Passiflora mollissima, or Banana Passion Fruit, is a perennial woody vine reaching a length of 20 meters and an age of 20 years. Native to the tropical region of the Andes between 2000 and 3600 meters, this species is widely cultivated in its native range and in many parts of the Tropics and Subtropics as an ornamental and for its fruits. It is now widespread in parts of South Africa, Asia, and upper elevation areas of several Pacific islands including Hawaii. In Hawaii, the Banana Passion Fruit, or more commonly, the Banana Poka occurs at elevations from 2000-7000 feet, with serious invasions in 4000-6000 feet areas with high rainfall. It climbs by means of clinging tendrils and can be kept as an container plant. The long tendrils need lots of support for climbing. It may be grown as a houseplant in a sunny South-facing window.
Beautiful bright pink flowers are borne at the ends of a long stalk. Flowering starts when the plant is one year old. The flowers are large, 5-10 cm in diameter. They are visited by a large number of insects and birds but are chiefly pollinated by honeybees.
Amazing edible fruit may be produced in warm conditions. Fruit green, turning yellow when ripe, up to 12 cm long by 3 cm across, thin-skinned. The pulp is orange, edible and very tasty, sweet. Vines usually produce by the second year and can yield up to 300 fruits a vine when in full production. Fruits can ripen year round.
It covers smothers and breaks underlying vegetation with dense mats of stems and foliage. The leaves are toothed and three-lobed with lobes 5-14 cm long, the middle lobe is the largest. Passiflora mollissima has upper leaf surfaces moderately to densely covered in short hairs. The stems are densely hairy.
Pruning is a must to keep the vine healthy. Prune off less vigorous growth and occasionally prune back vigorous growth to promote flowering. When established, and without care, the passion fruit can easily overtake other garden plants, shading them from sun.
Hardiness zones 9-10, (-5øC/1øC, 25øF/35øF) in Winter. Extremely fast growing vine in where temperatures stay above 28øC. Banana Passion Fruit vines grow high into forest canopies and smother native vegetation from light. Passiflora mollissima tolerates both high and low light levels, but optimal growth occurs in full sun light. In cooler climates and those that receive yearly frost, the vine is much more controllable and makes a beautiful garden ornamental. The plant is frost tolerant, frost tender when young. It will do best in a loam based mix with a little peat moss.
You may need to water your plants on a daily basis during the hottest Summer months. During the Winter the roots should be kept moist, but as growth will be much slower you will probably only need to water once a week, depending on growing temperature. Fertilize at least once every two weeks in the growing season.
If their pot is too large or if they have an unrestricted root run then the whole plant will simply get bigger and bigger but it will refuse to flower and therefore produce the fruits. By limiting the pot size you are limiting the ability to grow and this is seen as a threat, so the natural mechanism is to produce seed for the next generation. A suitably sized pot for an adult plant would generally be of 12 inches in diameter.