Passiflora seed germination: what works?

mark4321_gwJuly 19, 2010

I just got an email asking me about seed germination. Since I usually propagate things using cuttings I thought people on this forum would be a better source of information.

I know Myles Irvine has a nice description on his site:

However, I'm curious what everyone's personal experiences--what has worked in practice, what hasn't? How do you grow Passiflora from seeds? Do you have any favorite "tricks"?

No discussion of germination would be complete without mentioning the source of seeds and their viability. Any information along those lines would be also be very useful.


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Well, Myles site is the best advice I can really give, but I'll try to add a few things.

- First off, fresh seeds is ALWAYS better. They germinate faster and at better rates. When I say fresh, I mean they have not even been dried fully. No more than a few days out of the arils. Realistically, you won't be buying them this way, you would have to grow them out yourselves.

- Heat. Use heat. Bottom heat is great, but as long as the soil temp gets warm, you will have much better success. You are faking the seed into thinking the weather is warm enough to grow and survive. There may also be an aspect of natural compost heat in the jungle that you are replicating.

- Be patient! If you are used to doing peppers, tomatoes, and beans from seed, and expect to have them all germinate within 2 weeks, you will be sorely disappointed. I have had seeds come up within 4 days, and I have had some take over a year. If you cannot handle that, don't even try. You will hate Passifloras before you even start. And while you wait, DO NOT EVER let them go completely dry.

- We have tried pre-soaks in just about everything you can imagine. I am not going to take the time to list everything, but nothing has necessarily been drastically better than anything else. We have had fleeting success from many different things, and I would suggest to you to try anything you have the mind to try. Some species have germinated only one way, and not another. I would be tempted to say that there is really no wrong way.

- As soon as the seeds start to emerge, take them out of the propagation chamber you are using, and put them in a small pot with soil, and stick it in a window sill or shady area of the yard. This is a critical time for the seedling, and you need to pay special care to water, and watch for pests. Once the first tendril appears, and perhaps sooner, you can stick the plant in part sun to sun, depending on the species.

I hope this helps a bit...

Have fun!

Eric Wortman

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 9:47AM
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If I have fresh seed I don't bother using anything and just plant them. Sometimes I remove the arils, sometimes I don't. If I'm using seed that has been dried and stored I use a mild acid like orange juice and soak them for 24-48 hrs. I'm not sure how much of a difference this makes but I'd rather use it then not with stored seed. I've heard of people using a hydrogen peroxide soak but have never tried it. Like Eric said some seeds, especially older ones, take a very long time to germinate. I've had passie seeds take almost a year to sprout so I don't give up on them for quite a while. I use bottom heat if I'm starting them inside in the winter. Sometimes I cover the seed trays but not always. If covered I remove it once the seeds have germinated. I don't put them into individual pots until the first set of true leaves are visible. I keep the seedlings in filtered light until they have a couple sets of true leaves then slowly acclimate them to more sun.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 8:48PM
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chloe92us(10A Sarasota area)

I just germinated Incarnata on my first attempt using these directions that came with the seeds (purchased from's AWESOME!):

Wrap seeds in a paper towel that has been moistened with warm water. Then put the paper towel in a zip lock bag. Place in an area that will stay at least 75 degrees or warmer for THREE DAYS. Don't open the baggie. After 3 days, gently rub the "goop" off each seed with a moist paper towel. Repeat until there is no more goop to rub off. Rinse. Plant seeds 1/2" deep and water w/ warm water to keep medium moist not damp. Continue to keep warm.

I bought 10 seeds in the middle of June. Today, July 27, I have 4 seeds fully germinated and growing (about 2" tall seedlings) and still waiting on the others. But, from what I've read, that's pretty good! Good luck! I'm addicted to this seed sowing business! ;)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 5:38PM
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Long post warning here, but just my 2 cents worth!

Here is what I usually do to germinate passie seeds. I soak them in wet paper towels (placed inside of a plastic shoebox) for a long time (3 to 4 weeks). Change the paper towels as needed, usually once a week. Check them every day to make sure the paper towels dont dry out. Once the soak is done, I rub the seeds between my fingers to remove any slimy stuff, and then rinse them. I plant them in 72 cell trays (sometimes 2 per cell). I fill the cells with screened Miracle Gro potting mix (screened using an old window screen). The trays are covered with a humidity dome so they donÂt dry out, and then placed on a heat mat with a thermostat set to 80 degrees. I have had my best success with this method, and the longer pre-soak times in particular seem to help.

That said, I think what happens when the seeds are harvested may be as important (or maybe more important) than how they are germinated. Most people are anxious to see the seeds when they harvest a fruit (its human nature), so they open it up right away and remove the arils/seeds. Then they either remove the arils right away or quickly dry the seeds. My opinion is that drying the seeds too fast may be detrimental. Remember there is a live plant embryo in the seed, and it may not be in a dormant state when it is harvested. So what I do with the fruits is to let them fall naturally from the vine, and then let them ripen further inside (in a cool dry place) for about a month. Then I open them up and remove the arils (they often are still intact with pulp). The arils are placed on a plate and allowed to dry without being mashed. This can take up to a week. Once the arils are completely dry, I remove them, and rub the seeds with a dry paper towel. I do not rinse them until I am ready to plant them (letting the dried dormant seed absorb water may prompt it to break dormancy).

