Susan Harris
All about gardening the eco-friendly way, by Susan Harris and 22 other garden writers and experts.

Hardy kiwi’s great if it doesn’t eat your house

July 3, 2008 · 22 comments

 THE most commented-upon plant in my whole garden is not one of my prize hydrangeas or the euphorbia amygdaloides I rave about to any and all visitors, or the great white oaks.  No, the single most noticed plant by visitors (including Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post) is the hardy kiwi (Actinidia) that softens the look of my super-sized deck. 

After "What IS that?" the next question is "Does it produce those ugly brown fruit we buy in the store?"  And the answer is no – that kiwi plant isn’t cold-hardy.  Hardy kiwis ARE supposed to produce berry-sized fruit, though, and I’m still waiting.  Flowers appeared after 5 or so years and one would think that fruit would follow, right?  The problem is that it grows like KUDZU and I hack it back several times before those berries have a chance of forming.  Oh, well.

So I usually warn visitors that hardy kiwi will eat your house if you’re not diligent about cutting it back, and I hope this last photo illustrates that point.   It shows about a week’s worth of growth protruding out from the railing.  I kid you not – this thing grows about 25 feet a year, at least a foot a week, and the total clippings from each prune-job fill up 2 large trash cans. 

Care instructions for hardy kiwi typically suggest cutting back severely in early spring and I’d say that’s a fine idea.   And don’t stop cutting it back til the leaves drop. 





1 Angel Funk July 3, 2008 at 9:29 pm

I am so glad to read this, b/c we were thinking of planting some kiwi ! I’m thinking we just don’t have the space or time for maintenance now.

2 Michelle Derviss July 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm

well I learned something new from this blog entry.
I had no idea that there was any other kiwi than the fruiting kind.
I like to use the fruiting variety in landscapes due to its wonderful fuzzy large heart shape foliage that has a dark green top side and a deep purple underside.
The fruit is prolific here in N. Cal. and makes a killer kiwi margarita !

3 Ann July 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm

I’ve been dying to have one of these for years! I’ve never had a good spot, now I think I’ll never have enough space!

4 Gail July 5, 2008 at 9:22 am

I see why you grow it; it does have the desired effect of softening your deck. A less diligent gardener than you would be bad candidates for this vine…me for instance! I am still trying to eradicate wisteria from the property….former owners gift to us.

5 Robin at Bumblebee July 5, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Wow, with that kind of growth, are you sure it’s not kudzu? :)

This was an interesting post. When I saw photos of your garden a while back the kiwi was the first thing that caught my attention too. And you answered all my questions!

Happy hacking!

Robin at Bumblebee

6 CountryGarden July 15, 2008 at 6:30 pm

I have a question…do you only have the one vine and do you know if it is a male or female? Kiwis are not self-fertile. Male’s are also more vigorous.
I just planted 8 vines- 2 males and 6 females. I know that they are most likely too closely planted but I am determined to see which variety will do the best.
Looking forward to my Kiwi margarita and mojito.

7 Susan Harris July 15, 2008 at 7:02 pm

CountryGardener, I have 3 vines – 2 marked as females and 1 as a male – assuming those labels were correct. Hey, at least it blooms!

8 Earth Girl July 19, 2008 at 9:07 am

I feel your pain. I’m restoring a historic garden in NE Indiana and one of the plants is what Gene Stratton-Porter called “Tara Vine” or hardy kiwi. It is the original plant and it covers the entry to the arbor and sends branches waving 20 feet in the air trying to find something to climb. It has nondescript but fragrant flowers and the base vine has really interesting exfoliating bark. If you prune in the spring while the sap is running it will “leak” for days. I’m pruning now through fall.

9 Dorene July 20, 2008 at 9:08 pm

We have 2 females and a male on a pergola at the community garden I run — it gives us some nice shade. We don’t bother to prune the lower branches because the deer eat them back (hate the deer!). With the pergola, we get a lot of birds nesting in the top, which is nice also.

You should be getting fruit by now if you have both male and female. You can cut the male back to just one leader vine — as long as there are some male flowers, it will pollinate all the females. Hardy kiwi fruit is green and small — it’s sometimes hard to see the clusters of fruit, but if you aren’t getting any by now, make sure the male hasn’t taken over.

