Kiwipedia: all about growing kiwifruit in the UK

The sweet and sour exotic that is rich in vitamin C and quite easy to grow

The kiwifruit is something of a marketing coup for New Zealand: once known as the Chinese Gooseberry and a national fruit of that country no less, New Zealanders have cleverly marketed the fruit and exported it worldwide under a not-so subtle new name!

Most kiwifruit you buy in the supermarket comes from Italy or Greece, but did you know that it can also be grown right here in the UK? It’s an avid grower and can even withstand our colder winters but is a little particular about its surroundings.

With careful attention to location and regular maintenance, kiwi vines could soon be adding a touch of the exotic to your fruit garden.


Kiwifruit summary

  • Likes sunny, sheltered spots. Against a wall is ideal
  • Very vigorous grower – too big for the greenhouse
  • Needs regular pruning & training to successfully bear fruit
  • Has pretty and fragrant flowers
  • Early shoots are very susceptible to frost
  • Troubled by few pests, harvest the fruits and ripen indoors
  • Male, female or self-fertile varieties. Males do not bear fruit
  • Around 3 or 4 years for first fruit, up to 7 for peak potential
  • Jenny is a popular self-fertile, Hayward a best-selling female

Can you grow kiwi in a greenhouse?

It would seem the ideal candidate for this, but as a vigorous grower – they can extend to over 9 metres tall – locating them in a greenhouse is out of the question.

Outside it is then, but they do like plenty of sunlight and ideally a nice hot summer (don’t we all!) A sheltered south or west position against a wall would be most ideal.

Although the vines are hardy enough to survive frost, new shoots and blossom that appear in spring are not so you’ll need to take particular care at this time in-case of a sudden frost.

Are kiwis hard to grow?

Kiwifruit produce pretty and fragrant flowers but getting them to crop their unique egg-shaped fruit is a little harder. We’ve already mentioned their like of sunlight and dislike of frost but there are a couple of other important points to mention.

Kiwifruit varieties

Kiwifruit are available in self-fertile varieties which can fruit on their own, while others are male or female. All types will flower, but only the female will produce fruit and then only when pollinated by a male or self-fertile plant.

Most varieties have the familiar hairy skin which should be peeled before eating, but the Issai variety is hairless and smaller (and also a self-fertiliser).

Training and pruning is vital

The other important point to consider is training and pruning. It’s a bit of a tearaway and needs keeping in check. Too much leaf and you’ll end up with less fruit.

You need patience too – It can take up to 3 or 4 years to get the first crop of fruit and up to 7 years before they are up to full fruiting potential. Consider buying an established plant from a reputable supplier and get a head start, such as this 2 year old plant from seed specialists Marshalls

Useful links

The Royal Horticultural society has in-depth growing advice if you decide to take the plunge:

Kiwifruit growing advice by RHS

The kiwi is an ideal fruit for those wanting something a little different but not too difficult to grow, and as a bonus the fragrant flowers and strong growth makes it ideal for growing over arches and pergolas.