Pruning paw paw trees

Paw Paw Tree Facts

The oddly named pawpaw tree has nicknames that may be even stranger, such as Poor Man’s Banana, Hoosier Banana and Papaw. The pawpaw is a member of the Annona family of plants, also referred to as the Custard-Apple family, with most of its relatives being tropical species. Pawpaw produces the biggest edible fruit of any plant native to the United States. The pawpaw is a landscaping tree that you may find appealing for some of its features, with the fruit as a bonus.


The pawpaw does not grow very tall–a 30-foot specimen is considered large and most grow to heights between 12 and 20 feet. The trunk is around 8 inches in diameter. Pawpaw leaves can grow to a foot in length and the flowers are as wide as 2 inches. The fruit, which can weigh as much as a pound, is up to 6 inches long. It contains two separate rows of large seeds, which may remind you of lima beans in size and shape.


The oblong leaves of the pawpaw are a dark green shade and droop on the branches. The leaves make the tree appear to be a tropical species. In the autumn, the leaves will turn to yellow before coming down from the branches. The leaves emerge in the latter portions of spring after the flowers develop. The flowers have a velvety texture, are dark brownish in color and hang upside down. The fruit grows in clusters, with as many as nine individual fruits growing together.

Growing Conditions

Direct sunlight harms the development of a pawpaw tree. Filtered sun is important to this species as it grows during its first two years, after which full sun is not a problem. The pawpaw tree thrives in rich and fertile soil that drains reasonably well and is somewhat damp. Water your pawpaw tree in the growing season. High-potassium fertilizers applied twice per year will enhance growth and overall pawpaw health. Prune the dead branches and those that seem to grow out of place.

Pawpaw trees typically prove quite problematic to pollinate. The trees need an unrelated pawpaw for cross-pollination and usually only flies and beetles will accomplish this task, making it sometimes necessary for you to hand-pollinate your pawpaws if you desire fruit.


Once you have an established pawpaw tree you may develop more since new trees can grow from the root sprouts. The young pawpaw trees have a very fragile root system. When transplanting a pawpaw seedling, keep it in its container or root ball with the soil still around the roots as you transport the tree to its site. Place the tree in its hole with as much of its soil as you can and then fill in the hole. Water a new pawpaw generously in its initial year. Transplant a pawpaw in the spring after its buds open to give it the rest of the year to adjust.


The cultivars of the pawpaw tree include the Mitchell, Prolific and Overleese, all of which produce a tasty fruit. The Taytoo cultivar does not have fruit as large as some pawpaw hybrids but bears large quantities of it. The Sunflower pawpaw has fruit with smaller seeds than other pawpaws and has a reputation as being able to pollinate itself.

Pawpaw Growing Guide

August 25, 2016 OGW Growing GuidesfruitsGardengrowing guidehow-topawpawpawpaw growing guideShadewatering

Pawpaw Growing Guide for Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are one of the most unique and delicious fruits that can be grown in the backyard orchard. Native to eastern North America, pawpaws are the only member of the Annonaceae, or custard apple family, that is adapted to temperate climates. Its tropical relatives include the cherimoya, atemoya, guanabana, and soursop, and it is easy to see the resemblance between the pawpaw fruit and that of its tropical cousins. Everything about this plant, from its leaf size and shape to the way its fruits look, taste and smell is tropical, yet it is cold hardy to zone 5 and can be grown in temperate climates from coast to coast.

How to establish your Pawpaw plants

To successfully grow pawpaw fruit we must first understand a few things about its natural history. The tree grows primarily in river floodplains and shady rich bottomlands. They form dense groves, spreading clonally by underground runners and spend many years growing as an understory species until there is a break in the canopy and they can make their leap into the sunnier conditions provided by an opening in the canopy. It is only once they are growing in fuller sunlight that they produce significant crops of their delicious fruit. These are the conditions we must try to mimic in order to grow healthy paw paw trees that give us good crops.

Site selection

Rich, deep, well draining soils are ideal conditions for planting your new pawpaws in. Although they grow in river floodplains that may become seasonally inundated, the pawpaw does best when it has deep well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. To mimic the understory conditions that the pawpaw needs for its establishment years you could plant on the north side of a fence where the pawpaw will be shaded while its young but receive full sunlight as it matures and grows above the fence line.

Another option is to establish a quick growing nitrogen fixing tree or shrub on the south side of where you plan on planting your pawpaw. Get this tree established the year before so it can provide adequate shade for your newly planted pawpaw tree. Choosing nitrogen-fixing species gives you a quick growing tree that will properly shade your pawpaw as well as providing fertility for the tree. The shade tree can then be cut down a few years later once your paw paw is established and the danger of sunburnt leaves and shoots is no longer a threat.

