Hardy Kiwi in the South – Experiences?

I’m growing Hardy Kiwi in Puerto Rico. Ken’s Red has been growing slowly for about a year, and it has successfully entered and exited dormancy without issue. I recently up-potted to a three gallon and fertilized and it’s pushing out new leaves.

I got a male hardy kiwi from Raintree, and a few weeks later growth is going gang busters! Potted in a 7 gallon (with a Lipstick Strawberry and some Perpetual Spinach seeds) and trellised with a tomato cage… the year is just starting, and I fear it will outgrow the tomato cage very soon.

Does anyone here grow hardy kiwi in warm climates? How’ve they grown for y’all so far?


I have three. Two came in little boxes about three years ago and one came in a small pot from a box store. I’m on the cusp of 7a/6b officially with weird microclimates around the property. So, south, but mtn south, so not quite the same.
They seem be be following the sleep, creep, leap protocols. I finally wired my trellises this morning so they’d escape being lassos tied together on the ground. No blooms yet, and no pruning efforts made. I’d say they are mostly pencil thick with only neglect except for being shielded with plastic their first winter in ground. I lose some leaves to ping-pong temps every spring. A lot of competition from grass and the things that grow in it.
I just received some properly grown cultivars from Logees, with a male, so their poor trellis is destined for crowded status once I plant them and they meet in the middle. I think the first were all labeled as Isaiah, but the formerly potted one is much redder in the stem.

1 Like

That seems to be how my female’s doing. Gone dormant about twice so far, but always makes it back to waking.

What kind of trellis do you have them on so far? I’ve heard they could be vigorous, but I didn’t realize how much until I saw my new male sprouting.

It’s not a good choice, mostly because I didn’t bury the posts deep enough. Too many rocks for digging deep holes. It’s already leaning from the wind. It’s landscape timbers (the rounded 4 x 4 kind) in a long rectangle with recycled decking boards around bottom and top. It connects to another at a right angle with a couple of grapes on it. In the crotch is about a 20 ft (6ish m) Rose of Sharon that will likely end up climbed too. The kiwi run is likely ~20 ft long laced with electric fence wire from about a meter up on two sides. The grape run is more like 15 ft and is still unlaced as they seem to be on the sleep, sleep, creep, creep, ? pattern, but what is there is nice and sturdy. The trellis wide enough that my thought was I could enter from underneath and pick the hanging fruit (or get eaten by spiders) and whatever birds nested in it could have a flight escape from the circling hawks (and eat the spiders). I think that if I add proper T poles onto the third side, or just outside three of the four runs, I may be able to stabilize it enough that it won’t blow over when everything grows.
I’ll keep the best and cut the rest and figure out exactly how I want to prune them to minimize my swearing at them. The canes are wayward enough that I expect walking underneath them will become a limited excusion.
No suckers yet, but some have tried to sneak through the grass to the tree already (pre-wiring).

1 Like

After they get going they are monsters. They need a lot of attention to keep their growth in check. 5-10 foot a year is not uncommon and your tropical environment is going to make that happen. Plan on using something with some size and strength.

I cemented in post in a 40 foot row and used cattle panel going up it to 8 foot. The kiwi grow on that and I just trim all the super long shoots coming off it.

1 Like

The sturdiest thing I got at the moment is a breadfruit tree, but I think that would make the fruit unreachable. How deep do I dig to put in some sturdy posts? My soil is heavy clay, so I think that bodes well for stability. I could let it climb to roof level and lay some wiring… I’ll have to hash out some details for all these options.

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.

Temps here went down to freezing a couple nights last week, and will get close again next week. As this was the first year they had a trellis, mine were a bit exposed. The vines are good and immediately put out new growth, but every leaf on them froze and turned black. As cold hardy as they should be, I’m a bit surprised at how thorough the damage was. I’m hoping another year or so will see that change, as Qbert is in charge of spring temps in these parts.

So the main problem I’m seeing is that Frost patterns can be more inconsistent in the Southern US, and the Hardy Kiwi’s dormancy patterns don’t align well enough. With all the breeding work that’s been done, have there been any trials conducted on which varieties would be better suited to those frost patterns? I feel like a lot of attention has been given to breeding work regarding cold hardiness, chill hours, (and heat tolerance), but the former two don’t always translate directly to daily frost patterns.