Flowerdale Nursery  & Landscaping
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Flowerdale Nursery & Landscaping

Papayas


Papaya
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are tropical fruits known scientifically as Carica papaya. Papayas are native to Tropical Mexico south into Central America & Northern South America. The popularity of the Papaya has made it a common sight in many tropical & subtropical gardens. Papayas are not really trees in the sense that they lack true wood.  The plants are short lived (about 10 years) & they grow in a treelike manner supported by a fleshy fibrous stem. The fruits are produced along the stem just below the evergreen foliage crowns. The fruit is prized for its benefits to the digestive system. Papayas are not often grafted but instead grown from seed on their own roots. Papayas are good choices for containers. There are three types of Papayas

1.  Mexican Papayas are the largest variety in both the size of fruit & the plant itself.  The upright plants can grow 15 to 20 feet tall; while the fruit can weigh up to 10 lbs.  These are the most common type of Papaya that is grown in our area. The flavor of Mexican Papaya is sweet & somewhat like a Cantaloupe.
 

2. Hawaiian (Solo) Papayas are not native to Hawaii but they were developed there.  The fruit & plants are smaller than the Mexican varieties (they grow only to 8 feet tall),   however the flavor is often sweeter & more intense.  These are the least cold hardy Papayas. Hawaiian Papayas are excellent choices for growing in containers.
 

3. Babaco Papayas are actually a separate species Carica pentadra & are native to the Andes of Ecuador. They are similar to the Hawaiian Papayas in stature however they are even smaller (growing to 6 feet). They produce at a young age with sweet tasty fruit up to 10lbs. This is the most cold tolerant of the Papayas.
 

What Papayas Like

Exposure:  Papayas demand full sun in order to produce good quality fruit; they also love heat & humidity (grow against a hot sunny wall). Papayas grow only in areas where temperatures do not fall below 25 degrees. The warm summers & mild winters of Southern California’s coastal areas grow Papayas well.  Papayas do best in USDA zones 9 & 10 as well as Sunset zones 20 through 24.
 

Soil:  Papayas grow best in loamy rich well drained shallow soils; however they are tolerant of sandy, rocky, & clay soils. Papayas are shallow rooted & can absorb nutrients quickly. These trees resent being planted in saline, heavy, or poorly drained soils.  Adding organic compost once or twice a year as mulch 4 to 8 inches thick on the soil under the canopy makes a big difference on improving the quantity & quality of fruit.

Irrigation:  Papayas need regular deep soakings (about three times a month) spring through fall but they are surprisingly drought tolerant.  The colder the weather the less water a Papaya needs.
 

Diet:  Feeding Papaya trees once a season (or once every three months) provides evenly spaced feedings that will sustain growth year round. Fertilize with organic granular fertilizers.  We recommend Dr. Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer.  Adding a layer of organic compost, once or twice a year as mulch will also increase the soils fertility.
 

Pruning: Papayas need no pruning.

Harvesting: Papaya fruit are ripe when they turn yellow. At this stage they should be removed from the tree & further ripened at room temperate until the color darkens & the fruit becomes slightly soft. Do not store fruits at temperatures below 45 degrees. The spicy seeds are edible.

Pollination: Babacos do not need a pollinator; however Hawaiian & Mexican Papayas do need a pollinator for best fruit production.
 

Frost Protection: When the temperature drops below 32 degrees but stays above 28 to 25 degrees we experience a “light” or “white” frost.  This type of frost causes damage to young growth & the damage that is usually superficial.  When the temperature drops below 28 to 25 degrees we then experience a “black” or “killing” frost.  This type of frost causes greater damage to the plant tissues.  The duration of any frost is also important to consider.  The longer the temperatures are below freezing the greater the damage.  There are several ways to protect tropical fruit trees from frost damage: 

Covering your plant with a sheet or tarp-like material will provide protection down to 20 degrees.  Note, any foliage that touches the frost barrier may be damaged


Circulating the air using fans is also helpful for frost protection down to 20 degrees.


Believe it or not, spraying your plants with water can actually insulate the plants.  Liquid water itself will provide heat, & as water freezes into ice it gives off heat.


Provide some sort of external heat source.  Active sources include heaters, while passive sources absorb heat during the day & radiate it out at night. Examples of passive heat include barrels of water, stacks of boulders, & the earth itself.

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