A third option is to plant quick growing annual legumes on the south side of the pawpaw while also building a simple bean or pea trellis over the top of the paw paw to provide quick shade, nitrogen fixation, as well as a crop from your leguminous shade-giving plants as you wait for your pawpaws to mature. Also, planting in a site that is as humid as possible is ideal for the pawpaw. Near a pond can be a great place to plant if you are in an area with dryer summers like we have here in the Pacific Northwest.

The paw paw can be a very difficult species to transplant. It has a very deep root system and does not like its roots to be disturbed or broken. For this reason we sell pawpaws while they are still quite small to ensure higher transplant success rates. In the spring just after bud break is the best time to transplant, being very careful not to disturb the roots. Water in well just as you would any other tree and keep very well watered for the first couple years.

Plant spacing

Pawpaws can be spaced relatively close together, even as close as 5 feet. Because you will most likely be planting grafted named cultivars, this is the best way to mimic the dense root suckering groves that paw paws form in the wild. It’s believed that pawpaws actively graft their roots together and share nutrients. More readily than many other species and close plant spacing helps to achieve this. Planting as close as 5 feet or as far as 10 feet apart, and planting at least three different varieties for cross-pollination, has been shown to be the most successful.


Pollination can be the major limiting factor to getting good crops of pawpaw fruit. The flowers are protogynous meaning that the female organ, the stigma, ripens before the pollen does and is therefore not receptive when the pollen is ripe. This ensures that the flower cannot pollinate itself. The entire tree is also usually self-incompatible, meaning that pollen from one flower on the tree will not pollinate the stigma of other flowers on the same tree.

Therefore the pawpaw requires pollination from a tree with entirely different genetics to be successfully pollinated. This is why we always suggest purchasing many different paw paw varieties to ensure the most successful pollination. The more trees you have the more successful your pollination will be. Two varieties is the absolute minimum you can plant to get fruit but more fruit is produced with three or more varieties.

Finally, you must attract the pawpaws natural pollinators to achieve successful transfer of the pollen between flowers. In this case keeping honeybees will not help you out as the pawpaw flowers are designed for the decomposers of the world. They are a deep and beautiful reddish purple color and smell a bit like rotting flesh in order to attract various species of flies and beetles. One strategy for attracting these pollinators is to put road kill or rotting meat near your pawpaws when they are flowering to attract their natural pollinators. If this sounds too unappealing to you it is also possible to pollinate by hand, just be sure that once the tree starts setting fruit that no single branch is too loaded up with fruit or it may cause it to break or result in smaller fruits.

Pests and Diseases

The pawpaw is relatively pest and disease free. If you have deer problems in your area then pawpaw trees are a wonderful choice. Deer avoid eating pawpaw leaves even in areas where deer populations are sky high. A few insect pests exist, but most are relatively minor.

The pawpaw peduncle borer (Talponia plummeriana) burrows into the flowers causing them to wither and drop and can even destroy the majority of blossoms, although this is rare. Other pests in the Eastern United States include the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) whose larvae feed exclusively on young pawpaw leaves. The relationship between the Zebra Swallowtail and the pawpaw is similar to that of the Monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant.

The acetogenins that are present in the paw paw leaves remain present in trace amounts in the Zebra Swallowtails body for the remainder of its life, making it unpalatable to birds or other predators. The incredible beauty of the Zebra Swallowtail and the minimal damage it does to the leaves make this insect not much of a concern. A blue stain disease can also infect paw paws but it is not believed that a microbial agent is responsible for this but rather it is a result of stress or trauma to the tree. In general pawpaws are one of the most disease and pest resistant fruit trees that you can grow.

Varietal selection

The best way to select your varieties is to contact your local agricultural extension agency and ask them which pawpaw varieties will grow best in your area. In general, we recommend the earlier fruiting varieties for areas where summers are not as humid as the eastern United States where the pawpaw is native.

Using the Pawpaw Fruit

The fruit is primarily used for fresh eating. It is extremely perishable and is amazingly delicious when it is perfectly ripe. It can be used much like you would use a banana. Try replacing bananas with paw paw fruit in a banana bread recipe or adding paw paws to a berry smoothie. For longer-term storage you can freeze the fruit and make ice cream out of it. Any recipe that requires adding heat or cooking the pawpaw is not recommended as the flavor compounds are extremely volatile and cooking can destroy the delicious pawpaw flavor, although it seems to retain a good flavor when mixed with flour and used as a baking additive.

