I have been trying to grow a few hardy kiwi vines in the South (8A Georgia, obviously different than Puerto Rico) for more than three years. So far, things are not going so well. The vines are planted on a fence near a woodsline and get about 7 hours of sun per day (morning sun is blocked). They like the heat and humidity and grow pretty vigorously during the growing season (except for Issai). The problem is that the get it on both ends from frosts. First, they leaf out too early and generally get nailed by the last late frost in late March or early April (which usually occur after a few weeks of warm spring weather). To make matters worse, later, they fail to go into dormancy swiftly enough and get fried again in late November.
Muscadines planted at the same time and in a nearby location are now thick vigorous vines and are entering serious production. Meanwhile, the hardy kiwis have made little progress — every year seems to be n steps forward and n-1 steps back (except for Issai, which is actually getting smaller year by year). The muscadines, meanwhile, are obviously more adapted to the Southeast. They leaf out late, and although they usually lose leaves to the first frost, it doesn’t seem to hurt the vines.
As to my experience so far with specific cultivars of hardy kiwi:
Issai. This one is doing the worst. It is significantly less vigorous than the other hardy kiwi vines and thus doesn’t make up as much ground during the growing season. It was at its apex in the summer after its first leaf, and was all the way up the post and starting to go down the wires. However, each year, the damage it takes from first and last frost events seems to be greater than the growth it puts on, and so it is in net decline. I am hoping that the root system is getting bigger and will increase its vigor (the ground never freezes here, so the roots should not be taking any damage). However, if the current trend does not reverse, it will finally be eliminated in another year or so.
Anna. This is the heartiest and healthiest vine. It still gets blasted by the frosts, but it grows the most vigorously in the growing season, and every year, its growth gets more vigorous, so its root system must be expanding. Its buds don’t seem to awaken all at the same time, and a decent chunk of them avoid the last frost. It seems to be the most likely candidate for eventually fruiting (if it can be pollinated).
Ken’s Red. This is in between Anna and Issai for vigor, and is vigorous enough to where it is making net progress.
Meader (male). Growth similar to Ken’s Red. Middle of the road in terms of progress.
Dumbarton Oaks (died). Grew vigorously for a couple years — maybe even as vigorous as Anna, despite being in a more shaded location — and then was completely destroyed when it failed to make it into dormancy before the November frosts last year.
Meyer’s Cordifolia. Planted this spring after the last frost in March. It seems to be doing great and has roughly doubled in size in 6 weeks. However, its first trial by fire (well, frost) looms.
The hardy kiwi plants are not bothered by pests or disease and the foliage looks good during the growing season, with no sprays. (The deer have not yet sampled them, though.) Other than the frosts, they seem to enjoy the soil and the climate. If they can get firmly established, with thicker vines that aren’t injured as badly by the frosts, I hope that I will eventually get fruit. Some years, we don’t get a late frost event, and at least some of the cultivars (like Anna) seem to spread out their bud emergence.