If you want to learn How to Grow Papaya tree and all about how to take care of it, here is all the information you need!
Papaya tree (Carica papaya L.) is native to the tropics of Mexico and Central America and is now grown almost all across the world in subtropical, tropical, and arid climates. In the United States, they are grown in Texas, California, Hawaii, Arizona, and Florida. Major Papaya-producing countries are India, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Mexico.
This fruit is known for its high nutritional value, great taste, and medicinal properties. After all these facts, let’s have a look at How to Grow Papaya below.
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.
Here are Different Types of Papayas
Papaya Tree Information
Papaya is a herbaceous plant of relatively rapid growth and short life. This is the reason why it’s not commercially profitable to cultivate mature papaya trees for longer than 3 years because the fruit yield gets low afterward.
The tree has a hollow, segmented, and erect single stem and no branches. It presents many large, lobed leaves, which look highly ornamental. The plant height can reach up to several meters (usually 6-20 feet), and it has a shallow root system, making it an excellent choice for container growing.
The fruit comes in various forms: shapes and sizes, depending on the cultivar and type of flower. If you want to learn about the best-tasting papaya varieties, read this article!
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Papaya Tree Pollination & Propagation
If you’re growing papaya, you must know that papaya comes in three sexes: male, female, and hermaphrodite (self-pollinating). Male papaya trees must be eliminated as they don’t produce fruits. Female papaya trees require male trees for pollination. In orchards and papaya plantations, generally, 1 male tree per 10 female trees is grown.
Hermaphrodite (self-pollinating) papaya trees are self-pollinating and don’t require male trees for pollination. Many commercial growers plant them! If you’re planting papayas, you will need to have either female or self-pollinating papaya trees to harvest fruits.
Our recommendation for you is to buy seeds from a quality source instead of scooping them out from a papaya fruit you bought from the market. This way, you’ll know what you’re buying and get a self-fertile, bisexual tree. Most of the hybrid varieties are either bisexual or female–it is better to buy them.
If you don’t want to germinate seeds, the best option is to buy young papaya plants from a nearby nursery, or you can find them online. Many sellers ship them! If you’re sowing seeds obtained from the fruits, choose seeds from elongated fruits instead of rounded ones. Elongated fruits have a 66% probability of hermaphrodite (bisexual) seeds and 33% female seeds.
Tip: Cross-pollination from hand is required for the pollination of female papaya trees.
How to Grow Papaya in Pots?
Growing papaya in pots is not difficult, considering it is a short-living small tree with shallow roots. You can grow any papaya variety in a pot and cut the top off to shorten it. However, it is better to choose a dwarf variety if you’ve options available. Hawaiin papaya trees are considerably shorter than Mexican ones and seldom grow over 8-10 feet!
Wondering how to grow papaya from seeds? To grow papaya from seeds, start by selecting ripe and fresh seeds from the papaya fruit. Then, plant the seeds in a well-draining potting mix, keep them moist, warm, and in a sunny location until they germinate and grow into seedlings.
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Choosing a Container
A pot that is at least around 16-20 inches in diameter and 12-16 inches deep should be sufficient. If you can get bigger size pots, that is even better–Old drums, barrels, and buckets are also good choices.
Sow the seeds directly in the final pot you intend to use for growing papaya trees later because this fruit doesn’t transplant well sometimes.
Growing Papaya from Seeds
Seeds must be given treatment before sowing for germination:
- The first method is to simply wash the seeds to remove the gelatinous coating before sowing and go to step five below.
- Another method is to immerse them in a container full of neutral water for a period of 4 days. Change the water twice a day. After 2 days of soaking, separate the seeds 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 viable papaya seeds will be left. On the last day, when changing the water, add fungicides to it.
- After this process, keep the seeds on a cotton cloth for 2 days, keeping the seeds moist. 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 container. If you’re using seed pots, make sure they’re biodegradable, as papaya plants don’t transplant well, and you’ll have a low success rate otherwise.
- Seeds will germinate in 1-3 weeks. It can take up to 5 weeks in less ideal conditions, so don’t give hope early! The optimum germination temperature is around 70 F (20 C).
Planting Papaya Tree
Once the seedlings germinate, sow them directly at the desired spot. If you’ve got plants from a nursery, prepare the ground well before planting. Dig a hole 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’s instructions but in a weaker dose at the base of the hole. Later, fill it with a thin layer of soil to prevent the plant roots from directly contacting 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 planted during rainy days.
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How to Grow a Papaya Tree in a Cold Climate?
Papaya is a tropical fruit tree, but if you are thinking of planting it in a temperate climate, plant it in a large pot and try to overwinter it in a well-protected area, like a greenhouse.
There’s another way to grow papaya plants. You can start the seeds inside your house during fall or early spring. When the weather outside gets warm enough, you can plant the seedlings in your yard. The trees will continue to grow until the cold weather arrives, which might kill them. However, if you’re lucky, you may still get some tasty papayas. Even if you don’t get any fruit, the plants will still look pretty.
- If you don’t have a greenhouse, keep it indoors during winter in a warm room.
- Cover the pot with bubble wrap to insulate the roots and provide protection.
- Reduce watering and stop fertilizing in winter.
