hardy kiwi vines

Growing kiwi fruit: It’s easier than you think

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Do you enjoy growing fruit? Perhaps you have a few blueberry bushes, a handful of strawberry plants, or some apple trees and you’re looking to expand your garden’s offerings? Consider growing kiwi fruit. 

While you may be picturing the brown fuzzy kiwis you find at the grocery store, those aren’t the kiwi fruits I’m talking about. Grocery store kiwis (Actinidia chinensis) are native to southern Asia and they don’t survive temperatures lower than 10 degrees F. But, hardy kiwis (Actinidia arguta) are native to northern China and Russia and can survive temperatures as low as -25 degrees F. And, best of all, hardy kiwi fruits do not have to be peeled! Their skin is beautiful and smooth, so they can go straight from the plant into your mouth. They taste much like their fuzzy-fruited cousins, but I find hardy kiwi to be sweeter and far more enjoyable to eat.

You may think that growing kiwi fruit is challenging, but I’m here to tell you it is one of the easiest fruits to grow, if you keep these few things in mind.

Related post: Growing organic apples with fruit bagging

Tips for Growing Kiwi Fruit

  • Variety selection is everything. Most hardy kiwi varieties are hardy from USDA zones 5-9, but if you live where it gets very cold in the winter, your best bet is to plant Russian selections like ‘Natasha’, ‘Tatyana’, and ‘Ananasnaja’ (a favorite for its aromatic fruit and extremely productive nature). These Russian varieties are said to be hardy all the way down to -35 degrees F! Other good varieties for growing kiwi fruit just about anywhere include ‘Michigan State’, a larger fruited, hardy variety that I love, and ‘Ken’s Red’ which bears sweet-flavored fruits with reddish-plum colored skin.
  • The fruits are smaller than the fuzzy kiwis at the grocery store. The green fruits of hardy kiwis are only slightly larger than a grape, but they’re produced prolifically. Expect dozens of one to two inch long fruits to be produced within three or four years of planting. The best production occurs when the vines are about eight years old, and you can expect them to produce for forty years or more.
  • Only female vines produce fruits. Hardy kiwis are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. So, for growing kiwi fruit, you’ll need to plant one male vine for every eight or nine female vines. Since vines are vegetatively propagated, the vines will be “sexed” when you purchase them.
  • Hardy kiwis are fast growing (like, seriously fast!). You’ll need a sturdy pergola or trellis to support the growing vines. Each one can grow up to 40 feet tall!
  • Growing kiwi fruit means you’ll also be growing fragrant flowers. The flowers, which appear in early summer, are small and white. Their fragrance is similar to lily of the valley. The fruits continue to mature all summer long and are ready to harvest in late fall.

    Kiwi vine flowers when growing kiwi fruit

    Kiwi vines also have beautiful, fragrant flowers.

  • When growing kiwi fruit, site the vines in full sun. Try to find a location that’s protected from late spring frosts that might damage newly emerged spring growth. Space vines about ten to twelve feet apart, on center. Make sure they’re regularly watered until established.
  • Pruning is a must. For many people growing kiwi fruit, pruning is the most challenging task. The vines must be pruned with a sharp pair of high-quality pruners when they’re dormant in the winter, and again two or three times throughout the summer. In winter, prune out any branches that produced fruit the previous season, as well as any dead or crossed branches. The one-year-old branches produce the most fruit, so don’t prune them out, instead trim them back to the eighth node up from the base of the plant (the nodes look like little nubs along the branch). These nodes will push out new fruiting spurs in the spring. Summer pruning involves removing any long, arching vines that extend beyond the developing fruits. Any non-flowering vines that extend off the trellis can be removed in the summer as well.
  • Keep the vines well mulched. I like to use three inches of compost or shredded leaves. But, don’t pile the mulch against the base of the plant; keep it three inches away from the vine’s base.
  • If your hardy kiwi fruit aren’t ripe when frost threatens in the fall, harvest them and allow them to ripen on the kitchen counter. Make sure all the fruits are harvested before frost strikes.
  • Hardy kiwis are among the most pest-free fruits you can grow. The plants are not fussy, nor do they require any spraying. Oh, and they’re pretty, too!

