Hardy Kiwi Plants – Tips On Growing Kiwi In Zone 4

By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

When we think of kiwi fruit, we think of a tropical location. Naturally, something so delicious and exotic must come from an exotic location, right? Actually, kiwi vines can be grown in your own backyard, with some varieties being hardy as far north as zone 4. With tips from this article, you can grow your own hardy kiwi plants. Read on to learn about growing kiwi in zone 4.

Kiwi for Cold Climates

While the larger, oval, fuzzy kiwi fruit we find in grocery stores is generally hardy to zones 7 and higher, northern gardeners can grow smaller hardy zone 4 kiwi fruit. Often called kiwi berries because of the smaller fruits which grow in clusters on the vine, hardy kiwi offers the same flavor as its larger, fuzzier, and less hardy cousin, Actinidia chinensis. It is also packed with more vitamin C than most citrus fruits.

The varieties Actinidia kolomikta and Actinidia arguta are hardy kiwi vines for zone 4. However, to produce fruit, you need both male and female kiwi vines. Only female vines produce fruit, but a nearby male vine is necessary for pollination. For every 1-9 female kiwi plants, you will need one male kiwi plant. Female varieties of A. kolomitka can only be fertilized by male A. kolomitka. Likewise, female A. arguta can only be fertilized by male A. arguta. The only exception is the variety ‘Issai,’ which is a self-fertile hardy kiwi plant.

Some hardy kiwi vine varieties that need a male for pollination are:

  • ‘Ananasnaja’
  • ‘Geneva’
  • ‘Meades’
  • ‘Arctic Beauty’
  • ‘MSU’

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Kiwi Plants

The Hardy, or Arctic Kiwi, are very cold tolerant and can withstand temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Hardy Arctic Kiwi plants need around 150 frost-free days for their fruits to mature and ripen. However, the kiwi plants for sale can be successfully grown in containers and can be brought indoors by growers in colder areas. If expecting a sudden drop in temperature in Fall or Spring, it is best to protect our berry plants for sale by covering them or bringing indoors.

The plants prefer to gradually acclimate to Winter and these early or late freezing storms can sometimes cause damage to the plant. Hardy Arctic Kiwi plants are climbing vines that need a trellis or fence to support it's abundant growth and fruits.

Hardy Arctic Kiwi's creamy colored, fragrant flowers appear over a several week period from May to June, depending on the growing region. Hardy Arctic Kiwi have male and female flowers on separate plants, thus both are needed to produce fruit.

Other interesting facts about the Kiwi is the amazing amounts of health and nutritional benefits that it carries. It contains large amounts of Vitamin C which is helpful for the largest organ of the body, the skin. The Vitamin C in Kiwi fruit also helps in tightening the skin pores. It gives elasticity to the skin by rising the percentage of collagen production.

Consuming kiwi fruit juice on a regular basis stimulates the development of new cells in the skin layers. It also improves the hydration of the skin, thus making the skin younger and glowing. Kiwi fruit for skin also aids with skin diseases. The Omega-3 fatty acids are very essential for preventing a number of skin diseases. It is also required for maintaining healthy cell membranes.

The nutritional benefits of Kiwi helps in digesting food as it has large amounts of dietary fiber and other components in digestion to help relieve and relax the body. It also has a unique enzyme known as actinidin that breaks down protein elements to assist in better digestive system. It reduces the percentage of cell damage due to oxidation, repairs DNA which gets damaged by oxidative stress.

So not only is the Kiwi fruit aesthetically beautiful when sliced making for a pleasing decoration or a garnishment for dishes, it helps one maintain beauty and health from inside to out. Let Willis Orchard Company assist you with a shipment of Kiwi plants for sale to begin your health regimen.

Self-fruiting female flowers do exist, however they are not nearly as productive as having both male and female plants to cross-pollinate one another. Hardy Arctic Kiwi fruits are generally green skinned with emerald green flesh that has tiny black seeds, much like regular kiwi fruit. However, some cultivars have various amounts of red in either the skin, flesh, or both. The fruits are oblong and usually 1-2 inches long. Hardy Arctic Kiwi fruits are smaller, but much sweeter than regular kiwi due to higher sugar levels that range from 14% up to 29% (regular kiwi have +/- 14%.)

