If you had to vote for the most beautiful native flower, passion flower would have to be a top candidate. Its remarkable shape and striking color patterns make it unique among flowers. Better yet, this gorgeous plant also produces a delicious fruit. While passion flower's native range stretches from beyond the Ohio River on south to Florida (in fact, all the way south to Brazil), they make excellent container plants for indoor gardens further north.
There are many -- perhaps hundreds -- of species of passion flowers. You can find seeds and starter plants from online nurseries. They like indirect to full sun and well-drained soil. You can plant them near fences, trellises, walls, or trees. Their flowers can be 3 inches in diameter, so place them wherever you want a show. You can grow them in containers outdoors during the summer, and then bring them in for the winter. They can provide nice blooms during the cold months.
Passion Flowers are also known as Maypops, because they pop out in May. Plant them in early spring in rich soil. You'll start to see rapid growth in June, with blossoms showing in July.
If you're planting seeds, sand them with light sandpaper and then let them soak for 12 hours before planting. If you're putting them in a container, add several inches of sand in the bottom to promote drainage. Fill the rest of the pot with a rich potting mix, such as Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. Place the seeds a few inches deep in the mix. After planting, add a slow-release fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro® Shake 'n Feed® Continuous Release All Purpose Plant Food. Keep the plant well watered, and watch the thing shoot up 15 feet during the growing season.
You can find Passion Flowers for sale online if they're not available locally. If your young plants arrive without instructions, find a location with partial to full sun and rich soil that drains well. Dig a hole deep enough for the root system and several inches of organic material underneath. Fill the hole with rich soil, such as Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers and Vegetables and mulch around the base to inhibit weeds. Don't let this fast grower dry out. In early summer, it can grow an inch a day, but needs lots of water to do it.
Passion flowers die back in the winter. Simply cut back the dead material, and protect the roots in colder areas with a layer of mulch.
The fruit of the passion flower is often the size of a hen's egg. There are many seeds inside, but the edible part is delicious. The pulp is often used for beverages and jams. Pick your own and experiment. The fruit varies in color (from yellow to purple), depending on the species you grow, but they are all delicious.
Your passion flower vine should do well indoors, providing your room with a hint of the lush tropics. Put it in bright light, but not direct sun.