Kiwi Plant Not Flowering: How To Get A Kiwi Plant To Bloom

Kiwi fruits are delicious. Most people agree that they taste like a combination of strawberries, bananas, and melons. They are unique looking too. I love how their bright green flesh and tiny, black edible seeds contrast with their fuzzy brown skins. But what should be done for a kiwi plant not flowering? If there are no flowers, there will be no fruit on your kiwi vine. Read on to learn more.

When Do Kiwis Flower?

Kiwi fruits grow on vigorous vines that require a strong support structure. You can grow them on a sturdy arbor, trellis, or fence. Each vine can grow 15 feet (4.5 m.) long. Most kiwi plants are specifically male or female. You need both to produce fruit. One male plant can fertilize up to eight female plants. There are many cultivars. Some are self-fertile cultivars. In that case, you only need one plant, which saves space. Check with your local nursery and see if they can order the cultivar(s) you prefer.

But, of course, in order to get fruit, you must have a blooming kiwi vine. So when do kiwis flower? They bloom in spring and bear fruit in summer or fall. If your kiwi is not blooming, you need to find out why.

How to Get a Kiwi Plant to Bloom

Age – If your kiwi is not blooming, it could be due to a number of reasons. Kiwi plants must reach a certain maturity before they are able to produce flowers and fruit. Typically, this takes three years. Sometimes it takes longer.

Temperature – Kiwis, like many other fruiting plants, require a certain number of winter chill hours (between 32 F. and 45 F. or 0 C. and 7 C.) to set flowers and fruit. The number of hours depends on the cultivar. Make sure you purchase kiwi vines that are appropriate to your climate. Check with your local nursery before you buy. Note that temperatures above 60 F. (15 C.) subtract from total chill hours. Winter heat waves can lower the cumulative number of chill hours below the threshold needed for kiwis to flower.

Poor location – If your kiwi vines are mature and receive enough chill hours, you are probably still wondering how to get kiwi plants to bloom. Make sure you install them in the right location. Kiwi plants require full sun and appreciate some afternoon shade in hot locations. They also need decently rich soil, regular water, and good drainage. If your kiwi is not blooming, it may be due to insufficient sunlight, overly dry soil, water-logged soil, or insufficient nutrients in the soil. Amend these situations if your kiwi is not blooming by adding yearly compost, adjusting your irrigation, or if you have to, transplanting your vine to a sunnier location.

Good luck growing your kiwi vines. They are beautiful plants and their fruit is worth the wait.

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A green-fleshed fruit noted for its exotic appearance and flavor, kiwi is produced on vigorous vines (Actindia spp.) that are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, depending on the species. As with all fruits, kiwi vines may experience immature fruit drop. Two major reasons for early fruit drop in kiwis are water stress and poor, or lack of, pollination. If you pay careful attention to these two issues while growing and caring for your kiwi plants, you should reap a plentiful harvest of fully ripe fruits.

Water kiwi plants regularly with 1 inch of water to keep their soil moist so their shallow roots do not dry out. During the plants' active growth, you may need to water them one to three times each day, especially during hot, dry weather. Use a drip-irrigation system or soaker hose to provide water if possible. If neither of those watering methods is possible, then water near the base of each plant rather from the top.

Apply a 3- to 4-inch thick layer of mulch, such as bark, around the base of each kiwi plant, covering an area that is about 3 to 4 feet in diameter. Mulch reduces evaporation, keeps the soil cool and wards off weeds, which use up valuable water. The mulch helps to prevent kiwi plants from becoming water-stressed.

Grow one male kiwi plant for every eight or fewer female kiwi plants, selecting varieties that bloom at the same time. Ideally, grow kiwi from the same species. Some cultivars, such as Actindia deliciosa, however, can pollinate other cultivars, such as Actindia arguta, according to a Pacific Northwest Extension publication.

Grow plants that encourage pollinators, such as honeybees, in your landscape to help maximize kiwi pollination. Rhododendrons, elderberries, columbines and California honeysuckles are just a few examples of plants that attract pollinators.

Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

I would like to share my kiwi vine and would like to know the way to propogate it. Plus, how do I know the difference between the male and female plants?

This article will help you with propagation. Kiwi vines propagate well from softwood cuttings:

The only reliable way to tell the difference between male and females is to check their flowers. The female flowers will have an immature fruit in the center.

Is My Kiwi a Male or a Female?

Arctic kiwi in fruit. Photo: University of Minnesota Extension

You planted a hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta, zone 4b) or an arctic kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta, zone 3) a few years ago, and it hasn’t yet produced any fruit. Then you discovered you actually had to plant at least two kiwis, one male and one female, because the plant is dioecious (male and female flowers appear on separate plants). So you want to plant a spouse for your lonely kiwi, but you can’t find the label that (hopefully) indicated the plant’s sex. How can you tell if your kiwi is a male or a female?

You have to wait until it blooms. It’s really only by looking closely at the flower when it blooms in June—in fact, actually touching it!—that you can tell the two apart. Here’s what to look for:

Abundant stamens bearing yellow pollen show this plant to be a male. Photo: Apple2000, Wikimedia Commons

The male flower is filled with thin stamens topped in yellow pollen. When you touch them, yellow pollen sticks to your finger.

Female flowers have a cluster of sticky white stigmas in the center. Photo: Mnolf, Wikimedia Commons

The female flower produces flowers with peripheral stamens, but they’re sterile and don’t produce pollen. In the center, however, you’ll see white stigmas that project outward beyond the stamens and they’ll feel sticky to the touch.

There you go! Simple, isn’t it? But do have to check while the plant is in bloom.

