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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Papaya Growing By Accident. Can I Keep It?

One type of papaya. Fruit are borne on the
trunk like so many tropical fruits.
Q. I accidently have a papaya tree growing in my yard.  When we moved in I setup a compost bin.  Unfortunately I didn’t think about the irrigation pipes when I placed the bin and I eventually had to move it to fix a leak.  My wife had a thing for papayas while pregnant so quite a few papaya seeds went in to that bin prior to me moving it.  After moving the bin one of the seeds sprouted.  I didn’t know what it was at first and just let it grow out of curiosity.  My wife eventually identified it and, since I now knew I was growing a tree right on top of a pipe, I had to move it as well.  That barely succeeded and it almost died but eventually made a comeback and is now thriving at two feet tall.  Now I’m concerned about getting it through the winter which brought to mind your article in the weekly and I thought I would bounce the concern off of you.  I’m thinking about building a simple green house from sheet plastic and pvc pipe.  Would that work or should I take a different approach?

A. Very interesting story. Yes, I have encouraged people to consider papaya in Las Vegas because there are some varieties like the Hawaiian Solo types which are highly productive and some can bear fruit nine months after planting from seed. You can find seed sources online and refer to this website for growing instructions in mild climates.


They will grow in the Phoenix area as evidence on this website
Papaya in container
For our area the two enemies will be climate and soils. So you will have to modify both of these if it is to work. In the temperature end you have to consider the heat as well as the cold. I would pick a location in the yard that has some protection from the late afternoon sun as much as possible.
            However the plant will need lots of sunlight so make sure it gets it in the morning hours up to mid-afternoon. Winter cold will kill it for sure. So it will have to be protected from windy locations and a structure put over the top during night time.
            This structure could be opened during the day when temperatures are above 50F. Throw a blanket or protection over it when it gets cold at night. The papaya is a tree that grows straight up  so you will not be able to keep it very long before it is too tall. So plant in succession or even annually.
            Next is soil modification. The soil must drain easily and add lots of compost and phosphorus based fertilizers at planting time. This could be a lot of fun for you to try.

1 comment:

  1. The AZ Rare Fruit Grower's (AZRFG), local nursery and original inspirational notes:

    My property in Phoenix is (unusually) too cold to grow papayas or much else tropical (bananas and loquots---and hopefully next year pineapple guavas excepted). I can attest the winter will be the toughest to get through.

    I was stunned at the size of the papaya trees in one AZRFG's back yard located in the Phoenix area. SE location up against a eastern block wall with some wind shelter from a northern located house some 20-25 feet away. Imagine papaya trees the size of two 55 gal. garbage cans stacked atop the other times three papaya trees. All bursting with fruit!!!!

    I asked him his secret.

    He said after many years of trial and error he came to the conclusion that if there was ANY water on the roots the papaya died. If the roots EVER became dry the papaya died. Funny guy.

    His solution was a 4 foot above ground "soil" pile in which a high percentage was pumice atop which the papaya are planted. Rapid draining yet stores water. The pumice pores store water and let water vapor out to replace evaporation within the pile keeping the roots dry and moist at the same time.

    I'd say you got lucky with the transplant. You have a seedling that has already shown its hardiness to your soil and your climate and you showed your wisdom by waiting to see what it was. I hope it not only thrives but produces some good fruit. We might be hitting you up for seed in a few years---and as the moderator said, papaya is the only tree I know of that can reliably (if it survives) produce fruit its first year. I guess because it is an fast growing herb.