Papaya is a perennial herbaceous plant with rapid growth and an extremely short lifespan. Because of this, planting mature papaya tree for more than three years isn’t usually profitable as their yield of fruit diminishes after that. The tree has hollow segments on one stem without branches and large, lobed leaves which look beautiful when grown indoors or in containers. With heights ranging from several meters (6-20 feet), papayas make ideal container gardening choices due to their slender root system and rapid development rate.
Papaya Tree Pollination and Propagation
When cultivating papayas, it’s essential to understand that papayas come in three sexes: male, female and the hermaphrodite (self-pollinating). Papayas with males must be removed as they don’t produce fruit; female trees need male trees for pollination; typically one male tree for every 10 female trees is planted for successful pollination in papaya plantations and orchards.
How to Grow Papaya in Pots?
Cultivating papaya in pots is relatively straightforward, since they’re such small trees with weak roots. You can plant any variety of papaya in a pot; simply cut off the top to reduce its height if desired; however, smaller varieties such as Hawaiian papayas tend to be smaller than Mexican ones and rarely exceed 8-10 feet!
Selecting a Container
For growing papaya inside pots, select a large 15 to 20 gallon container with enough drainage holes on the bottom. A pot that measures 18-22 inches across and 16 inches deep will do nicely; larger pots are even better! Older barrels, drums or buckets make excellent options as well.
Growing Papaya from Seeds
Before sowing the seeds, they should be treated to promote germination:
First, clean the seeds to remove any gelatinous layers before sowing. Afterwards, continue with step 5 below.
- Another option is to submerge them in a container with neutral waters for four days, changing the water each day. After two days have elapsed, separate any seeds floating on top from those that have settled and soak them overnight.
- Let the seeds that have sprouted in the ground sit for a day or two. At this point, any additional sprouting seeds need to be removed and only viable papaya seeds remain. Once that happens, you can add fungicides with ease the following day when changing the water.
- After that, place the seeds in a cotton cloth for two days to dry, keeping them moist. When the white dot inside each seed is visible, you are now ready to sow.
- Start by planting the seeds either directly in the ground or inside a container. If using containers for seed planting, ensure they are biodegradable as papaya plants cannot easily be transplanted and will have a lower success rate without them.
- Germination usually begins within three to four weeks, though in less favorable conditions this could take up to five. Don’t despair if your seeds don’t sprout right away – the ideal temperature for germination is 70 F (20 C).
Planting Papaya Tree
Once your seedlings have germinated, sow them in their desired location. If using nursery plants make sure the soil is prepared prior to planting. Create a hole twice as deep as the rootball but twice as wide. Apply slow release 16-48-0, 18-46-0 or balanced fertilizer 15-15-15 according to product instructions with less powerful concentration at the bottom of the hole. Finally fill it with light soil so the roots do not come into direct contact with fertilizer.
To prevent root rot, the plant’s root base should be raised at least 1 cm above ground. After transplanting, apply a fungicide for additional protection, particularly during rainy days when planting indoors.
How to Grow a Papaya Tree in Cold Climates?
Papaya trees are tropical fruit trees, so if you plan to transplant it into a temperate climate, place the tree in an enormous container and then store it securely indoors in an indoor greenhouse for overwintering.
Another option is to plant papaya seeds indoors during autumn or early spring. Once temperatures warm enough for them to be planted outdoors, the sprouts will flourish until frost arrives and kill them off. Even if you do not harvest any fruit, however, the plants themselves are stunningly beautiful.