I have grown a passion flower in my garden for a number of years now, which I purchased as a small plant from a garden centre. Passion flowers can be grown from cuttings and from seed too, however growing from seed is not easy and the plants can take over a decade to flower.
All photos by Toni Abram.
Passion flowers are often used to symbolise events in the last hours of the life of Jesus, (as in The Passion of the Christ
– the story of Jesus Christ’s arrest, trial and suffering), with the corona representing the crown of thorns; the styles representing the nails used in the crucifixion; the stamens representing the five wounds and the five sepals and five petals representing ten of the apostles, excluding Judas and Peter. Further information about the symbolism of the passion flower can be found below.
Passion flowers are evergreen climbers with dark green leaves, which will quickly cover a wall or fence or in my case an obelisk – the plant is able to climb with tendrils, the same as peas, sweet peas and runner beans.
They have exotic looking flowers but are easy to grow, flowering from July to October, with egg shaped fruits following the flowers. It is possible to grow passion flowers in the ground or in pots. Those grown in pots will need to be fed and watered more often and they won’t grow quite as vigorously as those growing in the ground, however growing them in a pot does mean they can be moved to a frost free place for winter, if necessary.
My plant is Passiflora Caerulea but other varieties are available. Images of some of these can be seen below.
Passion flowers are hardy in most regions of the British Isles despite being native to the tropics of South America. They can handle drought conditions but can be lost to frost and some passion flowers are suitable only for growing in a conservatory or greenhouse, so check before you buy.
They are very independent plants which don’t need to be pampered and would probably prefer that you didn’t bother, so it is really a case of the gardener keeping the plant tidy and within the constraints of whatever space they have. I cut mine back as and when it gets a bit out of hand but because it is evergreen, I tend to leave any serious cutting back until late winter, as I like seeing a bit of life and colour in the garden over the winter.
Passion flowers typically only last one day. You can view a short film showing a passion flower growing below.
Passion flowers cuttings can be taken in early spring/summer. To do this remove new growth from below a leaf node – about 6cm in length is long enough. Remove the bottom leaves and tendrils and place the cutting in a pot of cutting compost. Cuttings should root successfully when placed in a propagator with bottom heat of around 20°C. However, last year I took cuttings of mine for the first time, stuck them in general/multipurpose compost, did without a propagator and this year have three new good sized plants.
Passion flower won’t bloom
Plants can get a lot of leaves and not many flowers. The most common cause of lack of flowers is too much nitrogen (which will promote leaf growth at the expense of flowers) and too little potassium. A weekly feed of liquid seaweed or bone meal in May, June and July should sort this out.
Passion flowers don’t always bloom right away. Many species need several years to establish a solid root system before they begin to set blooms.
Fruiting plants need as much sun as they can get. Even if you never intend to harvest the fruit, your passion flower will try to turn the flowers into fruit and this means being able to create lots of food with the help of the sun. A passion flower needs at least eight hours of direct sunlight, otherwise, it may never bloom or bloom only sparsely. If your flower isn’t getting eight hours of direct sunlight a day, you should consider moving it.