Kiwi Plant Identification: Determining Sex Of Kiwi Vine Plants

By: Amy Grant

Kiwi is a rapidly growing vining plant that produces delicious, bright green fruit with a non-edible fuzzy brown exterior. In order for the plant to set fruit, both male and female kiwi vines are necessary; in fact, at least one male plant for every eight female kiwi plants is required. With a flavor somewhere between pineapple and berries, it is a desirable and attractive fruit to grow, but one question plagues the grower. How do I tell the difference between male and female kiwis? Determining the sex of kiwi is the key to understanding why the plant is or is not fruiting.

Kiwi Plant Identification

To determine kiwi plant gender, one must only wait for the plant to bloom. Ascertaining the sex of male and female kiwi vines lies in the differences between the flowers. Understanding the difference between male and female kiwi vines will determine whether the plant will set fruit.

Female kiwi plant identification will appear as flowers with long sticky stigmas radiating out from the center of the bloom. Additionally, the female flowers do not produce pollen. When determining the sex of kiwi blooms, the female will also have bright white, well defined ovaries at the base of the flower, which, of course, the males lack. The ovaries, by the way, are the parts that develop into fruit.

Male kiwi flowers have a brilliantly colored yellow center due to its pollen bearing anthers. Males are really only useful for one thing and that is making lots and lots of pollen, hence, they are heavy producers of pollen that is attractive to pollinators which carry it off to nearby female kiwi vines. Because the male kiwi vines do not bear fruit, they put all of their energy into vine growth and are, thus, often more vigorous and larger than their female counterparts.

If you have yet to purchase a kiwi vine or are just looking to ensure that you obtain a male for reproductive purposes, many male and female plants are tagged in the nursery. Examples of male kiwi vines are ‘Mateua’, ‘Tomori’ and ‘Chico Male’. Look for female varieties under the names of ‘Abbot’, ‘Bruno’, ‘Hayward’, ‘Monty’ and ‘Vincent’.

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How to Plant Hardy Kiwi Vine

Hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta and Actinidia kolomikta) is the cold-hardy cousin of the vine that produces the familiar kiwi fruit sold at grocery stores. The latter is the species Actinidia deliciosa and is hardy only to USDA plant hardiness zone 8. Hardy kiwi is much more cold-tolerant and can be grown in zones 3, 4, or 5 (and up to 8 or 9), depending on the variety. Like its warm-weather cousin, hardy kiwi also produces a sweet edible fruit, but the hardy version is smaller (about the size of a large grape) and can be eaten whole, without peeling.

While its fruit is delicious, hardy kiwi is grown in landscapes primarily for its attractive heart-shaped foliage. It is a fast-growing, vigorous vine but is rarely invasive in the way that other fast-growing vining plants can be. Kiwis are climbers of the "twining" type that grow well on trellises, fences, pergolas, and other structures. However, the vines can also overcome shrubs and small trees if left unchecked.

Hardy kiwi flowers in the spring and produces fruit in the fall. Most varieties are dioecious (separate male and female plants), and females must be pollinated by a male in order to fruit. However, there is one self-pollinating variety that can fruit on its own.

Hardy kiwi should be planted in spring after all danger of frost has passed. The vine itself is fast-growing and will create landscape impact in its first season, but you can expect to wait at least three years before looking for fruit to harvest.

Botanical Name Actinidia arguta, Actinidia kolomikta
Common Name Hardy kiwi, hardy kiwi vine
Plant Type Perennial fruiting vine
Mature Size 10 to 30 feet long
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Well-drained loam
Soil pH 5.5 to 7.0 (acidic to neutral)
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Green, white
Hardiness Zones 3 to 9 (USDA), varies by variety
Native Area China, East Asia
Toxicity Non-toxic
The Spruce / Autumn Wood

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The Spruce / Autumn Wood

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Different Kiwi Plant Varieties

There are a range of different hardy kiwi plant varieties available. While garden stores may sell some specimens, specialist nurseries often provide you with access to a wider range of cultivars.

When selecting your kiwi plant, bear in the mind preferences and eventual size of the cultivar. Try to select a kiwi plant that is best suited to your growing situation.

You will also need to purchase both male and female varieties. This is vital for pollination and fruit production. As a general rule, one male vine can pollinate up to 8 females.

If you are unsure whether your Chinese gooseberries are male or female, look at the flowers. Male flowers hold pollen, meaning that their center is yellow. Female flowers don’t hold pollen so they are more uniformly white.

If you are growing for fruit you will need both male and female cultivars. If space is at a premium you can also grow a self fertile variety.

Russian cultivars are particularly hardy and cold tolerant. Natasha and Tatyana are two reliable cultivars. They can be pollinated by the equally resilient Andrey (A. arguta) cultivar.

Hayward (Actinidia deliciosa) is a widely grown female kiwi plant. A late flowering cultivar, it produces large, oval fruit with a good flavor. Tormuri (A. deliciosa) is a male late flowering cultivar that is suitable for pollinating the Hayward cultivar.

If space is at a premium, choose a self fertile variety. Jenny is a reliable self fertile cultivar which is pleasingly resilient. Jenny is prized for its flavorsome fruit.

Other popular female cultivars include Michigan State which generally produces larger fruit than other cultivars and Ken’s Red. This cultivar is known for its plum red, sweet fruit.

Do Kiwis Grow on Trees?

The answer to the above question is No. Kiwis do not grow on trees. Kiwifruit or Chinese gooseberry is the berry of woody vines. Before digging deeper into this, let’s understand the basic difference between a tree and a vine.

A Plant pathologist describes a treeas a plant that typically is perennial, has a trunk, and branches on top. Whereas, a vineis a plant that typically grows with support on another structure, typically with specialized stems that anchor into another material or wraps around it.

Hardy kiwi, scientifically known as Actinidia arguta and Actinidia kolomikta is the cousin of the vine that produces the kiwifruit. It is a fast-growing vine and usually grown in cold climates.

Do Plants Have Sexes?

The idea of “male” and “female” in plants is a bit mysterious to many people, and there are several variations on the theme throughout the plant kingdom. In plants, as with most animals, the male parts are associated with production of sperm, and the female parts are associated with eggs. Thus, in angiosperms (flowering plants) and gymnosperms (plants with “naked seeds”), the male structures produce pollen (which contain sperm), and the female structures have one or more ovaries (which contain eggs known as ovules). We’ll skip over spore-producing plants, such as ferns and liverworts, because their life cycles are more complicated, but they too have male and female parts.

Some plants are indeed only male or only female.Ginkgo, kiwi, cannabis, and willow all have individuals that make only pollen or only seeds. Botanically, they are known as dioecious plants, and their strategy ensures genetic outcrossing. Interestingly, many street trees are dioecious, and, to avoid the mess of flowers and fruits, only male trees were often planted. Unfortunately, this proved to be somewhat of a failure in urban planning, as pollen allergies have worsened in some places, thanks to the high density of male trees happily producing pollen.

However, most plants are monoecious, meaning that individuals have both female and male structures. In flowering plants, these structures can be borne together in a single bisexual flower, or the flowers can be only male (staminate) or only female (pistillate). Many of the most iconic flowers, such as roses, lilies, and tulips, are bisexual, and the female pistil is characteristically surrounded by the male stamens. Other monoecious plants, such as squashes, corn, and birches, have unisexual flowers. That is, some flowers are male and some are female, but both types are formed on the same individual plant. This strategy is also seen in most conifers. Pollen borne in male cones must be blown by the wind to female cones for pollination to occur.

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