What in the world is lilikoi?

If you read this blog and you are not a resident of Hawai`i, that’s probably what you’ve been wondering. Lilikoi is the Hawai`ian name for Passion Fruit. It has a very distinctive flavor and not everyone likes it the first time they taste it. I think it’s definitely an acquired taste, although it was love at first bite for me.

You can cut it in half, and spoon out the insides with a spoon and eat it, seeds and all. Sometimes I cut up a whole bag of them, scoop out the flesh into a colander and let them drain into a bowl overnight. The juice that results is perfect for making salad dressings, ice cream, jams, or anything else you can think of.

A friend gave me an already established purple lilikoi vine along with some of the yellow lilikoi fruits. I planted the purple vine, ate a few of the yellow ones, and kept the seeds from the rest to plant. The picture above shows the seedlings. I gave some to a friend in Kailua-Kona (where they have a little real soil) and hers are growing like crazy!

I put these seedlings out, poured soil in around them, but some still are not much larger than they are in the picture above. Some of the others are about 8″ tall. It will be a long time before I get enough lilikoi juice to make ice cream.

Another of my other early attempts at trying to grow something at 2300′ elevation in lava was this banana. I’m not quite sure it will make it. But you can see a few leaves trying to push through.

My greatest success has been with the plumeria or frangipani, as it is called in some areas. The smell is delicious and visitors to the island love the scent from their welcoming leis. I have white, pink and yellow right now, and I’m looking for some of the deep reds. They are the simplest to grow. I just move enough rocks to put in some soil, stick in the cuttings, and they take off. This picture shows one of my early plants, flowering in the first season.

I was given several protea plants. The picture below shows them before I put them in the ground. Unfortunately, the sulfur dioxide got to them and they probably aren’t going to make it.

In each pot of protea was a very tiny bit of green growth. The nurseryman who sold them to my friend said that I could plant them. They were from jacaranda seeds that had fallen into the soil around the protea. I carefully put them into little pots and you can see the results here. Again, I gave some away, and I have two in my yard that seem to be growing nicely. It’s hard to imagine these tiny seedlings becoming one of the huge beautiful jacaranda trees.

I won’t bore you this time with more of my early attempts at getting things to grow. I plan on doing mostly raised beds for veggies, and a lot of container gardening. (See Janice Crowl’s Container Gardening in Hawaii in the Amazon link on the right.)


Protea Heaven

One of the plants that seems to grow well here is protea. Some of the local folks call it pro-TAY-ah, but the official pronunciation is PRO-tee-ah. However you want to say it, protea is one of the magnificent tropical blooms that mainland people spend a lot of money to have. You’ll see huge tropical arrangements in the big hotels with the many colors and shapes of protea. Often tourists think they are plastic because they look fake. explains the name, which comes from the Greek god, Proteus, who could change shape. The protea blossoms take on many shapes and varieties, as you can see from the links in this post.

Protea is native to South Africa and Australia, but grows extremely well here in Hawai`i. It doesn’t do well in wet areas, and we are in a dry part. A little peat moss mixed with perlite makes a good planting medium. You make a hole, put the rooted cutting in, and let it grow!

I had big dreams of converting the back half-acre of my property into a protea farm. The a`a lava around here provides the perfect conditions for successfully growing protea. The problem is that some of the a`a hides what we call “blue rock,” which roots cannot penetrate. I’ve planted many different kinds of protea, but so far none have done well at all.

It’s not only the blue rock that keeps protea from growing. Our friendly Madam Pele sends out her sulfur dioxide from the Kilauea volcano, which gets into our lungs as well as burns the tops of the protea. Those levels have been extremely high in the past several weeks and the protea farmers fear a loss of income. There is a black chemical burn at the top of each of my plants.

This article is about the Leucospermum, more commonly called “pincushion.” Dr. Leonhardt, one of the authors of the article, came to talk with a group of us who either are protea farmers, or who hoped to become protea farmers (that included me). He was interested in getting us to help him in a research project. The group was too loosely organized to get that project going.

In this link from another Big Island grower, you’ll see several pincushions, then the minks, and the bottom row shows my favorite, the banksia. This interesting article from the Honolulu Star Bulletin tells how one woman got started growing protea.

Here is a picture of a pink mink protea from a farm in Kula, Maui

I managed to get one pincushion bloom before the volcano got them. It’s a sad looking specimen – nothing like the beauties in the links above, but it was my bloom (see above photo).

Next week, I’ll tell you about some of my other “disasters” in trying to start plants here.


This is an example of a sitewide notice - you can change or remove this text in the Customizer under "Store Notice" Dismiss

Exit mobile version