How to plant subtropical fruits

  • All subtropicals like lots of moisture during their growing season, so plant in autumn if your area is prone to drought so your plants will be well-established by the time summer comes. Plant in spring if you live in an area that’s prone to frosts when all risk of frost has passed.
  • Subtropicals need good drainage.
  • They all need mulching during the summer months to help retain moisture in the soil, and to keep the roots cool.
  • Subtropicals are gross feeders so fertilise well in autumn and again in spring.
Planting passionfruit
  • Passionfruit is self-fertile but if you plant more than one you do get better pollination. But be careful not to plant them less than 2 metres apart. The roots are shallow and spread at least a metre in radius and you need to feed the soil in all that area.
  • Choose a site that’s sheltered from strong winds and heavy frosts. Prepare your soil with plenty of organic matter. Passionfruit like a slightly acidic soil of around pH 5.5-6.
  • Passionfruit only fruit on new season’s growth so every year around October give your plants a good hard prune. New shoots will emerge and they’ll bear the fruit for the following season.
  • After planting, apply an animal manure (chicken poo, sheep pellets, cow or horse manure) round the plants. This is full of nitrogen which encourages leafy growth. Rob also gives them a handful of rockdust to make the plants strong. In springtime he’ll feed the plants again, but this time only with rockdust which has a good potassium component to support fruit production.
  • Water it all in well.
  • One of the biggest problems with passionfruit is a fungal disease called phytophthora. The best thing to do is avoid it by having really good drainage.
  • The passionvine hopper is the biggest pest. It sucks all the nutrients out of the vine. Regular spraying with neem oil is effective. But with all organic gardening, if you regularly feed and water your plants they’ll be in good health and won’t attract pests and diseases as much.
  • Most passionfruit fruit within the first year of planting and the vines last for 4-5 years, when you’ll have to replace them.
Planting tamarillo
  • Tamarillos are guild plants which is a permaculture term. In permaculture, a guild is a grouping a plants, animals, insects, and other natural components that work together to help ensure their common survival. Rob plants three tamarillo plants in the same area.
  • He plants directly into the soil, which he hasn’t added anything into. If you have clay soil however, make sure you add compost to the hole and plant the tamarillo proud of the ground.
  • After planting, apply animal manure then rockdust, and finally compost. Rob had a bag of potting mix open so he’s used that instead. Compost will keep the roots cool, retain the moisture and feed the plants.
  • Rather than use stakes, which may rub on the fragile trunks, Rob will ultimately tie the three plants together and they can give each support.
  • When they reach around 1.8m Rob is going to cut the tops off. This will encourage branching outwards and forming of a canopy from which the tamarillo fruits will hang.
  • One of the biggest pests for tamarillo is white fly. Neem oil applied in the evening on 3 separate occasions, 3 days apart each time, will deal with this.
  • Psyllids also attack all members of the tomato family. Other than netting your trees there’s no real solution for psyllids. Plant plenty of beneficial plants nearby and remember the organic gardening principle of keeping everything in high health.
  • Regularly water until the rains take over.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes