How to Grow Papaya in Pots

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Papaya tree with lots of papaya's and a bird sitting on a branch.

Papaya, papaw or pawpaw, is a tropical plant grown in frost free climates. To grow papaya successfully, keep the soil moist at all times and feed the plant every 15 days with a handful of organic compost. Keep the papaya plant in full sun. Ideal growing temperature for papaya plants is between 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C). Use a sandy well draining soil that will not clog the roots and/or the stem. 

 

The biggest problem with papaya plants is the root rot and stem rot. Keep the water, mulch, and fertilizer a few inches away from the trunk to avoid stem rot. Temperatures above 90°F (32°C) will cause the flowers to drop. Keep the soil always moist to prevent blossom drop in papaya plants.

 

You can grow papaya in the ground with 6m spacing between 2 plants. You can also successfully grow papaya in containers, in a 12 to 15 inch deep container with a diameter of about 18 to 20 inches. Papaya can grow upto 12 ft.

 

Papaya plants can be male, female or hybrid. You can only know which type of papaya you have once it flowers. It is required to grow at least 5 papaya plants in order to make sure that there will be at least some female papaya plants, as only the female flowers produce fruit. Another way is to buy a hybrid transplant from a nursery and pot it in a container or in your ground.


 

Papaya General Information

Origin

Central America & Southern Mexico

Common Names

Carica papaya, papaw, pawpaw

🌵Climate

Tropical

🌡️Temperature

70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C)

💧Watering

Keep the soil moist always

☀️Light

Full Sun

Soil

Very well-draining sandy soil, rots in soggy soil

Fertilizer

Young plant - compost, once a month

Mature fruit bearing plant - vermicompost every 15 days

Pot Size

12 to 15 inch deep container with a diameter of about 18 to 20 inches

Propagation🌱

Seeds

Height📏

5 to 10 m (16 to 33 ft) tall

Time it takes to get fruit

6 to 12 months

 

Growing From Seeds

Pot Size: 4 inch pot or seed tray. You can also sow directly into a 12 to 15 inch deep container with a diameter of about 18 to 20 inches.

 

Germination Temperature: around 70F (20C)

 

Papaya Variety: You can grow any variety of papaya in a container but it is recommended to buy the seeds of a dwarf fruiting variety.

 

Follow these steps to germinate papaya seeds to grow a papaya tree.

  1. Take all the seeds from a ripened papaya and clean the seeds to remove the gelatinous jelly like covering from the seeds.
  2. Sow the seeds in a pot, or in the ground.
  3. Add a ¼ inch fine layer of potting mix. Do not sow the seeds too deep.
  4. Press it down lightly, firm the potting mix with the palm of your hand to create a smooth, even surface.
  5. Water the potting mix until it feels wet at a depth of 1 inch.
  6. Place the container in a partial shade for 10 days and keep the potting mix moist all the time while the Papaya seeds germinate.
  7. Seeds will germinate in 2 weeks.
  8. After 60 to 70 days, transplant the seedling into the ground or a 12 to 15 inch deep container with a diameter of about 18 to 20 inches.

How fast does Papaya grow

Papaya plant can last upto 10 years, and it can grow upto 12 ft tall. However, commercially the farmers cut the plant after 2-3 years because the fruit yield as well as the fruit quality reduces with time.

 

Here is a table that explains the rate of growth for Papaya plant that you can expect:

 

Event

No. of Days

Germination

10-14 days

2-3 inch seedlings

40 days

Transplant in ground or container

60-70

Flower formation

6 months

Harvest

8-12 months

How to water💧

Papaya’s are fairly thirsty plants. Keep the soil moist at all times. Use mulch to cover the soil which will help in retaining moisture. When you stick your finger, you should always feel some dampness in the soil. However, papaya trees do not like water clogged roots and can easily rot under standing water. The right balance between moist soil and watering defines the success or failure when growing papaya.

 

If your soil is well drained and sandy, water every other day. If your soil is loamy, water every 3 to 4 days. Underwatering papaya plants makes the flowers fall off from the plant even when the temperatures are ideal (less than 90 degrees F). So make sure you don’t leave the plant thirsty.

 

While watering, do not aim directly at the stem to prevent stem rot. If you overwater, the stem starts to brown from the bottom and the young plants will die.

 

The size of the leaves are big so you know that the water will evaporate fast from this tree. You can ensure consistent planned watering by installing water drippers pre-programmed as per your daily watering needs depending on your climate.

