Passion fruit

Scientific Name
Passiflora edulis (purple passion fruit) / P. edulis var. flavicarpa (yellow passion fruit)
Order / Family
Violales: Passifloraceae
Common Names
Pests & Diseases:

Geographical Distribution in Africa

Geographical Distribution of Passion Fruit in Africa. Updated on 8 July 2019. Source FAOSTAT


General Information and Agronomic Aspects

Passion fruit is a native of southern Brazil where it grows on the edges of rain forests. There are two distinct forms: forma edulis, the purple passion fruit, occurs in cool environments at higher altitudes, and forma flavicarpa, the yellow passion fruit, which is at home in the tropical lowlands. The two types were distributed throughout the tropics and subtropics via Europe and Australia during the 19th century.

The passion is a perennial climbing plant, which was introduced into Kenya in the 1920's. It is now a popular fruit for both domestic and export markets. From 2001 to 2005 export from Kenya of passion fruit was around 1,000 tons per year, against a total production of around 30,000 tons yearly. 

The fruit may be eaten fresh, but mostly the pulp is extracted and preserved by heating or cooling. The juice has a unique and intense flavour and high acidity, which makes it a natural concentrate. When sweetened and diluted it is very palatable and blends well with other fruit juices. Typical processed products are ice cream, sherbet, nectar, juices, concentrate, squash, jams and jellies. Passiflora plants are often cultivated as ornamentals for their showy flowers. 

Passion flowers are widely employed by herbalists and natural health practitioners around the world today. They are mostly employed as a sedative, hypnotic (inducing sleep), nervine, anti-spasmodic and pain reliever. 


Nutritive Value per 100 g of edible Portion

Raw or Cooked Passion fruit Food
(Calories / %Daily Value*)
(g / %DV)
(g / %DV)
(g / %DV)
(g / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Vitamin B 6
Vitamin B 12
(mg / %DV)
(mg / %DV)
(g / %DV)
Purple Passion fruit raw 97.0 / 5% 23.4 / 8% 0.7 / 1% 2.2 / 4% 12.0 / 1% 68.0 / 7% 1.6 / 9% 348 / 10% 1272 IU / 25% 30.0 / 50% 0.1 / 5% 0.0 / 0% 0.0 / 0% 0.1 / 8% 0.8
Purple Passion Fruit Juice raw 51.0 / 3% 13.6 / 5% 0.1 / 0% 0.4 / 1% 4.0 / 0% 13.0 / 1% 0.2 / 1% 278 / 8% 717 IU / 14% 29.8 / 50% 0.1 / 3% 0.0 / 0% 0.0 / 0% 0.1 / 8% 0.3
Yellow Passion Fruit Juice raw 60.0 / 3% 14.5 / 5% 0.2 / 0% 0.7 / 1% 4.0 / 0% 25.0 / 2% 0.4 / 2% 278 / 8% 943 IU / 19% 18.2 / 30% 0.1 / 3% 0.0 / 0% 0.0 / 0% 0.1 / 6% 0.5

*Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower, depending on your calorie needs. 

Climatic conditions, soil and water management

The yellow passion fruit grows best at altitudes of 0-800 m and is used mainly for the fresh fruit market. It can also be used as a rootstock for grafting of the purple variety; the purple passion fruit forms virtually no flowers below 1000 m and should be grown at altitudes of 1200-2000 m. 
The mature purple passion fruit tolerates light frosts and can be grown in the subtropics. Other varieties exist such as the so-called banana passion fruit growing in highland areas and often climb very tall trees. It is yellow at maturity but with soft velvety skin and pink flowers quite different from the commercial passion fruits. The banana passion fruit is mainly used in sweetened juices, as it is not usually very sweet on its own. 

All varieties grow on a wide range of soils; but light to heavy sandy loams, of medium texture and at least 60 cm deep are most suitable. Heavy clay soils have to be drained and very sandy ones need heavy manuring. A pH of 5.5-7 is preferred. If the soil is too acidic, lime must be applied. Good drainage and aeration are essential to minimise the incidence of diseases such as collar rot. 
Purple passion fruit, especially, grows well on as little as 900 mm rainfall in Africa, provided the rainfall is well distributed. The vines require sheltered locations without extreme temperatures: Optimum temperatures for the purple variety are between 18-25°C and for the yellow variety 25-30°C. Critical temperatures were established for hybrid cultivars in Australia as follows: below 20°C pollen does not germinate and at 18-15°C both growth and flowering are set back, whereas temperatures above 30-32°C stimulate growth at the expense of flowering and fruit set (CABI). 