Leaf Color Can (Sometimes) Help

The popular cultivar Actinidia kolomikta ‘Arctic Beauty’, a male, is grown as an ornamental for its variegated pink and white leaves. Photo: [email protected]

You can sometimes make a good guess about the sex of an arctic kiwi (A. kolomikta) by studying its leaf color. The most commonly sold cultivar, A. kolomikta ‘Arctic Beauty’, offers foliage heavily variegated white and pink … and it’s a male. You can therefore assume that if your kiwi is very colorful, it’s probably a male. However … female cultivars of A. kolomikta too are usually variegated to varying degrees and other male cultivars may be entirely green or only slightly variegated, so the color of the foliage is more an indication of plant’s sex than a proof.

Still No Fruit

You did plant at least one male and female, but it’s been years and there are no fruits yet. What’s going wrong?

Nothing, probably! Normally, hardy kiwis and Arctic kiwis are very cold-tolerant climbing plants that produce a lot of fruit, at least, when you have at least one male plant to pollinate up to 8 females. And they’re very adaptable when it comes to growing conditions: you could say, without too much exaggeration, that they’ll grow anywhere! Indeed, they thrive in just about any well-drained soil in both sun and shade.

So why then is it taking yours so long to produce fruit?

Here are a few possible reasons:

  1. It’s too young

If you want to grow kiwis, you have to be very patient. Most won’t even start to flower until they’re about 3 years old and even then, rarely bear fruit in any quantity until they’re 5 to 7 or even 9 years old.

  1. It’s not hardy enough
The typical supermarket kiwi, Actinidia deliciosa, isn’t hardy enough to produce fruit in many climates. JJ Harrison, Wikimedia Commons

Any kiwi grown in a colder zone than one for which it is recommended will likely never bloom as it flowers from new growth appearing from the previous year’s branches and if they are damaged or killed back by a cold winter, there’ll be no fruit. Therefore you have to plant your kiwi in a hardiness zone to which it is adapted.

The kiwifruit of our supermarkets, with its large hairy fruit, is called A. deliciosa (formerly A. chinensis) and it’s not hardy in cold climates. It grows best in hardiness zones 8 to 9, although it can sometimes succeed in zone 7. In the north, it will only fruit successfully a greenhouse.

The plant usually called hardy kiwi (A. arguta) is indeed quite hardy: usually to zone 4. Despite its hardiness, it’s not the best choice for regions with short summers, as the fruits take about 150 days to mature. Its fruits are small, green and smooth. There’s no need to peel them, just pop them in your mouth, like a grape!

Arctic kiwifruit (A. kolmikta) isn’t really from the Arctic, but it is the hardiest variety (to zone 3) and the best choice for northern gardeners. Its fruit ripens early as well, usually at the end of August or early in September. Its fruits are much like those of the previous species: small, green and smooth. Often, but not always, its foliage is variegated with white or white and pink, making this the most attractive kiwi.

  1. It’s a naturally poor producer

Curiously, the best-selling hardy kiwi by far is also the least likely to bear fruit!

‘issai’ is commonly sold in garden centers in areas where it simply won’t produce fruit.

The Japanese cultivar ‘Issai’, although sold as a hardy kiwi (A. arguta), is actually a less-hardy hybrid (A. arguta x A. rufa). It’s inevitably offered as the variety of choice for gardeners who don’t have enough space for two kiwi plants, a male and a female, because it’s said to be bisexual. (In fact, ‘Issai’ is 100% female, but is parthenocarpic: it can produce a limited number of fruits without pollination.) It is also said to begin to produce fruits at an exceptionally young age: only 2 or 3 years and is naturally a fairly small, weak grower, taking up less space than other kiwis.

All that sounds good, but it rarely lives up to its hype. While it may produce fruits without a male variety nearby for pollination, expect only a few fruits per plant per year… and expect none at all in colder regions. Although the stems may be hardy to zone 4b, it rarely blooms at all anywhere north of zone 6b and is only likely to be very productive in zone 7 or above. It can be very productive in mild climates, but only in the presence of a male hardy kiwi (A. arguta).

  1. The parent plants aren’t of the same species

When you plant a male kiwi and one or more female kiwis, they must be of the same species. In other words, a male arctic kiwi (A. kolomikta) will, under normal circumstances, only pollinate a female arctic kiwi and a male hardy kiwi (A. arguta) can effectively pollinate only a female hardy kiwi. If your male belongs to one species and the female, to another, you aren’t going to get fruit!

  1. There’s a lack of pollinators in the area
Bumble bees are the kiwi’s main pollinators. Photo: Buzzy Bee, Kiwi Flickr

Usually, bees pollinate kiwi flowers but not necessarily honeybees (Apis mellifera). Kiwi flowers don’t produce enough nectar for their taste, plus they prefer to visit flowers exposed to the sun, while kiwi flowers are hidden among the plant’s foliage. Bumble bees (Bombus spp.), larger hairy bees, are much more effective pollinators. In fact, kiwifruit farmers are increasingly using commercially-raised bumblebees as pollinators. Where bumble bees are absent, you may have to pollinate your kiwis manually.

  1. A late frost killed the flower buds

This happens when there is a severe frost while the plant is in bud or in flower. Curiously, there is a greater risk of frost damaging kiwi flowers in a mild climate, as plant growth starts up earlier there, even while a risk of frost lingers, than in cold regions, where flowering is naturally delayed until all danger of frost is usually over.

Essentially, hardy kiwis are very easy to grow, but you have to choose the right varieties, plant at least one of each sex of the right species and be very, very patient!

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