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The hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) is a perennial fruiting vine native to Japan, Korea, northern China, and Siberia. Pint-sized hardy kiwi fruits, also known as the kiwi berry or Siberian gooseberry, are even sweeter than the familiar brown-skinned fuzzy kiwifruit you’ve seen at the grocery store, and there’s no peeling required.

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What Are the Best Hardy Kiwi Varieties to Grow at Home?

Popular cultivars like Ananasnaya (a vigorous option with very sweet fruits, also dubbed “Anna”), Ken's Red (a variety with striking red-skinned fruit), and Issai (a self-pollinating vine with smaller fruits and smaller yields of those fruits) are well-suited for home gardens in northerly USDA hardiness zones 3 through 6.

How to Plant Hardy Kiwi

Plant hardy kiwi vines in late spring, after the threat of frost has passed, and the soil is warm and workable. Most hardy kiwi plants are dioecious, which means there are separate male plants and female plants that need to be planted together for pollination and fruit production. Plant one male plant for every six female plants to ensure the plants set fruit.

  1. Pick the site. Hardy kiwi plants can tolerate partial shade, but they thrive best in full sun, which produces sweeter fruits quicker. Choose a spot that receives at least six hours a day of direct sunlight.
  2. Prepare the site. Hardy kiwi plants require a well-draining, slightly acidic, loamy soil. The plants do not often require further fertilization or nutrients beyond those found in compost, so work organic matter well into the soil before planting and the fruit will thrive.
  3. Trellis. The vine of a hardy kiwi plant can grow up to 30-feet long in a single season, so it’s best to set up a trellis at the time of planting to better control the vines as they grow. Support the plant with either a very strong trellis or decorative pergola.
  4. Plant. To plant hardy kiwi, dig a hole deep enough to cover the roots with soil. As you place the plant in the soil, make sure the top of the root ball is level with the ground. Fill in with a mixture of soil and compost, and gently tamp down to stabilize the plant. Water well to establish, but avoid overwatering the soil. Space the plants about 8–12 feet apart to give them plenty of room to grow.

How to Care for Hardy Kiwi

Like other fruiting trees, it may take a few growing seasons—usually three—before a hardy kiwi vine produces consistent fruit. Inquire about the ages of starter plants at the garden center or nursery for a better idea of the timeline.

  1. Water heavily. While hardy kiwi roots are susceptible to root rot, they also fare poorly in drought or long stretches of very hot weather. In these conditions, plants benefit best from deep soakings a few times a week as needed, rather than constant, shallow waterings.
  2. Remove dead branches. Regular pruning during the growing season encourages new growth and allows for good air circulation as the vines fill out. In dormant months, select one dominant trunk and cut back the others surrounding it. Trim stems back until there are only eight nodes left on the plant to encourage new growth in the spring.
  3. Control pests. The biggest threat to hardy kiwi lies in the soil, where fungal diseases like root rot and insects like nematodes can take hold and drain the plant of nutrients. Hardy kiwi leaves are also a target for spider mites, thrips, and Japanese beetles. Treat pest problems either by pruning away the affected area, planting natural companion plants, or applying an insecticidal spray as needed. Once fruits appear, you may need to use bird netting to discourage critters from snacking on your hard-won crop.