This week we take a look at one of my all time favourite plants ~ Passiflora (Passionflower). This beautiful, evergreen vine climbs using tendrils to secure itself to other plants or supporting structures such as trellises, bamboo canes, and pergolas. With its’ exquisite blooms opening from summer to early autumn, who wouldn’t want to grow at least one of these plants in their garden?
Cultivation & Care
Apart from needing well-drained soil and plenty of moisture in the growing season, passionflowers aren’t too demanding of our time. Full sun or partial shade is acceptable, however more sun exposure will promote flower and fruit formation. Interestingly, the flowers will not open on dull, cloudy days.
While passionflowers are evergreen, many people cut them back to the base during winter, as more often than not, they will die back if the weather is cold enough. Be sure to mulch the roots to protect them from freezing during severe frosts during winter.
There are about 500 species of passionflower in the genus Passiflora. Naturally, I can’t fit them all in a single blog post, so below are just a few of the gorgeous species this genus can offer.
Passiflora incarnata (Purple Passionflower)
If you are after the typical passion fruits you are familiar with eating then this is the species for you. While you can eat the fruits of other species of passiflora, the taste of the fruits from P. incarnata are much more palatable. Be sure to restrict root growth if you want plentiful fruits as this will stop the plant from focusing it’s energies on vegetative growth.
Passiflora caerulea (Blue Passionflower)
If you’ve ever seen passionflower in a garden before, chances are you’ve seen P. caerulea it is one of the commonest species grown in gardens and is usually readily available from most garden centres.
Passiflora racemosa (Red Passionflower)
This species of passionflower is set apart from the previous two not only by it’s crimson flowers, but by its floral arrangement. As you may have guessed by the botanical name ‘racemosa‘, this species produces its flowers in racemes.
Sweet in flavour, the fruits produce a small amount of edible pulp with a large amount of seeds. The pulp can be used raw or cooked to make jelly or jams. The leaves can be enjoyed raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable. The flowers can also be cooked as a vegetable or used to make a syrup. Bear in mind that this applies to the species P. incarnata, which is more commonly cultivated for edible use.
The foliage of passionflower can provide shelter for birds during the warmer seasons of the year, while also provided much needed nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Insects will also take refuge in the foliage and certain species of caterpillar will use the leaves as food. Keep an eye out for ants who have a long established symbiotic relationship with Passiflora. They can often be seen enjoying a treat of nectar at the base of the flower buds, which the plant provides as a reward for fending off insects who would dare to indulge in too much of its’ foliage.