The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Do you need a male hardy kiwi to produce fruit?

Hardy kiwi flower

Let me start with the official information found in many books and websites.  Hardy kiwis come in male and female varieties, and the recommendation is to include one male plant for every eight females in your orchard.  Only a few varieties --- such as Issai --- are listed as having both male and female flowers on the same plant, meaning you can get fruit from a single vine.

Our Anna (aka Ananasnaya) vine is flowering for the first time this spring, and when I looked up into the pretty white bells, I noticed that each bloom consists of a central ovary (the green bump, which will turn into a fruit) surrounded by quite a few stamens.  Wait a minute!  The presence of stamens means that the flower is both male and female and is potentially self-pollinating.  I even tapped the stamens with my finger and saw pale pollen come off, a sign that the male parts are functional.

Male and female kiwi flowersIs my Anna kiwi just an odd duck?  I don't think so, based on the photo to the left, from the Washington State University Extension Service.  The WSU photo shows a male kiwi flower on the left and a female on the right --- their "female" flower, just like mine, is full of stamens.

Interestingly, one of our readers commented last year to say that she had planted an Anna kiwi and a male kiwi, but the male never blooms with the female...and yet she still gets fruits.  We're accidentally running a similar experiment since our Anna kiwi is the most vigorous of the three vines I planted in 2008 and our male isn't blooming this year.  If we get fruits just like the commenter did even though no male flowers are available, I'll know that either Anna is like Issai and is both male and female, or that perhaps all "female" hardy kiwis are male too and don't need a pollinator plant.

Anna kiwi

I'd love to hear from readers who have hardy kiwis flowering right now.  If you go out and look at the flowers of your female plants, do you see a ring of stamens?  If so, what variety are you growing?  Could the need for male hardy kiwis just be an untested "fact" that's been passed down from book to book for years with no data to back it up?



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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.



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I had an anna cultivar as a kid it was sold to me as a plant that was both male and female but had better yield if cross polinated with a pure male plant.

Here is a photo of pure female kiwi flowers

http://www.cornhillnursery.com/retail/fruit/kiwiflowers.html

Comment by rebecca Tue Jun 3 11:28:27 2014

Many plants have both male and female flowers/parts, but still can't fertilize themselves; the pollen must come from a different plant (and often an entirely different variety). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allogamy

This is not to be confused with being mono/dioecious, which just talks about the location of the male/female parts (mono = males on one plant, females on another plant; dio = both parts on the same plant).

Comment by Emily Tue Jun 3 14:56:02 2014
Emily --- Very true, and that may be why Rebbecca saw higher yields when she had a male. But if that were the case for all hardy kiwis, nurseries should tell us to buy two varieties (the way you do with apple trees) instead of specifying that you need to get a male and a female variety. Hopefully some other folks will report with data on their "female" flowers so we'll know if the nurseries just got confused about the need for a male or whether Anna is just a special kind of hardy kiwi and most females really are just female.
Comment by anna Tue Jun 3 16:30:39 2014
Here in Japan, hardy kiwi are called "Saru-nashi" (Monkey pears) and are not sold as male/female. The tag on mine even said "Unlike their larger cousins, you can get fruit from just one." So I have always been confused when people and websites recommended having pairs. I thought it might be just a different cultivar.
Comment by Eric in Japan Tue Jun 3 17:58:59 2014

It has more to do with a degree of Self-incompatibility than anything, I think. Without a male you might still get fruit but set and size of those that do mature have always been disapointing, for me. I have an Issa, and a redish fruited one and even with issa "not" needing a male, when my male, or red female flowers at the same time(rarely:( the difference is huge. I'm sure there has to be different male Varieties out there to match up with the flowering of the females. Some searching is in oder I would say.

Comment by T Wed Jun 4 11:17:55 2014

Hi Anna, When I saw your post I ran out to look at my kiwis. I have two vigorous females that were flowering and one male who wasn't doing so well (no flowering). I was excited seeing a small budding "fruit" (see image on blog), but in a week they just fell off. I'm thinking the plant jettisoned them because they weren't fruits at all, due to lack of pollination. I've given my male kiwi pride of place in a nice sunny spot so hope to see a difference next year.

Comment by kaat Sun Jul 27 13:40:24 2014
kaat --- We had the same experience this year. (And after I got my hopes up too!) However, I've noticed with other fruit plants that they often don't set fruit the first year they bloom, so that might be what was going on with our vine. Not sure if your females are similarly young?
Comment by anna Sun Jul 27 16:19:17 2014
Hi, I think I'm in the same boat at the OP. I have two Anna's that were supposed to be male and female. This year I had many blooms and fruit was starting out good then dropped. I noticed my male had fruit and realized after 5 years that it must be a female too! I just planted a male from a reputable nursery and hope I get flowers sooner with a male. Now the wait begins again. Perhaps grafting for flowers sooner?
Comment by Pat Mon Aug 10 11:45:19 2015
Pat --- Unfortunately, a late freeze got all of our blooms this spring. So no new data for you! If your plants aren't setting fruit even though you're seeing plenty of flowers, adding a male does seem like a good solution. And grafting on a limb is a great space-saving idea! I haven't tried to graft kiwis yet, so will be curious to hear how it works for you.
Comment by anna Mon Aug 10 13:34:44 2015

Anna:

Sorry your plants were frosted, it's a long wait for these plants to produce.

Yes, both plants were producing fruit, I had tons of blooms. They both dropped though. I trimmed some back today to keep them on the other side of the railing, they grow so fast. When I cut a branch from the one I thought was a male I noticed it had about 10 pieces of fruit almost fully grown. Ugh!

Maybe these are the only ones that had successfully been pollinated by an insect? I don't know. I definitely know they both had fruit so it must have been pollinated by another local plant? BTW they were the furthest shoot from the other plant. I still have the original tag and they are Anna plants.

Thanks!

Comment by Pat Mon Aug 10 15:32:36 2015
I have a 3-4 year old Issai kiwi that is flowering very well. small bunches of white female flowers with black tipped stamen. Do issai kiwis have completely male flowers, like usually yellow flowers?? And how long should you keep your longest vines growing from rest of the plant for fruiting?
Comment by Bubba Thu May 2 17:27:37 2019





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