How To Grow Papaya Tree, Growing Papaya From Seeds

Papaya (Carica papaya L.) grows in tropical and subtropical regions. It is a large single stem plant whose trunk is soft and does not have a bark. papaya is also known as papaw or pawpaw.

Follow the step-by-step guide on how to grow papaya from seeds in pots and in ground.

Papayas are easy to grow from seeds, but needs proper care to get good fruits. In general, to grow papayas, lots of sunlight, lots of water and very good soil are needed.

The common names of papaya are Papaya, Papaw or Paw Paw (Australia, Spain), Papita (India), Mamao (Brazil), Ma Kuai Thet (Thailand), Du Du (Vietnam), Tree Melon, Malakor, Loko, etc.

Papaya Growing Guide

The papaya is a large, single stem tree-like plant, which can grow up to 10 m (33 ft) height. The leaves are large up to 70 cm (28 in) in diameter, and always confine to the top of the trunk.

Papaya Trees Types

There are three types of papaya tree: male (staminate) plants, female (pistillate) plants and bisexual (hermaphroditic ) plants. These papaya trees can produce only male flowers, female flowers or bisexual.

Can you differentiate between male and female papaya tree before they flower? It is not possible to identify a male or female papaya trees until they produce flowers. However, you can distinguish between male flowers and female flowers by looking to their shape, color and location. Look at the pictures of the male papaya flowers and female papaya flower below. The flowers on male and female papaya trees look totally different.
  1. The male plant produces small tubular flowers with pollen held at the ends of long peduncles.
  2. The female plant produce large flowers held at the ends of much reduced cyme. The female flowers are white or yellow, larger and attached to the trunk. The female flower has an ovary at the base of the flower without any anthers, so it is easy to identify a female papaya flower. These female flowers are pollinated and produce papaya fruit.
  3. Some papaya trees have both male and female flowers. The female flowers on the tree are pollinated by the male flowers on the same tree.
  4. The bisexual or hermaphroditic papaya trees produce perfect flowers. The perfect flowers contain both male and female parts on the same flower and can self-pollinate to produce fruits.
Many people ask, is it possible to convert male papaya tree to female? No, it is not possible to change the sex of the papaya tree. However, some believe that extremely hot weather can cause a tree with only male flowers to produce perfect flowers.

Papaya Plant Description

  1. The papaya is a large single stem plant whose trunk is soft and does not have a bark. It can grow up to 10 m (33 ft) high. The leaves of the tree are formed on the top of the trunk. The leaves are large with seven lobes. There are no branches on the tree, however, if chopped at the top, the tree produces 2 or more trunks, each producing fruits.
  2. The plants produce yellow, orange or white flowers. The fruits are very delicious with yellow or orange-red flesh.

Best Climate For Growing Papaya

  1. Papaya plant grows best in warm to hot climate, temperature in the range 21°C-32°C (70°F-90°F). Temperatures below 15°C (59°F) may reduce flowers, while at temperatures above 32°C (90°F), the flowers may drop. In both the cases, the production of fruits decreases.
  2. Papayas can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 9-11 and almost anywhere in Australia, India, etc. If prolonged frost, the papaya plant will die. This year, Sydney had a very cold winter, so my two papaya trees almost stopped growing any fruit and many of the leaves dropped.

Propagation of Papaya

Papayas can be propagated from seeds and from semi-hardwood cuttings. Rooting from cuttings are not easy and success rate is limited. Growing papaya from seeds is very easy to propagate.

Where To Plant

  1. Papaya trees love sunlight and heat.
  2. The tree can grow in partial shade, but the plant will be weak and the fruits very few.
  3. You can grow papayas in garden bed or a container. Select the warmest area of your yard that does not flood during rains.
  4. If your area gets flooded after heavy rains, planting papaya trees on a 1 m high and 2 m diameter mound will help tree grow satisfactorily.
  5. The container should be very large, smaller containers will make the tree root bounded.

Papaya Propagation from Seeds

Papaya Seeds for sowing
Papaya Seeds for sowing
  1. By looking at the seeds, one cannot say anything about the tree type it will grow. When the plant produces flowers, then only you can know whether it is male, female or bisexual type.
  2. Several years ago, when I was growing papaya in India, always a few seeds would produce only male plants. Now-a-days the seeds from almost all the papayas bought from market are bi-sexual, so they produce fruits.


Papaya trees are very hungry, needing a nutrient rich free-draining soil with a pH 5 to 8. Mix lots of compost and aged manure in the soil. Add some river sand to make the soil free-draining.

Sowing Papaya Seeds

The seedling of papayas do not transplant well, so it is advised to plant them directly in the ground; or in large containers so the seedlings can be transplanted without damaging their roots.