Passion Fruit Types

There are two main forms of the passion fruit, the purple and the yellow varieties, with the yellow being distinguished as P. edulis var.flavicarpa. Hybrids can be made between purple and yellow passion fruit, which yields intermediates between the two forms.
Principal characteristics of the yellow type:
  • Yellow rind and larger fruit
  • More acid flavour
  • Flowers are self-sterile - wind is ineffective because of the heaviness and stickiness of the pollen. They must be pollinated, and carpenter bees are the most efficient pollinators.
  • More vigorous vine
  • More tolerant of frost
  • Resistant to nematodes and Fusarium wilt
  • Brown seeds


Principal characteristics of the purple type:

  • Purple rind and smaller fruit
  • Sweet less acidic pulp richer in aroma and flavour and has a higher proportion of juice (35-38%)
  • Can self pollinate but pollination is best under humid conditions
  • Less vigorous vine
  • If crossing yellow and purple types, it is necessary to use the purple parent as the seed parent because the flowers of the yellow are not receptive to the pollen of the purple, and an early blooming yellow must be utilised in order to have a sufficient overlapping period for pollen transfer. These crosses have some ability to withstand ?woodiness? virus.
  • Black seeds



Names and Characteristics of some Commercial Passion Fruit Varieties

Variety Name Origin and Characteristics
Australian Purple or Nelly Kelly Mild sweet flavour
Common Purple Naturalised Hawaiian variety. Thick skinned with small cavity
Kapoho Selection A cross of yellow Hawaiian strains. A heavy bearer but subject to brown rot.
Black Knight Purple cultivar
Bountiful Beauty Purple cultivar
Sevcik Selection Golden form of the yellow, a heavy bearer but subject to brown rot.
University Round Selection Hawaiian cross  small fruit and not attractive but high juice yield.
Nelly Kelly Australian purple cultivar
Waimanalo Selection Consists of four strains, C-54, C-77, C-80 of similar size, shape and colour and C-39 as a pollinator.
Nancy Garrison Purple cultivar
Yee Selection Yellow, round, attractive and highly disease resistant.
Ester Very large purple fruit ? variety imported as large passion fruit.
Purple Giant Purple cultivar
Kahuna Very large medium purple fruit good for juicing and produces over a long season


Propagation and planting

Passion fruit is generally propagated from seed, although cuttings and grafting can be used. Seed should be rubbed clean of pulp and dried in the shade. Germination takes 2-4 weeks. Fresh seeds are much easier to germinate than seeds older than one or two months. Older seeds can be soaked for at least one day to improve germination. Seedlings are often raised in polythene bags, 15 cm wide and 25 cm deep. Three seeds per bag are sown at a depth of 1 cm and thinned to leave one after two months. Cuttings are set in coarse sand and later transplanted into bags or a nursery bed. The seedlings grow slowly and require 3-4 months to reach the transplanting height of 15-25 cm. Seedlings must be hardened off by leaving them in an open, shaded area for a day or two. 

Grafting is often used to control diseases. Yellow passion fruit is used as resistant rootstock although other Passiflora species, in particular P. caerulea L., show much greater resistance to Phytophthora root rot and Fusarium collar rot. Moreover, P. caerulea is tolerant of root-knot nematodes and to exposure to -1.5°C; it can be propagated from leaf and stem cuttings and is compatible with P. edulis. Wedge and whip grafts on seedling rootstocks - sometimes on rooted cuttings - are used. 

Within 5-7 weeks after transplanting, each plant will have up to four healthy laterals. From then on the vine grows very rapidly; the first flowers are produced 5-7 months after transplanting when the vine can be 10-15 m long. 

Light is the essential factor for flowering and in passionfruit this is particularly true for floral development and fruit set. That is why training and pruning are important to ensure adequate exposure of the shoots. Depending on the climate there may be one to three harvest peaks (purple passionfruit) or a single, often very long harvest season (more common with the yellow passion fruit). 


Land preparation

Deep ploughing and harrowing is necessary to remove hard pans in the soil. Passion fruit has a deep root system; therefore proper land cultivation is necessary. Commercial plantations adopt a row spacing of 1.2-1.8 m and a within-row spacing of 3 m. This gives around 1,900 -  2,700 plants/ha. Planting holes of 45 x 45 x 45 cm should be filled with topsoil mixed with up to 10 kg of compost or manure. Transplanting is done at the start of the rainy season.
At planting the soil around the plants should be firmed down to establish good root/soil contact. In order to avoid fungal infection the grafting spot should not have any contact with the soil during and after planting. The seedling should then be irrigated to ensure quick rooting and establishment of the plant. 



