Hardy Kiwi: Hardly Producing

Hardy KiwiThis is all the kiwis I was able to harvest from my kiwi vines this year. Despite my best efforts to keep the late spring frost from killing the blossoms, the left me with only this little handful of kiwis to enjoy.

And enjoy them I will. These will be the best damn hardy kiwis I have ever had. But to be fair, I have only had 10 prior to this, which would be the entirety of last year’s harvest. And for those, I had to wait three long years. Believe it or not, that makes me a lucky hardy kiwi grower. Some people have to wait for up to five years to see any fruit.

What I am really waiting for is for these babies to hit their full production stride. A fully producing female vine can produce up to 250 pound of fruit in a season. I think that could go a long way to keeping any household regular.

Some farmers have started growing them as well as a cash crop. I have started seeing “kiwi berries” or “baby kiwis” in the store recently. These are actually hardy kiwis. Outrageously expensive, which means that they should be all the rage as the newest and trendiest fruit for parties, showers and the occasional bar mitzvah.

My kiwis grow in big old whiskey barrels and they stay out all winter long. That says something for the resilience of this plant. Solid frozen ground doesn’t faze them, not even a little.

My hardy kiwi also grows like a monster. The darn thing will wrap itself around anything that it can reach and its reach grows by about six to seven feet every season. To keep this plant animal tamed, I normally prune it back hard in early spring, making sure to leave some of last year’s new growth.

Then occasionally during the summer, when a wandering vine tries to make a grab at a nearby plant or one of the pets and kids, I lope the offending vine off. It is not the healthiest thing for the plant, but you would not believe how fast this plant can grow. Well, maybe you would believe it if you already own a wisteria. Either way, without summer pruning or a whole lot of room to let this baby run, this plant can quickly take over an area.

But while this rapid growth behavior may be inconvenient in a smaller area, it makes this plant an excellent choice for a privacy or green screen.

The reason I bought this plant was that I had seen pictures of it growing up the garden wall of Skylands, one of Martha Stewart‘s mind boggling empire of multi-million dollar homes (some women buy shoes, she buys houses. Everybody has to have a hobby, I suppose).

The vines were decades old and were as thick as your arm. The foliage is as dense as ivy, the vines grow as fast as wisteria and *bonus* it produces a tasty edible snack.

You should note though, that if you intend to grow these as both a screen and a food crop, you need a sturdy support for it. Remember the whole 250 pound of fruit per plant? They mean it. You will need to plan to support that, even if it is 10 years down the road before you will need that kind of support.

Another thing to note is that hardy kiwi have an imperfect flower. This does not mean that the flowers are inferior, but rather that you need a male and a female plant in order to produce fruit.

The male kiwi plant is a bit of a whore as well. It can keep up to six females satisfied and producing. Just call him Pimp Daddy Kiwi.

You know, I really could just go on and on about this plant. It is one of my favorites in the garden. But the hour is late and six little kiwis are softly calling my name. Goal for next year… 6 pounds. Of course it will be helpful if Mother Nature would lay off the Late May Frosts.

32 thoughts on “Hardy Kiwi: Hardly Producing
  1. steve douglas on

    i live in Maryland and my plants hav been growing for 3 years should i already have fruit by now or is it still to early.

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  2. Hanna on

    Normally hardy kiwi take 3 – 6 years to produce fruit if they were propagated from a cutting. Mine started after 4 years and the first year of fruit production was pretty pathetic.

    This year, which is year 7, they are full of fruit, so I am hoping to get several pounds of fruit this year.

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  3. steve douglas on

    im asking if its too early in the year to get fruit

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  4. Jessica on

    I live in Chicago and have 2 kiwi plants ready to go in the ground. Would it be better to plant them in barrels as you have?

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  5. Frank on

    I planted 3 hardy kiwi vines about 5-6yrs ago and no blossoms or fruit. I was suppsoed to have received 2 female and 1 male, now I’m wondering. With no blossoms at all, would that mean I have 3 males? Trying to figure out the next step. Thanks

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  6. The reason for your small harvest may be due to your pruning. They are like grapes – the new crop grows on one year old wood. So be careful what you prune off. If wood isn’t one year old, you won’t get anything. Good luck for next year!

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  7. Donna Joslyn on

    Dear Hanna,
    Would you be willing to sell some of your clipings you toss away? I would love to start some kiwi’s here in upstae NY. I love to garden and love to try all kinds of different plants( flowers especially!) I will be happy to trade some of my clippings! I currently have a bright fusia colored petunia, and some type of impatient.)

    Please get back to me soon! I guess I will need a male and female if possible. If not, just let me know the sex so I can continue to try for more.

    Thanks again! Sincerely yours!
    Donna Joslyn

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  8. Sonja Martyniuk on

    Last year my kiwi were loaded with flowers and beginning to fruit.Damn birds came in and devoured everythihg,any suggestions?

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    Heather Reply:

    Yes. Bird netting, available at garden stores and hardware stores. It’s lightweight, strong and cheap, and will keep birds out of berries.

