Passion fruit originated in southern Brazil, and was carried to northern Argentina from Paraguay. The yellow variety is sometimes said to be of origins unknown, but perhaps it came from the Amazon parts of Brazil. The purple passion fruit grows in Australia and was brought to Queensland in the years before 1900. The purple variety was planted for the first time in Hawaii in about 1880, from seeds brought from Australia.
The purple passion fruit is a subtropical plant, and it usually needs a climate that is frost-free. But there are some varieties of the plant that can withstand temperatures as low as the upper twenties without any serious damage. California has many passion fruit growers, and it can be found as far north as the San Francisco Bay, the Monterey Bay and San Jose. In cooler areas, some vines will lose leaves in the winter, but the roots will quite often resprout, even if the top of the plant dies.
As much as the passion fruit enjoys warmth, it does not grow well if placed in intense heat. And they do need protection from the wind, as well. Rainfall in the areas they grow should average roughly thirty-five inches annually. If your outdoor climate doesn't allow you to grow these lovely plants outdoors, you can grow them indoors.
This plant is a vine with great clinging and climbing capabilities. It clings by green tendrils to almost any support it can find. It can grow up to twenty feet in one year, once it is well-established and has a good support system. The passion fruit usually only lives a total of five to seven years. The evergreen leaves are three-lobed when they are fully mature, and are finely toothed. They range in length from three to eight inches, and they are darker above and paler below.
One single flower, from two to three inches wide, is born on each new growth's node in season. This bloom, which is clasped by three green bracts, has five whitish-green sepals, five white petals and is surrounded by rays tipped in white, with purple coloring at the base. The flowers are perfect in appearance, but they are sterile. The most efficient pollinator of the passion fruit is the carpenter bee, and to a lesser degree, honeybees. Wind doesn't help pollination because the pollen is heavy and sticky. You can hand-pollinate the flowers if you have the time to do so.
The fruit of this plant is ovoid or round, and from one and a half to three inches wide. It has a waxy and smooth rind that is also very tough. The colors range from pumpkin color to light yellow, to dark purple. Inside there is a cavity that is filled with sacs of membranes that contain pulpy, orange-colored juice. The flavor of the passion fruit is unique, as well as tart, guava-like and musky. Yellow plants have larger fruits than purple plants, but the purple passion fruit also has a higher fruit proportion, a richer taste and aroma, and less acid than the yellow.