Growing papaya in containers

Peterson Pawpaws

Pawpaws are flexible in their soil requirements. The main thing is good drainage. The soil must be well drained. Soil pH should be moderately acid to neutral, in the range of 5.5 to 7.0. Pawpaws are happiest in a rich, deep, loamy soil with high organic matter content. In addition, they appreciate an organic mulch. In the wild, a natural mulching layer of decomposing leaves is normally present. Excessively dry sites should be avoided. Moist soils are ideal.

Pawpaws are native to the humid temperate climate of eastern North America. They are hardy to at least -20° F (-28° C). They require a approximately 400 hours of chilling to break dormancy. This requirement varies with provenance: pawpaws of northern origin require more chilling than cultivars of southern origin. Hence, pawpaws grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8.

They need a minimum of 30 inches (approx. 75 cm) of rainfall annually with the majority of that falling in spring and summer. They need a long warm summer to ripen the fruit — at a minimum 150 frost-free days and 2200 GDD (Growing Degree Days).
Site and Spacing

The pawpaw is a small tree that typically grows to about 20 feet high and less broad. In an orchard setting, tree centers should be at least 10 feet apart. Row widths depend on the size of tractors and equipment — 20 foot rows may be a minimum width. When raising just a few trees for fruit, it is advisable to plant them close — no further than 30 feet apart — in order to ensure good pollination, as the flowers are insect pollinated and as the trees are self infertile. For good fruit production the trees should be grown in full sun. While it is true that pawpaws are shade tolerant, they will fruit much less in the shade. Because of the large size of the leaves, windy sites are damaging and to be avoided.
Establishing Young Trees

Prepare the soil in advance of receiving your young pawpaw tree. The soil from the hole should be thoroughly loosened to a fine tilth. The hole should be the same depth as the root system, and 2 or 3 times the diameter of the root mass. In an orchard setting, we recommend you plow a furrow down the row, rototill the soil to a loose tilth, and then mound the soil into raised beds. Pawpaw trees do not have fibrous roots. Their roots are fleshy, similar to magnolia. And like magnolia, pawpaws transplant better if moved in the spring, not the fall. However, container grown stock can be planted virtually anytime during the growing season. For the first growing season keep the trees well watered. Do not overwater, however. Drowning the tree is bad. Keep the area completely free of weeds & all competing vegetation up to a 2-foot radius. Weed control is essential to successful establishment. Pawpaw is almost the last tree to leaf out in spring, a trait reflecting its tropical origins. The young leaves often appear chlorotic. Don’t worry. This is a temporary springtime condition. Chlorosis on mature leaves is a different matter, however.

Container Grown Pawpaw Trees – Tips For Growing Pawpaw Tree In A Pot

By Amy Grant

For those of you who live in the eastern United States, pawpaw fruit may be very commonplace, albeit generally unavailable except perhaps at a farmers market. Due to the difficulty in transporting ripe pawpaw, it’s hard to find the fruit at the local grocers. All the more reason for those of us outside this region to try growing pawpaw trees in containers. Read on to find out about growing pawpaw trees in containers and how to care for a potted pawpaw tree.

How to Grow a Pawpaw Tree in a Pot

Pawpaw is the largest American fruit, weighing up to a pound. Originally native to the eastern United States, the Native Americans spread the fruit west into Kansas and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. Pawpaw is packed with nutrients. They have almost as much potassium as bananas and three times more Vitamin C than apples, along with plenty of magnesium and iron. All this in a fruit that is

exotically ambrosial with a flavor between a mango and a banana.

Growing a potted pawpaw is actually an excellent idea, at least for a while. The tree needs certain requirements met that might be more easily accommodated as container grown pawpaw. Pawpaw trees require warm to hot summers, mild to cold winters and a minimum of 32 inches (81 cm) of rain per year. They need a minimum of 400 chill hours and at least 160 frost free days. They are sensitive to low humidity, dry wind, and cool maritime air. Additionally, young trees are particularly sensitive to full sun and require protection, which may make growing a container grown pawpaw the perfect solution.

