These East Asian twining vines are remarkably vigorous and beautiful, producing fruit whose flavor is a combination of melon, strawberry, and banana. Fuzzy- skinned kiwifruit (the type sold in markets) has a delicious piquancy; the other kinds are sweeter. Unless you have a self-fruitful selection, you will need to grow a male plant nearby to pollinate the female (fruit- bearing) plant. Supply sturdy supports, such as a trellis, an arbor, or a patio overhead. You can also train kiwi vines to cover walls and fences; guide and tie vines to the support as necessary.
For an ornamental kiwi grown for its beautiful variegated foliage, see Actinidia kolomikta.
Fuzzy-skinned kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa or A. chinensis). MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Generally grows best in the Lower and Coastal South, where temperatures do not drop below 10F. Long, warm summers are needed to ripen the fruit. Give it full sun or partial shade. Note that a vine can take up to five years from planting to flower or set fruit. Sometimes called Chinese gooseberry vine, it twines to 30 ft. if not curbed. Roundish, 5- to 8-in.-long leaves are rich dark green above, velvety white below. New growth often has rich red fuzz. Spring flowers are 11 in. wide, opening cream colored and fading to buff. Fuzzy, brown-skinned, green-fleshed fruit is the size and roughly the shape of an egg. 'Hayward' is the most common fruiting selection. To pollinate it, use 'Chico Male', 'Matua', 'Tomuri', or plants simply sold as male. 'Vincent' and 'Elmwood' need little winter chill and are good choices for warmest-winter climates; use 'Chico Male' as its pollenizer. Male hardy kiwi selections (see below) can also supply pollen for female fuzzy-skinned kiwis.
Hardy kiwi (A. arguta). US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Much like fuzzy-skinned kiwi vine in appearance but has smaller leaves (which are smooth and fuzzless), flowers, and fruit. The 1- to 114-in.-long, fuzzless fruit can be eaten skin and all. Best in partial shade in most of the South. Green-fruited female selections 'Ananasnaja' ('Anna'), 'Hood River', and 'Jumbo', need a male plant (may be sold simply as male) for pollen. 'Issai', also with green fruit, is self-fruitful. Female 'Ken's Red' is a hybrid with red fruit; it needs a pollenizer.
These vines prefer good, well- drained soil and regular appli- cations of nitrogen fertilizer. Plants are sensitive to salt burn in alkaline soils. In fall, harvest fruit while it is firm and let it ripen off the tree; fruit left on the vine too long will spoil or be eaten by birds. Start harvesting when the first fruit just starts to soften or when fuzzy kiwis turn from greenish brown to fully brown.
During dormant season, prune for form and fruit production. Cut back to one or two main trunks and remove closely parallel or crossing branches. Fruit is borne on shoots from year-old or older wood; cut out shoots that have fruited for three years and shorten younger shoots, leaving three to seven buds beyond previous summer's fruit. In summer, shorten overlong shoots and unwind any shoots twining around main branches. Because male pollenizer's sole purpose is flower production, you can prune it back drastically after bloom.