Learning how to grow kiwi from seed, and bringing it to fruition, will be a source of great pride. It won't be a quick process, but if you are patient, you will be rewarded with the most heavenly tasting fruit that is rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
Kiwis are packed with more vitamin C than oranges, so will boost your immune system. They are also believed to have a positive effect on digestion and heart health, while being low in natural sugar. This makes them a great addition to your kitchen garden ideas.
‘Kiwi fruit vines are vigorous, hardy and easy to grow,’ says Period Living's gardening expert Leigh Clapp. ‘They need plenty of space on a strong support structure and will take three to five years to fruit.’
Bear in mind that most kiwis require both a male and a female plant to produce fruit, so you will ultimately need more than one plant unless you want to enjoy them purely for their lovely flowers and vines.
How to grow kiwi from seed
Growing kiwi from seed is not widely considered the best method of propagation, as the new plants will not be true to type – or, in other words, they won’t be exactly the same as the plant you took the seed from. Therefore, taking softwood cuttings in the spring is a much more reliable method of recreating an existing variety.
However, growing kiwi from seed is how growers create new cultivars, so it's a fun experiment. The plants make attractive features, and you might even create your own award-worthy variety.
Kiwi plants are best grown in a sunny sheltered spot, but are somewhat shade tolerant – although you won’t get as much fruit. ‘You could try kiwis on north-facing walls or spaces with less sunlight,’ says Clapp.
You can start off your seeds at any time, but ideally sow them in the fall for spring planting.
- Choose a well-ripened, ideally organic, kiwi fruit.
- Scoop out the pulp and separate the seeds. You may find you can easily remove and rinse them off, but a reliable method is to put the pulp in a blender with water, and blend for a few seconds. The seeds should then be easy to separate and rinse in a sieve.
- Either sprinkle the seeds over a tray of moist sand and cover with a plastic lid, or scatter them on a damp paper towel, which you should then place in a clear ziplock bag in a warm spot.
- The seeds should germinate within around two weeks.
- Transfer the sprouted seeds into small pots containing well-drained potting mix. If using the paper towel method, you can tear and plant small pieces, to avoid disturbing the seedlings.
- Keep the seedlings on a warm, sunny windowsill, or in a greenhouse.
- After 3-4 months, harden off the plants and either plant them outside in larger pots or into a garden bed. If it is winter, then it’s best to wait until spring to do this. They should ultimately be spaced at least 10ft apart.
- Kiwis like slightly acidic, fertile soil, so add organic matter before planting.
- As vine plants, kiwis will require training as they grow, so make sure you have good vegetable garden trellis ideas to support them. They grow very well as an espalier or overhead on a pergola.
- Mulch the plants annually – but keep it away from the plant base – and apply a general purpose fertilizer in the spring.
- Prune in winter, cutting back up to a third of the oldest branches to a bud close to the main stem, which will then produce new growth.
- Kiwis are vigorous plants, so also require summer pruning and pinching to keep them in check and allow the plants to focus on fruit production.
- Water well in warm weather, and ensure the soil doesn’t dry out in the growing season. However, the roots don’t like to soak in water, which is why free-draining soil is essential.
How many plants do I need?
As kiwi fruit relies on male to female pollination, you will require at least one male and one female plant, though one male is enough for every 6-8 female plants.
However, you won’t be able to identify the plants’ gender until they begin to bear flowers, which won’t happen in the first couple of years.
Female kiwi plants have blooms with long sticky stigmas coming out of their center, and white ovaries at the flower base. Male plants, meanwhile, are filled with pollen-covered anthers.
Once the plants have begun to flower, ensure each female is planted within 50 feet of a male, then let nature take care of the rest.
Which variety to grow?
Hayward is a popular variety for its quality and flavor. But you could also try Tormuri, Abbot, Brodie and Atlas – the males of which pollinate with any variety.
You can also choose between a common or golden kiwi variety, which have different flavors. Golden kiwis are more frost hardy.
Self fertilizing varieties are beginning to come onto the market, but the fruit is not as strong as with traditional varieties. If you only have room for one kiwi vine, try Jenny.
For something different, try mini – or cocktail kiwis. 'Mini kiwis are far sweeter than the furry brown fruits you buy in the shops,' says Alex Mitchell in Crops in Tight Spots. 'They produce small sweet fruits the size of large grapes, which can be eaten skin and all in early fall.'
Cocktail kiwis are very frost hardy and will grow happily in a generous pot, adding an exotic touch to the patio.
Growing kiwi fruit in pots
Kiwi fruit can grow very well in pots and grow bags, so make an excellent addition to a container vegetable garden.
While initially the pot size can be quite modest, you will need to pot on the plants as they grow. Ultimately, aim for a container size of at least 40 gallons.
How long does it take to grow kiwi from seeds?
While it only takes a couple of weeks to germinate kiwi seeds, to get to the stage where the plants produce fruit takes a minimum of 3 years, and could be as long as 6-7 years.
How do you germinate kiwi seeds?
To germinate kiwi seeds, you can either sow them into sand, well-drained potting mix, or on damp kitchen paper. Keep them moist and they should germinate within a couple of weeks.
What climate do kiwis grow in?
Kiwi plants are a versatile fruit, but they aren’t grown commercially in a huge number of locations. ‘Kiwi fruit originated in China and then was brought to New Zealand, the land of the kiwis,’ says Jordan Champagne in It Starts with Fruit.
‘It was in the 1970s that the first kiwi fruit crop was harvested in the United States in California, which is the only place in the United States where kiwis grow.’
Kiwis can be grown at home in many locations around the world, and are frost hardy, although they will struggle in very cold climates.
As editor of Period Living, Britain's best-selling period homes magazine, I love the charm of older properties. I live in a rural village just outside the Cotswolds, so am lucky to be surrounded by beautiful homes and countryside, where I enjoy exploring. I am passionate about characterful interiors and heritage-inspired designs, but I am equally fascinated by a house's architectural elements – if I spot an elegant original sash window or intricate stained-glass front door, it fills my heart with joy. It's so important to me that original features are maintained and preserved for future generations to enjoy. My other passion is my garden, and I am slowly building up my planting knowledge, and becoming more confident at experimenting with growing my own. As well as editing Period Living, I am also co-editing the Country Channel of Homes & Gardens. In my previous roles, I have worked on Real Homes and Homebuilding & Renovating, wiriting about modern design and architecture, so my experience is broad – but my heart belongs to period homes.
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