They also typically have little or no fuzz, so the fruits can be eaten right from the vine without peeling. Hardy Arctic Kiwi plants usually bear fruit at three to four years old. They grow best in rich, well-drained, somewhat acidic (pH 5-6.5) soils. Neutral soils are okay but if the soil becomes too basic, the leaves may show nitrogen deficiency and look yellowish. They do not tolerate salty soils.

Grow hardy kiwi plants in full sun or partial shade in hottest areas, like the Gulf Coast. The plants should be pruned in Winter for form and to promote fruit production. The fruit is borne on shoots from one year old or older wood. Cut out shoots that have fruited for three years and remove shoots that have twined around main branches.

The large amounts of Vitamin C in the Kiwi helps in protecting cells against cancer by neutralizing free radicals. The concentration of Vitamin C is said to be greater than an orange. The mineral and vitamins found in a Kiwi are also said to be in perfect harmony to help the balance in the digestive tract. It acts as a prebiotic element for the body.

Kiwi fruit contains zero cholesterol, zero sodium, has Omega-3 fatty acids along with a heavy amount of dietary fiber, natural sugar, vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, folate and potassium which helps ward off many diseases. The nutritional benefits of Kiwi fruit are helpful for losing weight as it possesses minor calories. It helps one lose extra belly fat and other areas too. The soluble dietary fiber content decreases your hunger issues. While decreasing the hunger, you lower the calories by not eating as often.

The Vitamin E and potassium in Kiwi are two good components for protecting the heart. These are some of many antioxidant properties that give a protective shield to heart. Potassium content in Kiwi fruit helps to control blood pressue and heart rate. The properties in Kiwi fruit helps to modulate the immune system by protecting you from stress and other infective elements. It also prevents from bacterial and virus attacks and protects from other infective elements. It reduces the percentage of cell damage due to oxidation, repairs DNA which gets damaged by oxidative stress. Choose Willis Orchards for top-quality Kiwi Plants for sale!

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Plant Finder

Other Names: Bower Actinidia

A vigorous climbing vine selected for its delicious edible Kiwi fruit unlike the species, does not require a male pollinator to set fruit very hardy and adaptable

Issai Hardy Kiwi is a woody vine that is typically grown for its edible qualities, although it does have ornamental merits as well. It produces small green oval fruit which are usually ready for picking from early to mid fall. The fruits have a sweet taste.

The fruit are most often used in the following ways:

Issai Hardy Kiwi features dainty fragrant white buttercup flowers with yellow anthers along the branches from mid to late spring. It has dark green foliage throughout the season. The large oval leaves turn yellow in fall. It features an abundance of magnificent green berries in early fall.

This is a dense multi-stemmed deciduous woody vine with a spreading, ground-hugging habit of growth. Its relatively coarse texture can be used to stand it apart from other landscape plants with finer foliage. This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Aside from its primary use as an edible, Issai Hardy Kiwi is sutiable for the following landscape applications

  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use
  • Orchard/Edible Landscaping

Issai Hardy Kiwi will grow to be about 40 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 24 inches. As a climbing vine, it should be planted next to a fence, trellis or other rigid structure where it can be trained to grow upwards on it. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 15 years. This is a self-pollinating variety, so it doesn't require a second plant nearby to set fruit.

This woody vine can be integrated into a landscape or flower garden by creative gardeners, but is usually grown in a designated edibles garden. It does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers to grow in average to moist conditions, and shouldn't be allowed to dry out. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

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  • Butterflies like a lot of sunlight, so locate your garden in a sunny area.
  • If you live in a windy location, plant your butterfly-attracting plants near a building, fence, or hedge to protect them.
  • Plant a variety of nectar-rich plants, as well as shrubs and evergreens for shelter.
  • Since many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved, try to put in some that are native to your area. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center provides lists of plants native to states and regions.
  • Certain colors are particularly attracting to butterflies – red, yellow, pink, purple, or orange blooms that are clustered or flat-topped, with a short flower tubes are especially attractive to adult butterflies.
  • Avoid using pesticides, especially around nectar-producing plants.
  • Provide a shallow source of water – try a birdbath with pebbles lining the bowl.
  • Place a rock in a sunny spot for butterfly basking and resting.
  • Create a "puddling area" by digging a shallow hole filled with compost or manure where rainwater will collect and release essential salts and minerals.
  • If you want butterflies to breed in your garden, put in some caterpillar food plants, such as parsley, milkweeds, asters, thistles, violets, clover, grasses, and Queen Anne’s Lace.
  • Since butterflies need nectar throughout the entire adult phase of their lives, try to create a design that will allow for a continuous bloom – when one stops blooming, another starts.

