How To Grow Papaya Tree, Growing Pawpaw In Pots

Learn how to grow papaya tree in pots and ground at home. The method of growing of orange red papaya, yellow papaya and red papaya is the same. 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.

Papaya Seeds for sowing
Papaya Seeds for sowing
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. The papayas come in different colors like red, yellow, orange-yellow and orange red papayas.

The papayas are very good for health as they are a low in calories and fat, and contain fiber and vitamin C.

Growing pawpaw from seeds is quite easy, 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.

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 papapw 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 pawpaw 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 pawpaw 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.

Grow Papaya From Seeds and Cuttings

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 Papaya Tree

  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.

Growing Papaya Tree from Seeds

  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.

Soil For Papaya Tree

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 seedlings of pawpaw 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 pawpaw 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.

Mulching the Pawpaw Plant

  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

Pollination of Papaya Flowers

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.

Fertilizer For Papaya 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.

Video on how to grow papayas

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How to make papaya tree short Video


  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.