The ray pen is an interesting climber. The flowers are inconspicuous and the fruits are small, but they taste almost like those of the large related species. More and more fruits grow over the years. The good thing is that not all of them ripen at the same time, so you can harvest around 3 to 4 weeks. Mini kiwis do not require much care. At the right location and the right substrate, you only have to pay attention to sufficient water. Find out what else is important in the text below.


  • Lianene plants
  • Originates from East Asia
  • Dioecious, separate sexes or monoecious (important when buying)
  • Up to 4 m high, certainly higher, up to 10 m
  • 2 to 6 m wide
  • Flowers white or pink in May
  • They smell and attract bees
  • Smooth or hairy, fleshy, round, ovate to oblong berries
  • The varieties that are cultivated are Sharp-toothed Ray Pen and Chinese Ray Pen
  • fruits in September
  • They are very rich in vitamin C and minerals
  • 8 times more vitamin C than lemon
  • Short shelf life after harvest
  • Shallow roots, some far-reaching and strong

Interesting species and varieties

  • A. kolomikta – variegated ray pen – variegated foliage, white when sprouting, later turns pink, mainly planted because of the decorative leaves, the markings become more and more clear over the years, extremely hardy, also copes quite well with partially shaded and even shaded places, then however, the leaf coloration is less
  • A. kolomikta ‘Adam’ – Leaves profusely pink, male plant
  • A. arguta – Yellow ray-pencil or Sharp-toothed ray-pencil, sugar-sweet fruit, extremely frost-resistant down to at least -25°C, very sensitive to drought
  • A. arguta ‘Weiki’ – is called “Bavaria kiwi”, monoecious, the male specimens are particularly good pollinators, oblong spherical fruits, light green, usually with a brown-red top colour, sweet and aromatic, very good yields
  • A. arguta ‘Ambrosia’ – flat-cylindrical shape, 3 to 4 cm tall, light green, sweet and aromatic with a slight acidity, good yields, harvest mid-September to mid-October
  • A. arguta ‘Polygama’ – flat-topped, somewhat unequal in size, green to light green fruits, often with a brown-red overcolour, sweet-aromatic with a slightly sour skin
  • A. arguta ‘Cherrybomb’ – fruits red inside and outside, taste reminiscent of ripe cherries, high sugar content, fruits weigh 8 to 10 g, fruit ripens as early as the end of August, purely female, new variety from the USA
  • A. arguta ‘Purpurna Sadowa’ – Fruits purple-red on the outside and inside, oval, 3.5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, sweet, female fruit, September/October harvest, Ukrainian variety
  • A. arguta ‘Kiwino’ – flat-cylindrical fruit, light green, sweet and aromatic, slightly sour taste, good fruit yield
  • A. arguta ‘Issai’ – only reliable self-fertile variety, comes from Japan, left-handed, comparatively large fruits,
  • A. arguta ‘Kiwai-Rouge’ – has a red skin and flesh, fruits contain little acid, are milder in taste, female, harvest September/October, quite small fruits, 2 to 3 cm

Caring for the mini kiwi

Mini Kiwis need to be raised. You need scaffolding. You can have them twined around a pillar, but the fruit yield will be significantly higher if the shoots are guided horizontally. You can have them green a house or you can use a T-scaffold. This has many advantages and is also frequently used in yield cultivation. The frame has to be really strong, because the masses of fruit are heavy, even if each one only weighs a few grams. The framework also has the advantage that the cut is clearer and that is important. It should be borne in mind that the roots of the ray pen can become quite large. They even lift cobblestones.

Except for the upbringing and pruning, there is little work to be done with the plants. They thrive well and, depending on the variety, show strong growth. They like it sunny, but you should protect the roots. The substrate must be humus. Sufficient watering is important. Drought is poorly tolerated. The pruning takes place mainly in February, in the summer one only cuts back. The plants are hardy, but endangered by late frost. Diseases and pests are very rare, but cats like to eat the young shoots and leaves, especially of Actinidia kolomikta and Actinidia polygama.


The location should be placed in such a way that the plants already get enough sun. Bright midday sun is not really that good, because then the ground warms up a lot. However, this can be prevented with mulching. Depending on your location, there are a few things to consider. It is more important that locations that are too dry are avoided.

  • Sunny, the more sun, the better, but then the water requirement increases enormously.
  • In addition, the plants do not like soil warming that much.
  • A location facing east or west is therefore ideal
  • Sunny is usually sufficient.
  • Some strains don’t need too much sun.
  • sheltered from the wind
  • tolerate urban climate

plant substrate

The plant substrate should be rich in nutrients, permeable and humus. Sandy soil is well suited as it allows the plants to root deeply. However, it is then important that nutrient-rich humus soil is regularly undercut. Otherwise, the plants are not particularly demanding and tolerate a little more lime than the large kiwis.

  • Nutritious and permeable
  • Evenly moist
  • Loose humus soil – humus is very important
  • May be slightly angry
  • pH between 5 and 6.5
  • From the age of 7, chlorosis and iron or magnesium deficiency must be expected
  • No calcareous soils, the plants are only slightly tolerant of lime
  • Improve heavy soils with peat and compost
  • Salt sensitive


Those who are only interested in the beautiful foliage usually only plant male plants, as the different colors are much more pronounced. If you want to harvest, you have to put at least one male plant together with females in the case of separate-sex varieties or use plants that pollinate themselves.

