Actinidia deliciosa, kiwifruit, is the type of kiwi found at the grocery store. It can only be grown in areas that have at least 225 frost free growing days with moderate winter temps – USDA zones 8 and 9. If you love the flavor of exotic kiwi but don’t live in such temperate zones, fear not. There are about 80 species of Actinidia and several types are cold hardy kiwi vines.
A. deliciosa is native to Southern China where it is considered to be the national fruit. In the early 1900’s, this plant was brought to New Zealand. The fruit (actually a berry) was thought to taste like gooseberries, so it came to be called “Chinese Gooseberry.” During the 1950’s, the fruit became commercially grown and exported and, thus, a new name was coined for the fruit – kiwi, in reference to New Zealand’s furry, brown national bird.
Other species of Actinidia are native to Japan or as far north as Siberia. These cold hardy kiwi vines are suitable types of kiwi for zone 3 or even zone 2. They are referred to as super-hardy varieties. A. kolomikta is the hardiest and suited as a zone 3 kiwi plant. Two other types of kiwi for zone 3 are A. arguta and A. polygama, although the fruit of the latter is said to be quite bland.
Actinidia kolomikta – Actinidia kolomikta, as mentioned, is the most cold hardy and can tolerate lows down to -40 degrees F. (-40 C.), although the plant may not bear fruit following a very cold winter. It only needs around 130 frost free days to ripen. It is sometimes called “Arctic Beauty” kiwifruit. The fruit is smaller than that of A. arguta, but delicious.
The vine will grow to at least 10 feet (3 m.) in length and spread 3 feet (90 m.) across. The foliage is lovely enough to use as an ornamental plant with variegated pink, white and green leaves.
As with most kiwis, A. kolomikta produces either male or female blossoms, so in order to get fruit, one of each need to be planted. One male can pollinate between 6 and 9 females. As is common in nature, the male plants tend to be the more colorful.
This kiwi thrives in partial shade with well-draining soil and a pH of 5.5-7.5. It doesn’t grow too fast, so it needs very little pruning. Any pruning should be done in January and February.
Many of the cultivars have Russian names: Aromatnaya is so named for its aromatic fruit, Krupnopladnaya has the largest fruit and Sentayabraskaya is said to have very sweet fruit.
Actinidia arguta – Another kiwi for cold climates, A. arguta is a very vigorous vine, more useful for ornamental screening than for fruit. This is because it generally dies down to the ground during cold winters, thus doesn’t fruit. It can grow to more than 20 feet (6 m.) in length and 8 feet (2.4 m.) across. Because the vine is so large, trellises should be extra sturdy.
The vine can be grown on a trellis and then lowered to the ground before the first frost. It is then covered with a thick layer of straw and then snow covers the vine. At the onset of spring, the trellis is brought back upright. This method preserves the vine and the flower buds so the plant will set fruit. If grown in this manner, severely prune back the vines in the winter. Thin out weak branches and water sprouts. Prune out most of the vegetative canes and cut back the rest of the canes as far as the short fruiting spurs.
Craig is a self-sufficiency gardener who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He has six vegetable gardens, a 7-meter glass house, and 35-tree orchard that provide food for his family. All spray-free. He is a prepper who likes strange plants and experiment with heritage plants to save seeds.
Kiwi is one of those exotic fruits that I can’t wait to see in the store because I love them so much. They’re wonderful as a tasty snack, in desserts, chopped into salsa or as a topping for fish. On top of that, many people are growing kiwi for all of its amazing health benefits.
Kiwi is native to China where there are records of it being cultivated as early as the 12th century. In the early 20th century, it began being cultivated and harvested commercially in New Zealand. Kiwi finally made its way to California around 1960.
Kiwi has more vitamin C than lemons and oranges and the fruit is packed with antioxidants. There’s also some evidence that it can assist in sleep thanks to its high levels of serotonin. There are also reports that kiwis may assist in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease because of the high levels of dietary fiber.
If you have IBS or other gut issues like constipation, kiwi is your friend. It has high levels of folate which is great for heart health, gut health and skin.
To top it all off, if you live in the right climate, growing kiwi is relatively easy and the yield is often plentiful. I used to buy kiwi from the store, but now I grow it successfully in my garden – and believe me, fresh kiwi is a revelation.
Before propagating hardy kiwi, it is helpful to set up the right kind of growing space for the plant. Kiwi plants require sturdy support systems because they grow into heavy vines. A large trellis or patio cover will work well. Hardy kiwi also grows best in sunny areas with rich, well-drained soils. Compost can improve the texture and nutrient contents of any soil type, especially overly sandy soils or heavy clay soils. Experts at the National Gardening Association recommend adding 10 lbs. of compost or manure to the soil twice per year. Hardy kiwi also grows best in soils with a pH between 5 and 6.5. It is smart to test the soil using pH strips, then add sulfur to make the soil more acidic as needed.
Fuzzless Hardy Kiwi (Actinidia arguta) are great to eat and easy to grow! These no-spray, pest-free vines are excellent for covering walls, fences, trellises or arbors, and they do well in part shade to full sun.
Fruit trees require fertile soil for good growth, so before you plant, check your soil pH. Contact your local County Extension Office for information about soil testing in your area, or purchase one of our digital meters for quick and accurate results. Kiwi plants enjoy a soil pH between 5.0 and 7.5. They do well even in the weakest of soils—just don’t plant them where the soil may get waterlogged.
NOTE: This is part 3 in a series of 9 articles. For a complete background on how to grow kiwi berry vines , we recommend starting from the beginning.
