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Why a nine-year-old hardy kiwi won't bloom

Unpruned hardy kiwi

Our three hardy kiwi bushes have been in the ground for nine long years without offering a single fruit. We did see a few flowers in 2014, but none appeared on the male plant and the female flowers eventually dropped off. I keep saying we're going to rip the plants out...but Mark likes them and they're very little work, so I've left them alone.

This past winter, I started wondering whether the problem could be our winter-pruning method. Were we cutting off all the blooms before they had time to set fruit? To test that hypothesis, I didn't prune at all this past winter...and to my surprise I did indeed see numerous flower buds on the male and on one female this spring!

Kiwi watersprout

After carefully pruning off excess growth while leaving the flower twigs behind, though, I've decided that I probably wasn't removing all of the flower buds in previous rounds of pruning. Because what I mostly cut off is long, vigorous vegetative growth like this...

Kiwi flowering on a watersprout

...but in only one instance did I find kiwi blooms emanating from what I would have considered a watersprout-to-be-pruned.

Hardy kiwi flower buds

Instead, most flowering shoots are on small, sheltered branches hidden deep within the kiwi bush.

So I'm back to hypotheses A and B, both of which revolve around problematic late spring frosts. Either the April and May freezes that inevitably nip back the kiwis' spring growth have slowed the maturity of the vines, or the plants have been ready to fruit for years but their flower buds are what get nipped during those late freezes. Maybe we'll get lucky and bypass the possible frost this weekend so the plants can avoid either of those issues for one year?

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It might not be late frosts-it could be winter cold itself.

We live in what used to be the USDA Zone 4 'Hook' in the southwest corner of Iowa. Minneapolis weather in a little comma shaped hook of wonder. High winds, extreme cold/hot shifts, and blizzards in the winter. Twenty miles south, it can be zone 6. Usually, we are considered zone 5. So....

Peaches were my Dad's favorite fruit to worry over. Most years we could raise them. Some years not. Dad would start picking off buds just as soon as he could see them in the late winter/spring. He would take a sharp knife and cut through the middle of them. He was looking to see if the inside was green or black. If black, it meant the winter had been too cold and the buds were killed. No fruit.

I'm thinking your buds might not be tough enough for your winters. Another thing to protect????

Never give up!!!

Comment by Tim Inman Sat May 6 15:37:58 2017

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime