by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you have a tree that brings back fond memories? The pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) is that tree for me. My great grandmother had three of them growing in her backyard when I was a little girl.
I used to love those trees. I’m not sure what my attraction was to them with the exception that I loved watching them form fruits.
In my little mind, I thought it was so neat to watch a tree form something edible. Whether you want pawpaw trees for their fruit or for their beauty, you’re in the right location.
I’ll share all you should know to grow pawpaw trees around your home. Here’s how you can add these trees to your landscape:
Growing Conditions for Pawpaw Trees
The pawpaw tree has many different names and spellings. It’s frequently known as a papaw tree, paw-paw tree, as a custard apple tree, or cherimoya.
No matter what you call this tree, you should know everything you can about it prior to planting. This will give you the greatest chance at success. Plus, you’ll know the good and the bad with this plant.
Before we go too far, I must tell you upfront that some people only grow this tree for ornamental use. This is a good reason to grow it because during the fall the leaves turn golden. During the spring, the tree produces deep red blooms.
However, from those blooms form a fruit. This is the pawpaw. If you’re unaware, a pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to North America.
This plant typically grows along the eastern part of the United States and in the southern portion of Canada.
Though this fruit (which tastes similar to a banana) is loved by many, to many people it doesn’t love them back. Some people have severe stomach pain when they eat the pawpaw fruit. Other people even break out with skin irritations when they touch the fruit.
Do keep this in mind prior to planting or eating a pawpaw. If you’re still interested in growing this fruit, it has a pudding texture and is a great addition to homemade ice cream recipes and other delicacies.
As far as where a pawpaw prefers to grow, be sure you pick a location which has plenty of room as this tree can reach heights of 30 feet.
You’ll also need to plant two or more pawpaw trees, as we’ll discuss later, so take this into consideration as well when picking a growing location.
The pawpaw tree can grow in full to partial sunlight. However, the more sun the tree receives the more fruit it will produce.
If you have other trees around, don’t worry about planting a pawpaw near them. This tree can thrive even with other trees towering over it.
The final specifications for a growing location are to plant the pawpaw tree in planting zones five through nine. This is where the tree is hardy and tends to thrive.
Next, be sure you pick a location with proper humidity and consistently damp soil. The soil should also be well-draining and nutrient dense.
By picking a location with these specific traits, your pawpaw tree should be able to begin its journey on the right foot.
How to Plant Pawpaw Trees
Pawpaw trees are easy to plant once you understand how they grow best. It’s not recommended to start pawpaw trees from seed.
The reason being is the seeds take up to eight weeks to sprout. This is because the plant has such a long taproot, and it must form first.
The next reason it isn’t recommended to start this tree from seed is because of how long it takes for the plant to produce fruit.
It definitely won’t produce fruit in the first year after planting, if you start the plant from seed. However, it can take pawpaw trees up to eight years to produce fruit. Therefore, you could be in for a long wait if you’re planting this tree for this purpose.
However, it is recommended to grow your pawpaw trees from a root cutting or to plant a gifted or purchased young pawpaw tree.
To begin, no matter your planting method, you must plant two or more pawpaw trees in an area. The trees should be no further than fifteen feet from each other. This is because these trees aren’t self-pollinators and rely on each other for pollination.
When growing a pawpaw tree from a root cutting, you should remove the cutting while the tree is still dormant. A root cutting can take place when you see a shoot forming from the bottom of the tree.
Dig beneath the tree and remove the shoot along with part of the root system which has branched from the mature tree. The roots of the shoot should be at least a half-inch or greater in diameter.
Once you have removed the cutting, plant it in a pot with well-draining soil. Keep the soil consistently damp and the container protected from freezing temperatures while it establishes its root system.
When the plant has formed strong roots and the threat of frost is over, it’s time to transplant the root cutting in its permanent location.
This leads us into how to transplant either a pawpaw tree you’ve grown from a root cutting or a young tree you’ve purchased.
Ensure your growing location meets all the specifications discussed above. Amend the soil prior to planting in this location. You should also loosen the soil approximately one foot beneath the planting area.
As mentioned earlier, pawpaw trees have a long taproot. This root can break if it must push against hard ground.
