Make Room for Hardy Kiwis in the Home Landscape

July 10, 2012

The usual response I receive after mentioning the hardy kiwis growing in my backyard is; “I didn’t know you could grow those here!” Hardy kiwis are smaller than the fruits you’ll find at the grocer and they aren’t covered with fuzz. Other than that they are very similar, productive, and suitable for cultivation in Northern climates.

This is the second season of growing my hardy kiwi vines and up to this point the focus has been entirely on training and getting the plants off to a good start. I planted an assortment of three female varieties for fruit production and a forth male kiwi to serve as a pollinator.

The female cultivars are Ananasnaya, Arbor-eat-um, and Meyer’s Cordifolia; the male is a Hardy Meader. I initially planted the vines in a row along the edge of the patio and spaced them roughly fifteen feet apart. The original plan was to train two shoots up from each vine to form the permanent trunks for the plants. It wasn’t until the end of last summer that I discovered that my plan wasn’t such a good one.

Providing Kiwi Vines with Space to Thrive

Kiwi FlowersThe problem is that Hardy Kiwis are very vigorous growers and require plenty of space to ramble and a strong trellis for support. While I made future considerations for installing a trellis system, I didn’t give the plants nearly enough room to ramble.

After consulting with Les, the local kiwi expert among the Backyard Fruit Growers, I decided to scrap most of my original plans and take things in a new direction. First there was the issue of overcrowding, Les pointed out that those closely spaced vines would result in a big battle down the road in an attempt to keep the vines contained and properly pruned.

A Trick to Enable a Single Kiwi Plant to Self Pollinate Itself

To address that issue I decided to raise one kiwi in the row where I currently have four planted. So there will be a single kiwi trunk rising up over six feet where it will meet the trellis wires and branch twenty-two feet in one direction and another twenty-three feet in the opposite direction.

That should make the pruning and management much easier as the kiwi matures down the road. If you’re thinking that I creating a new problem with my solution because kiwis need a separate male and females for pollination, you are correct. But to address that critical issue the plan is to graft sections of a male vine onto the female plant.

Using Grafts to Add Variety to a Hardy Kiwi Vine

I chose the Meyer’s Cordifolia as the mother vine because it seems to be a strong grower, has a reputation for producing very sweet fruit, and it happened to be the plant that was situated smack in the center of the future trellis layout. For now I will allow the other three vines to continue growing but will eventually remove them. In the meantime they will provide scion wood to graft on the permanent kiwi vine.

This way I’ll reap the benefits of a varied assortment of kiwi vines without devoting four times the space required to raise individual plants. It appears that I should be able to graft many different varieties of kiwis onto my Cordifolia. Les mentioned several others that sound interesting including a purple fruited cultivar called Purpurea and a flavorful one called Geneva that is a taste test favorite.

More Kiwi Cultivation Lessons to Learn and Mistakes to Avoid

So hopefully, my miscalculations with spacing the new kiwi plants too closely will turn out better than I had originally planned; I’ll have perfectly matched kiwi scion wood to graft with and if things are managed correctly, I may be able to see earlier production as I gradually remove the extra kiwi vines from the row.

That’s the major lesson learned about spacing kiwi plants but it wasn’t the only mistake that I made! Later I’ll share another one that you won’t want to repeat as I outline the early cultural requirements of training and pruning a Hardy Kiwi Vine

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  • Wow, I’ve been kicking around the idea of adding kiwi to my garden for a few years now and you’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks!

  • Kenny Point

    Hey Shannon, I like the kiwis and think that they make a great ornamental addition to the garden along with a supply of fruits that are different from what you usually find in the backyard garden. But do your research first to determine the location, spacing, varieties, and trellising technique that you will use since kiwis are fast growing, spreading, and the plants can live and continue fruiting for decades.

  • I will. Thanks Kenny!

  • Thanks you to give instructions. I like kiwi because it is rare in my village.

  • Up to what zone are kiwi’s hardy?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Mike, most of the hardy kiwi varieties are listed as up to zone 6, but many of them go as far as zone 5. There are also a few Russian varieties that are supposed to survive in zone 4 climates.

  • Thanks Kenny! I will have to look into this. I am in zone 7.

  • Darn. As an old Kiwi (not the fruit – the NZ’er!) now living in Canada, I got a bit excited here – then saw the comment about Hardiness zones. I’m in 3a, so I guess I’ll get my Kiwi (did you know that they were known as “Chinese Gooseberries” in New Zealand originally?) from the Safeway store.

  • Hi Kenny, Thanks for sharing your experience!!

  • Vicki

    Hi Kenny,

    I purchased a Kiwi Chinensis Female from a store, but have been unable to find a Kiwi Chinensis MALE for pollination. Do I have to have a Kiwi Chinensis Male? Or Can it be a Male of any Kiwi variety?

  • My wife planted a male & female hardy kiwi into our garden years ago and they have never produced fruit, ever. I don’t know if we really don’t have a pair, or we have a pollination problem or what?? But with the suggestion you mention here, I’m going to look into it. I need to next figure out how to identify the differences between the male and the female.


  • Kenny Point

    Hi David, you can tell the difference between a male and female kiwi by examining the flowers. Here’s a link to side by side photos with the male on the left and the female on the right. The female flower is more complex with distinctly different flower parts.

  • Wow, that’s a great help! I’ll be keeping an eye out for them flowering this year.

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