Chestnut Herbal School

Passionflower, from seed to fruit and back again

Passionflower

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata, Passifloraceae) is a short-lived perennial native vine to the southeastern US, with gorgeous flowers and interesting foliage. It is weedy in much of its native range; and fairly easy to grow elsewhere, especially if its given a wall or trellis to climb up. The leaves and flowers are an important nervine sedative and are used to help promote sleep and alleviate pain, such as menstrual cramps and headaches. Following are some important details on saving passionflower seed and its germination.

Passionflower pulp before fermentation

Pictured below is fermenting passionflower seed pulp. Many fleshy fruits have germination-inhibiting factors in their pulp, and the seeds will not sprout unless they are cleaned free of these chemicals. In nature, the elements will take care of this process, as will the hydrochloric acid in the stomach of a seed disperser (imagine a little box turtle eating a maypop and pooping the seed far from the parent plant, cleaned free of the pulp, and amended with the nitrogenous gold of turtle excrement).  So, how does one mimic the digestive processes of a box turtle, or twenty-three snowstorms for that matter, when one wants hundreds of passionflower sprouts? One enlists the help of the invisible, yet omnipotent.

Put the seeds in some water, cover with a porous cloth to keep out the fruit flies, and let the omnipresent bacteria and fungal spores have a party in your favorite crock or mason jar. After 3-5 days wash free of pulp and if all the pulp isn’t gone, add fresh water and repeat. Eventually the fermenting mush will just be seed, which you can dry and store until spring planting, or plant fresh if appropriate. You can use this technique with the fruits of spikenard, blue cohosh, tomatoes, jack in the pulpit, and ashwagandha as well.

Passionflower pulp almost fermented away

Cleaning fully fermented seeds

Passionflower dry seeds ready for storage

Scarification – Many seeds have a thick impervious seed coat that must be nicked or cracked before the seed can germinate. You can rub the seeds between two pieces of sand paper until you see a little bit of the endosperm (embryo nutrient reserves, usually a lighter color and different texture than the seed coat). Sometimes this is done before stratifying seeds and sometimes at the time of sowing. Astragalus, wild indigo, hollyhock, licorice, marshmallow, passionflower, red root, and rue are some of the herbs that will germinate better with scarification.

Scarification of Passionflower seeds

Passionflower germinating

Passionflower germinates in warm temperatures (70 degrees F plus) and can be transplanted when it develops its "true" leaves. Hold on to your seed tray as it will often continue to germinate over time.

Passionflower vine on a bamboo trellis

Passionflower flower

Pick your fruit when it begins to turn yellow and the seeds are hard and black. If the frost is   coming before the fruits are ripe, pick them all and put them into a closed brown paper bag for 1-2 weeks to let the seed mature. Break them open, scoop out the pulp and begin the fermentation process, described above. The pulp surrounding the seeds is edible and delicious!

Passionflower immature fruit

67 thoughts on “Passionflower, from seed to fruit and back again

  1. I loved this posting. Passiflora incarnata has been a plant ally of mine for years, and I’ve always enjoyed making jam from the fruit. We had tons of vines at our last property, but alas, our current home doesn’t have any. I am excited about leaning more about the medicinal properties of this amazing plant. I have attempted to dig roots and transplant a couple them. They are a little droopy, but seem to be viable. I don’t want to dig any more until I know I’m on the right track. Do you know if they do ok when transplanted? I’ll try seeds next spring….thanks again!

    • Christine Borosh says:

      Passionflower runners can be transplanted successfully. Just make sure that you keep a good amount of roots attached. At this time of year, they can get stressed by the heat, but they should bounce back within a few weeks with plenty of water and care. Good luck growing passionflower at your new home!

    • To ALL passion fruit vine lovers, I have plenty of FRESH Passiflora Edulis Flavicarpa seeds available FREE for anyone who might want to grow these lovely vines. They are also a host plant nursery for the Gulf Fritillary butterfly. Passion fruit vine seeds germinate with no problem if they are FRESH. They need no scarification. Just plant into potting MIX and place container into full sun. Email me at nativegarden417@gmail.com for fresh seeds. Send me a self-addressed stamped envelope for the seeds. I need to find homes for these lovely seeds. Had over 310 fruit this past season. Thank you.