You can purchase seeds from a gardening store or use your own seeds. I use seeds from the papaya which I have eaten and found sweet and good tasting.
Papaya Male Flowers
Male Papaya Flowers

Papaya Female Flower
Female Papaya Flower
  1. Sow the 8-10 seeds into the soil about 1.25 cm under the surface and about 5 cm apart from each other.  Water well and keep the soil damp.
  2. The seeds will germinate in 3-5 weeks after planting. Gibberellic acid can be used to speed up germination.
  3. Remove the weak and damaged seedlings and keep only the very best. This is for the one plant. You may want to grow 4-5 papaya trees as you want to make sure that you have some females or bisexual plants among your seedlings.
  4. I see hundreds of papaya seedlings coming out of my garden beds and pots in Spring where I use my homemade compost. This is because I put the papaya skin along with seeds in the compost bin and many of the seeds are not decomposed. However, I do not use any of these seedlings and pluck them out of the soil.
  5. When the plants are about 1 m high, they will produce flowers.
  6. Keep only one male plant for every 10-15 female plants. The hermaphroditic plants produce both male and female flowers which can pollinate themselves.
  7. Papaya plants should be planted at least 3 m away from other plants and buildings. The spacing between 2 papaya plants should be 2-3 m from each other.

Watering Papaya Trees

  1. Papayas have large leaves which evaporate a lot of water. So water the plants regularly to produce good size fruits.
  2. Standing water may damage the plant. Over-watering is the most common cause of problems.
  3. Lack of water may drop flowers and young papaya fruits, reducing the number of fruits.
  4. Plants growing in well draining soils like sandy or rocky soils do not hold much water. So they should be watered every day during hot dry days.


  1. Apply a layer of 5 cm of pine bark, wood chips or similar mulch around the trunk of the plant to reduce weeds and retain moisture. However, do not mulch closer than 20 cm to the trunk to avoid rotting.
  2. In winter, a plastic mulch will help keep the soil warm, but remove it when the weather becomes warm.
Papaya Paw paw Tree
Papaya Tree


Bisexual papaya plants are self-pollinating or cross pollinated by wind, honey bees, butterflies, wasps, midges, thrips, flies, etc.

Pest, Diseases and Problems

  1. Papaya plants are susceptible to a number of diseases including papaya ringspot virus, papaya apical necrosisanthracnose, powdery mildew, phytophthora blight, corynespora leaf spot, papaya mosaic virus, etc.
  2. The leaves become distorted, their size is reduced, or yellow spots or yellowing on leaves on the leaves.
  3. Curling of leaves may due to picking of herbicide from a nearby lawn.
  4. Cold temperatures, lack of sun, lack of water or high winds will reduce papaya growth.
  5. Papaya plants have a very shallow root system. In the case of strong winds, the top of the tree may be blown away.
  6. Birds, bats and possums love papayas. You may pick the fruits when they start to change colour.
  7. Remove of dead leaves and keep the area clean.

Harvesting Papayas

  1. Green fruits may be harvested to be eaten as a vegetable curry.
  2. When the fruits are fully ripe they become yellow and super sweet.
  3. You can harvest when the fruits are semi-ripe to protect them from birds. They will ripe after harvesting.
  4. I cover the fruits by a cloth to let them ripen on the tree.


  1. Papaya trees are nitrogen hungry, they need a lot of fertilizer. Chicken manure and compost are the best for papayas.
  2. Apply a complete fertilizer to growing plants every third week.
  3. Refrain from fertilizing the lawn around the papaya tree. The roots of papaya tree extends farther than its drip line, so excessive lawn fertilizer may damage the roots.

When Do Papayas Fruit

  1. Papayas fruit in the warm weather.
  2. A papaya tree starts flowering  after 7-8 months of planting.
  3. Young papaya plants produce most fruits.
  4. The older plants will produce less and smaller fruits. With the age, the plants grow very tall, so it gets harder to reach the fruit. It is better to plant new trees.

How To Make and Store Seeds

  1. Remove the seeds from a ripe good tasting fruit and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Place on a paper towel and place in shade to dry.
  3. Place the dried seeds in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for many years.

How To Grow Papaya In Cooler Climates

  1. Papaya cannot be grown outdoors in the areas of cool climates.
  2. You can, however, grow in a huge pot, and  keep the pot in a heated environment. But growing good fruits are doubtful.


  1. Fact Sheet HS11, Horticultural Sciences Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 1986 - 2008.
  2. Papaya,
  3. Morton, Julia F. Fruits of Warm Climates. Creative Resources Systems, Inc. 1987. pp. 336-346.
  4. The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts - Page 241 - Google Books
  5. Papaya - Department of Agriculture and Fisheries,
  6. Popenoe, Wilson. Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits. Hafner Press. 1974. Facsimile of the 1920 edition. pp. 225-240.
  7. Samson, J. A. Tropical Fruits. 2nd ed. Longman Scientific and Technical. 1986. pp. 256-269.
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  1. My papaya plants in 2 feet size pots have grown till 2 feet hight and have stopped growing or the growth rate has slowed down what could be the reason, how to bring back the growth rate please advice

    1. Your plant may need fertilization. mix some complete fertilizer in the soil and cover with chicken or cow manure.

  2. Nice blog helpful for the home gardener. Southern red grows well in Sydney. Fertilize in Sept., Nov., Jan. with 115 g. NPK 2:3:2 . Papaya seeds are photoblastic hence sow on surface when temperatures are in range of 24 to 28 deg. C. When tree crosses 180 cm in height, cut off top and protect with a cover. Five to ten new shoots appear at the point of cutting off which can be used for grafting on male plants.


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