Pawpaws are like a gift from the gods! Easily grown in home gardens, their delicious, sweet flesh can be enjoyed at the breakfast table for most of the year. Native to southern Mexico and central America, pawpaw flourishes in the tropics and subtropics where individual trees can be productive for up to 6 years.
Which sex to buy?
Pawpaw trees can be male, female or bisexual (meaning they produce flowers which have both male and female functioning parts). It’s important to be aware of this as male specimens won’t bear fruit and female trees will need a male tree somewhere nearby for fertilisation before they can set fruit. Trees can be easy to grow from seed, but this can make it difficult to achieve the best male – female tree combination for fruit production. Bisexual varieties, which are now readily available in garden centres, are self-pollinating which can make them an easier option.
Pawpaws grow best in soils rich in organic matter, but good drainage is important to prevent root rot. Two weeks before planting, mix plenty of 5IN1 Organic Plant Food into the soil. Pawpaws don’t like very acid soils. The optimum soil pH is 6.0 to 6.5. If the soil is more acidic than this, after you’ve checked with a Soil pH Test Kit, dig lime or dolomite into the soil at the recommended rate and allow it to settle for two weeks before planting.
Pawpaws are prolific fruiters in warm climates. Plant them in a warm, sunny position and keep them well protected from frost. When planting, allow enough space between the trees to encourage air flow which will reduce mildew attack and allow pollinating insects to roam freely around them. Mulch well after planting and water well.
For best fruiting, apply Searles Liquid Potash Plus every 2 to 3 weeks, starting before the first formation of flower buds and continuing through to the end of fruit production. Pawpaws are heavy feeders, so for best fruit production apply Searles Kickalong Fruit & Flower organic plant food as directed throughout the growing season. Water requirements depend on the weather, but watering pawpaws once weekly throughout the growing season or twice weekly during drier weather is a good guide.
Some trees take 60–120 days to mature and others take up to 12 months before they start bearing fruit. A good strategy is to harvest the fruit just before it ripens so pick it when it’s about two-thirds golden in colour and allow it to finish ripening indoors. In the tropics, fruits will grow all year round and healthy trees can produce up to 30kg of fruit each growing season. In the subtropics, fruiting will usually cease during the winter months.
The Yum Factor
Green pawpaw can be cooked up in stir-fries and eaten as a vegetable. Fresh, ripe fruit can be enjoyed on its own or with a blob of ice cream, in smoothies, fruit salads or as a pavlova topping. Try our Green Pawpaw Salad recipe!
Pest and Disease Control
Control broad mites with a sulphur spray. Keep an eye out for aphids and caterpillars, which can be hosed off and squashed if the infestation isn’t too severe. Get rid of fruit fly by hanging Searles Fruit Fly Traps around the trees. To reduce fruit rot and fungal problems, pick the fruit early and ripen it indoors, as described earlier. In humid weather watch for mildew, which can be discouraged with good airflow around the plants and can be controlled with Searles Mancozeb Plus.Growing Spices at Home How to Grow Fruit Trees in Pots