Learn how to grow papaya tree. Growing papaya is perfect for gardeners who like to grow easy to grow fruit trees. Papaya tree care is simple, it is low maintenance and productive.
USDA Zones— 9 – 11
Other Names— Banane de Prairie, Caricae Papayae Folium, Carica papaya, Carica peltata, Carica posoposa, Chirbhita, Erandachirbhita, Erand Karkati, Green Papaya, Mamaerie, Melonenbaumblaetter, Melon Tree, Papaw, Pawpaw, Papaya Fruit, Papayas, Papaye, Papaye Verte, Papayer, Papita.
Papaya (Carica papaya L.) is native to the tropics of Mexico and Central America. This fruit for high nutritional value, great taste and medicinal properties.
Papaya is mainly consumed as a fruit, but it is also used for making soft drinks, juices, pickles, jams, and curries. It produces latex that is extracted from the green fruit and stem, which contains an enzyme called papain that helps in digestion of proteins.
Papaya is a herbaceous plant of relatively rapid growth and short life (not profitable to cultivate mature plants for longer than 3 years because the fruit yield gets low). It has a hollow, segmented and erect single stem and no branches. It presents a many large, lobed leaves. The plant height can reach up to several meters.
The fruit has a wide variety of forms, its shape and size vary depending on the variety and type of flower.
If you’re growing papaya you must know that papayas come in three sexes: Male, female and hermaphrodite (bisexual). Male papaya trees must be eliminated as they don’t produce fruits. Female papaya trees require male tree for pollination. In orchards and papaya plantations, generally, 1 male tree per 10 female trees is grown. Bisexual papaya trees are self-pollinating and don’t require male trees for pollination. Commercial growers plant them. You will need to plant either female or bisexual papaya tree.
To learn how to identify male or female papaya, tree read this informative discussion on helpful gardener
Our recommendation for you is to buy seeds from quality source so that you know what you’re buying and to get a self-fertile bisexual tree. Most of the hybrid varieties that are coming are either bisexual or female, it is better to buy them. If you’re sowing seeds obtained from the fruits, choose seeds from elongated fruits instead of rounded fruits. Elongated fruits have 66% probability of hermaphrodite (bisexual) seeds and 33% female seeds.
Cross pollination from hand is required for pollination of female papaya trees.
How to Grow Papaya in Pots
Growing papaya in pots is not difficult, considering it is short living small tree. You can grow any papaya variety in pots but it is better to choose a dwarf variety.
Choosing a container
Choose a large 15-20 gallon size container for growing papaya in pots, also, ensure there are enough drainage holes in the bottom before planting. A pot that is around 18-22 inches in diameter and 12-15 inches deep would be sufficient.
Sow the seeds directly in the pot you wish to use for growing papaya tree as papayas don’t transplant well. All the other growing requirements are given below in the article.
Growing Papaya from Seeds
Seeds must be given treatment before sowing for germination. The first method is to simply wash the seeds to remove gelatinous coating before sowing. Another method is to immerse them in a container full of neutral water for the period of 4 days. Change the water twice in a day. After 2 days of soaking, separate the seeds that are floating on the surface from those that have settled down.
Leave the seeds that are settled down for another day. After this time, the seeds that float up again must be removed. This way only the viable papaya seeds are left. On the last day when changing the water, add fungicides in it.
After this process, keep the seeds on cotton cloth for 2 to 3 days, keeping up the seeds wet. Once the white dot in them can be observed they are ready for sowing.
Proceed to sow the seeds directly on the ground or in the pot or seed tray but remember that papaya trees don’t transplant well and you’ll have a low success rate. Seeds will germinate in 2-3 weeks. Optimum germination temperature is around 70 F (20 C).
Planting Papaya Tree
Once the seedlings germinate sow them directly in a spot as papayas have less success rate when transplanted.
Prepare the ground well before planting. Make a hole in soil that is of the same depth as of rootball of the plant but twice wide. Apply slow release 16-48-0, 18-46-0 or balanced 15-15-15 fertilizer according to the product instruction at the base of the hole, fill it with a thin layer of soil to prevent the plant roots from coming in direct contact with the fertilizer.
The base of each plant should be 1 cm above ground level, to prevent rot at the stem base. After transplanting, a fungicide can be applied to ensure greater protection especially if planting during the rainy season.
How to Grow Papaya Tree in Cold Climate
Papaya is a tropical fruit tree but if you are thinking to plant it in a temperate climate plant it in a large pot and try to overwinter it in a well-protected area, like a greenhouse. Another way is to start the seeds in fall, or in early spring indoors. Once the temperature soars up to plant the seedlings outside. The tree will grow until the frost comes and get killed but there is a possibility that you’ll get some juicy papayas.
Requirements for Growing Papaya Tree
It is also an important factor that determines if the plant will grow or not. Papaya is one of the easiest fruit trees you can grow the optimum temperature for growing papaya ranges between 68 – 86 F (20 to 30 C).
Low temperatures lead to a slow growth of the plant and higher temperatures cause low production. However, papaya tree can bear cold temperature down to 32 F (0 C) for a short period of time. In extremely high tropical temperatures and in heat waves and droughts, flower buds fall and the plant suspends its growth.
The papaya needs plenty of sun due to its high photosynthetic activity. It is impossible to grow it in the lack of sunlight. One more thing you need to keep in mind when choosing a location for growing papaya trees that they are not strongest and must not be planted in a too windy spot.
Papaya trees must be spaced 8-10 feet apart from each other.
The main characteristics of soil for growing a papaya tree are following:
- Loose and moist.
- With good drainage.
- High organic matter content.
- A pH level around 5.5 to 7 (Neutral).
- Fertile and deep.
The ideal growing medium must be loamy and have adequate content of organic matter with good moisture retention and efficient drainage. Soil depth is also an important factor for root development. The soil that is more than a meter deep is suitable. Compact soil must be avoided, also, clean the rocks or other debris that is limiting the development of roots till the following depth.
Drainage is crucial in papaya cultivation. The proportion of sand, silt and clay determines the texture and soil structure.
Sandy soils have better drainage than clay. But too sandy soils that are low in organic matter have reduced water retention capacity, which must be avoided.
In clay-rich soils, water movement is slow and this can lead to root rot, slow development of plant and inhibit nutrition uptake. In very alkaline soils (above pH level 8.0) Zinc, iron, and other micro-element deficiency can occur.
Excess water causes yellowing of young leaves, premature fall of flowers and contribute to root rot. Low moisture in the soil can lead to slow growth, accelerated aging and premature leaf and fruit drop.
Good soil preparation practices are key to growing papaya, such as deep plowing and mixing organic matter.
Water is the main contributor of the plant (the plant is composed about 85% of water). In the process of germination, and first few months after planting, papaya needs a lot of water, so at this stage water regularly.
In the dry season, to get the good results in production, watering must be increased again. Keep the soil slightly moist but not wet. As a rule of thumb, water papaya plant deeply when top 1 inch of soil dries out.
Papaya Tree Care
Papaya tree care is easy if you grow it in the warm conditions in full sun.
Mulching papaya tree with organic matter helps in retaining moisture, which is essential.
Papayas are heavy feeders. Apply plenty of manure or compost regularly near the base of your plant.
You can also apply complete fertilizer 15-15-15, 0.1 kg or a similar mixture at intervals of two weeks during the first six months and 0.2 kg thereafter.
No pruning is required.
Pests and Diseases
Pests that can attack it are fruit flies, mites, black vine weevil, aphids, leafhoppers, and whitefly. In diseases, it suffers from soil fungi, powdery mildew, fruit rot, papaya ringspot virus, and nematodes.
Papaya fruit set occurs 10-12 months after planting. The fruit is sensitive to sunburn and it must be separated from the tree carefully using plastic gloves or something similar, pick it lightly with a twist or use a short knife, leaving 0.5 cm stalk.
Harvesting should be done according to the following maturity indices:
1. 0% Ripe: Completely green, but well developed.
2. 10-15% Ripe: Color change, one or two yellow stripes with 10-15% yellow surface shell surrounded by a bright green color.
3. 25% Ripe: 25% of the surface of the shell is yellow surrounded by the clear green color.
4. 75% Ripe: 75% of the surface is yellow.
5. 76-100% Ripe: The surface of the shell have yellow to orange color.
Papaya is a fruit that after being cut continues its maturation without stopping. Papayas that are harvested for selling in the market are harvested green with two or three yellow stripes as fruits that reach 75 to 100% maturity are difficult to transport. Fruits must be harvested in the early hours of the day and must not be exposed to the sun.