RHS Growing Guides

How to grow kiwi fruit

Our detailed growing guide will help you with each step in successfully growing Kiwi fruit.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Choosing
  3. Planting
  4. Plant Care
  5. Pruning and Training
  6. Harvesting
  7. Problems

Getting Started

Getting Started
Section 1 of 7

For successful cropping, choose a self-fertile variety, unless you have space for both a male and female plant
Kiwi fruits (Actinidia deliciosa and Actinidia arguta) may seem exotic, but there are several varieties that will fruit in the UK if grown in a warm, sunny, sheltered spot. These are vigorous climbers and need plenty of space, and are best trained and pruned twice a year to get the best crop and keep them under control. Take care to buy a hardy variety, ideally self-fertile. 

Kiwis make attractive plants, with large, often velvety leaves, furry shoots, creamy-white fragrant flowers and (on female or self-fertile plants) downy or smooth oval fruits that develop over the summer and into autumn. The fruits rarely ripen fully outdoors except in long hot summers, but can simply be picked and ripened indoors.

Actinidia arguta produces small, smooth-skinned fruits and is hardier than Actinidia deliciosa (pictured top)

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There are several factors to consider before buying: 

  • Kiwis are vigorous climbing vines that need plenty of space, large sturdy supports and a warm sunny sheltered site. Unpruned plants can eventually grow to 8m (26ft) or more, depending on the variety 
  • They require regular maintenance to fruit well – they should be pruned in both summer and winter to keep them in check and encourage successful fruiting 
  • Plants may take three or four years to start fruiting
  • Varieties are either female, male or self-fertile. Most of the widely available varieties are self-fertile, but do check. If you buy a female variety, you will also need a male or a self-fertile variety nearby in order for it to crop. Male plants produce flowers but no fruit. If you only have room for one plant, make sure it’s a self-fertile variety 
  • Actinidia arguta produces smaller fruits, only about 2.5cm (1in) long, with a smooth skin. Consider growing self-fertile ‘Issai’. The female variety ‘Ken’s Red’ will produce pale red fruits if a male such as ‘Weiki’ is growing nearby
  • Actinidia deliciosa produces larger fruits, 3–5cm (1¼–2in) long, that are furry skinned, similar to those sold in supermarkets. If you only have space for one plant, choose self-fertile ‘Jenny’, which produces smaller, well-flavoured fruits. Popular female varieties include ‘Hayward’ and Solissimo (‘Renact’), but for successful fruiting with these you also need a male such as ‘Tormuri’ or self-fertile ‘Jenny’ nearby
  • Actinidia arguta is hardier than A. deliciosa, but the young shoots of all are extremely vulnerable to late frost damage and may require protection

What and where to buy

Kiwi plants are available in larger garden centres, fruit nurseries and from online plant retailers. Young plants are sold in a range of pot sizes, depending on their age. 

Recommended Varieties



Kiwis are best planted in spring, once the soil and weather are warming up. They require a warm, sheltered, sunny position, preferably against a south- or west-facing wall, although they can be grown in the open in milder areas. The young shoots are extremely vulnerable to frost damage in spring, so avoid planting in a frost-prone site. These vigorous climbers also need a large, sturdy support, such as a pergola or archway, or strong wires attached to a wall or well-built fence. They prefer fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic soil that is rich in organic matter, so dig in plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure before planting. If planting more than one, space them 3–4.5m (10–15ft) apart. Plants should be pruned straight after planting – see the Pruning and Training section below.

For full planting details, see the following guides.


Plant Care


Water newly planted kiwi fruits during the growing season for at least the first two years. Established plants will grow and fruit better if watered during dry spells, especially when the fruit is swelling. However, the roots are prone to rotting in waterlogged soil, so make sure it drains freely. 


Apply a mulch of garden compost or well-rotted manure to the soil in late winter, but leave a gap of at least 5cm (2in) around the base of the stem, to avoid any risk of rotting. 

Related RHS Guides
Guide to mulching


To encourage flowers and fruit, you can apply a high potassium fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or blood, fish and bonemeal when growth starts in spring. 