Hardy Kiwis for Cold Climate Gardeners

The conventional kiwifruit is fine in mild climate, but you need extra-tough kiwis where winters are cold. Photo: homesteadersonline

Who wouldn’t recognize a kiwifruit, the goose egg-sized fruit with a fuzzy brown outer skin and delicious green flesh inside? They’re sold in supermarkets everywhere all year long. The fruit comes not from a tree, like an apple or cherry, but form a vigorous twining woody vine: the kiwi, kiwifruit or Chinese gooseberry: Actinidia deliciosa, formerly A. chinensis.

The traditional fuzzy kiwi: delicious, but none too hardy. Photo: André Karwath, Wikimedia Commons

While the kiwifruit is abundantly found in supermarkets ready to eat, it’s not all that hardy. It’s limited to hardiness zones 8 to 9 sometimes, with special care, to zone 7. Some of the readers of this blog can grow it, for example those in the southern US or on its west coast, milder parts of Europe and temperate regions of Afric, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but most live in cool to cold temperate climates. The best you could do would be to grow this vigorous, domineering plant in a greenhouse. Good luck with that!

Fortunately, there are other species of Actinidia, ones with small fruit often called kiwiberries, that are very hardy and which can easily be grown in outdoors in all but the coldest climates, in particular A. kolomikta and A. arguta. Yet, they don’t absolutely require subzero winters, so can also adapt to mild climates. In other words, these hardier kiwis can be grown by just about anyone outside the tropics. Maybe there is a place for a few of these hardy kiwis in your garden?

Vigorous Climbers

A hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) can practically take over a pergola if not pruned back occasionally. Photo: ladnydom.pl

Hardy kiwis are vigorous climbers with twining woody branches that twist around their support. They therefore require a solid support: a trellis, pergola, arbor or other. You can also let them climb a tree, but then, how will you harvest the fruits? Especially since kiwi vines can reach more than 35 feet (10 m) in height!

Another possibility is to grow them as large shrubs, 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m) in height and as much in width. You can easily create this effect simply by regularly snipping off any branches that grow too long. By preventing the plant from climbing, it will reluctantly take on a shrublike form.

To fully enjoy kiwi flowers, you have to be underneath the plant, looking up. Photo: amazon.de

Kiwifruit blooms profusely in the spring, producing small, fragrant, but relatively inconspicuous white flowers, since they are produced among the leaves and are therefore rather hidden. They are best appreciated when grown on a pergola or arbor where they can be admired from below. Suddenly the otherwise hidden flowers dangle down over your head by the hundreds if not the thousands! Quite a display!

It Takes Two To…

However, it’s very important to plant hardy kiwis of both sexes. That’s because the male and female flowers are produced on separate plants (the’re dioecious). So, you need 1 male plant for a maximum of 9 female plants otherwise you won’t have fruit.

Hardy kiwis can be grown in the sun or shade in almost any well-drained soil, but preferably in rich and rather moist conditions, as that gives the most abundant fruits. A kiwi plant can easily live 150 to 200 years. Just plant yours in spring or fall … and wait patiently, as, like most fruiting plants, they usually take a few years before they start to produce fruit.


The fruits of hardy kiwis are small and produced in clusters, like grapes. Since they aren’t covered with fuzz, there is no need to peel them: just pop them in your mouth and eat them whole. They ripen in late summer or fall and are often difficult to see, as most are green, almost the same color as the foliage. Few change color when ripe, although there are some exceptions to that rule, as some varieties of Actinidia arguta, like ‘Mirzan’, do turn red at maturity.

Usually, the best way to tell the fruits are ripe is to touch them. They soften a bit at maturity, so a bit of a squeeze will tell when to harvest.

Two Kiwis That Tolerate the Cold

Arctic kiwi

The hardiest kiwi is the so-called arctic kiwi, A. kolomikta, native to northern Asia, particularly Siberia and China. It doesn’t really grow in the Arctic (the common name is slightly exaggerated), but still, plants in the northernmost part of its range are not that far from the Arctic Circle. Plus, it can take temperatures down to -40 °F/C.

