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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Will PawPaw Fruit Trees Grow in the Desert?

Q. Do you know if paw paw trees will grow here? If so, what type of conditions (partial shade, full sun etc) and what type of soil amendments? 
A. I have wondered the same thing myself. I have never tried them here in our desert but there are some pawpaws out there I would like to try. I have been told by Dave Wilson Nursey that they will struggle here but that just gets me more interested in trying them. I think if you have the right exposure, modified the soil and mulched them, they have a chance.

These are the conditions I would try to meet if you decide to give it a go:
They are very sensitive to full sunlight and requires filtered sun when young. Once established they can handle more sun but not OUR sun. Plant on the east side of the home landscape.

Amend the soil with good compost to a depth of 18 inches. Amend the soil with AT LEAST 50% good compost. Acidify the soil with very fine sulfur or aluminum sulfate to help keep the soil pH acidic. They can have a pretty good taproot.

Provide plenty of water just like you would any normal fruit tree but like any fruit tree do not water daily. Mulch the trees with wood mulch to a depth of three to four inches and keep it away from the trunk the first four years.

Apply fertilizer twice a year; once in early spring and again in the fall. They can tolerate very cold winter temperatures. Also they do not set fruit very well so you may have to hand pollinate the flowers to aid them in fruit set and get more fruit on the tree.

Some good information on pawpaws can be found at Kentucky State University where the national repository is located.
Kentucky State University website for repository 


  1. Q: Any new information on anyone growing a PawPaw (Paw Paw) in Las Vegas?
    My understanding is that there are 2 different cultivars needed for pollination.
    Some online sellers sell a combination of Mango and Shenandoah, both of the Asimina triloba species.
    One person (online) wrote that they may require high (60 -70%) humidity.
    This image shows the "natural range" of this species: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Asimina_triloba_range_map_1.png

  2. Yours is the first question I have had about paw paw. I have absolutely zero experience with this tree, only from what I have read about it. I would guess there have been a few adventurous gardeners who have tried it here but I have heard nothing. I can surmise a few things. Will it grow here? Yes. Where is the best spot for it to grow in a backyard microclimate? East or north side of a building. Shade from late afternoon will be important. Soil? Rich and fertile so lots of compost added to the soil at the time of planting and cover the soil with wood chips. Irrigation? Keep the soil moist and put plenty of drippers around this tree. You will need two different trees for good fruit set because the flowers will usually not pollinate itself. In addition I would plant other plants that attract pollinators most of the season like rosemary for instance since it seems to have a hard time with fruit set. If you have larger trees it will do well growing in their shade particularly in the afternoon. Prune it so that it will set fruit lower and keep the canopy under control for better fruit production. Grafted trees will yield better and have more consistent fruit quality than those grown from seed but also more expensive.