Fruit flowering vines serve two purposes. The plants provide a dramatic splash of color for a home garden, and, when the flowers are done, edible fruits appear, fruits that are not readily available in most stores. The vines have a tropical ancestry and make an interesting conversation piece.
Red passionflower (Passiflora racemosa) is an evergreen vine that grows up from 10 to 30 feet long. Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) is also known as passion flower and apricot vine. The vine is deciduous and grows from 8 to 12 feet long. Smooth loofah (Luffa aegyptiaca) grows 30 feet or longer. Let the fruit mature and it becomes a loofah sponge.
Red passionflower features red bowl-shaped flowers growing in long clusters of 8 to12 blooms from summer through fall. Glossy-green leaves grow up to 4 inches long. The flowers are followed by small, oblong, edible deep-green-colored fruits 3 inches long. Maypop produces lobed leaves from 5 to 6 inches long and flowers with white bowl-shaped centers surrounded by thin, lacy purple and white threadlike filaments. The yellow-green edible fruit is about the size of a small egg with a taste and aroma similar to guava. Smooth loofah produces large green-silver leaves. Yellow, five-petaled flowers measure 2 to 3 inches across. Green fruits grow up to 24 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. Fruits are only edible when they are immature, when they are about 3 months old.
Red passionflower is a native of Brazil, hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12. Plant in full sun or partial shade and a soil that is a mix of sand, peat and loam and well-drained. The plant does best in high humidity. Maypop is found in the southeastern United States, likes full sun or partial shade and a light, moist soil. The plant is hardy in zones 6 to 9. Loofah is a native of Africa and Asia. Plant loofah in full sun and a soil that is moist to wet.
Red passionflower is used as a container plant or a house plant. Outdoors, grow the vine over a trellis, arbor or fence or as part of a butterfly garden. Maypop is a favorite food source for butterflies. Grow maypop on fences or over trellises or let it grow on its own over trees and shrubs. Loofah needs a large space. Grow the vine over a fence or wall. The flowers are also edible, either raw in salads or fried.
Red passionflower is subject to infestation by spider mites, whiteflies, scale insects, viruses and iron deficiency. Root rot happens if the soil is not well drained. Caterpillars are the only enemy of the maypop, making a meal out of the leaves. Loofahs are easy to grow with no major problems.