Oddly, I keep seeing websites that underestimate its hardiness: commonly, they give zone 4. Calculate instead hardiness zone 3 or even, for some cultivars, zone 2. In other words, if you can garden in your climate, you can likely grow this plant. (My apologies to the very rare people who do garden in zone 1!)

Most arctic kiwis are somewhat variegated. Some, like this ‘Arctic Beauty’, distinctly so. Photo: dewilde.nl

The arctic kiwi is actually more commonly grown as an ornamental plant, because its leaves are often abundantly variegated pink and white.

Unfortunately for fruit-loving gardeners, most of the arctic kiwis sold in garden centers are male plants, the claim being made that male plants have the most colorful foliage. In fact, though, leaf coloration seems to be spread unevenly through both male and female clones of hardy kiwi. Many females are variegated too and some male clones, barely so. However, the most heavily variegated cultivar on the market is indeed a male clone, often sold with no name or under the cultivar name ‘Arctic Beauty’. If you grow arctic kiwis from seed and choose plants with the greatest variegation, you’ll inevitably find female plants among the lot. So, if you want to play the role of hybridizer and produce a female plant with brilliantly colorful leaves, go for it!

The arctic kiwi begins to produce fruit at a relatively young age, after about 3 years. The fruits ripen early, in August or September, as befits a fruit adapted to cold climates where summers are often short. The main flaw of this kiwi, though, is that the fruits drop off the plant soon after ripening, so it’s easy to miss the harvest window if you are not there at just the right time.

Ripe fruits of the arctic kiwi ‘Aromatnaya’. Photo: centrosad.ru

As mentioned, the most common cultivar is the heavily variegated male cultivar ‘Arctic Beauty’, but there are other male clones. And, of course, you’ll want a male plant to pollinate your females. Among the female cultivars are ‘Aromatnaya’, ‘Krupnopladnay’, ‘Pavlovskaya’ and ‘Sentyabraskaya’ (‘September Sun’).

If the names seem Russian to you, you’re right. This fruit has been, until recently, largely developed in Russia.

Hardy Kiwi

‘Geneva’ is a hardy kiwi with fruits that redden at maturity, a fairly unusual trait. Photo: bambooplants.ca

Another kiwi to try in colder regions is A. arguta, often referred to simply as “hardy kiwi”, although it’s not nearly as hardy as the arctic kiwi.

Its foliage is entirely green, it’s so is less ornamental than the foliage of the arctic kiwi, and it’s slower to start producing fruit, usually only doing so after 5 to 9 years. It’s not actually that well adapted to truly cold climates, either. Perhaps zone 4b, max. North of that, the late-maturing fruits (they often don’t ripen until the end of September or October) are often killed by frost. If frost threatens yours, harvest them: they will continue to ripen indoors, but won’t be as sweet as fruits that ripened on the vine.

Hardy kiwis grown from seed show a wide range of forms, sizes and colors. Photo: etsy.com

Male cultivars for pollination include ‘Weiki’ and ‘Meader’, but are often sold without a name other than “male”. There are dozens of female cultivars, including ‘Ananasnaya’ (‘Anna’), ‘Dunbarton Oaks’, ‘Geneva’, ‘Ken’s Red’ and ‘Mirzan’.

The Least Hardy Hardy Kiwi

‘Issai’ can fruit abundantly, but only in mild climates and only with a male pollinator nearby. Photo: halifaxperennials.ca

The most popular hardy kiwi, widely sold everywhere and often the only hardy kiwi offered, is ‘Issai’, a Japanese hybrid. However, it doesn’t live up to its reputation, especially in cold climates, and, in many situations, is a very poor choice indeed.

You hear a lot about the advantages of ‘Issai’ and at least one is true. It’s claimed to be able to set fruit when very young. Indeed, ‘Issai’ means “first year” in Japanese. Actually, it usually takes 2 to 3 years to produce its first fruits, but that’s still very young for a kiwifruit. So, give it full points for speed to first fruiting.

Next, merchants often claim it’s both male and female and self-pollinates. Thus, it’s a space saver: you only need one plant to get fruit. In fact, though, ‘Issai’ is 100% female, but somewhat parthenocarpic: it can produce a limited amount of fruit without pollination. However, if you want abundant production, you still need to plant a male A. arguta plant as a pollinator. So, take off a few points there.