Frost protection

Although kiwi plants are hardy while dormant in winter, the young shoots are susceptible to frost damage in spring, which can significantly check the plant’s growth. Depending on your local climate, it may be worth protecting plants with hessian or a plastic-free crop cover if they sprout before the last hard frost. 

The fruits should also be protected from autumn frosts – the safest option is to pick all unripe fruit before the first heavy frost, then ripen them indoors.


You can grow new plants by taking softwood cuttings in spring or by rooting low-growing shoots.


Pruning and Training

Keep kiwi plants within bounds and fruiting well by pruning in summer as well as in winter
While kiwi plants can be left to their own devices, they will crop much better if pruned and trained. Unpruned plants will often grow very large, producing leaves and shoots at the expense of fruit.

For maximum cropping, train as a tiered espalier, against a sunny wall or fence, with horizontal wires spaced at 40–50cm (16–20in) intervals to support the pairs of branches on each side. Pruning aims to stimulate new fruiting growth each year, sprouting from a permanent framework comprising a main central stem and several pairs of horizontal branches. Flowers and fruit are produced on new shoots that sprout from the base of the previous year’s growth, rather than from older stems. So when pruning, it’s important to retain the oldest part of last year’s shoots, to ensure fruiting.

These vigorous climbers can also be grown over a pergola or similar sturdy structure, as long as you can access them easily for pruning, in a similar way to espaliers.

Kiwis should be pruned at planting time, then twice a year, in winter and summer – see below for details.

Initial espalier training

  • After planting in late winter or spring, before new growth starts, select the strongest shoot and prune it back to 30cm (1ft), cutting just above a healthy bud. Remove the weaker shoots. This will stimulate the development of a strong main stem. Tie this main (leading) shoot to a cane attached vertically to the horizontal wires 
  • As the main shoot grows, select a pair of side-shoots and train them in opposite directions along each horizontal wire, tying them to it loosely as they grow. Pinch out the tip of these two horizontal shoots (or arms) when they fill the allotted width 
  • Allow side-shoots (laterals) to develop at 20–30cm (8–12in) intervals along the horizontal arms. Pinch out the tip of these lateral shoots once they have five leaves – these will produce fruiting shoots the following year 
  • Continue training a pair of shoots to grow along each horizontal wire, to develop the main permanent framework of espalier tiers

Winter pruning

  • In late winter or spring, before new growth starts, prune back the existing lateral shoots (coming off the horizontal arms) to three or four buds beyond the last fruited stems  
  • Each year, prune back a quarter to a third of the oldest laterals growing from the horizontal arms to a bud about 5cm (2in) from the base. New growth will be produced from this stub in the coming growing season 

Summer pruning

Start pruning from June onwards. Summer pruning is important to keep these vigorous plants in check: 

  • On shoots where fruit has started to form, pinch back to four or five leaves beyond the maturing fruit 
  • Any non-fruiting laterals can be pruned back to five leaves. Pinch back any regrowth to one leaf beyond the last cut


Kiwis usually start fruiting three or four years after planting. In favourable, warm conditions, especially in southern England, they can produce a prolific crop, especially if plants are well pruned. They need a very warm, long summer and autumn for the fruits to ripen outdoors. Quite often they won’t ripen fully, but can be picked in autumn and ripened indoors. Harvest any remaining unripe fruit before the first hard frost and place in a bowl with other fruit to ripen. This can take several weeks. When ripe, they should give slightly when gently squeezed.



Guide Start
Section 7 of 7

Kiwi fruits are generally robust, vigorous, healthy plants when grown in a suitably warm, sheltered location. However, growth can be affected by the following: 

  • Frost can damage new growth in spring 

  • Drought and/or drying winds can lead to drooping leaves, brown leaf edges and even complete loss of leaves – so choose a sheltered planting site and keep well watered in dry periods

  • Nutrient deficiencies may occur particularly in chalky soil 

  • Fungal diseases – like many other woody climbers, kiwis may succumb to honey fungus or phytophthora root rot 

The fruits may also fail to fully ripen by the end of summer, but can be picked and ripened indoors – see the Harvesting section, above.

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