Related post: Gooseberries

In many ways, growing kiwi fruit is much like growing grapes. They are vigorous growers and need to be properly pruned, trained, and trellised. But, when they’re treated right, you’ll have more fruit than you can handle. Growing kiwi fruit should be on every gardeners to-do list!

potted kiwi vines

Growing kiwi fruit can also take place in containers. These forty-five gallon grow bags are perfect containers for kiwi vines.

For more on growing fruit successfully, check out the following articles: 

Are you growing kiwi fruit? Tell us about it in the comments below. Growing kiwi in containers.

Pin it! Growing kiwi fruit is easier than you think. Here's everything you need to know about growing this fruit.

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52 Responses to Growing kiwi fruit: It’s easier than you think

  1. Dawn says:

    I have 3 -16 year old massive kiwi 2male & 1 female and zero kiwi? (Ever) what do you recommend? zone 5 Wisconsin

    • I’d be willing to bet that either you accidentally got three male vines, or three female vines. When they’re in flower, you can tell the sex of the flower based on the presence of either many small pollen-bearing anthers at its center (male), or a bulbous stigma at its center (female). Another possibility is that the varieties aren’t comparable pollinators. Sometimes that happens when the males and females don’t bloom at the same time or the varieties aren’t able to cross pollinate.

    • Dawn says:

      Thank you for your response, I do note that of the 3 plants, only one of the (3) vines gets that dipped in paint leaf look (female) that starts out white then to a soft pink. If it is female and I am getting no fruit, then I suspect then that they are not compatible. Last year I did plant 3 more … and yes I have very sturdy structures… and if the new ones take…I shall be rewarded with lots (lots) of fruit. THank you

  2. Great article! There is also the supposedly self-fertile hardy variety Actinidia ‘Issai’, but it doesn’t get those pretty white/pink tipped leaves.

    • I’ve read some research about self-fertile varieties, and it seems that the results are mixed. They don’t seem to be good producers yet, though I believe breeders are working to remedy that. Would be great to have a reliable self-fertile variety!

  3. Cheryl says:

    Do you know of any reputable suppliers?

  4. Laura Fruits says:

    I bought 1 from Lowe’s no
    directions or anything. Well I bought one anyway. So now I need to buy more but won’t know if they are male or female.
    Laura Fruits
    God Bless

  5. Niki says:

    I have 3 female artic beauty females that are 5 years old. I have had trouble getting my male established. Third try male is only 2 ft tall after a year. I have had the females flower the last 2 years with no fruit because of male. Does anyone have ideas about male? I am really hoping for fruit this next year.

  6. Elena says:

    I have 5 kiwi plants , thee of them are 5 years old and 2 of them are 3 years old. None of them flower and thus no kiwi. Please help!

    • Make sure you are pruning them properly. Many folks are afraid to prune as hard as you should for kiwi. Also, do not give them any fertilizer with nitrogen in it. That will form excessive shoot growth, often at the expense of flowers and fruit.

  7. Mary Bower says:

    I planted my male kiwi 3 weeks ago and it has not begun to grow. How long should I wait to see if it will grow in my garden?

  8. Sarah McFall says:

    Hello there, I’m from Kent in England, and this year is our 1st crop that has come to anything. We had flowers last year (year 3), but nothing.
    We only have 1, and it’s definitely female from the name.
    My question is, would we need to thin out the fruit, there just seems so many on each stem that I can’t believe they’ll all grow to full size!!
    Many thanks, and thanks for your original article too.
    Looking forward to hopefully harvesting if they do continue to grow.

    • Kiwis typically do not need to have their fruit thinned, but doing so will generate even production from year to year. In other words, it’s helpful, but not necessary.