Let us know about your experiences with paw paws, which varieties work best in your area, what recipes you’ve found to use them in, and what strategies have been successful for getting them established, and enjoy the look and taste of this amazing tropical tree in your own backyard!

Pawpaw Trimming Tips: How To Prune A Pawpaw Tree

The pawpaw tree (Asimina spp.) is native to the eastern part of the country where it grows along the edges of woodlands. It is cultivated both for its edible fruit, the pawpaw, and its brilliant fall color. Pawpaw tree pruning is sometimes helpful or necessary. If you are thinking of planting these fruit trees, you’ll need to learn how to prune a pawpaw. Read on for pawpaw trimming tips.

About Pawpaw Tree Pruning

Pawpaw trees have grown in North America for centuries, and Indigenous Americans relied on pawpaw fruit for part of their diet. The trees are deciduous, and develop purple flowers in spring before leafing. Fruits appear in summer and ripen in fall. They can grow to 6 inches (15 cm.) long and half that wide.

Pawpaw trees can grow with a single trunk or with multiple trunks. They also tend to produce suckers and grow in clumps. Pruning a pawpaw tree may be necessary if you want your pawpaw tree to have one trunk, or you want to stop new trees from forming from the pawpaw roots.

Pruning a Pawpaw Tree

Cutting back pawpaw trees may be necessary to establish a sole trunk. Most gardeners choose to grow pawpaws with a single leader. In order to do this, you’ll have to select the strongest leader and allow this one to grow. Then start pruning a pawpaw tree’s less vigorous leaders.

Cutting back some of the pawpaw branches can also give the tree a stronger structure. Check the strength of the crotches where pawpaw branches attach to the trunk. Consider cutting back pawpaw tree branches if the crotches are weak or have narrow angles.

Finally, pawpaw tree pruning is necessary if you see tree suckers growing close to the tree. Left to their own devices, these will turn into a large pawpaw tree clump. If you don’t know how to prune a pawpaw sucker, don’t use pruners. You’ll want to pull up the young suckers by hand.

Pruning a pawpaw tree’s lower branches may be necessary if you want to be able to walk beneath the crown. How to prune a pawpaw in this way? Just remove the lowest branch with pruners or a small saw, then move on to the next lowest until you achieve the access you want.

No need to over prune this tree, however. Pruning a pawpaw tree may not be necessary if a central leader forms naturally and you don’t need space to walk below the tree. Always prune out dead, weak, broken or diseased branches from the tree, as these can invite pest or disease issues later.

How to Cut and Serve Pawpaw Fruit Video

Your browser does not support HTML5 video.

Felix from Gurney’s Seed and Nursery shows off the different ways you can cut, eat and serve Pawpaw fruit. Find out how to store the fruit and learn some of the recipes you can use it in.


For actually serving up the Pawpaw fresh, there are number ways to do it, depends on how clean you wanna be about eating the fruit. This is not a peel the banana in its own wrapper type of fruit. One way I like to do it is to cut it in pieces. Course I’ve hit the seed here. So you can see I have a piece of seed in that slice, I’ve got a couple of seeds in this one. Ideally, your knife would miss the seed and you’d basically have this little sliver of Pawpaw. You can cut the peel here and then just peel it off and eat that pulp and get at it, and you have a little bit of cleanliness there, but you’re just gonna get messy with Pawpaws typically. So you can do these slices pass these out to your friends or serve them up on a table in those slice forms you know, pop the seed out if you want or leave them for contrast. The other way, we’ll take this one here, it’s a little smaller fruit, is you can just cut it into a bowl shape twist it and pull it apart and then scoop that out with a spoon. Maybe a little more regal way of eating. But you have some nice pulp color here, that yellow is what you’re after, the white is a little less ripe but you see on the other pieces and then you just scoop that out, you do have to navigate your way around the seeds. But that’s that’s how you deal with this. It’s just scooping out the pulp and eating it with a spoon. Now the other component is, if you have a big crop and you aren’t gonna just eat them out of your hand, then you need to actually pulp this and basically it’s the same way like you deal with an avocado and instead of one big seed in the middle you’re navigating and popping out the seeds with a spoon and then scooping the pulp into a bowl and using that as a cup, you know, X number of X cups of pulp for the recipe that you’re making and you can substitute Pawpaw for a banana. Any banana recipe, it, it really adds a lot to, to a recipe and, ice cream again, X cups per milk and sugar and you have your ice cream and your ice cream maker. I generally do 2 cups of pulp, 2 cups of milk or 2 cups of cream and a, and a cup of sugar for an ice cream recipe So those are some ideas of how to handle the fruit. One other point is that if you wanted to keep this in the refrigerator for a while, so you have your fruit harvested and you want to put it in the refrigerator and keep it for a week or two, it’s a good idea to put this in either a brown paper pack/sack that will help after ripen it. What the fruit’s doing is giving off ethylene that’s part of the, that’s a chemical that helps ripening process and just like, if you’d have to ripen a tomato, you pick some green tomatoes at the end of the season, you put them in a, in a bag to capture that ethylene and that will help the fruit ripen up. If you wanted to keep it and not have it ripen up quickly, a plastic bag with some holes in the refrigerator, sealed up or just in your crisper in the refrigerator and it’ll hold for a while there.

