Passiflora - Maypop, Passion Flower, Passion Fruit
DESCRIPTION: This group consists of about 350, tender, evergreen and deciduous, climbing plants that are mainly natives of tropical South America. Their slim stems, which climb by means of tendrils, can grow 20-30 feet in length and are clothed with small, dark green leaves. Their beautiful flowers are 3-5 inches in diameter and are borne singly on long stalks. They consist of a tubular calyx with five lobes or sepals and these are often the same size as the petals (Petals and sepals are collectively known as tepals). Rings of thread-like filaments are found atop the tepals. The five stamens grow on a long central column and are topped by the ovary and its three, nail-like stigmas. From the interesting arrangement of the different parts of the blooms, this plant has been given the name of Passion Flower. The outer ring consisting of 10 tepals are said to represent the ten apostles who witnessed the crucifixion of Christ and within this circle of petals there is a ring of filaments, which allude to the crown of thorns. In the center, there are five stamens representing His wounds and three stigmas representing the nails. The leaves and whip-like tendrils represent the hands and scourges of Christ's persecutors. Some varieties produce edible passion fruits, which vary in shape and size. They contain a jelly-like pulp embedded with numerous seeds. These fruits are only produced where the summer-time temperature is a minimum of 60º. P. amethystina is a large, deciduous climber with three-lobed leaves. The dark bluish-purple flowers are 3 inches across, with a green, bell-shaped calyx and pointed sepals. P. antioquiensis is a medium-sized plant with some three-lobed leaves and some lance-shaped. The rose-red, drooping flowers grow 4 to 5 inches across and borne in late summer and fall. P. caerulea (Blue Passion Flower) is an evergreen, zealous climber that can grow 20 feet. The flowers are 3 to 4 inches across and are produced throughout the summer and fall. They have white or pink-tinged tepals. The corona's outer filaments have blue tips, white centers and purple bases. The orange-red fruits persist on the plant for a period of time. This variety is very pest resistant. P. 'Incense' is a deciduous plant with fragrant, violet-mauve, lace-like blossoms that are almost 5 inches across. They are banded with white and dark purple towards the center. They are produced in early to mid-summer and are followed by edible, but slightly tart fruits. P. incarnata (Maypop) is the hardiest species being a native to Kansas and Pennsylvania. It bears 2 inch, white flowers crowned with purple filaments, in the summer.
POTTING: The care for all the species is similar except for the temperatures. Most of them require a minimum winter temperature of 55º F. They need a sunny area in well-drained, loamy soil. Very heavy soil should be replaced with loam or good garden soil. If the soil is light and sandy, then an additional amount of well-decayed manure or compost would be beneficial. When grown outdoors in warm climates, a framework of branches should be established to which the plant is pruned back in the spring. The shoots should also be pinched back periodically throughout the growing season. Liquid fertilizer can be given to plants that aren't making satisfactory growth. When growing in a greenhouse, they may be planted in containers, 18 to 24 inches around, or in a prepared bed or border. The best compost consists of two parts of fibrous loam and equal parts of peat and leaf mold, with a generous amount of sand added. Repotting of the smaller plants should be done in February or March. The loose soil should be removed from their roots and pots, two sizes larger, should be filled one quarter of the way with crocks and then rough siftings from the compost or rough leaves. Fill the pot with a little compost so that when setting the plant in the pot, its uppermost roots will be an inch below the rim of the pot, fill in the rest of the space with compost and pat it down firmly. Afterwards, set the pot in a shady area of the greenhouse and keep a humid atmosphere by wetting down the benches and floors, along with spraying the leaves a few times a day. Water sparingly until they develop a good root system, after which, during the summer the soil should be kept moist; throughout the winter, however, very little is necessary. Plants that are in large tubs or pots should be top-dressed every spring with fresh compost, but if they're in a bed of soil this is only necessary occasionally. Once the plants have finished flowering, they can be pruned. This consists of cutting out weak shoots to prevent overcrowding. The main branches should be attached to wires or a trellis tied to the greenhouse wall or roof. The short lateral shoots are allowed to hang down freely so the full beauty of their flowers can be enjoyed.
PROPAGATION: Seeds can be sown in the spring or summer in well-drained pots that are filled with sandy soil that's been sifted through a half-inch sieve. Before planting the seeds, the pots of soil should be watered and set aside to drain. Scatter the seeds thinly on the surface and cover with a quarter of an inch of fine soil. Lay a glass pane over the pots and keep them in a temperature of 60º F to 70º F for tropical kinds or 50º F to 60º F for the kinds that require cool greenhouse temperatures. Once the seedlings poke up through the soil, the pane of glass can be removed. When they're large enough, they can be potted separately in 3-inch pots and, later, into larger pots. A sandy, peaty soil is advisable for this first potting. Cuttings can also be used to increase this plant. Shoots that are about 3 inches long can be taken in early summer. The lower leaves should be removed and a basal cut is made just below a node (joint). They are inserted under a bell jar or in a propagating case in a greenhouse and are shaded from direct sunlight. When their roots are 1-2 inches long, they are planted separately in 2½- to 3-inch pots in sandy, peaty soil. Layering can also be done at any time during the summer. A shoot that can easily be bent down to touch the soil is prepared by making an inch long cut lengthwise through a node and extending almost to the center of the stem. The cut should be made in a place where the stem is firm, usually a foot or more from the tip of the shoot. The cut part is pegged down onto sandy soil and covered with the same mixture of soil. Keep the soil moist until roots, 1-2 inches long, have formed. Cut the shoot from the parent plant and pot it in sandy, peaty soil.
VARIETIES: P. alata; P. allardii; P. amethystina; P. antioquiensis; P. edulis (Purple Granadilla); P. 'Exoniensis'; P. quadrangularis (Giant Granadilla); P. 'Star of Bristol'; P. racemosa (Red Passion Flower); P. coccinea; P. laurifolia; P. tetraden; P. vitiolia; P. caerulea (Blue Passion Flower) & var. Constance Elliott, grandiflora; P. caeruleoracemosa; P. coriacea; P. maculifolia; P. trifasciata; P. incarnata (Maypop); P. 'Incense'; P. mollissima (Softleaf Passion Flowers); P. atropurpurea; P. umbilicata.
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