Growing Siraitia grosvenorii

Siraitia grosvenorii is a perennial, deciduous, fruit-bearing vine endemic to southeast Asia, from the mountains of Guilin, China to northern Thailand. It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, of which the squash, pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon, and cucumber are also members. The plant’s fruit, commonly known as “Buddha Fruit,” is edible and often cultivated for its natural, low-calorie sweetness and its anti-histamine properties.

The plant is traditionally grown in the mountainous regions of southern China with tropical, high-humidity climate, though it is also known to tolerate cooler and foggier environments. It prefers at least partial shade and is not frost-tolerant.

I got to know S. grosvenorii after last year’s allergy season, when no drugs could save me, despite triple-over-dosing on Loratadine and Cetirizine. Some online research brought me to S. grosvenorii and its antihistamine properties, and though I’ve never been a believer of herbal medicine, I was desperate to give anything a try. I bought a six-pack of preserved S. grosvenorii fruit from the store and made tea with it. Within a day, the itchiness in my nose was gone. The sneezing stopped. Life was livable.

Finding S. grosvenorii is easy enough in San Francisco, but being a constant gardener, my intrigue can’t stop with store-bought fruit. Last month, I came across a nursery that sold S. grosvenorii seeds in northern California, so I decided to try my luck with a dozen seeds. Some have recommended soaking the seeds for a few days before planting, so I did an experiment by soaking half the seeds in water for 3 days. After 3 days, all dozen seeds were planted together in seed-starting mix, in a covered 12-cell container, placed on a heat mat. Germination took place mostly indoors, but I did set the container out in the sun for a few hours a day.

Germination was expected to occur in two to three weeks, but the first two seedlings came up in just 12 days. By week 3, 10 of the 12 seeds were up! There was no difference at all in germination rates between the soaked and unsoaked seeds.

After 3 weeks, two of the largest seedlings were moved to separate 3-inch pots, but still left on the heat pad. I will slowly move them off the heat pad in the coming weeks so they can adapt.

The leaves are fuzzy and heart-shaped, and may eventually become 6 inches long on a fully-grown plant. Full maturity may take about 8 months.

I will be ecstatic when these get to the point of developing tendrils and can climb. I already have space picked out for a 4-by-3 trellis in a shaded spot in the front yard, and potentially another one in the sideyard if enough of the seedlings grow well.

S. grosvenorii is dioecious, so I will need to grow three or four together to improve the chance that some plant bear fruit. When fresh, the fruit is green and round, about 3 inches in diameter.

I have never seen or tasted a fresh S. grosvenorii fruit, only dried and preserved ones sold at herbal stores. So to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I would actually do with fresh fruit from the vine.