Requirements for Growing Papaya Tree
The papaya needs plenty of sun due to its high photosynthetic activity. It is impossible to grow it in the lack of sunlight, so make sure it gets 6-7 hours of it every day.
You need to keep in mind when choosing a location for growing papaya trees–they are not the strongest and must not be planted in a too windy spot.
Good soil preparation practices are key to growing papaya, such as deep plowing and mixing a lot of organic matter. Therefore the main characteristics of soil for growing a papaya tree are the following:
- Loose and Moist
- Good Drainage
- High Organic Matter Content
- pH Level 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 capacity and efficient drainage. Soil depth is also an important factor for root development.
Soil that is more than a meter deep is suitable. Compact soil must be avoided; also, clean the rocks or other debris that could limit the development of roots till the following depth before planting.
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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 remains slow, leading to root rot, slow development of the plant, and inhibiting nutrition uptake.
- In very alkaline soils (above pH level 8.0), Zinc, iron, and other micro-element deficiency can occur.
Water is the main contributor to the plant (this plant is composed of about 85% of water). In the process of germination and the first few months after planting, papaya needs a lot of water at that stage.
In the dry season, to get the optimum results in production, watering must be increased again. Keep the soil slightly moist but not wet. As a rule of thumb, water the papaya plant deeply when the top one inch of soil dries out.
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Excess water causes the yellowing of young leaves, premature fall of flowers, and root rot. Low moisture in the soil can lead to slow growth, accelerated aging and premature foliage, and fruit drop.
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 ever grow. The optimum temperature for growing papaya ranges between 68-90 F (20-32 C). Low temperatures lead to slow growth of the plant, and higher temperatures cause low production.
The papaya tree can bear cold temperatures down to 32 F (0 C) for a short period of time. In hot climates, it can tolerate temperatures above 100 F (38 C). But due to extreme temperatures above a hundred Fahrenheit, heatwaves, and drought, flower buds fall, and the plant suspends its growth.
Papaya Plant Care
Papaya tree care is easy if you grow it in warm conditions, in full sun:
Mulching a papaya tree with organic matter helps in retaining moisture, which is essential in hot climates. It also saves it from hot and cold weather.
Papayas are heavy feeders, so you will have to take care of them when it comes to fertilization. Apply plenty of aged manure or compost regularly near the base of your plant. Use a balanced fertilizer, once in 2-4 weeks, when the tree is actively growing.
When the tree starts to bear fruits, reduce the frequency to once in 7-8 weeks and dilute the feed to 1/2 of its recommended strength.
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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.
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Papaya fruit set occurs 9-12 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 a 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 a clear green color.
4. 75% Ripe: 75% of the surface is yellow.
5. 76-100% Ripe: The surface of the shell has a yellow to orange color.
Fruits must be collected in the early hours of the day and must not be exposed to the sun.
How to Eat Papaya?
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 the digestion of proteins.
Interestingly unripe, green papaya is used in many Asian countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, China, and India as a vegetable in salads, stir-fries, pickles, and curry recipes.
Some Interesting Facts!
Papaya (Carica papaya), a native to Central America and is now widely grown in tropical and subtropical areas globally. It is a large, short-lived perennial plant.
- A single trunk of the papaya tree can grow up to 30-35 feet when it reaches its full maturity.
- The palmate leaves can reach out to 3-4 feet in width and are heavily lobed.
- Usually, the fruit flesh is yellow, but some also have ones with red and orange-colored fruit flesh.
- It’s probably the breakfast fruit and contains enzymes that improve digestion.
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. Where Is the Best Place to Plant a Papaya Tree?
Thinking, how do papayas grow? Papaya trees require warm temperatures and ample sunlight to thrive. They prefer well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH level.
Choose a location with good air circulation and protection from strong winds. If you live in a cooler climate, consider planting your papaya tree in a greenhouse or in a protected, sunny spot.
2. Which Month Is Best to Grow Papaya?
Papayas grow best in warm, tropical climates with consistent temperatures between 70-85°F (21-29°C). The best time to plant papayas is in the early spring or late summer when temperatures are warm but not too hot.
However, if you live in a region with mild winters and year-round warm temperatures, you can plant papayas at any time of the year.
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3. How Many Times Papaya Gives Fruit?
A papaya tree can produce fruit multiple times throughout the year. However, the frequency of fruit production can vary depending on several factors, including the age of the tree, growing conditions, and the variety of papaya.
Most papaya trees will produce fruit within 6-12 months of planting and will continue to produce fruit for several years.
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4. What Is the Lifespan of Papaya Tree?
The lifespan of a papaya tree can vary depending on several factors, including growing conditions, disease, and pest management. Papaya trees will produce fruit for several years before their production begins to decline.
With proper care and maintenance, a papaya tree can live for up to 10 years.
5. Can We Keep Papaya Tree at Home?
Yes, you can keep a papaya tree at home as long as you have enough space and growing conditions. Papayas are tropical trees that require warm temperatures, plenty of sunlight (5-6 hours every day), and consistent moisture to thrive.
6. How Can You Tell If a Papaya Tree Is Male or Female?
Papaya trees have separate male and female plants, and it’s important to have both for fruit production. Male papaya trees have flowers that grow in clusters and are smaller in size than female flowers.
Female flowers, on the other hand, are larger and grow singly or in pairs. Once pollinated, female flowers will develop into fruit.