After these steps are complete, dig a hole that’s twice the width and depth of the tree’s root system. Then place the tree in the hole.
Don’t remove the excess dirt from the tree’s roots. The old dirt can help the tree avoid going into shock when it’s planted in new soil.
Place the unearthed soil back into the hole around the tree. Then water the tree deeply and press firmly around its base to avoid air reaching the roots.
You now know how to plant a pawpaw tree using various methods. Pick the method which works best for your budget and experience level. Then enjoy the process of raising a new plant around your home.
Caring for Pawpaw Trees
Pawpaw trees are low-maintenance plants. Practice the following basics, and your plant should thrive under your care.
The first thing you must do is deeply water this tree during its first year to help it become established in its permanent growing location.
This requires watering the plant for a longer period of time but fewer days of the week. The water will not only reach the roots during the initial watering session, but it will also saturate the ground around the plant.
As the days progress, and the tree needs more water, it will dig deeper into the soil to find it. This will form a stronger root system and an overall healthier plant.
Don’t apply more water without testing the dirt. Stick your finger into the ground next to the tree. If the soil is dry to your first knuckle, have another deep watering session. If not, hold off until the soil has dried a little more.
The next thing you must do is mulch around the tree. You should only apply a few inches of mulch and avoid volcano mulching as this can be hazardous to your new tree.
However, if applied properly, mulch should help retain moisture around the tree and also stabilize the soil’s temperature.
You will need to fertilize your pawpaw tree one time per year. Apply an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer around the base of the tree each spring. This should give it the boost necessary to produce in the upcoming growing season.
The final things you must do to care for a pawpaw tree is prune and protect it during the first year in its new growing location.
When you have a new plant, it’s important to protect it from the harsh summer sun. During warm afternoons, try to provide some form of protection. You should take this into consideration when selecting a planting location.
Maybe plant it up against a building where the shadow will protect the tree. You could also plant it around other taller trees whose shadows can protect the younger pawpaw trees.
You’ll only need to prune pawpaw trees once per year. Be sure to pick a time while the tree is dormant. Pruning will keep your tree healthy, shaped properly, and also encourage new growth.
Take these tips into consideration when caring for your pawpaw trees. Hopefully, this will help your plants grow strong, tall, and be fruitful as well.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Impact Pawpaw Trees
Pawpaw trees have a few common enemies they must face in most growing locations. The main disease which threatens the pawpaw is leaf spot.
Thankfully, this only occurs if the foliage is left in a saturated state for too long. You can treat this issue by using a fungicide per the product instructions.
There are a few more pests that pawpaw trees must deal with. Pests such as spider mites, Japanese beetles, pawpaw peduncle borers, caterpillars, and hornworms all impact this tree.
However, the tree has its own built-in insecticide treatment system. The same chemicals which cause humans to have poor reactions to this plant, can do the same for pests.
Therefore, most pests don’t do much damage to the tree. If your tree is the exception to this generalization, you may use an insecticide to protect your plant.
These are the main threats a pawpaw tree faces. Be vigilant in protecting your tree to ensure any issues are caught early to give the tree the greatest chance at rebounding.
How to Harvest from a Pawpaw Tree
Our final stop on this journey is learning how to harvest pawpaw fruit from the tree. As mentioned before, some trees can take many years to produce fruit.
However, when the time comes you want to be ready as the harvest season is short. Most pawpaw trees are ready for harvest in the fall. September seems to be the popular month for most locations.
When harvesting pawpaw fruit, shake the tree. What fruit falls is ready for harvesting. The remaining fruit probably isn’t ready, so wait a day or two and try the shake method again.
Once you collect the fallen fruit, take it indoors and enjoy it quickly. Pawpaw fruit only lasts two days from the time of picking.
If you harvest more than you can eat in two days, remove the pulp from the fruit and freeze it for later enjoyment.
This concludes our discussion on how to grow a pawpaw tree. Hopefully this information will equip you to take on this task.
By planting in the right conditions, giving the tree proper care and protection, and harvesting the fruit at the right time, you should have an enjoyable growing experience when adding this tree to your landscape.