  9. Theresa says:

    We have a kiwi vine, used to be 2. I assume a male and female. One died off years ago. The one that is left smells horribly during the summer (think rotten milk, eww). Is this normal?

  10. is it possible to grow them in a tropical Climate ? or do they need cold time (dormancy period) to bloom flowers such as blueberries ?

    • Great question, Kalpa. It depends on the variety. Some hardy kiwi cultivars require fewer chill hours than others. Chill hours are hours that fall between 32 and 45 degrees F. So, if you live in a warmer climate, you should try to choose a cultivar that has a low chill hour requirement, perhaps one that requires just 100 hours might work (like Vincent or Ken’s Red, for example). Northern gardeners would do best with cultivars that require 300 or more chill hours, depending on their climate. As far as I know, there are no varieties that require less than 100 chill hours to set fruit.

  11. Ediee says:

    So I have a question. Is it possible for my kiwi plant to self pollinate? I have a 6 month old Golden Kiwi fruit plant (1 Ft) that I grew. It has flowers and at the the mid section of the plant you will have some pods hanging kinda like very small kiwis… Very confused, I’m new to this.

    • Yes. There are a few self-fertile kiwi varieties, including ‘Issai’. I’m not sure about the variety you reference and can’t find any info on it, but there’s a chance it could be self-fertile.

  12. Cordie Moir says:

    if a full grown kiwi plant can produce 100 lb of fruit, what is the best way to store it after picking?

    • Pick them when they barely begin to soften and they store well in the fridge in a plastic container. Take them out of the fridge a day or two before you plan to eat them and they’ll soften. If you wait too long to pick them and they’re already soft when you harvest, they won’t store as long.

  13. Bryan says:

    Will the ASSIA kiwi stand hot climate (we get 35deg)

  14. Debbie Hawkins says:

    My kiwi vines run along a iron railing around my pool but they always seem to be a tangled mess and no flowers or fruit for 2 1/2 years now.?? Is it too late to prune?

  15. Josie says:

    Are all seeds from one kiwi fruit the same sex?

  16. Cheryl says:

    I bought 4 kiwi plants and planted them but don’t know whether they’re Male or female. Will I have to wait years until I find out and possibly have to replant if I don’t have a male?

    • You can tell the males from the females by carefully inspecting the flowers of each vine. Female flowers have a single “tube” at the center of the flower and the base of the flower (the ovary) is a little enlarged. Male flowers have multiple smaller tube-like anthers at the center of the flowers.

  17. cynthia andrew says:

    I bought several kiwi plants, about 5 years ago. None of them have done any flowering. How long does it take to flower? What do
    i need to do to get them to flower?ew

  18. Pamella Kolb says:

    Any chance you have a photo of a mature kiwi vine on a trellis just after it has had its winter pruning? My female vine is 6 years old and the male, although that old, almost was lost the first 2 years, but is growing well now. Each have been pruned, but I only got the first flowers on the female last year and none yet on the male. I suspect the pruning is an issue and would like to see an example of the proper dormant pruning.
    Thanks for any help!

  19. Peter Gilliams says:

    Nice site! You mention that by thinning one gets more even yield year to year. Does this mean that kiwi (fuzzy) are alternate year bearing? I wondered as last year we got like 50 lbs and this year looks like maybe 2 lbs (estimate by counting the female flowers). Last year too many to count. Did a heavy pruning over winter but plenty of branches did not flower.

    • Hi Peter – For most perennial fruit-bearing plants, including tree fruits like apples, pears, and peaches, as well as vine fruits like kiwis and grapes, if the fruits are not thinned when they’re young, the plants tend to only have high fruit production every other year. Alternating years the plants will only have so-so production. That may be why your kiwi vines produced so heavily last year but not this. It takes a lot of the plant’s energy to produce such a heavy yield, so the following year is almost like a “recovery year” for them.

