two that I purchased, show no such difference. They assured me that I purchased one male and one female. Maybe it all depends on the cultivar. It would be nice if I could figure out how to post a pic.

    My two year old plants are 6' tall and 6' wide of about 3 branches each. Two more years and I should be able to verify gender.

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  9. Hi EDT514 Ambro. I'm growing many kiwiberries from seed. It looks like you're ahead of me by a few years. Can you please let me know how I can contact you directly for more insight from your experience, or if you can post some pics here that would be great!

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