      Douglas

      • Tracey Walden says:

        Dear Douglas
        Can you help please. I live in the uk and have just collected seed from my passion flower i have cleaned them and then put them in a heated propergater with bottom heat.
        After 2 weeks i have hundreds of seedlings, I have put the best of them into individual pots, but what do i do next ?? It is October and getting cold.
        Can i overwinter the seedlings in a cold grrenhouse or do i need a heated greenhouse, or should they be indoors?
        Any advice would be much appriciated as it would be a shame to loose them

        Many Thanks
        Tracey UK

        • Christine Borosh says:

          It’s wonderful that you had such great germination of your passionflower seeds! They do prefer warmer temperatures, especially while they are getting established. So, I would keep them in a warmer greenhouse or keep them indoors until you are ready to plant them in the spring. Happy gardening!

        • Douglas Fuller says:

          Glad to hear about your seedlings. They DO like warm temperature over cold. I would keep them indoors near a sunny window or outdoors when it’s sunny. Bring them indoors when it gets frost or cold weather. I don’t have to worry about cold weather here in south Florida as much as other places. I know they all love warm and sunny weather/tropical settings. Hope this information helps. Water them every few days can.

          Douglas

  2. I have 2 Maypop Passion flower vines in pots on my patio. The Gulf Fritillary butterfly caterpillars have eaten all the leaves & I’m left with only 3 Maypop fruit which are still not ripe. My question is how do I get the vines to recover or are the done?

    • Christine Borosh says:

      Passionflower plants are a host for the gulf fritillary caterpillars and those hungry caterpillars can eat a lot of the foliage. Healthy plants should recover just fine from this damage on their own!

  3. Amy B Geddis says:

    Hi Juliet,

    I have about 12 small starter seedlings grown from seeds and the leaves and stalk have started to yellow, they have good soil and I added a very small amount of coop poop. I first covered them with a plastic wrap to create a warmer humid environment, but as its warmed up I have tried placing them outside in the sun. If it is a colder night I put them in the window inside the house. I’d hate to loose them, what do you think I could do to promote a healthy plant?

    Thank you

    • Sara Kinney says:

      Yellow leaves could be a sign that they don’t have enough nitrogen. If that’s the case, you can try giving them some fertilizer, or you can try foliar feeding with a very dilute amount of fish emulsion (available at many nurseries). First check to see if they’re outgrowing their containers. It could just be that they’re ready for a bigger home. If you’re past the last frost date for your region, they should be fine to be moved outside for the season.

    • Hello from south Florida. My passiflora edulis flavicarpa variety of passion fruit vine is loaded this summer. The key to germinating seeds is FRESH seeds. The fresher, the better they germinate. I ferment them as listed above, just like my tomato seeds each winter. If anyone would like FRESH passion fruit seeds please email me at nativegarden417@gmail.com. I have TONS of seeds and need to find homes for the FRESH seeds. I don’t even scarify the seeds since they are FRESH. They germinate in 10 to 12 days when fresh.

      Douglas

  4. Hello, I enjoyed this article as it was very informative. I do have a question pertaining to the best process to germinate passion fruit seeds. I purchased some passion fruit seeds online and started by scarifying each seed then soaked them in a cup of water with just a pinch of rooting hormone for 24hours. After 24 hours I put the damp seeds on a damp paper towel and put that in a plastic bag then put it in a refrigerator…so as of May 30,18 they’ve been in the refrigerator for about a month. I’m going to take them out and plant them in some dirt with full sun this weekend if not earlier. My question is, do you think cold stratification is good for passion fruit seeds? Or by doing that did I frick up all the seeds? Hopefully you’ll be able to answer this. Wingin it. Thanks, Jess

    • Christine Borosh says:

      Passionflower can be a challenge to start from seed, but I’ve had the best results by scarifying the seeds and then stratifying them for about 2 months. So, you are definitely on the right track! Once you are ready to plant your seeds, using a heat mat (or another method of bottom heat) can really enhance germination. Also, don’t give up if you don’t see the seedlings emerge right away, the seeds can sometimes take a month or longer to germinate. Good luck!