  20. Jeannette LaLonde says:

    I’m planning on planting kiwis using the fence around my house for support. The fence is 4 feet tall. Should I provide additional height with a trellis, or just train the vines along the fence. Also, how far apart can the male be from the female for pollination? I’m thinking one on each side of the yard.

    • You can train them to grow out the fence, but their natural growth habit is to grow up, so you’ll have to keep after them quite a bit to keep them growing horizontally. The males and females should be within 20 feet of each other.

  21. Steven says:

    Have bought some hardy kiwi berry seeds & they are growing. I did not do my research properly and was wondering if they will fruit in the tropics . It is very rare for the temperature to ever go below 12 deg c

    • Most hardy kiwi varieties need a required number of chill hours in order for the vines to bloom (chill hours are hours beneath a critical temperature – usually about 40 degrees F/ 4 degrees C). They are not a good choice for the tropics because of this. You’re better off growing fuzzy kiwi instead.

  22. Frugal Terrier says:

    I grew at least 6 of the pretty-pink-leaf variety on my fence in full sun, for privacy , for 15 years, while I lived in Montréal. I ordered 2 male and 4 female from the nursery as a package but maybe i only got females. They were great cover for a wire fence. They had sweet smelling but plain-Jane flowers every spring after a couple of years. But never any fruit.
    On the other hand, a friend gifted me an Issai (self fertile kiwi arguta). My garden was pretty full by then, so I stuck it on the north side of the house in partial shade. It had attractive shiny green leaves and a much more moderate growth. AND IT PRODUCED WONDERFUL PINEAPPLE FLAVOURED FRUIT EVERY YEAR AFTER YEAR 2. The tiny greenish flowers weren’t very fragrant, and the fruit wasn’t large but it was so delicious that even my dog used to get in there and snack! They were the size of very large grapes, bright green and smooth and tender. As others have mentioned, it seemed to rest a bit every other year but still produced some. My pruning was very random and not strategic at all.
    Now that I’ve retired to the much warmer south Okanagan, I’ve just planted another Issai kiwi arguta (the same self fertile cultivar) on a wire fence as a privacy screen and I’m hoping that it fruits in the next couple of years. And this time, I’ve read up on pruning and watched that excellent video “ Pruning kiwi berry with my cat”, so maybe, this time, there will be enough for me, my dog and my fence-neighbors, too! Fingers crossed.

  23. T-flor says:

    Can a self-pollinating kiwi be used with a different cultivar (female) to produce fruit with the cultivar that needs a pollinizer?

  24. Marlon malaluan says:

    does hardy kiwis need chill hours? im planning to grow some here in the philippines.

    • All hardy kiwi vines need some amount of chill hours, though some low-chill varieties exist. But, even the low-chill ones require about 100 hours of chill time. I would suggest growing fuzzy kiwis instead.

  25. Holly kines says:

    Hi, I have a huge northern kiwi in western mass. It is 10 yrs old and has produced fruit the last 6. This year I wanted to give someone cuttings. Waited for the flowering to sex the vines. I’ve searched madly and can’t find male flowers, beginning to wonder if it died but now I’m seeing the beginnings of fruit, little green knobs. I’m perplexed! I know I originally planted a male and female.
    Any thoughts?
    Thank you kindly,

    • It may be possible that someone who lives near you has a male vine that’s cross pollinating with your female if your male vine died. Could it also be possible that you’re improperly sexing the flowers?

  26. Lily says:

    How much water do newly planted kiwis need? I planted a male and a female. One looks healthy green but one has some dried edges on the leaves. The greener plant gets some shade in the afternoon. And now I don’t know which one is the male or female.

    • I suggest adding about 2 gallons of water per plant (slowly, so it doesn’t run off) twice a week in hot weather. Once a week in cooler weather. Continue to do this through the first 6 months, then switch to the same amount of water once a week for 6 months thereafter. By then the plants should be fully established

  27. Philip Hatton says:

    I am looking to buy a male and female golden kiwi plant for my garden does anyone know where I can purchase these

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