Care for a Potted Pawpaw Tree

Select a large container to grow your container grown pawpaw. In nature, the trees are relatively small, around 25 feet (7.62 meters) in height, but even so, take that into account when selecting a pot. Also consider having the pot on a set of wheels to make it easier to move the pawpaw around if needed.

Soil should be slightly acidic with a pH of 5.5-7, deep, fertile and well draining since pawpaw dislikes waterlogged soil. To retain moisture and keep roots cool, apply around 3 inches (7.6 cm.) of mulch, taking care to keep it away from the trunk of the tree.

Thereafter, pawpaw care in containers is minimal. Keep the tree adequately watered during the growing season. Remember that container grown trees dry out more quickly than those in the ground. Provide shade to trees that are under 1 ½ feet or under half a meter. As the tree matures, it will require full sun to fruit.

Pawpaw care in containers includes feeding the tree regularly. Feed the tree with a supplemental fertilizer during the growth phase in the amount of 250-500 ppm of soluble 20-20-20 NPK.

Papaya or Carica Papaya is a perennial plant that grows in both tropical and sub-tropical regions. It is native to tropic American countries like Mexico and California. They grow well in several countries like Africa, India, Florida, Philippines, Caribbean Islands, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, and Hawaii.

Papaya Plant Structure

Papaya is a small sparsely branch tree with a single stem growing about 5 – 10 meters. The leaves are confined at the top of the trunk. Leaves are large about 20-40 centimeters in diameter with 7 palmate lobes. Flowers are parted; male flowers have stamens fused to the petals, female flowers have a superior ovary with 5 petals connected at the base. Papaya flowers are sweet-scented, open at night and pollinated.

Fruit is a large berry about 20-35 centimeters tall. Papaya fruits can be eaten or juiced. It can also be used in ice-creams, desserts, cakes, sauces, jams, smoothies, chocolates for flavoring.

Other Names

Papaya is the most used word all over the world and is originated from Taino changed in Spanish to papaya. The Scientific name for papaya is Carica papaya. A table below illustrates the different names of papayas in different countries…

Country Name
Spanish Papaya
Australia Papaw
French Papaye
Portuguese Mamao or ababaia
Cuba Fruta bomba

Companion Plants

Papayas love to grow with beans, banana, sweet potato, comfrey, climbers, flowers, nasturtiums and other nitrogen-fixing plants. These companion plants protect papaya tree from harmful pests and diseases. But also promotes plant growth resulting in fast and tasty fruits with high yield.

Nutrition Information

100 grams of papaya contains 43 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of sugars. It is cholesterol free and low in proteins. Papaya is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

How to Grow Papaya Tree from Seeds in a Pot?

Growing papaya is usually done by collecting the seeds from the ripe fruit. Here is the step by step procedure to grow papaya tree from seeds …..

  • Select a seed variety to grow them in pots.
  • Prepare a potting mix rich soil.
  • Provide sufficient water and sunlight to the plants.
  • Papaya requires good N-P-K fertilizers to thrive faster.
  • Use organic fertilizers to deter pest and disease problem.
  • Harvest papayas when fruit turns yellow in the hot-temperate zone.

Choose desired seeds & pots

You can select the seeds from papaya fruit to grow it in pots or purchase hybrid seeds from nursery or garden center. Papaya seed varieties are based on size, taste, growing regions and fruiting time. Choose a big pot or container about 15-20 inches to grow dwarf variety papayas.

Prepare Soil

For tropical plants such as papaya choose a nutrient-rich potting mix soil. You can prepare the soil by adding garden soil to the compost in the ratio of 1:2. Papaya grows well in loamy, sandy or rocky soils with a pH of 4.5 – 8.0.

Water & Sunlight

Water thoroughly and monitor the moisture levels by keeping the soil damp but not soggy. As it grows to increase the amount of water supply to the plants. Prefer full sun for better growth. If you start growing papayas indoors make sure the plant receives sunlight minimum of 6-8 hours a day.

Papaya fruits thrive faster in warm climatic conditions. To maintain the best temperature to produce tasty fruits is 70 – 90 F. It can also damage plant growth if the temperature is below 31 F.


Now sow the seeds in large containers. Spacing should be 2 inches apart from each other. To germinate the seeds quickly, use sterile potting mix soil such as vermiculite. Seedlings may appear after 2 weeks. Dwarf varieties grow to a height of 6 feet.


To develop papaya fruit pollination is a must. Pollens must be transferred from male gametes to the female gametes in plants. Flowers cannot transfer pollens by their own, so they attract insects such as honeybees, butterflies, and birds to transfer pollen grains for the fruiting purpose.

Nutrient deficiency

Nutrition deficiency is the major problem in all edible plants. There may be several reasons for nutrient deficiency in plants such as sunlight, watering and soil nature. Here is the list of elements and symptoms in plants that affects the plant growth.

Element Symptom
Nitrogen Slow growth, leaves become pale
Phosphorus Reduces leaf production, leaves turn blue color
Potassium Purplish brown patches at the base of petioles
Magnesium Reduces plant height, leaves turn yellowish brown color

Pests & Diseases

Pests Spider mite, yellowmouth, scales, whitefly, fruit fly
Diseases Papaya ring spot, bacterial leaf spot, anthracnose, powdery mildew, transit rot

To deter pests and diseases, spray ammonium sulfate solution on papaya plants. Pests or insects don’t like this solution and hence be away from plants. You can prefer other organic methods to overcome this problem.


Papaya trees require better fertilizers to ensure fast growth and development of the fruit. Apply fertilizers such as N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) on plants in the ratio of 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 for root establishment. You can also add organic compost, manure or mulch to the soil.


Harvest papayas only when fruit turns yellow. Papayas are ready to harvest after 6-9 months from seeds in the hot-temperate zone. It takes 9-11 months time to harvest in moderate temperate zones. Cut papayas using gardening tools (sharp knife or scissors). If you left it to ripe then mosquitoes and birds damage the fruit. Before eating store them in a refrigerator for 2-3 days and consume the fruit when it is half yellow.

Grafting Papayas |Can I Graft Papayas?

Grafting in papaya can be done between 2 different varieties to form a single hybrid plant. It produces tasteful fruits and promotes high yielding for a long time. Here is the procedure that illustrates grafting in papaya.

  • Choose the time for grafting papayas as it requires enough nutrients to grow.
  • Select scion which is a young stem from the plant to establish leaves and flowers.
  • Now select rootstock plant that is healthy to which the graft is attached.
  • Cut the stem of scion below graft and rootstock stem above graft in the desired shape using a knife.
  • Join both scion and rootstock (simply say graft) in the desired shape and wrap it with a grafting tape.
  • Now plant the newly established graft in a container.
  • Water regularly as it requires plenty of water to thrive and provide sunlight for better growth.

Papaya Health Benefits

Papaya is a natural remedy for treating many diseases like heart problems, cancer, atherosclerosis and digestive health.

  • Boost Immunity: Immune system protects you against various infections that make you really sick. Vitamin C in papaya makes you build strong immune system.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is a deadly disease and may reduce lifespan significantly for those who suffer from it. Eating papaya is good for your bones and has inflammatory properties that can control arthritis problem.
  • Easy Digestion: Papaya contains an enzyme called papain to treat digestion problems. It is also high in fiber and water content to prevent constipation, promotes regularity and healthy digestive tract.
  • Improves Heart Health: Potassium and vitamins in papaya help to deal with heart disease. An increase in potassium intake in your diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and other heart problems.
  • Weight Loss: Papaya is also good for the people who are trying to lose weight naturally. Eating papaya in the morning or evening snack times is good for your health as it promotes the feeling of fullness and controls cravings. It is also beneficial for promoting wound healing and prevents infections in burned areas.
  • Cancer: Consumingbeta-carotene found in papayas may reduce the risk of cancer. It also plays a vital role in curing prostate and breast cancer for women.

How to take Care of Papaya Trees?

  • Pruning is not required in case of papaya plants.
  • Place mulch over the top of the soil to maintain moisture levels.
  • Keep children and pets (dogs & cats) away from harmful tools and fertilizers.
  • Follow instructions on seed covers when you purchase online before planting seeds.
  • Harvest fruits early in the morning and do not expose it to the sunlight.
  • For grafting papayas successfully maintain temperature, water, and sunlight as required.
  • Make sure the pot has holes at the bottom for enough drainage and to make the soil moist.

What are the side effects of eating papayas?

Consuming papayas in large amounts is unsafe and damages the esophagus system (food tube in throat). When you apply it on the skin as latex causes severe irritations and allergic reactions in some people.

How do you pick a ripe papaya?

Look for yellow papayas or little green color. Fruit turns bright yellow when it is fully ripe. Also, prefer a firm papaya with smooth skin and big size. Avoid damage, cut or the soft fruit.

How long papaya tree lives?

Papaya plant does not survive in frost due to heavy wind, drought and shade conditions. After 4-5 years you can replace plants and some other varieties may live longer if not uprooted. But there may be chances of reducing fruit production after 4 years.

Start growing papaya from seeds in a pot or large container that produces juicy fruits and monitors your health. If you have amazing ideas about growing papayas, please share your experience with us.

Recommended Readings:

  • Amazing way to Grow Blueberries in Your Pots
  • How to Grow an Apple Tree from Seed and Grafting
  • Step by Step Procedure for Growing Pomegranate Plant from Seed Indoors
  • How Lemon Trees Make You a Better Garden Lover
  • How Tangerine Plants Can Help You Live a Better Life

Is pawpaw a papaya?

No. Our pawpaw is Asimina triloba from North America. Papaya is Carica papaya which only grows in the tropics. In many tropical countries papaya is also called “pawpaw”. This causes an endless source of confusion.

Do you sell seed, trees, and fruit?

No. Once I did but now I don’t. On this website you can find a list of nurseries that sell my trees as well as where to buy fruit.

Where can I grow pawpaws?

Pawpaws are a temperate tree that can be grown in USDA zones 5-8. Of course, this is not set in stone, however outside of these zones growing becomes experimental. Be sure to have a soil ph of 4.5 to 7 as well as good drainage, adequate moisture, and fertile soil. See maps above in the gallery of the Native Range of Asimina triloba, and of the USDA Hardiness Zones. It is rule of thumb that plants can be moved 100 miles north of the native range and still do fine.

Where can I buy fruit and trees?

I have licensed out my varieties to various nurseries both domestic and international. Please refer to the list on the website. Fruit can also be purchased from various outlets which I have listed under “Links” in this website.

Why should I buy named varieties?

While you can find pawpaw growing wild in the eastern woodlands of USA and you can grow from wild seedling trees, the quality of the fruit will probably disappoint. With named Peterson varieties you are guaranteed a superior quality pawpaw in the form of more flesh, fewer seeds, wonderful texture, an exquisite flavor and no bitter aftertaste.

Pawpaw Paw-paw Paw Paw Papaw? What is the proper spelling?

There is no standardized spelling for pawpaw, which just goes to show how little known is the fruit. “Paw paw” as two separate words is common, including in dictionaries. However, I prefer “pawpaw.” I reason that it is a single word, not two. And if it were two words then ‘paw’ should be an adjective modifying a noun ‘paw’; which makes no sense. After all, we do not spell straw berry or pine apple or water melon.

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