    • Hello from south Florida. My passiflora edulis flavicarpa variety of passion fruit vine is loaded this summer. The key to germinating seeds is FRESH seeds. The fresher, the better they germinate. I ferment them as listed above, just like my tomato seeds each winter. If anyone would like FRESH passion fruit seeds please email me at nativegarden417@gmail.com. I have TONS of seeds and need to find homes for the FRESH seeds. I don’t even scarify the seeds since they are FRESH. They germinate in 10 to 12 days when fresh.

      Douglas

      • Hello Douglas,
        Thanks for your info and kind offer. I live in southern NM and passion plants do grow here but need some protection from frosts. I buy passion fruit at the store (they can cost $17 a lb!) and reserve the seeds to plant, but did keep them for several months so will take your advice. I would love some seeds from hu and will email. Thanks so much.

        • Feel free to email me for my mailing address. Just send me a self address stamped envelope. Thanks for your interest.

    • I don’t want to say your trying to hard but… we live in NC and at the end of summer we sit
      It in the yard, tear open the ripe fruits, suck the pulp from the seeds and spit the seeds on the ground like watermelon seeds. Every year we have more and more. We love them and use them to make tea, syrup, and jelly.

  5. Erica V Johnson Ellison says:

    I just discovered several passion flowers growing that I didn’t plant. They bloom during the early day and close up during the evening. They’ve done this for several days. Is this normal behavior? They have already grown over 5ft.

    • Christine Borosh says:

      Yes, this is common for passionflower. The flowers usually only last for a day and close up at night. However, with more established plants, you’ll get new blooms opening up each day!

  6. Thank you for the article. I live in southern NM and have bought passion fruit at the grocery store, cleaned and scarified the seeds and had great results with germination. Far more plants than I can use. I’ve read its best to have at least two plants for pollination purposes. They are on the deck, shaded by a tree in one of the sunniest cities in the country. I bring them in the house during winter.
    Alas, after 2-3 years, my six potted plants grew 5-6′ tall, never produced a single bud or blossom, ever. Any advise?

    • Christine Borosh says:

      A few things come to mind:
      1 – When starting from seed, passionflower can take several years to get established before blooming. Since passionflower seeds can be a challenge to germinate, many people purchase established plants and those will bloom much more quickly than plants started from seed. You might just need to wait a little longer!
      2 – Over-fertilizing can lead to the plant producing more vegetative growth at the expense of flowers/fruit. Make sure that you aren’t using too much fertilizer.
      3 – Container size is another thing to consider. Passionflower plants get quite unruly in the wild and can become weedy very quickly. The plants spread by runners and if they aren’t in a large enough container to allow this, they won’t be happy and this could affect flower production.

      I hope this helps! Here’s to passionflower blooms in your future 🙂

  7. Stefan Graftén says:

    Juliet, thank you for the great pictures and information.
    Fermitation isn’t wrong and is how nature intended but in my experience with P. Edulis that step was not needed, a stainless steel strainer to break down the pulp, dry the seeds and plant with under heat.

    A question for you, are P. Edulis leaves and flower also considered medicinal? Can one induce dried leaves or flower from this plant, i.e. as a tea?

    I grow P. Edulis and P. Violacea in Sweden.

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

      Passiflora edulis is grown throughout the tropics for its edible pulp, however it has different effects on the body and can’t be substituted for Passiflora incarnata. We are only writing about Passiflora incarnata here; this information can’t be applied to other species in the genus (which may have some toxicity or may not be medicinal at all).

  8. Great post! I moved from South Texas to Central New Mexico and brought some of the S. Texas native Passiflora foetida with me. I was pleasantly surprised to see it bloom and fruit outside of its native range. It has wonderful pink blooms and red fruit. Would you recommend the fermentation process described above for other species of passiflora?

