Fuzzy kiwi in colder climates

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of consolidated community info on fuzzy kiwi growing, especially for zone pushing. Kiwi has only been grown as a major commercial crop outside of China for 60-70 years, so there hasn’t been a great deal of info trickling down to hobbyists. Much of this info comes from forum posts of @scottfsmith, @kiwinut, @vkelman, and others over the years. The basic care of fuzzy kiwi isn’t different from hardy kiwi. There are plenty of extension booklets on kiwi production that cover trellising, pruning, etc. Most fuzzy kiwi are Actinidia deliciosa, but Actinidia chinensis (yellow kiwi) is similarly suitable and may be slightly hardier.

Most, if not all, fuzzy kiwi can handle temperatures of at least 10F (zone 8) and usually to 0F (zone 7). This means fuzzy kiwi can be grown in most of zone 7 and probably 6b if sheltered. I have seen massive fuzzy kiwis at Longwood Gardens and Morris Arboretum, which are 6b/7a. Morris Arboretum collected theirs from China in the 80s according to their accession log. Longwood Gardens rates their A. chinensis, sourced from Logee’s in the early 80s, to zone 4. I have seen this one covered in fruit.

The biggest challenge to hardiness isn’t necessarily the cold, but temperature fluctuations causing sap to flow too early. A freeze can then cause damage to trunks and potentially kill the vine. Painting vines white may help, as well as planting in sheltered locations and along south facing walls. Another issue is vines waking up too early and being damaged by heavy frost/freeze. Most fuzzy kiwis have low chilling requirements and may break dormancy too early. This will result in the loss of theyears crop as well as potential damage to the vines. Young plants are more sensitive to cold winters, similar to pushing zones with figs. Getting plants thru the first couple years may be difficult but cold tolerance should increase with time. Avoid locations prone to late/early frost.

Hardiness aside, the length of the growing season is a limiting factor for fuzzy kiwi growers. The main commercial kiwi, Hayward, needs 225-240 frost free days. Saanichton is the primary variety recommended for shorter seasons/colder climates. It is claimed to be around 5 degrees hardier and matures several weeks earlier. It was developed in Canada for use on Vancouver Island. Saanichton should do well thru zone 6b/7a on both sides of the US. Multiple growers in Maryland (around 190-200 frost free days) report it handling temperatures of 0F or lower without issue and cropping most years.

Other possibilities include:
Blake - earlier ripening date than Saanichton and purports to be partially self fertile.
Bruno - similar ripening date to Saanichton, low chilling requirements may be a problem
Exbury - from England, similar in season to Saanichton but has much smaller fruit.
Elmwood - slightly later than Saanichton, low chilling requirements may be a problem
Jenny - self fertile and zone 7 hardy. Relatively new?

Good results have been reported with ElDorado (partner with male Early Bird, yellow/green A. chinensis), Soreli (yellow variety from Italy), HongYang (red variety from China) but these do not appear to be commercially available.
ARS-GRIN has some fuzzy kiwi (deliciosa and chinensis) from Soviet Union, China, and Japan that probably warrant some testing in colder climates. I believe scion importation is no longer allowed to prevent disease from entering the US.

All kiwi are dioecious, having male and female flowers on seperate plants. As with hardy kiwi, some fuzzy varieties can set fruit in the absence of a male (Blake, Jenny), but males will improve yields. Bloom times between males and females must match up, as some bloom earlier than others. Green blooms later than yellow (A. deliciosa vs A. chinensis). It seems that hardy can pollinate fuzzy and vice versa, but usually fuzzy blooms earlier than hardy. Best to have a male for each species to avoid disappointment. Pollen can be stored or purchased to hand pollinate in a pinch.

Commercially, kiwi is harvested around 5.6-6.5 brix, then refrigerated to finish ripening (acids break down and sugars increase). In colder climates let them hang as long as possible before hard freeze (25F? 20F?) then store until ripe. If season length isn’t a limiting factor, dark colored seeds are also an indicator of maturity aside from brix. Once picked, they need to be stored in a fridge or root cellar to allow sugars to develop, and can be stored for 3 to 6 months under optimum conditions. From Edible Landscaping “It is a winter food, with a continuous supply of ripening fruit starting in November and continuing through the months of December, January, and February. Other fruits ripening at that time of year are Arkansas Black apple, Russian pomegranate, hard and soft persimmons. All of these fruits go well together for fruit salads and dishes for festive occasions.”

If anyone has further experience to share, please do!

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My Hayward and Saanichon (no fruit yet) made it through an unusually cold western Washington (8a) winter with 7F temps. There’s a 20 year old Hayward planted at the local research station. Even with the cool summertime temps, the kiwi are fine picked in November and ripened in fridge for 2 months.
I checked the ARS-GRIN site…wow, 3 pages of numbered Actinidia chinesis - has anyone tried any of these?

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If you can get me another half acre of land I volunteer!

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I have the land… but my last attempt to order from GRIN was denied. I did not fit the rationale criteria. If you can get them, I can grow them!

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I’m only a couple years into the fuzzy game, but zone 6b/7a has not been a problem for them so far. I have hardy as well, but they just don’t stack up in taste to the fuzzy. Growing Saanichon.