  • Plant from May to August
  • Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 40 cm
  • Plant pit about 40 x 40 x 30 cm
  • The mini kiwis are actually forest or forest edge plants and therefore need plenty of humus and organic material.
  • Soak the root ball in water until no more air bubbles rise.
  • Insert plant straight.
  • Fill up the soil (peat, rhododendron soil, compost, decomposed forest soil and horn shavings are ideal additives to normal garden soil)
  • Set the plant a little lower, i.e. do not fill the soil very high, so that a watering trough is created.
  • Soak in plenty
  • Shade root slices
  • Be sure to mulch the soil so it doesn’t get too dry
  • Planting distance to other climbing plants and to each other at least 0.8 to 1 m, experts even recommend 2 m, the roots need space
  • Keep a distance of at least 60 cm from house walls
  • Male plants have larger growth than female ones.
  • If possible, they should not stand between the female plants, but a little further away.
Note: The plants must not be planted too close together so that the shoots do not strangle each other. The individual lianas wrap themselves around each other and when they begin to grow in width, they pinch each other off. Especially male specimens, which develop faster and stronger, tend to entwine and push off the shoots of the other plants.
  • Pollinator variety – maximum distance 20 m
  • 1 male for every 6 to 8 female plants

watering and fertilizing

Watering is important for the plants. The soil should not dry out. In order for plenty of fruit to develop, it is important to water regularly and deeply, especially during fruit development. Fertilizing is cheap, preferably with compost or other organic fertilizer. Mineral fertilizers are unsuitable.

  • Need a lot of water, especially when the fruit is developing
  • Sensitive to drought
  • Fertilize with organic means
  • Fertilize once in spring with compost
  • During the development of the fruit, a low-concentration liquid fertilizer can be used to help.
  • Never fertilize after July – so that the shoots can mature before winter
  • Salt sensitive – do not use mineral fertilizers
  • With increasing age and yield increase the gifts.
Note: Any animal manure is good for the kiwi plants, but only after the 3rd year. Simply mix the manure into the mulch.

To cut

Ray pens are pruned to increase yields and to curb growth in length. The pruning is done in a similar way to grapevines. Good upbringing of the lianas is a prerequisite. In addition, young plants should be prevented from squirming in the first few years. Radiant pens must be trained, guided well along a scaffold. This makes it easy to see which shoots should be cut. As a rule, the main shoot is directed vertically upwards. From a length of approx. 80 cm, direct about 3 side shoots horizontally to both sides. The distances between these shoots should be 40 to 50 cm. The shoots that bear fruit grow from this basic structure. You have to know that harvested shoots do not bear fruit the following year. Therefore they can be cut.

  • Prevent young plants from twining at first. Only fix 1 to 2 shoots to the plant stakes and direct them straight up. They later form the tribe.
  • Pull horizontal shoots along the framework and tie them on.
  • Only use ties made of soft materials so that they do not cut into you.
  • In the beginning, only pruning is done to train the plants. This means that only the shoot planned as the trunk and the leading shoots remain, all other side shoots are removed
  • After about 4 years, pruning takes place in February. Cut out all thin twisting shoots.
  • The best shoots are the long shoots from the last growing season. That’s where the fruit grows.
  • All shoots that are thinner than 4 mm must be removed, including the tips of the thick long shoots.
  • From July, whip shoots should then be shortened. Only 5 to 8 leaves remain.
Tip: It is best to use the cut of vines as a guide. Incidentally, male ray pens are extremely fast-growing. After a few years, they often have to be cut with hedge trimmers.


Mini kiwis are significantly more frost-resistant than their larger relatives, the normal kiwis. Depending on the type and variety, the plants can withstand temperatures down to -30°C. However, the plants are endangered by late frost. That is why the sheltered location is so important. A single frosty night is enough to freeze the fresh shoots and no deep minus temperatures are necessary. Since the budding begins in March, you have to be careful.

  • Young plants need winter protection, especially in very frosty locations
  • Depending on not fertilizing after July
  • Cold wind can freeze back the young shoots
  • Endangered by late frost
  • Too dry or too moist soil has a negative impact on winter hardiness
  • Radiated pencils in tubs are by far not as hardy as specimens that have been planted out
  • It should be noted that kiwis are only hardy when they are in hibernation. Excessive solar radiation or temperature fluctuations both in winter and in spring can cause the loss of winter hardiness.


Ray pencils are possible by seed, cuttings and micropropagation (in vitro). Seed propagation is easy, but the plants only flower after 6 to 8 years. Cuttings only take half the time. One should keep in mind that plants grown from seed are not varietal.

diseases and pests

Diseases and pests are extremely rare. We have had our plants for 6 years now and there has never been the slightest thing to complain about. They develop great and bear more fruit every year. In the last year we have been able to take care of the entire neighborhood.

I have read that the plants are susceptible to Verticillium wilt. They should therefore not be grown after strawberries, potatoes or other nightshade plants. Asparagus seems to be ideal for this.

  • Root and collar rot – on sites that are too wet
  • Voles , rabbits and deer
  • Snails – on young plants
  • Scale insects – Infestation usually leads to sooty mold and heavily soiled fruit

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you protect the plants from late frosts?
The young shoots freeze quite quickly and turn black. However, this does not have a major impact on growth. There are simply new shoots. It just takes longer. I was annoyed in the first two years because late frosts froze a lot of shoots. So in the years that followed, we built a shelter around our trellis, properly wrapped the plants and a few in between. This resulted in an early bud break and a bountiful harvest. However, you must not open the protection too early. We first removed the “upper floor” and let the plants breathe. When frost was announced again, I simply laid blankets and towels over the upper trellis and took them off again in the morning. That helped tremendously. But our mini kiwis are unprotected and unfavorable,it may well be that such protection is not needed elsewhere.

How can you tell male and female plants apart?
In the female ray pen, the pen stretches outwards like rays from the center of the flower. One can also say that the flowers of the female plants have a wreath of radially arranged styles and stigmas, which is how the plant got its name. This wreath is absent in the male flowers.

Are there good sources of supply for the creepers?
– Well sorted fruit (tree nurseries

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