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  9. Jessica on

    I planted a male and female at the end of last summer–at the base of the posts for our pergola. Pretty soon after, the leaves turned yellow and then fell off. I was sure that they were dead. Fall came. Winter. And now Spring! The leaves are coming out of both plants and though the branches are not growing yet (I need to find a better thing to hold them in than twine), I have high hopes. We have a very sunny back yard (thus the pergola) and we were hoping that the kiwi would give us the shade we need.

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  10. Kristina on

    Sonja: Once the fruits start to set (aka they’ve already been pollinated), cover the plant with blueberry/bird/tobacco netting. It will allow the sun and rain in and will keep out the birds. I know the plant is unruly and will be hard to cover, but the netting does work.

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  11. Lana Loeber on

    I have a plant that is at least 10 yrs old. Never a kiwi….so sad. My problem is that after 5 or 6 expensive males, not one survived. Then I read that the male should not be planted near the female…black widow???? I don’t know why. Anyway. Last year I tried again and it is still alive and well although quite small. Now, I don’t know where to plant it. How far away from the female can it be and how far is too far? Also, will the male grow as fast and as wild as the female?

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  12. I have 3 hardy kiwi that have been growing about 10 years.
    one has been flowering for 5 years, it flowers then alot of the flowers fall off, but their is a few that produce a small green berry that sometimes grows to about 1/4 inch in diameter (about 2 weeks) then drop off. What could the problem with these kiwis or other?

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  13. Lori on

    I planted 2 hardy kiwis, 1 male and 1 female, about 8 to 10 years ago, never had any buds, blossoms, nothing until last year, finally lots of blossoms. They bloomed and small green berries started to form, then within a week they vanished. I thought it might be birds but never saw them around and we have a jack russell that wont let anything come into the yard. A friend of mine did some research on the plants and told me that they need lots of water during growing season. So this year the vines were loaded with blossoms, Along with alot of rain I,ve been watering on the dry days.I checked today after the rain and the small fruits are disappearing, so maybe next thing is to try netting. I love just a handful of the fruit.

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  14. Hi. Have found very little first hand experience with hardy kiwi until yours- thanks for the info. One more question- pruning. I am nervous to cut back this winter in the chance that I will be cutting the “one year wood” canes. If I over trim, can it recover in the spring and still fruit out?

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  15. Dennis Peters on

    I bought three or four kiwi plants around ten or twelve years ago. All of them died within a couple years except one, which started growing like crazy. I went for years without any fruit, but then I assume a new plant emerged that happened to be the opposite sex, and I had a small handful of fruit. Then a lot more the following year. There was enough fruit that I had no idea what to do with them all. We ended up making freezer jam. It was awesome. But you need to leave out a lot of the sugar from the recipe.I will have enough for jam again this year, after a few frost induced barren years. I don’t ever expect to have 250 pounds though, even though I have a large trellis system for them to grow on. Hope this might have inspired other people with a no fruit plant to keep up hope.

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  16. Shelley on

    I just purchased an Anna Kiwi and a Meader male Kiwi. They are still in pots…I was thinking to plant them on the sides of a quite large tree that is dead and topped off and quite sturdy and standing….Is that a good idea for the support issue? Also can you put them that close together or do they have to be on the other side of the yard from each other , I cant find the answer to that one anywhere. Thanks so much, Shelley

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    Lana Reply:

    I tried several males but all died. The female has been growing like mad for 12 or 15 years. Then I found out that the male should not be planted with the female which I had been doing because I didn’t have any place to grow two. Last year I tried another male, after a number of years of having given up. This time I planted the male in a pot and sat it very near the huge female. Didn’t know if it would make it through the winter, but it did. The male is very small (a couple of feet at best)but the female is full of small berries. I plan to put the male in a much larger pot this fall and place it in the same place I have it now. My next problem will be to keep the birds away. I have put a small wind chime on the vine hoping that will do the trick.

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    Lana Reply:

    The birds got em. @$#$#$#$#$

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  17. ridge.farmer on

    I bought a packet of seed from Baker Creek during the winter and obtained a 50% germination rate (it took several weeks in a warm, humid seed starter box). I currently have 11 vines to plant and they are all very healthy in appearance. I am having trouble finding information on identifying the gender of the vines and would appreciate any suggestions anyone may have. It would help me properly space my plantings and might allow me to cull-out any excess male vines.

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    Hanna Reply:

    Unfortunaly, when you grow them from seed, you cannot identify them as male or female until they bloom, which can take years.

    When they are sold as male or female, they normally have grown them from cuttings off a gender identified plant.

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    Lana Reply:

    I don’t know if this is true of all male kiwi, but my female has large shiny leaves and the male has much smaller, dull and rough, leaves.

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    Erik Reply:

    Q: I am having trouble finding information on identifying the gender of the vines and would appreciate any suggestions anyone may have.

    A: Male kiwis grow *much* more vigorously than female plants. Believe me, you will see the difference. If you do have males and females, soon enough you will have some plants at least twice as big as the others — those would be the males.