I suspect that for a seed to ultimately germinate successfully, the embryo inside the seed has to fully develop (indicated by the seed turning black), and then go into dormancy before (or just after) falling from the vine, and finally encounter the right conditions the following season (soil, moisture, temperature, etc). If I am right about this, then it may be that many passie seeds offered for sale or trade may not have been harvested properly, and may not have been able to go into a dormant state before drying out. If this is correct, then no amount or type of soaking or other treatment will be successful. Maybe this is why passie seeds are so hard to germinate. I think we must try to emulate what happens to the seeds in natureÂthis would be letting them fall naturally from the vine, and then slowly drying. One thing I havenÂt tried is a brief soak in warm (acidic) water just after harvesting (to emulate passage through an animalÂs intestinal tract). That may happen with many passie seeds naturally. A brief period of warm acidic conditions may disable any germination inhibitors that are in the seed coat. However, not all passie fruits are consumed by animals in the wild, so this may only work for some species. And this is something that would have to be done fairly soon after harvesting (for example, incarnata fruits seem to ripen maximally within a few days after falling from the vineÂas indicated by their fragrance).

The last thing that I would mention has to do with genetics. In the wild, flowers are most likely to be pollinated with pollen from other nearby flowers. However, the closer the other flowers are, the more closely related they probably are (genetically speaking). So I suspect that pollinations that occur from flowers at greater distances produce more genetically diverse and viable seeds. As an example of this, I have collected incarnata fruits from a location in south Louisiana that has a good number of vines along a ten mile stretch of road. Despite the vines being loaded with fruit, the seeds germinate poorly. However, when I used pollen from a Louisiana vine to pollenate a Pennsylvania incarnata, the resulting seeds gave me a 100% germination rate within one week (using my standard method above). So I think that seeds that come from genetically diverse parents are much more viable than those from genetically similar parents. If you pollenate 2 vines that you both grew from seeds that originated from the same fruit, then they are probably genetically very similar, and perhaps not very viable.

So my advice is to let those fruits fall naturally, then let them further ripen inside, then let the arils dry naturally (without mashing them). When pollinating species (non-hybrids), if possible use 2 vines from different geographical locations. I hope this helps!


    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:08AM
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I soak mine in beer for 2 days then place in a moist paper towel, that I then place in a baggie & seal. I place that in a south facing window as it doesn't receive bright light. I have a great germination rate this way.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 10:02PM
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Mark, I really enjoyed reading your hypotheses, and slyly think your'e onto something. :)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2010 at 1:27PM
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I bit the tip of the seed off to expose the slightest bit of seed embryo.

Even after soaking, the husk was still rock hard; I just didn't see how the seedling would bust through such a strong casing in a reasonable time. I would still recommend the soak just for the hell of it.

All the magic happened in a votive holder filled with fine pearlite, moistened, sealed with cling wrap and placed in a warm location.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 3:23AM
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I soaked in fresh squeezed grapefruit juice waited 3 days until the juice fermented and on the 3rd day I Rinsed the seeds... Most of them sprouted in a pot, I used a very fine drip fogger to mist the soil and watered every day.
These were P.Lugularis and P. Alata i am within the Dan Diego inland area.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 10:48PM
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Hey Mark,

It's funny that you posted your advice on a garden form that I had written about banana passion fruit and now I'm sharing with you my experience with growing passion fruit from seed... I think it's a fair trade. Your advice for my experience.

Any way, about three years ago, a friend gave me a purple passion fruit and it was delicious. I decided to plant the seeds and waited many months and they ended up never sprouting. Discouraged, I didn't think that I was going to try it again. A year pasted and I came across a Frederick passion fruit vine that was growing at a city college that was loaded with fruit. I took a few and decided to grow them again. (This time praying for success lol) I scooped out the seeds along with the flesh and since I didn't have any equipment for growing them in a pot I decided to grow them in a patch of dirt in my front yard. The soil quality there was poor and high in clay but never the less, I was willing to give it a try. It was around January and the outside temperature was still a little chilly so this might have made the germination process take a few months longer. In June, I noticed a few sprouts starting to emerge. I was so excited! I decided to transplant them into a plastic cup with better soil and after the root ball started to out grow the cup, I planted them on a trail around my neighborhood and they are currently two feet tall. I applied a few inches of manure and this helped them grow a lot faster.

I always try to use fresh seeds when geanting passion fruit. (Fresh as in meaning with the jelly sack still attached) If planted with the right conditions, they should sprout in two weeks or less with 100% rate. Dried seeds grow well too but there are two major down falls. 1.) It take longer to germinate and 2.) The germination rate is lower (20%). Other than that, if you soak them in acidic liquid for a few day, they should sprout in a few months or sooner or later. Also, keep them from direct sun light while germanating. I hope these technique will help you as much as thy have proven to be for me.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 9:47PM
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