Crop Profile: Akebias

Try growing this exotic vine for a plant that can cover a large trellis and produce a delicious tropical fruit.

by Dani Yokhna
Courtesy UConn Plant Database

This Asian native vine is fast-growing (up to 20 feet per year) and produces very fragrant, dark-purple, white or red flowers each spring. It’s becoming a popular garden plant due to its ability to cover a large trellis in a single season.

“The akebia vine is an especially rampant grower,” says Katy Fraser, a horticulturist with Raintree Nursery in Washington Fraser. “And it can root wherever it touches the ground.”

Northern gardeners will find that it dies back to the ground each winter, but for Southerners, it’s fully evergreen. Hardy from zones 4 through 10 with soil pH requirements of 5.0 to 6.5, akebias produce funky-looking fruit with bluish skin and clear, jelly-like pulp speckled with small seeds. It has a very sweet, tropical flavor and requires two or more varieties for proper pollination.

There is an akebia vine growing up the roof at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, and though Wright didn’t put it there himself, it serves as a fine example of both “form and function.”

Read more about growing edible vines. 

About the Author: Horticulturist Jessica Walliser dreams of growing Eastern Prince, a fruit-bearing magnolia vine, in her zone-6 garden. She is co-host of KDKA radio’s The Organic Gardeners in Pittsburgh and author of several gardening books, including Grow Organic (St. Lynn’s Press, 2007) and Good Bug Bad Bug (St. Lynn’s Press, 2008).

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