Kiwis are attractive climbing plants with fragrant flowers and sweet fruits.
How to choose Kiwi plants
Kiwis are climbing vine-like plants, which produce fragrant white flowers in early summer, followed by sweet fruits, usually in September. The fruits have high concentrations of Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants - but these degrade rapidly in storage so one of the benefits of growing your own is that you can eat pick and eat them without delay.
Kiwis are best suited to sub-tropical or Mediterranean climates. However they can be grown successfully in less temperate climates if you can provide a warm sheltered location. They do best in fertile soils and need plenty of watering. The varieties we supply are somewhat cold-hardy - they can tolerate freezing or near-freezing temperatures for short periods in the winter, but the flowers which emerge in May or June are not frost-resistant.
Only self-fertile or female kiwi varieties will produce fruit, and while self-fertile varieties do not need a pollinator, female varieties require a male kiwi nearby for pollination. The male plants produce flowers but not fruit.
A further complication is that there are two species of kiwi. Actinidia deliciosa is the species you usually see in supermarkets, with furry brown fruits. Actinidia arguta is a hardier species, with smaller smooth-skinned fruits. The two species are sometimes known as large-fruited and small-fruited respectively. Plants of the two species will not cross-pollinate each other.
Therefore if you only want to grow one kiwi just choose a self-fertile variety (of either species). If you intend to grow several kiwis start by choosing the female or self-fertile varieties you prefer, then choose at least one male variety of the same species, as this will give the most flexibility with the choice of self-fertile or female varieties for fruit production. The male plants should be positioned fairly close to the female plants, and you can allow one male for 5-8 female (or self-fertile) plants.
All kiwis are climbing vine-like plants, with the potential to eventually reach 6m-10m in height - they need plenty of space. It is therefore important to consider how the plant will be trained and managed. It can be trained up a wall using a suporting trellis, or encouraged to scramble across a pergola. You can also use a dedicated training framework with T-shaped supporting posts.
Pruning is important with kiwis, both winter and summer, to ensure good fruit production.
So growing a kiwi does require a bit of preparation and attention to pruning, but apart from that kiwis are generally reliable and disease-free.