Sunlight Requirements ☀️

Papaya is a tropical plant, and needs full sun - at least 6 to 8 hours of natural sunlight per day. Papaya trees have a high photosynthetic activity and lack of sunlight will halt the development of the plant.

 

If you live in a colder climate, grow papaya in a container and bring it indoors under LED grow lights. Do not keep it near a window as there won’t be enough sunlight for papaya and it will die.

Temperature and Humidity🌡️

Papaya, papaw or pawpaw, is a tropical plant grown in frost free climates. If you live in cooler climates, plant them in a location that receives full sun.

 

Ideal temperature for growing Papaya plants is between 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C). Temperatures below 29°F (-2°C) are harmful/fatal as papaya plants are frost-sensitive. Temperatures above the ideal 90°F (32°C) may cause flowers to drop (blossom drop) and the leaves to turn yellow or burn. Water frequently and keep the soil moist when temperatures cross 90s.

 

Papayas can be grown in zones 9B to 11 with a little bit of possible winter protection. If you live in zone 9A or below, you can still grow papaya but you will have to grow it in a container which is great because papaya’s like to be a little bit root bound.

 

Hawaiian papayas don’t take as much cold as some of the other varieties like the Mexican papaya. If you live in zone 9 areas, then a papaya variety called “Carica Pentagona” is suitable for you. This variety can survive temperatures of about 28 degrees F (-2 degrees C).

Soil

Papaya likes rich and sandy well draining soil and does not like waterlogged roots as they are very susceptible to root rot. So they don’t like a soil that retains water and standing water can kill the plant in a day. To ensure proper drainage, add lots of organic matter and sand to the soil. Papaya also likes moist soil, so add up to 2 to 4 inch of dried leaves and wood bark mulch on top of the soil, a few inches away from the trunk.

 

If you get the soil for the papaya plant right, that would mean that you will very likely never run into a situation of accidentally overwatering your papaya plant as the soil is well draining.

Fertilizer

Papaya plants are a heavy feeder. When the papaya plant is growing, feed the plant with compost once a month. When the papaya plant starts to produce flowers, feed the plant with vermicompost every 15 days.

 

Potassium and magnesium (epsom salt) can be given to papaya plants during the winter months to boost their immune system, fight off fungal outbreaks and produce tastier fruits.

Pollination and Fruit

Most varieties of Papaya will have either male flowers (pollen) or a female flower (ovary). The bees (or wind) need to get the pollen from the male over to the female tree to fertilize the fruit, and therefore need to be planted close to each other. The female flower is the one that gets pollinated and turns into a fruit. Although some varieties of papaya are hermaphrodites (bisexual) and can therefore self-pollinate.

 

One more thing to note is that if you sow the seeds of a hermaphrodite papaya tree, it is not necessary that you will grow a plant that will be able to fertilize itself. You can guarantee to have a hermaphrodite papaya variety if you buy it from a nursery.

When and How to Harvest Papaya

When you plant a young papaya plant, you can expect fruits to appear within 6 to 8 months in warm climates, and colder climates can take upto an year or more to start bearing fruit.

 

You can either harvest it when it is green, 0% ripe but completely grown. Papaya fruit continues its maturation even after being cut. You can also harvest papaya when you see a blush of color coming to the green fruit and let it ripen up in the kitchen. If you live in a pest-free area, you can just let the fruit ripen on the tree. 

 

Another time when you need to harvest the fruit is if you start to see black spots on papaya through the cooler months. In that case, you can nip off the green immature fruits, and clean the fruit with warm water (45 degrees C or 113 degree F) for about 20 minutes which will kill any spores on the outside of the fruit. You can then let it out and ripen up.

Pests 🐛and Diseases🦠

Papaya’s are susceptible to a lot of fungal diseases like black spot outbreaks, Caterpillars, Aphids, Whiteflies. You can easily get rid of these pests and diseases.

 

Stem rot disease is also common and is caused by planting the stem too deep into the soil, too much fertilizer sticking on the stem or too much moisture/water clogged around the stem.

 

Root rot is pretty common with papaya plants if the soil retains too much water, or if you overwater. 

Best variety of Papaya

The best variety of Papaya is the Taiwan 786 red lady variety that is famous for its best quality of fruits. Other famous varieties of papaya include the Hawaiian and the Mexican papaya.

 

About Papaya

  • Rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C.
  • Estimated world production of papaya is 6 million tonnes, out of which India leads the papaya production with an annual 3 million tonnes.
  • Other producers of papaya are Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, Philippines, China and Nigeria.
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