And thirdly, the claim that most bothers me, since I live in a colder zone myself, is that ‘Issai’ is a hardy kiwi. In fact, it is not a true hardy kiwi (A. arguta), but a hybrid between the hardy kiwi (A. arguta) and the subtropical russet kiwi (A. rufa). It seems to have inherited enough subtropical genes from its A. rufa parent to make it unsuitable for growing beyond zone 6. North of that and it gets killed back by the cold most winters or, at least, its dormant flower buds are killed, and therefore it neither blooms nor fruits most years. Still, the label says zone 4 and gardeners in zones 4 and 5 plant it, confidently awaiting a good harvest. Most never get to taste a single fruit. Take off any remaining points there!

You’d think garden centers in colder climates would pull it from their shelves and only offer truly hardy varieties, but no such luck. Most still offer ‘Issai’ to gullible gardeners and, indeed, it’s generally the only “hardy” kiwi they sell. I must point out that this happens not only in those know-nothing box stores that regularly sell climatically inappropriate plants, but in local garden centers and nurseries in cold climates that should know better. Shame on you for scamming your clients!

In short, in cold climates, zones 2 to 5, ‘Issai’ isn’t as much a kiwifruit as a real lemon!

Where to Find Hardy Kiwi Plants

Sadly, you won’t often find acceptable hardy kiwis in local garden centers. You’ll have to turn to a specialist fruit nursery and very likely will need to order them by mail. Here are a few sources:

Good luck with your cold-climate kiwis! They can be truly easy-to-grow plants with abundant and delicious fruit that any gardener would be proud to grow … but you still have to choose the right ones!

Growing Kiwi Vines

Kiwis are fast-growing vines with beautiful foliage and edible kiwi fruits. Most varieties of kiwi vines enjoy warmer climates, but can withstand winter temperatures down to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Some “hardy” kiwi varieties can endure even colder temperatures, down to -25 degrees or colder. Kiwi vines usually take two to five years to begin bearing fruit, and the vines can grow 30 feet long or more. A single kiwi vine can produce up to 25 pounds of kiwi fruits, making a sturdy support vital to growing the kiwi vines properly.

Plant your kiwi vines in a location that receives full sunlight and has some protection from high winds. You can plant the kiwi vines in a wide range of soil types, but the soil must be well-draining.

  • Kiwis are fast-growing vines with beautiful foliage and edible kiwi fruits.
  • You can plant the kiwi vines in a wide range of soil types, but the soil must be well-draining.

Water your kiwi vines deeply once or twice each week throughout the late spring and summer. Water the vines only when you don’t receive at least ¾ inch of rainfall during the week.

Control weed growth and retain soil moisture by spreading a 2-inch layer of organic mulch in a 2- to 3-foot circle around the kiwi vines. Replace or add mulch each year as needed.

Feed your kiwi vines once each year in the spring with a slow-release, balanced fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer label for fruiting vines.

Prune back your kiwi vines to just four or five buds, about 1 foot from the ground, immediately after planting them. Choose the healthiest, strongest stem as your main stem, and then train the main stem to grow to the top of the arbor, trellis or fence support.

  • Water your kiwi vines deeply once or twice each week throughout the late spring and summer.
  • Feed your kiwi vines once each year in the spring with a slow-release, balanced fertilizer.

Prune away all lateral shoots except for the two top shoots that grow from either side of the main stem’s tip buds. In the second year in early spring, cut back the two main lateral shoots, or “cordons,” back to eight or 10 buds.

Trim back all of the previous season’s growth to about 10 buds beyond the last fruit in early spring. Also remove all broken, crowded, tangled or twisted canes from the kiwi vine.

You must provide a strong support for your kiwi vines to climb and grow on, such as an arbor, fence or trellis, that’s at least 6 feet tall.

To harden off your kiwi vines in the fall to prepare them for winter, stop watering the vines and don’t fertilize them.

Protect your kiwi vines from late spring or early fall freezes and frosts. In the fall, wrap the lower 4 feet of the trunk from the ground surface up with a foam pipe sleeve and remove it in the spring after all chance of frost has passed. Spread an additional 3 to 4 inches of bark mulch around the kiwi vine’s roots.

Watch the video: Guide to pruning young kiwi plants

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