Most healthy established papaya trees bear fruit 6 to 12 months after planting. Their fruiting is influenced by a number of factors and maybe delayed or prevented entirely depending on the plant and its environment. Papaya trees can be easily grown in the United States department of agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 12. Growing papaya from seed is the easiest, cheapest and most successful way to get started. There are many varieties of papayas available and nearly all of them are easy to grow, but not very easy to keep them alive and get good fruit harvest. So you need to know how to properly plant and care for papayas until they are fully grown and ready to harvest.
Papaya originated in the lowland tropics of South America, but today you find papayas growing everywhere in the tropics and subtropics. It often grows wild and every tropical food garden has several papaya trees. To grow good papayas you need a frost free climate, lots of sunlight, lots of water and very good soil. If you can supply all of the above, you can pretty much stick some papaya seeds in the ground at any time of the year and six to ten months later they will start fruiting and continue to fruit for the next five years. Some papaya trees may live longer than that, but fruit production and ornamental value declines after about five years.
Germinate Papaya Seeds
Papayas are one of those fruits that you either love or hate. They are massively productive trees. So if you like it, it’s really a great thing to grow. The deal is people go out and they buy papaya trees when it’s actually very easy to start them from seeds. A lot of people had problems germinating papaya seeds. So here we are going to discuss how to germinate papaya seeds easily.
First open up your papaya and take out the seeds from the inside. Then simply take the seeds altogether and sow them right into the ground or where you want to grow your papaya. Now the problem lot of people had with germinating papaya seeds is you might have bought a packet of seeds or had some seeds given to you or you saved some seeds from last year’s wonderful sweet papaya and they never came up. And people say that papaya seeds really have a hard time germinating. The problem is that papaya seeds lose viability rapidly, so you have to get those seeds right in the ground or where you want to grow them as quickly as possible.
Once the papaya seeds have germinated which usually takes 1 to 3 weeks, you will have a whole bunch of plants together because you just sow a lot of seeds together. Then you need to thin them out by selecting the best ones and removing the weak plants with a pair of scissors. Now the papaya seedlings are ready to grow there or transplant them into larger pots if you want to grow them in that way.
Young papaya trees do not transplant well and may enter shock if their planting conditions are not ideal. Transplant shock can cause serious issues with young papayas including branch dieback and delayed fruiting. To decrease the likelihood of damage, plant papayas in fall when the weather is mild and moist and cover the root zone with mulch to keep the soil warm. Handle the root ball gently during the transplant process to avoid damaging the roots and position the top of the root ball slightly above the soil’s surface so excess moisture will drain away.
Planting and Caring for Papaya Trees
Papayas express three different sexual forms, hermaphroditic, female and male. Female and hermaphroditic papayas are capable of bearing fruit while male plants cannot. The flowers indicate which sex the plant is, although the differences are often subtle. Female flowers have a large, conical bud with a swollen ovary at the base, while hermaphroditic flowers have a more cylindrical bud with a smaller ovary and stamens inside. Male buds are slender and have no ovary at the base. Hermaphroditic flowers are self pollinating because they contain both male and female parts, while female plants require a male to pollinate them. Planting more than 3 papayas will increase the odds of getting a self pollinating hermaphrodite or a mix of female and male plants.
To bear fruit, papaya trees need warm weather, full sun and moist loamy soil. Temperatures below 59 degrees Fahrenheit inhibit blooming and can result in deformed fruit. Temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit can cause blossom drop and when combine with drought, can reverse the sex of the plant from female or hermaphroditic to male, which will prevent fruiting. Keep papaya trees watered and allow the soil to dry out on the surface between waterings. Keep overhanging trees pruned back so the papaya tree isn’t shaded. In marginal areas below USDA zone 10b, grow papayas in pots so they can be brought indoors in temperature extremes.
If you choose to fertilize your papaya plants, use a balanced N,P,K fertilizer during the growing stage of the tree’s life cycle. Thereafter when the flowering begins, use a fertilizer with more potassium to maximize your fruit harvest. Other than that, it is always good to amend soil with good quality organic compost and don’t forget to adjust soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 to get the optimum results.
Female papaya trees need pollinators and a nearby male tree to produce fruit. A lack of male plants or insect pollinators may prevent or delay a papaya’s first fruiting, which will shorten its useful life in the garden. Once you’ve got both male and female trees, you may need to increase their attractiveness to butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Surround papayas with insect friendly plants that share similar growing conditions such as the blue passionflower and golden dewdrop, both of which grow in USDA zones 8 through 11. Plant papayas no more than 20 feet apart so the wind can also carry pollen between them.
Harvesting and Storing
Papaya plants grow fastest in warmer climates and harvested all year round. It is a fragile fruit that can be easily damaged. So you need to handle the fruit carefully when harvesting and storing. Paper wraps can be used to prevent or reduce these damages. Green papaya is best stored at 57 degrees Fahrenheit and the best storage temperature for ripe papaya is 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Papaya is believed to be native to southern Mexico and neighboring Central America. Papaya trees can be easily grown in hot climates and a healthy established plant bear fruit in less than 12 months. At present, there are many papaya varieties available on the market and my favorite is red lady. You don’t need to fertilize papaya plants often but adding organic compost and leaf mold is a great way to keep your plants healthy. Finally papaya flowers need to be pollinated to produce fruit. So you should do something to attract insect pollinators such as honey bees and butterflies to your garden.
Fast Facts on Papayas
- Papaya contains latex which can cause an allergic reaction in people with latex allergy.
- Papaya tree is actually a fast growing giant herb and its fruit is a large berry.
- In the wild, papaya trees can live up to 20 years.
- Without proper pollination, female papaya plants will only produce very small fruits that are not at all edible.
- Papaya is one of the most effective treatments for indigestion. It contains papain, an enzyme that has the ability to digest protein.
- Papaya is rich in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.
- People in some countries use papaya seeds in place of black pepper.
- The papaya tree can grow from seed to a 20 foot fruit bearing tree in less than 12 months.
- The major commercial producers of papayas are Brazil, India, Indonesia and Mexico.
- The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads, and stews.