• Deutsch
  • English
  • Français

Kiwi

Kiwi are very healthy fruit and are often grown as espalier fruit in warmer, viticultural climates. Facade greening with kiwis on older grapevine trellises has been a thing since around 1970. Because of their very vigorous growth, kiwi plants need a lot of space and need to be trimmed several times in summer. That's why they are most often used on pergolas, which is also the way they are cultivated. They are a good choice for very high greening projects, for covered alleys, and similar projects. The mini-kiwi, as well as the arctic kiwi, are interesting alternatives for rougher climates. 

(Latin.: Actinidia chinensis / deliciosa)

Kiwi Fruit

Requirements / Origin

Kiwi is grown on a pergola and regularly bears fruit only in warm climates. Growing kiwi on walls or facades is a good idea in colder climates, but the location must be sunny, warm, and protected from wind. Cold microclimates, such as on north facing slopes, are not an option. The ground should be fresh or even damp, not too calcareous -- a slightly acidic garden soil with a lot of humus is good. Water regularly if the soil is dry. Kiwi plants can be found in local nurseries or ordered online.

Characteristics and Pruning

This vigorous twining climber supplies the fruits (kiwis) of the kiwi plant with an extremely high vitamin C content. Originating in China, it spread into Europe from New Zealand around the 1950s, and is now also cultivated in Southern Europe. The growth habit of the kiwi plant falls in the category of trained/shaped trees. With commercial cultivation, the plants are usually trained as horizontal cordons with short spurs. The growth is very vigorous, with a growth height up to 20 metres or more. Shoots come early (endangered by late frosts) and are hairy, rust-red. The foliage is very healthy, flowers are yellow / white; flowering around end of May. Multiple prunings are required when the kiwi grows on a wall trellis! The acidity can be reduced by letting the fruit hang a long time and by harvesting only right before the first frost in autumn. The shelf life is long and the fruit will ripen even more when left in the refrigerator, or by storing them next to apples (they will also decay faster). The variety "Hayworth" ("Hayward") is well known. Usually dioecious, so both male and female plants need to be present for fruiting to occur. The male plant doesn't need to take up too much space on the trellis. The variety "Jenny" is monoecious and self-fertile, but the fruits are smaller. Strong growth of the plant may result in building damage (similar to wisteria). In leaf and habit, the kiwi is similar to Celastrus Orbiculatus, but the leaves of Actinidia Chinensis are larger. 

Climbing Aid for Kiwi

The table at the bottom of the page shows which trellis designs can be used for a kiwi plant. The trunk can be trained just as a grapevine trunk would be. Choose a trellis in the medium range, or even better- in the heavy or massive ranges for more stability.

 

It is vital to guide the kiwi plant so that the main shoots and trunk won't wind around the trellis wires or lattices... the exact procedure is described in more detail in the wisteria section. On a pergola, the individual wires should be 40 - 50 cm apart, but only every second cable will hold a branch; the other wires will hold the green shoots and leaves of the year. For facade or wall trellises, the plant is trained as described under trained/shaped trees. The main axes should be 35 - 40 cm apart. The kiwi shoots grow very quickly-- so leave at least 1.5 metres distance between the trellis and downpipes or lightning rods!

Suitable wire rope trellises?

Click on the picture to see a list of suitable trellis designs.

Facade Greening with Kiwi

Examples of greening projects with kiwi as espalier fruit on facades and covered alleys; here also pictures of various flowers.

Kiwi ripening on a pergola
Kiwi growing on horizontal tension wires under a shelter
Tall actinidia plant on a pergola
Wall greened with a kiwi climbing plant
It's hard to keep a kiwi small, as can be seen with these long shoots
This kiwi is kept in neat/tight shape with regular pruning
Only a small wall area is covered with leaves here
Facade 'colonised' by a kiwi plant
Two kiwi espaliers on a garage wall
Two strictly trained kiwi plants
Strictly formed kiwi plants with a wire rope trellis "classic" on a carport
On an espalier, kiwis become green very early in spring!
House greening with a massive kiwi plant; flowering time
Kiwi in late summer; several fruits can be seen under the leaves
This is what a kiwi espalier wall looks like when left without pruning for a year!
Kiwi espalier in winter: the very strong, hard-to-contain growth is clearly visible here!
Male kiwi flower
Female kiwi flowers

Suitable wire rope trellis designs for kiwi

Please click on the graphics to see a detailed view of each design!

 = suitable              = sometimes suitable              = not suitable