Passionflowers are vines beloved for their foliage, flowers and fruits. With several hundred species known in the world and even more cultivated varieties, gardeners have a wide selection to grow and admire. Passionflowers differ primarily in their flowers, with each plant type having a different size, shape or color. Some fruits are more deliciously flavored than others as well.
Passiflora caerulea, the common or blue passionflower, hails from Argentina. The blooms are prized for their shades of sky blue to blue-violet. The fruits are not particularly palatable raw, but do have a blackberry-like flavor when cooked.
Passiflora citrina, the yellow passionflower, is found naturally in the acidic pinelands of Central America. The flowers are small and spider-like and abundantly appear in warm months (or indoors as a houseplant).
Passiflora coccinea, the red passionflower, is a native to the Amazon basin of South America. It is hardy to mild winter regions only, with bright blood-red flowers and edible orange or yellow fruits.
Passiflora edulis, the passionfruit vine, is from south-central South America and is the principal commercially raised species for the fruit and juices. It has white and purple flowers with either yellow or purple-colored fruits.
Passiflora foetida, the goat-scented passionflower, is native to most of Latin America and its small rose-purple and white blooms smell both sweet and musky. It is highly variable and there are over 50 named varieties.
Passiflora incarnata, the purple passionflower, is native to the United States. It has frilly lavender-violet flowers followed by edible yellowish fruits. This species is also called maypop or apricot vine.
Passiflora phoenicea, the fragrant passionflower, is a native of Brazil. This vigorous tropical vine's flowers are deep fuchsia-pink and purple and are intensely fragrant. It is prized because the flowers are up to six inches in diameter.
Passiflora quadrangularis, the giant passionflower, hails from the West Indies and Central America, where it is also called the watermelon passionflower because of the smell and flavor of the aromatic, orange-yellow fruits. The flower is showy; crinkled stamens are a highlight in the plump, purple-pink blooms.
Passiflora vitifolia, the scarlet passionflower, is native from Nicaragua to Peru. The pointed petals and sepals are a vivid scarlet red. The leaves are three-lobed, somewhat resembling those of grapes.
Hybrids and Cultivars
There are nearly 485 other species of passionflowers, most native to South America. Also, gardeners and plant breeders have created many hybrids, crossing two or more species together to create improved selections with more ornate flowers or tasty fruits. Purple-and-pink passionflower is a commonly grown hybrid vine. The cultivated variety "Amethyst" is renowned for its large, magenta-violet flowers while royal purple-blooming "Incense" has crinkled flowers.