Papaya trees produce delicious tropical fruits with vibrant red-orange flesh and black seeds, often grown as quickly as their first flowering year. Not only are these trees highly productive but can be grown indoors even in frost-free warm to hot climates if cared for properly.
Papayas are native to tropical regions in Central and South America, where they thrive best when grown in subtropical or tropical climates. However, papayas can also be grown in warmer climates that are frost-free or temperate.
Papaya tree can grow quickly, but often only live for a short period of time. After one year after planting, they begin producing fruits and remain productive for several years. After this point they become too tall and heavy on top which makes them susceptible to falling over during strong winds. Furthermore, older tree species tend to be more vulnerable to disease and pest infestations.
Papaya trees typically have a single central trunk which is usually unbranched. At its crown are heavily-lobed leaves at the ends of long hollow stems which spiral upward towards its highest point. Fruits develop near this base.
Papaya is an edible fruit with numerous uses.
Papaya trees are grown for their fruits, which can be enjoyed fresh, blended into smoothies or used as the basis of baked recipes. When not ripe (also referred to as the green variety), papayas make great additions to Thai and Vietnamese papaya salads.
These trees add an exotic flair to any garden or pot.
How do you grow a papaya plant?
Papayas are ideal for subtropical and tropical regions, where they can be planted at any time during the season. In temperate areas that do not experience frost, it’s best to plant them in early spring or early summer so the tree has enough time to establish before winter arrives.
When purchasing papaya trees for your garden, try to look for hermaphrodite varieties; otherwise, two male and one female trees will be needed. Most commercially sold papaya trees are hermaphrodite.
Choose a location with plenty of sunlight, an adequately drained soil, and protection from strong winds. Dig an area twice the diameter of your rootball to the same depth and mix in compost as well as organic pelletized fertilizer. If the soil is not draining well or cannot drain at all, mound it before planting to increase drainage or plant it in an elevated bed. Place the tree at the center of the hole then backfill with soil and water thoroughly. Cover the base with organic mulch such as sugar cane or pine bark at least 10cm away from its trunk for best results.
Caring for Papaya Trees
After two or three years, assess if it’s worth keeping or composting the papaya tree. With increased height and harder fruit picking, it may be best to cut it down to ground level and then dig out all of its roots. Planting an additional tree every few years ensures there will always be sufficient fruit supply.
How often should you feed papaya trees with water and food?
Drink water regularly during summer and reduce frequency during colder weather. Feed your plants once a month with full organic pelletised fertilizer.
When is the ideal time to enjoy papaya?
Papaya trees typically produce fruit between eight and 10 months after planting, depending on the climate. If conditions are warm, they’ll continue to bloom and produce throughout the year; in colder regions however, flowers may cease during winter but resume when temperatures warm up again.
Select fruit with green and yellow skins that are slightly soft to touch. You may pick these earlier and store them indoors for later maturity; however, do not leave the trees too long as overripe fruit becomes chewy and tastes bland.
Pests and diseases that cause papaya problems
Papaya trees are vulnerable to root rot and must be planted in a well-drained soil to avoid becoming “wet feet”. If your soil isn’t draining properly, create a mound before planting to improve drainage. Alternatively, consider growing the tree in raised beds or an outdoor container.
Papayas can be affected by black spots on both leaves and fruit. Most cases affect the skin of the tree; it does not usually affect flesh when left unchecked. Applying full organic fertilizer regularly to your papaya tree’s foliage will help nourish it, providing it with better defenses against this fungal disease.
How can you propagate papaya tree seeds?
Papayas can be propagated either from seed or by purchasing new plants. When grown from seeds, they take 10-18 months to mature and produce fruit. For best results, only buy or collect seeds from hermaphrodites that self-pollinate. Here’s how you can cultivate papaya seeds:
1. Scrape away seeds from fruit, wash them under running water, and allow to air-dry on a towel.
2. Select a sunny area of your garden with soil that is well-drained and rich. Seeds must be planted exactly where they will grow as papaya seedlings do not like to be transplanted.
3. Sow seeds, lightly cover with water and cover. Generally, seeds will germinate within a few weeks after sowing.
4. Cut away weak or small seedlings and any excess, leaving only the remaining. Maintain the trees’ health by feeding and watering them regularly.