Share and help your friends grow

  • Papayas are beautiful trees to grow however they are a large tree and can grow to over 30 feet tall which is not ideal when it comes to harvest time.

    When you eat papaya there are that many seeds inside you really should give it a go to grow your own tree.

    There are a number of things you can do to keep your papaya tree a more manageable size and in this article, I am going to tell you how to shorten a papaya tree so that it stays more like dwarf size.

    I have always found it is a better idea to keep your papaya short and more like a shrub than allowing it to grow up to a full sized tree.

    To shorten a papaya tree simply cut the top inch off of your tree. You should do this every time your tree grows 5 inches. In young seedlings, this will result in a thicker trunk and in older trees, it will result in more branches growing out the side rather than upwards growth.

    This video shows exactly how to dwarf a papaya tree by using this pruning method:

    Why Top your papaya to keep it short

    Topping a papaya tree is an advanced form of pruning and it is exactly what it sounds like you cut the top of your papaya tree to keep it short.

    Chopping the top of your papaya tree will also mean you end up with a healthier tree as every time you prune it in this way the trunk of your tree will end up growing thicker and this is always a benefit for a healthy tree compared to one with a thin trunk that looks like the wind could blow it over and snap it.

    If you are growing a papaya tree in a container then it is vital that you do prune your tree in this way as it will help keep your papaya tree dwarf and a good size for growing in containers.

    If you are growing your papaya tree in the ground you should still use this method as it is a lot easier to harvest your papaya off your tree when it is in arms reach and not way up high in a tall tree.

    How often should you top your Papaya tree

    There is no exact time scale of when to prune your papaya tree as they all grow at different speeds depending on the climate that you live in, what fertilizer you use and many other variables.

    The easiest way to decide when to top your papaya tree is to measure its growth, I top my papaya tree every time it grows 5 inches and I have found over the years this is the perfect way to do it.

    If you live somewhere that has a cooler climate during the winter months you might want to stop this method over the winter and only do it during the summer months as when you cut a tree you want it to be in a growing period so that it can quickly recover.

    You should continue this method throughout the life of your papaya tree as if you stop doing it there is a possibility it will just sprout up the way and could possibly turn into a massive tree depending on the variety.

    How to top your papaya tree

    When you are pruning your papaya tree you should always use disinfected, sharp and clean sheers as using dirty sheers to chop a tree is one of the easiest ways to transfer disease.

    When you cut the top off your tree you effectively make it just like an open wound so you should treat your tree just like a human and you would never use dirty instruments anywhere near an open wound on a human as obviously this could easily cause disease and infection.

    I have advised you to top your papaya tree every time it grows 5 inches but this does not mean you cut the top 5 inches off as this would mean your papaya tree never gets any taller and we do want it to get taller when it is a seedling but just keep it manageable.

    All you do when it is time to prune your papaya tree is chop the very top of your tree off so this is maybe the top 1 or 2 inches.

    When you do this the papaya tree will then transfer all of its growing energy from growing up the way to making the trunk healthy and growing out the way.

    When your tree is still relatively young most of the energy will go into making the trunk thicker but as your tree gets older and you continue the topping method you will notice more shoots start to grow out the way.

    If you want to read my full guide on growing papaya

    Choose a dwarf variety of papaya

    If you have decided to grow a papaya tree from a seed out of a papaya that you have bought in the store then you would know what variety or type of tree it has come from and you will just have to go for it see what happens and prune it correctly to keep it at the desired size.

    If you are buying seeds out of a seed store to grow your papaya then you should be careful what variety you choose as choosing a dwarf variety is half of the battle when it comes to keeping your papaya tree small.

    With regular pruning, you can basically keep any tree down to a smaller size.

    The hint is in the name it’s called a dwarf variety for a reason and a dwarf variety of tree should grow to be a smaller version of its full-sized counterpart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *