One of the benefits of living in a warm climate is that you can grow your own tropical fruit. Many people do not have space to grow a large mango or papaya tree but can grow a climbing vine against a wall or on a trellis. Most tropical fruit vines require a frost-free climate and plenty of sunshine but some, such as the kiwifruit, are frost tolerant.
There are two varieties of passion fruit vine (Passiflora edulis) that produce either yellow or purple fruit. The purple variety are sweeter and suitable for subtropical areas with occasional light frosts while the yellow cultivar is not frost tolerant. Passion fruit vines have leaves with three lobes and are up to 7 inches long. The round flower come in spring followed by the round, egg-sized fruit in summer. Replace passion fruit vines every three to five years as they soon lose their vigor.
Kiwi vines (Actinidia deliciosa) are native to subtropical China. Hardy varieties will survive temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit but are damaged below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Female vines require 220 frost free days in order to produce fruit and must be grown alongside a male plant. Plant kiwi vines in well-drained soil and a sunny spot. Provide a support structure such as a trellis and cut back the branches that produce fruit to encourage fresh growth.
The monstera or Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) is a common tropical houseplant with large, deeply lobed leaves and vining habits. It requires rich, well-drained soil and a shaded spot and can grow to 30 feet. Monstera flowers are long, white spike that grow at ground level. The long, green fruit, which takes a year to ripen, tastes like a cross between a banana and a pineapple.
The giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis) is a passion vine with characteristic square stems and large, oval leaves. It is a tropical species that will not survive frost. Its stems can grow to 150 feet on a pergola or trellis. The round, pink-and-purple flowers are fragrant and followed by large, green fruits up to 12 inches long. Eat the fruit unripe as a vegetable or scoop out the pulp once the fruit is ripe.
The vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia) grows as a vine up to 300 feet long in its native South America. It can be grown in tropical gardens in a shaded spot such as up the trunk of a tree. Vanilla orchids require rich, free-draining soil. They produce pods up to 9 inches long that must be cured and fermented before they develop their strong flavor.
- NC State University; Kiwifruit; Charles M. Mainland & Connie Fisk; September 2006
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Monstera Deliciosa; Edward F. Gilman; 1999
- Purdue Universiy Extension; Giant Granadilla; Julia F. Morton; 1987
- Purdue University Consumer Horticulture; The Vanilla Orchid; B. Rosie Lerner; November 2001
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