10 dana August 5, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Don’t discount this plant. We have grown Hardy Kiwi “Artic Beauty” for nearly 15 years. It covers a pergola on the west side of our home, providing dense shade and privacy. We also have it growing on another pergola in the center of our largest garden. We love it. It does grow quickly, although not as fast as other vines we have tried -ornamental hops, anyone? It may be because it gets limited sun- or because we don’t hack it back every year- we want the growth at the top of the plant. The kiwis in our yard bloom every spring and for about two weeks we have tiny white blossoms all over the deck and yard. But the citrus scent is delicious and the blooms sweep up easily. This plant remains one of our favorites.

11 Jolene DeJager November 17, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Just curious, is this vine the kwi berry that produces grape-like kiwis? If yes, then how vigorous should it be pruned back and when?Jolene.

12 Dorene November 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Yes, this produces what some growers are calling “kiwi berries” so that folks know you are supposed to grow it whole.

You can prune it back as far as you like anytime before it flowers and after it fruits if you want maximum fruit production. Otherwise, just hack at it whenever it grows somewhere you don’t like — the thing will just put out another vine someplace else.

13 Karen January 18, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I am trying to find out what time of year is best to plant new kiwi plants and do deer like to eat them so a fence is probably not best if deer are around? I am in the northern CA area high foothills

14 Heather February 20, 2009 at 10:25 am

Hello, I purchased four hardy kiwi plant, three females and one male, I was wondering if I could plant them along an 8 ft. privacy fence and train them as I wanted or do I need some kind of trellis. Any help would be appreciated.

P.S. One of my favorite fruit, If you like the larger kiwis, you’ll love these!!!

15 Tim February 27, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The recommendations I have seen for the cultivation of the Kiwi include a thoroughly dug and enriched planting bed in full sun with 15 feet allowed for each vine to run. Height of the vines is really about air movement around the fruit and ease of picking. If your privacy fence meets these requirements then you should see rampant growth and excellent fruiting. Of course if conditions are less than optimal then you will get less than optimal growth and especially fruiting. Also of importance is the weight of the fruit crop. It is expected that a mature vine will produce up to a 100 pounds of fruit annually. If your fence can handle the weight then it sounds as it it would work but I am fairly certain that a more substantial structure would be beneficial. Kiwis can be long lived vines and I have seen them grown on concrete pillars for the strength and durability of the concrete. A rotten fence that needs to be replaced around an established plant will damage the plant and be difficult to replace. Also, look online for more information – especially any information relating to Kiwi vines in your specific geographic area and climate. Seeing a full grown specimen at a botanic gardens is very helpful in both your understanding of the needs of the plants and how it will look as it matures in your own garden. All of this information is based upon my own research and my own Kiwi’s are beginning their second year this spring. So far growth has been less than remarkable on all but 2 cultivars. (I planted several selections for evaluation based on local conditions. Anna, Fortyniner, Ken’s Red, Dumbarton Oak’s, Isaai. My location can be on the moist side and I that this would be an asset once the vines got established, it is proving however to be a drawback at least when the vines are young and attempting to establish.)

16 joe mitchell February 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I have akiwi growing against the garage wall and now is cracking the floor. I only have the one  but would like to eratacate it as there is no room any way. It was left by the last owner.

17 Rona February 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

What do you feed the kiwi vines. I have some 4 year olds and they have yet to flower.

18 susan harris February 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I've never seen feeding recommended to encourage flowering.  The no-flowering problem is usually lack of sunshine, lack of pollinator, or the plant isn't old enough yet to bloom and fruit.

19 Leah May 30, 2010 at 10:43 am

Hi does anyone know of a grafted kiwi berry that bears fruit sooner?

20 Cory June 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Hello Susan! I just googled “Indiana kiwi” and came across your blog. I planted a female and a male two summers ago and was told that around year 3, I should expect blooms and then kiwi fruit. My female seems to be the one that is growing the best and I am hoping that I see blooms this year…when should I expect to see blooms?

21 Susan Harris June 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Cory, it can take years. Never having had fruit myself, I’m not the expert, though.

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