Early growth of passion fruit is slow and regular weeding is essential. Care should be taken when weeding in order to avoid any injury to the plant. Mulching along the rows or around the base of the plants greatly facilitates weed control and protects the roots. Elaborate trellises have been used in Australia and South Africa, but in East Africa, especially at closer spacing, a single wire trellis has been found to be as good. A 14-gauge galvanized wire is tightly stretched along the tops of hardwood posts 15 cm in diameter and 3 m long, dug in to a depth of 0.6 m; these posts are spaced 8 m apart. The trellis should be erected when the field is planted so that the main shoot and one vigorous lateral can be tied to the wire with a string. If laterals do not emerge in time, they can be forced to leaf out by pinching off the shoot tip. When the vines reach the wire they are trained in opposite directions along it. All laterals below the wire are pruned off. Laterals emerging along the wire are allowed to hang down freely; they are the secondary shoots branching into tertiary shoots. Secondary and higher-order shoots are the fruiting wood, which has to be thinned and rejuvenated by pruning. 

Regular fertilisation is necessary for optimum yields. Frequent sprays with compost tea or similar organic foliar feed should be applied starting from 1 month after planting and at least every 3 months after that. Mixing EM or BM with foliar sprays may prevent fungal attacks. 



Old unproductive shoots and dead wood must be removed. Also secondary shoots reaching the ground must be cut off about 5 cm above the ground. The laterals which bear fruit should be left to hang down freely from the wire and the entangling tendrils removed to allow free air and light penetration and reduce incidences of disease and pest epidemics. Disinfect with commercial detergent all equipment used for pruning regularly to avoid spread of viral diseases. 



A wide range of vegetables and other crops can be intercropped with passion fruit. Intercropping with annuals is recommended; especially vegetables like beans, cabbages and tomatoes are agronomically suitable. Other recommended crops include potatoes, beetroots, Swiss chard, carrots, spinach, strawberries, eggplants, peppers, onions, leeks and head lettuce. However, cucurbits (cucumbers, pumpkin, and squashes) are not recommended due to the woodiness virus and fruit flies. Other crops that should not be intercropped with passion fruits are maize, cowpea, sorghum, okra, sweet potatoes and other creepers (GTZ, 1978). Intercropping can help in erosion control particularly when fed with good compost.



To avoid build up of soil-borne diseases strict crop rotation should be practised (see suitable crops under intercropping). Passion fruits should not be grown for more than 2-3 years on the same plot.



If a plantation is cropped for 3 years; of the total crop, roughly 50% is produced in the first year, 35% in the second, and 15% in the third year. The sharp decline in yield level, which is even more marked in areas with disease problems, is the main reason to replant fields after the second or third crop. Average yields amount to 10-15 t/ha per year for the purple and 20-25 t/ha per year for the yellow passion fruit. Much higher yields are possible; yields as high as 50 t/ha per year for purple passion fruit have been reported from Kenya. 



Fruit drops to the ground when fully mature. It is collected every second day; at this stage it looks shrivelled and unattractive, but for processing fruits should be picked at this stage. For fresh fruit markets, especially the export market, fruit is picked after full colour development when the whole fruit is purple or canary yellow, but before shrivelling and drying set in.


Information on Pests

Biological methods of plant protection

Nematodes, especially the root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne incognita, M. javanica and M. arenaria), are the most serious pests on passion fruit. Practical control measures are crop rotation and the use of tolerant rootstocks.

Several species of sucking bugs feed on passion fruit. They suck and pierce leaves and young fruits; these are minor pests.

Fruit flies that feed on passion fruit include the melon fly (B. cucurbitae) and the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) and the Queensland fruit fly (B. tryoni). Pierced young fruit shrivels and falls; later injuries cause damage which lowers the grade. Spraying of biopesticides may be necessary if destruction of infested fruit and the use of baits do not adequately check the pest.

Mealybugs (Planococcus citri and P. kenyae) are usually controlled by their natural enemies.

The same to applies mites the red spider mites and the broad mites - which incidentally do much damage.

Examples of Passion Fruit Pests and Organic Control Methods

Information on Diseases

Biological methods of plant protection. The most important disease on passion fruit is brown spot (Alternaria passiflorae) on leaves, vines and fruits. Phytophthora blight (Phytophthora nicotianae) causes the wilting of shoot tips and crown rot, particularly where water stagnates occasionally. Septoria spot, caused by the fungus Septoria passiflorae, causes extensive spotting of leaf and fruit, and occasionally of the stem. Yellow passion fruit and its hybrids are more tolerant to these diseases.

Fusarium wilt (also called collar rot) is caused by the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. passiflorae; the shoots wilt, followed by a complete collapse of the plant. Grafting to wilt-resistant yellow passion fruit rootstocks is the most practical way of control. Damping-off caused by Rhizoctonia solani and Pythium spp. can be a problem in nurseries and soils should be sterilised.

A number of virus diseases have been reported, notably passion fruit woodiness potyvirus (PWV). They are spread by aphids (Aphis gossypii and Myzus persicae) and pruning knives. Other virus diseases are ringspot from Côte d'Ivoire, which is similar to PWV. The most practical control is to use clean planting material, clean pruning tools and resistant hybrids, or rootstocks of yellow passion fruit.


Examples of Passion Fruit Diseases and Organic Control Methods


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