Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on October 9, 2023.
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I always knew that it'd be a bit of a risk trying to grow a passionfruit vine in a container, but due to our location in the north this tropical plant simply would not have done well in the ground during winter.
The vine was growing quite fine for many months until it started losing leaves at the bottom. The problem got worse and worse and we knew we had to figure out a solution right away. The problem was that any solution we read about could also have been the problem!
So, after testing, we came to a conclusion- we were underwatering. Read more about how we figured this out below.
Note: Please keep in mind that my passionfruit vine is potted and trellised. I bring it inside in the winter as we live in Zone 6b with cold enough winters that would kill the plant. This more than likely influenced the issue that will be described below and may not have the same solution for those growing a plant in the ground.
Signs Our Passionfruit Vine Was Struggling
At some point around mid-summer, we started noticing our passionfruit vine was behaving unusually. The leaves at the bottom of the vine started to yellow and then would fall off, one-by-one, proceeding up the vine.
For a while, the rest of the plant seemed fine. The upper section of the vine was growing normally, the leaves looked healthy, and it was even flowering from time to time, too.
But after a week or two, all of this stopped. The flowers all shriveled up and fell off (which we at first discounted simply because flower drop is often normal for young plants) and new growth ceased all over the vine- including from any shoots coming out from the roots.
We knew we had a problem now.
The Possible Issue? Literally Everything
One of the things I truly hate about diagnosing issues in the garden is that most recommendations you read could both cause the problem and fix the problem depending on the context!
You may be losing leaves because you are not watering enough. You may also lose leaves from overwatering. You may not be getting fruit because the plant is nutrient-deficient and needs fertilizer. It may also have too many nutrients from over-fertilizing. Your plant may be stressed because it is too hot. It may be stressed because it is not hot enough.
I could go on.
This becomes a bit of a challenge when determining the root cause of an issue, and this was especially prominent with our passionfruit vine.
One day, I added a nutrient feed, watered, and the leaf drop stopped for a few days. In a very short period later, the leaf drop resumed. It rained, but the leaf drop continued. Is it a nutrient issue? A watering issue? How do you decide what to test next?
One swing too dry and your leaves will stop photosynthesis and die. One swing too wet and you may rot your roots. It was maddening, and it took several weeks to truly identify the problem.
The Solution – It Needed (Significantly) More Water
Ultimately, my aha moment came when we were hit with a rather long dry spell at our house. A few weeks without any significant rain meant I could control the watering of the plant myself, and a period of warm weather (75-80 °F) came in. I watered, and a few days later, I checked the soil to find it bone dry.
Considering most resources suggest watering a passionfruit vine once a week, if not more infrequent (but always waiting until it is bone dry to prevent rot), this caught me by surprise. Was I underwatering? I gave it another dousing of water to see. Another three days passed, and the same issue was present- fully dry soil. I watered again, and again, always dry within days.
But the real surprise was what happened next- the vine sprung back to life within a week or so. New growth started all over the plant. Flowers began to bloom. The plant started to look healthy again despite being still devoid of leaves on the lowest segment (although new growth was starting to fill these parts in nicely).
Although it is impossible for me to say that every issue can be solved by watering more, this was seemingly the solution for our potted passionfruit vine all the same.
So if you are struggling with passionfruit leaf drop and aren't sure where to begin, simply start checking how wet your soil every few days and see if that could be the first solution. These plants do not do well with being overwatered (or frequent, drip watering), hence the recommendations for long spacing in between, but once your soil is dried out, you may want to consider watering again even if that interval is shorter than some sources suggest.
Have you dealt with passionfruit leaf drop on your plant? What was the problem and how did you fix it? Comment below to share!
Looking to buy a passionfruit vine to grow at home? Check out options here!