Hardy kiwi at high elevation

I’m in New Mexico. I’ve tried to grow hardy kiwis a few times. I find that the leaves start to turn brown and dry out on the edges. This becomes progressive and the plant usually dies quickly. I’ve read of other New Mexicans having a similar experience.

I know they are supposed to like full sun (the kiwis, not the New Mexicans) but I’m wondering if the UV at high elevations is too much. Any ideas?

I don’t think it’s pH or minerals, as the decline happens quite quickly.

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Hardy kiwis are lianas that grow in large trees in the wild. They don’t like too much full sun. In a forest setting they can seek out the optimal amount of sun. Low humidity is another major issue for them. They grow wild in very humid, temperate forests in China, so it’s not surprising they don’t handle dry conditions well.

Thank you so much for your response. This morning it struck me that humidity might be the problem. Most sources say that hardy kiwis do need full sun, eg. Stark - “As with most fruits, hardy kiwi likes full sun (at least six hours a day)”. However, at 4800 feet I suspect the UV might be damaging the leaves. And maybe as you say they don’t really like full sun. I was planning to grow it in a temporary greenhouse that is protected during the winter months but open during the summer. That way I can protect it from our spring frosts. I can’t really plant it out in the open because we have early warm weather that would cause it to leaf out and be exposed to our late frosts. It’s surprising to me that even after a week of being outside (days only) it is already showing signs of damage to the leaves.

Too much full sun does not mean no full sun. In humid middle TN, hardy kiwi will get very stressed during the heat of summer in full sun, and leaves can get crisp edges or even drop during hot dry spells. In a cooler climate, full sun may not be an issue at all. Depends a lot on humidity, cloud cover and heat. How hot does it get there? High temps combined with low humidity + UV could certainly be causing damage to leaves. They grow at much higher elevations in southwest China, so the UV alone may not directly be an issue. However, extremely clear skies with few clouds could push the UV too high.

We get into the mid to high 90s consistently in the summer. The sky is almost always clear and the humidity is maybe 30%. The crispy edges that you mention is pretty much what I see happening here pretty consistently. It starts with the edges but then the whole leaf dries up. It sounds like the combination of heat, strong sun and dryness is pretty much fatal for hardy kiwis here. I did try growing them at 7000 feet where the summer temps were more like in the 80s but it was drier there - maybe only 10% humidity - and I had them in part shade.

I tried hardy kiwis here in denver but could not keep enough water on them. I think they would need a constant slow drip or just a huge amount of wood chips and regular watering. I had them in partial shade

Thanks, Richard. What were the symptoms that resulted? Did you have the leaves browning and drying starting on the edges and then spreading to the whole leaf?

I went camping and came home to a bunch of dead vines who got thoroughly soaked the night before. They seemed fine with the UV in partial shade although i would not say they loved it, i definitely think you wanna put them in a partial shade zone in NM. In general i would say they would get leaf stress (but not browning just not happily photosynthesizing) and ready to wilt at the drop of the hat.

By the time they died i was beside myself with how much i had already watered them and called it a good sign

I know the feeling. I wonder, though, if you might actually have overwatered it. I had the same reaction when I would see the leaves wilting ( and getting brown, dry edges) that it needed more water. I’m going to try building a sort of tent around the potted plant, putting it into a large tray with rocks with water almost up to the top of the rocks (not high enough to get into the pot) and maybe if I use a material like a cotton sheet for the sides of the tent, the material can wick up water from the tray and keep a high humidity around the plant. I’ll try keeping it in a shaded spot. If that works, then maybe I can experiment with removing the humidity and leaving the shade or keeping the humidity and putting the plant in more sun.