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  18. Ben on

    I have a large pergola in my back yard. I planted 2 hardy kiwi plants (a male and a female), primarily as a green screen for shade. I’m not that concerned about fruit. They are growing very nicely and have begun providing shade. They even flowered this year. But this Spring, many of the smaller tendrils grew a few inches and then suddenly got flaccid and then shriveled to black. Many of the other branches are quite hardy and big, but I’m still concerned because so many smaller ones seem to be struggling. The plants as a whole look lush and green. Does anybody have any thoughts as to what might be happening? They get plenty of sun and water.

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  19. Lana on

    I have only one location for my female to grow and it is adequate for the plant to grow 8-10 foot high but the long limbs that constantly grow must be cut off because of the limited location. I have cut many of the new growth back to where it sprouted from the woody growth. All of the older limbs with fruit growing are left. Will this cause my plant to not produce in future years?
    Also, I usually cut the vine almost totally back to the woody trunks in the fall. Now that I have a male and the vine is producing, should I not cut it back so drastically?
    AND, is there a food or fertilizer that will help the fruit grow and mature better?

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  20. Erik on

    Q: I am having trouble finding information on identifying the gender of the vines and would appreciate any suggestions anyone may have.

    A: Male kiwis grow *much* more vigorously than female plants. Believe me, you will see the difference. If you do have males and females, soon enough you will have some plants at least twice as big as the others — those would be the males.

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    Tom P. Reply:

    I bought three female and one male two Springs ago. This summer the male grew moderately vigerously. The females are about i/4 th of the size over all compared to the male. No blossoms at all. I tried not to get discouraged. They are are traing up and along the chainlink fence. I watered them well and gave them some fertilizer. The male gave me a sign of how the plants should look. Hope I out live the first friting seasons. I am only 61 . Ha !

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  21. I bought 1 male and 3 female kiwis a
    few years ago and when a couple of
    them died I didnt know if I had a pair.
    So I got a pair again. Finally, I have
    a male growing against the house and the
    female growing on an arch. Didnt see
    any flowers or fruit till last year
    when I examined them very carefully.
    They were hiding on the underside.
    After googling, I saw the diffrence in
    the male and female. Just to be safe
    I played cupid and took the male flowers
    and dabbed them on to the female flowers as
    many as I could. I had over 2 doz grape
    sized, very sweet kiwis. This year the vine
    was loaded with bunches of fruit. As
    I waited for them to ripen, the bunches
    got less and smaller. Is it birds or
    is it chipmunks that got them? I have
    a lot of chipmunks and squirrels too.
    All my kiwis hang on the underside of
    the kiwi canopy. I still got about 40-50
    little kiwis on one vine. Is it a good
    idea to pick them before they ripen to
    beat the thieves? In the stores kiwis
    are sold pretty hard.

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    Becca Reply:

    I am new to kiwi growing, so I could be totally wrong about this. However, I’ve read on multiple websites that kiwi’s should be picked slightly before they are all the way ripened and stored in the fridge. Then you should leave them out on the counter for 1-2 days before eating them and they will be ripe. Might be worth a try?

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  22. john d on

    why are my cold hardy kiwi falling off the vine early?

    I’m 99% sure i have both a male and a female

    My plants are 7 years old and flower every spring, they produce small pea size fruit that fall off the vine within a week of growing.

    I do have a great deal of bee traffic in my yard.

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  23. Hi, I just bought a little garden home and though small,it has good area for planting. I have 5 fruit trees, some will remain small. I would love a hardy kiwi to use as screening and to grow additional fruit/food.
    It seems that many people have questions about this fruit vine. but all are struggling with males and females. Can you tell me about the Issic (spelling incorrect) variety that needs no sex partner. How long before fruiting? Are any of these vines evergreen (for screening)? When to plant? Where to obtain good specimens? Thank you so much for sharing: knowledge is expensive,and your sharing with everyone is most appreciated.

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    Lana Reply:

    I have ‘hardy’ kiwi and do not know how that differs from the veriety you are asking about, but here is what I found: I planted the female a million years ago (ha) but had trouble with males. I read where someone planted in a large pot and because they lived in a very cold area, I thought I would try it…it worked…unfortunately I have yet to have fruit. The first year I had blooms -very few- and watch them daily until they began to fruit. Tiny little things but growing. The next day they were gone. Birds. The next year there were more blooms and tiny fruits so I hung little wind chimes to scare the birds, but that didn’t work. Then I tried bird netting…. disastrous. This year I have tons of buds and will try hanging balloons all around the vine. Wish me luck.
    The female vine is not evergreen and it grows so quickly that if left unchecked there would be no stopping it. I do believe it would eat up everything in site. I have to cut it back every year and often cut some during the summer. The woody vine would destroy whatever it wrapped around if left alone. If I had it to do over, I would have both male and female in large pots. The male seems to stay smaller so I suspect the female would also, if so, that would be easier to keep and protect from birds. Neither of my vines have the pink/green variegated leaves. Disappointing but the female does have nice shinny leaves and is pretty just a pain keeping in under control. This, however, is my last year with the thing unless it fruits and I get to taste one. My luck it will be horrible after the couple of decades trying to get just one. But I have decided to cut the thing down if I don’t get something out of it.
    Probably not a lot of help to you but it gives me a chance to vent my frustrations. Thank you for that opportunity.

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