Kiwi Fruit Growing Guide

Learn how to grow Actinidia—a.k.a. kiwifruit—in your own garden.

By Lee Reich, Ph.D.


Kiwi fruits seem exotic but you can grow them in your backyardThe actinidias cultivated for their fruits—those typically found in grocery stores and the hardy kiwifruit that grows in North America—are very similar in their requirements.

Growing Guide

Site: North facing slopes or sites shielded from low winter and early spring sun by buildings or trees are preferred.

Soil preference: Must be well drained. Vines planted where water sits on the surface following rains are likely to develop crown rot. Soil pH should be between 5.0 and 6.5.

Planting: Actinidia plants are especially touchy about less than perfect site and soil conditions in their youth. For this reason, some growers coddle their plants in containers for one, even two, years. Growth can be phenomenal in carefully watered and fertilized containers, and the plants can be protected their first couple of winters in an unheated basement or a slightly heated garage.

When setting plants in the ground in soil that doesn't drain perfectly, plant each vine atop a raised mound of earth. Winter cold bites hard at plants of all species their first two or three years in the ground, especially in conjunction with intense sunlight. A wrapping of corn stalks, burlap, or similar materials will shade the developing trunks and abate the fierceness of the cold. Delay protecting the trunks until frost has penetrated the ground an inch; the plants must be exposed to some cold in order to properly acclimate to the cold months ahead. Where winters are brutal, either due to very low or fluctuating temperatures, this wrapping may be advisable even for mature plants. Remember, trunks of wild actinidias growing in their native Asian forests never are exposed to full sun.

Spacing: Allow 200 square feet per plant, a bit less for super-hardy A. kolomikta.

The burden of pollination rests mostly with honeybees, though wind and other beneficial insects also play a role. With few exceptions, a separate, nonfruiting male plant is needed to fertilize (and induce fruiting) of female plants. The male should be no further than 35 feet from females. Do not be surprised if it appears that female flowers have stamens, the male flower parts. The stamens are there, but the pollen they shed is sterile. Similarly, male flowers have small, nonfunctional ovaries.

One male plant can fertilize the flowers of 8 or so females, and male and female plants need not be the same species of Actinidia in order to cross-pollinate. Bloom times of male and female flowers must coincide, though.

Hand pollination is practical if you grow only a few plants. Merely pluck off a male blossom and lightly rub it on a half-dozen female flowers. Then go pluck another male, repeat the rubbing, and so forth.