    • Christine Borosh says:

      Yes, while Passiflora incarnata is the only species we recommend using medicinally, you can use the same propagation strategies to grow other Passionflower species.

  9. I live in Western Pennsylvania, winter’s definitely make it impossible to grow passion flowers year round. I do have a passion flower in a hanging basket it is very prolific. Can I over winter this indoors this winter? It would be such a shame to let it die this fall. Thank you for your reply.

    • Sara Kinney says:

      I think it should be possible. I imagine that the foliage would still die back indoors due to less light in the winter, and then new shoots would emerge in the spring.

  10. I have a seed starter tray with 50 individual slots about 2″ wide and 4″ deep. Can I sow more than one seed per slot? Also should I cover them while germinating? Tia

  11. I started some Passiflora incarnata in January, and I now have 4 plants with 4 leaves on each. 2 of them have a characteristic tri-lobed leaf as their fourth leaf, but the other 2 have rounded fourth leaves. Does this have anything to do with plant gender? Any ideas? Thanks.

    • Congratulations on your success with growing Passionflower from seed! I think that is just some early variation in leaf shape and does not point to plant gender. Enjoy growing these amazing plants! Be well 🙂

  12. I just picked lots of green round seed pods from several passion fruit vines. I would love to plant the seeds. They r still green so do I need to let the pods sit for a while, cut them open and let them dry on the inside or what. I live in Arkansas Thanks

  13. Please answer and let me know if you have a place I can order passion fruit seeds. I am almost 72 (7/3/42) and would love to see one alive and growing before I’m too old to enjoy it!

  14. I’m a Yankee now living in Missouri and I have passionflower growing out back. Lovin’ it. Printed out your seed saving instructions and maybe I just missed it….do the seeds require a rest / refrigeration period before being planted? Thanks so much.

    • Suzy,
      Sometimes fruits will set when pollination has not taken place. Maybe hand-pollinate the flowers next time by taking a small paintbrush and transering the pollen from one flower to the three stigmas on the top of another flower. Antoher thought, do you have more than one plant? Sometimes flowers from the same plant will not produce viable seed….Good luck.

  15. My Lady Margaret has open it bloom for the first time this AM and I am planning to pollinate it this afternoon
    Want to know if this will be correct

    1.- Cut the antlers and put them in a baby jar
    2.- Rub a Qtip on the pollen
    3.- Rub the pollen on the stigmas

    How will I know if what I did is correct?

    Will this produce any fruit?

    • Juan,
      Congratulations! Not sure what you mean by antlers? But step 2 and 3 seems right on. It would be helpful to use separate flowers and separate plants if you have them, as the pollen is more likely to take. Honestly, I usually let the bees do their thing and it results in lots of fruit, so I don’t have any experience in the matter. you should know in a few days if a little green ball starts growing where the flower was.

  16. We just moved into a house with an established large vine. What is the best way to care for and prune this lovely lady? I have grown passionflower in the past, but that plant was very young. I am very excited to experience this plant and all of its cycles of growth. Your post came at the best time! Thanks as always for your work!

    • Dalene,
      If your passionflower is the same species (many of the ornamental passionflowers are different species) it doesnt need pruning, just a little fertilizer (compost tea, worm castings, etc) and water if its super dry. Harvest it when its looking good and so are you:)
      thanks for visiting!

  17. Beautiful pix! And I will want to purchase some too. I’m wondering if we might have some on our 12 wooded acres in Candler. Tomás thinks he’s identified the leaves. Do you think it could be?

    • could be, does it have alternate leaves with three lobes and two little dots (extra-floral nectaries) on the petiole? tendrils? grow in a field? mandala flowers you could gaze at for three and a half hours straight? then yes, it is passionflower….

  18. Sara Kinney says:

    So beautiful…and will you be selling some of these to your earnest blog readers at the Farmer’s Market Herb Festival this year? I hope to buy one!

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