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@robert Where are you located?

Little west of DC. in VA.

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@ampersand - thank you for the detailed and comprehensive post!

My personal observations in Silver Spring MD zone 7a home garden are in full agreement to what you said above. I only grow Saanichton female and some unspecified male, I bought both in Edible Landscaping (VA) nursery in August 2014.
To my surprise, Saanichton Fuzzy Kiwi plants and a fuzzy male pollinator plant survived our harsh window (temperature dropped to -5 Fahrenheit several times!). Regular Vincent fuzzy kiwi did not survive.
At that winter, young Saanichton and fuzzy male plants died almost down to the ground, but began to grow fast in the late spring of 2015.
The next winter 2015 / 2016 was also very cold. I tried to wrap main trunks of then pretty mature and big kiwi plants with some warm cloth. Maybe it was unnecessary, though. All subsequent winters in our area were pretty mild. The coldest is probably going on right now with night temps of ~ 12-16 Fahrenheit for last two months. I have no doubt that mature kiwi plants (as well as mature Muscadine grape plants) will hold it without any damage.

I don’t have big crops… probably because there is not enough of sunny spaces in my home garden. Sun is the paramount, the most important thing for fuzzy kiwi and muscadines to produce. Still, I pick kiwi fruits every November and put them into cardboards on my cold porch. In several weeks fruits become wonderfully ripe and aromatic.
No pests (neither insects, nor fungus, nor squirrels or birds) damage plants or fruits - as opposed to hardy kiwis, which are impossible to protect from squirrels.

I wish I had space to try growing Actinidia chinensis (yellow kiwi) - but I do not have it.

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I have hardy as well, but they just don’t stack up in taste to the fuzzy.

@Robert ,

In my past experience Issai self-fertile hardy kiwis are very tasty, probably tastier than Fuzzy (when fully ripen). But there is no way to protect hardy kiwi fruits from squirrels.

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I grew hardy kiwi for about 10 years ( Anna, Ken’s Red, Dumbarton Oaks) and they grew to be monsters. But I could never quite get into the taste. I tried jam and drying them but, to me, after the first pop of juice, they had an odd vegetative aftertaste. I dug them up …but they still wanted to grow. It took about 5 years to track down all the spreading roots.
My local nursery is totally stocked with them and customer service directs you to them when you mention kiwi. So no doubt that they are very popular.

On the other hand, I love the sweet-tart of fuzzies. Great to hear about Saanichon’s hardiness!

I love to let (store bought) fuzzies get a little wrinkly…so sweet.

I had a whole box of my kiwis and wait till they shrivel a bit, they taste great and kids love them (and they are very picky). Completely hardy here in 7A/B. Argutas don’t do too well here but Deliciosa/Chinensis are fine. Not sure why, maybe the summer heat can be handled by the bigger ones better

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I’m putting my money where my mouth is! I have planted Saanichton, Fuzzy Male, and Jenny. Saanichton and the Male got smashed by a late freeze, but appear to be budding back out.

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My Saanichton and male made it with no damage just south of you. I’m thinking about getting a Jenny myself just in case my male goes down. If they really are self pollinating.

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Saanichton obtained from edible landscaping has proved very good and fruitful most years in my zone 7b(NC). I absolutely love these and they store so well in the crisper at least till Feb and sometimes into March but they are usually eaten by then. I bought the ‘tomuri’ male from Just fruits and exotics out of FL and the 2 have worked quite well together, both being quite cold hardy.

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I picked up a Jenny this spring from my local nursery. It’s put on about 3 feet of growth - much more vigorous and already outpacing my 2-year-old Saanichton and Hayward.

BTW a couple of months ago I heard back from AgriStarts re: yellow kiwi:

From: Ty Strode <Tystrode@agristarts.com>
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2022 8:32 AM
To: Christine Damarjian <cdamarjian@outlook.com>
Cc: Reilly Brooks <rbrooks@agristarts.com>
Subject: RE: AU Golden Kiwi

Good Morning Chris,

Thanks for you email. Yes we will be working with the Golden Kiwis in the near future. We have all the agreements in place and we are now waiting on UofA to send us down some stock material to get started.

I’ve copied in Reilly Brooks, she is keeping a list of people who are interested & as we get a little further down the line we can start following up and lining up preorders. She will get you on the list!

Thanks,

Ty

Ty Strode

President

p: 407.889.8055 ext. 203

1728 Kelly Park Rd | Apopka FL 32712

www.agristarts.com

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I wonder how long the tissue cultured vines take to begin fruiting. Are you growing any other tissue cultured kiwis?

I’ve never grown any tissue-cultured plants. I don’t know whether the time to flowering would be like a kiwi seed (7-10 yrs) or a cutting.
The hardest thing about getting old is putting the brakes on experimenting. I’ll probably leave behind a lot of half-finished trials that have lost their labels!

I wonder if tissue cultured kiwi vines will produce quickly. My grafted Chinensis produced flowers within one season - great for this impatient gardener. I am still waiting for my rooted cordifolia to produce - it’s been 4 years.

@ramv
In 2007 I obtained a tray of 72 “Issai” Kiwi TCs for nursery stock. I still had 6 potted in 2012 and they were all fruiting.

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