Hardy Kiwi vines grow rapidly, so build a support system before or soon after planting. These can be constructed similar to grape trellises, but they must be sturdier. Set three 8-10’, 4-6” diameter post 2’-3’ deep with 8 feet between posts. Place a 3’ cross arm at the top of the posts. Space three 8-12 gauge wires between the cross arms and stretch very tightly, as the heavy, fruit-laden vines will ultimately grow along these wires.
Plant your kiwi plant next to the middle post. During the first growing season, train a single trunk to grow to the top of the trellis. Tie the vine loosely and check it often to be sure it doesn’t wind around the stake. When the trunk reaches a few inches above the wire, cut it back to 3-6” below the wire. This forces the trunk to grow into a structurally strong “Y” shape forming two main growth branches. Allow two trained branches to grow along the middle training wire for the remainder of the growing season. Do not allow the branches to wrap around the wire. Remove all suckers growing from the trunk. Make sure the wires securing the trunk to the post do not restrict the expanding trunk.
For Tropical Kiwi, you should follow cultural practices of Hardy Kiwi.
Have you ever considered growing your own kiwifruit? There are two main types of kiwi plants that can be grown in the home garden: one that is better suited for colder regions and the other for warmer, frost-free areas. Learn how to plant, grow, and harvest kiwis in your garden!
Did you know that these tasty and nutrient-packed fruits grow on a vine and aren’t native to New Zealand?
In fact, the kiwifruit plant (Actinidia deliciosa) originally stems from temperate parts of southwestern China and was traditionally known in English as the “Chinese gooseberry.” In the early 20th century, the plant was exported to Europe, the United States, and New Zealand, where the vast majority of kiwifruit is grown today.
Hardy kiwi (A. arguta), on the other hand, is native to northern China, Japan, and the Korean peninsula.
Types of Kiwifruit
There are two main types of kiwi plants that can be grown in home gardens: the kiwifruit (A. deliciosa) and the hardy kiwi or kiwiberry (A. arguta, A. kolomikta). The kiwifruit is the type that most of us are familiar with it produces those fuzzy brown fruit that are about the size of an extra-large chicken egg. The hardy kiwi, on the other hand, produces smooth, green, grape-sized fruit, which is why it also goes by the name “kiwiberry.” The flavor is said to be sweeter than that of the larger kiwifruit. Some species of hardy kiwis, like A. kolomikta, are grown mainly for their attractive, pink-variegated foliage and fragrant flowers.
The smooth, grape-sized fruit of the hardy kiwi (aka kiwiberry) plant. Photo by waldenstroem/Getty Images.
Aside from the difference in their fruits, the plants also differ in terms of hardiness. As its name suggests, the hardy kiwi does best in colder areas ( USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 7) and is even capable of surviving subzero temperatures, while the kiwifruit should be grown in regions where frost is infrequent (Zones 8 to 9). That being said, the fruit and flowers of both types are very susceptible to spring and fall frosts, so this plant is best grown in areas that have a frost-free growing season of at least 200 days.
Note: If you are considering growing kiwifruit in your garden, know that both a male and a female plant are required to produce fruit. The male plant produces flowers, while the female plant produces both flowers and fruit. (However, there is one reportedly self-fertile variety of hardy kiwi called ‘Issai’, if you only have space for one plant!)
We all know the fuzzy brown skinned, green-fleshed orbs we see in the grocery store as kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa). These can grow in USDA zones 7 to 9. A more widely adapted version is called the hardy kiwi (A. arguta and others). This vine can survive in USDA zones 3. It is a grape-sized, non-fuzzy skinned fruit that grows in clusters. Both kiwis are rampant growing vines. Like grapes they can be trellised and pruned heavily to keep in bounds or grown on a structure for a combination shade and fruit production. I think kiwis are best eaten raw right in the garden, but many mix them in fruit salads and make scrumptious desserts.
How to Use in Foodscaping
Grow hardy kiwi on a strong trellised wire fence and prune them vigorously to keep them in bounds. They can grow in small places such as along the edge of a garden, a building or fence. Kiwis can also cover arbors, pergolas and other structures providing shade and fruit.
Almost all kiwis need separate male and female vines to produce fruit. Some fuzzy kiwi varieties for home production include ‘Hayward’, ‘Elmwood’ and ‘Blake’. Some good hardy kiwis include ‘Anna’ and ‘Issai’. ‘Issai’ is self-fruitful and produces smaller kiwis than other hardy types. ‘Ken’s Red (A. purpurea) is a hardy kiwi with red colored skin. ‘Arctic Beauty’ (A. kolomitka) is very cold hardy. The male of this vine has attractive pink, white and green leaves.
Like grapes, kiwis tend to grow best by themselves where you can prune and harvest easily. You can plant lower growing shrubs, flowers and veggies, such as potentilla, bee balm and zucchini, on the sunny side of mature plants to fill in the sometime sparse bottom areas of the plants.
Grow hardy kiwi vines in spring, after all danger of frost has passed, in full sun on well drained, compost amended soil. Grow hardy kiwi male and female vines no more than 50 feet apart for pollination. One male vine can pollinate up to 6 females. Space plants 8 to 15 feet apart.
Kiwis can live up to 50 years so construct a strong fence or structure for them to climb. Train the vines up the fence and in prune in late-winter to remove dead, diseased, broken branches and any branches that fruited last year. Prune back one-year old branches on female plants to 8 to 12 buds. That’s where your fruit will form. Prune back male plants in summer after flowering to stimulate new growth. Kiwis start fruiting within 3 years, but some vines may take longer to get established. Fertilize in spring with an organic plant food. Kiwis have few pests. Protect maturing fruits from birds and squirrels with netting.
Harvest kiwis in late summer or fall before a frost once they have sized up, but are still firm. Let them soften indoors, and if sweet when tasted, harvest the whole crop. If you let them soften too much on the vine they can rot.
Excerpted from the book, Foodscaping (CSP, 2015)