Soon after my husband and I got married, he brought home a beautiful lavender flower that had a lovely smell, He had found on a pasture fence line. It was a native purple passion flower, Passiflora incarnata, which is also known as maypop in areas where it grows wild in North America. We’ve been growing and using passionflowers ever since.
Gorgeous fragrant flowers aren’t the only reason to grow maypop passion vines. They’re also pretty easy to grow which is always a plus, the native vine produces an edible fruit, and all the parts of the maypop vine can be used medicinally.
The Maypop plant, or passion flower vines, are also the larval host plant to the gulf fritillary, variegated fritillary, zebra longwing, and the julia butterfly. Bees also love it. I don’t know about you, but I love walking outside and seeing butterflies fluttering all around my yard.
Because I always find it useful to keep notes on the herbs I’m learning about, I have some printable herb profile sheets to share with you. You can get them by filling in the form below.
Growing Maypop Passion Vines
There are over 400 species in the Passiflora genus, most are tender tropical vines and go by the common name passionflower. However, Passiflora incarnata is a little different than most – it is deciduous, can survive winter freezes, is commonly called maypop passion vines and hardy passionflower. Maypop passion vine is a perennial vine and cold hardy to zone 5.
If you need help understanding gardening zones (cold hardy and heat zones) and other things that affect your climate, we have a short climate course that will help you out.
Passiflora incarnata is native to the southeastern United States, although can be found in many of the warmer climates in the southern states as it’s being cultivated in gardens. As a herbaceous vine, it grows along fence lines, edges of fields, and in ditches. It can be invasive and is often considered a weed in large scale farming operations.
Maypop vines can be propagated by seeds, roots, or cuttings. I think the most simple way to start growing maypops is to ask a friend for a root or cutting. If you can’t find a root or cutting you can order maypop seeds from Strictly Medicinal Seeds.
While growing the roots will send out a runner and new plants will pop up several feet from the original plant. In the spring we usually have a combination of “volunteer” passionflower vines that have popped up from seeds and from roots. I dig some of these up and relocate them to where I want them or share with friends. After that, we just mow over any that aren’t in our designated passion vine area.
If you’re worried about passionflower vines taking over your yard, you can plant them in pots to contain the roots. The roots can spread over 30 feet if you have optimal growing conditions so consider containing them if you have a small property.
Maypop vines aren’t picky when it comes to soil, although like most plants, they prefer loose, loamy soil. They’ll grow in partial shade, but not as well as they will in full sun and they won’t produce as well. They are drought tolerant and will only require watering during the most intense part of the summer if you don’t get rain that week.
Passionflower vines will grow 5-8 feet (or more) depending on growing conditions. You’ll want give it something to grow on. We’ve used our fence, a grape arbor, and an arbor made of cattle panel in the past. Use what you have, or make a special place for them, whatever works for you. An arbor made from a cattle panel and t-posts with a bench underneath makes a lovely spot to relax under.
Passionflower vine pests and problems
If you plant passionflower vines you need to expect butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalises. If you know that up front you won’t be shocked when you find fuzzy caterpillars chomping on your passionflower leaves. The good thing is, it won’t kill the plants, although it will slow down the flowering and fruit producing.
In our area, along the Texas Gulf Coast, the passion flower vine will bloom and produce delicious fruit from May through October. During that time there can be several generations of butterflies, but don’t worry, not every egg will hatch to become a caterpillar that eats your lovely passionflower vines. Nature has a way of trying to keep things in balance.
Ants will often be found on passionflowers eating the nectar, and helping control the caterpillar population.
Other than caterpillars we’ve had little trouble growing maypops (Passiflora incarnata)- which is usually true of most native plants.
Harvesting Maypop Passionfruit and Flowers
Maypop fruits will be ready for harvesting in late summer. Unlike tropical passionfruit varieties, maypop produces green fruits that don’t turn red or purple, as it ripens the maypops’ green skin will lighten and might turn yellow. When it’s ripe it will get wrinkly and soft and will probably fall off the vine.
The more ripe it is, the better the flavor. If you decide to pick it from the vine so it doesn’t drop and get eaten by the chickens, you can let it sit on the kitchen counter to ripen for a few days. Or you can choose to eat the young fruit while it’s tart as my youngest daughter does.
The maypop flowers can also be harvested, just don’t harvest them all if you want fruit. The leaves can be harvested as can the roots. If you’re going to harvest the roots you’ll want to make sure to have plenty planted so you don’t destroy your entire crop.
Using Maypop vines and passion fruit
All parts of the hardy passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, can be used either for herbal medicine or for food. Native Americans used the above ground parts, the flowers, leaves, and stems, for anxiety and sleep issues. Passionflower is used in modern natural medicine for the same thing. While chamomile tea is often thought of as the sleep tea, passionflower is just as effective.
If you want to learn more about using maypop flowers and vines as natural medicines, I highly recommend the Herbarium from The Herbal Academy.
To eat the wild fruit, just slice it open (or pull off the top at the stem) and scoop out the pulp covered seeds. They’re similar to pomegranate seeds but more gelatinous. Like pomegranates we eat the seeds and pulp, but I know some people prefer just the seeds.
Attainable Sustainable has a clever way of deseeding the pulp using an immersion blender and a chinois (or cone strainer). You can use the passionfruit juice to make a lovely, simple passionfruit cake, maypop jelly, or passionfruit gingerade.
Do you grow or forage maypop passion flowers? Share your tips or uses in the comments.