How to Grow Pawpaw

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 that 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.

Did YOU KNOW male pawpaw can still bare fruit and change it's sex about the garden magazine

Soil preparation

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 Fertiliser 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. 

Planting Pawpaw

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.

Pawpaw Maintenance

For best fruiting, apply Searles Liquid Potash 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 
Fruit & Citrus Plant Food 
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.

pawpaw disease Watch black spots on leaves pawpaw mildew #aboutthegarden

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  1. Hi I want to know could I grow a Pawpaw in a large pot like the dwarf citrus trees

    • Hi Helen

      No….. not unless it was a VERY VERY VERY big pot. That doesn’t mean you can’t try & prove us wrong 😉


  2. Hi,
    I recently started a citrus garden with dwarf fruit trees of many varieties, including a dwarf red pawpaw, which could be grown easily in a pot, as Helen asked, as it’s max height is about 2 metres.

  3. Can anyone tell me how old does a pawpaw plant have to be to produce its first fruit I have one about 60 inches high

    • Hi Kellam,

      Some advice from our local garden expert Wendy from Wellington Point Nursery

      “If it flowers now, it will get fruit (as long as it’s a bisexual!) but the fruit probably won’t ripen until next Summer now!Give it some Potash or Fruit tree fertiliser to encourage flowering!”

  4. Kallem
    How do you tell the sex (gender) of the plants when seedlings and at a mature size?
    Thanks in advance, Steve

    • Hi Steve,

      Here is what the local garden expert Chelsea from Trevallan Garden Centre has to say:

      ‘All of my paw paws that are sold are bisexual. Flowers are usually obvious though. Using technical terms – Male have a long thing in middle and females have an opening, somewhat like a pumpkin flower.’

      Here is what Wendy from Wellington Point Nursery has to say:

      ‘don’t believe there is any way to tell until they flower. NOTE: Pawpaw sex is VERY complicated – look it up on the web – seems they can even change sex in some circumstances!!’

      _____so in answer to your question Steve, no, there is no way to tell. In truth a bisexual plant is the best choice & will be clearly marked at your local nursery.