National Department of Agriculture
Institute of Natural Resources (an Associate of the University of Natal)
Growing papayas (pawpaws)
The fruit of papayas is high in vitamin C. You can also pick the fruit when it is green
and cook it like a marrow.
Female and male flowers do not grow on the same tree, so you must have male and female
trees in the garden.
- Papayas grow best in hot areas.
- They can tolerate mild frost if they are protected from cold winds.
- They can grow in most kinds of soil, but it must be well drained.
- The roots can get diseases if the soil stays too wet.
- Loamy soils are best.
Papayas can be planted at any time of the year, but preferably in late summer.
Plant papayas 1,5 metres between plants and
3 to 4 metres between rows.
Growing papayas from seeds
It is easy to grow the ordinary papaya tree from seed.
- Wash the seeds from a ripe papaya.
- Squeeze the seeds from the jelly bag that covers each seed. The seeds will only grow if
you remove the bag.
- Dry them in a shady place.
- Store in a tightly closed container and keep them until December.
- Plant the seeds in December. Put 5 seeds to a hole. Do not put any compost or manure
into the holes.
- Keep the small plants moist.
- You can only tell which trees are female and which are male when the trees start to
flower. Therefore, you should always have more than one tree per hole, because then you
can select the female trees.
- closer to the branch than the male flowers
- very small
- there are many flowers which grow on long branches of the stem.
- only female trees give fruit but they need male flowers to pollinate them. Leave 1 male
tree for 10 female trees.
- Dig a hole about twice the size of the bag in which the young tree is growing.
- Remove the soil from the hole and add some compost and manure. Mix this with some of the
soil that has been dug out.
- Take the plant out of the container. If it is a plastic container you just cut it open
at the side.
- Do not disturb the roots.
- Place the tree in the centre of the hole. When you fill up the hole hold the tree so
that its base is level with the surrounding ground.
- Raise the soil around the tree to dam the water (rain or irrigation).
- Do not plant the tree deeper than it was in the container.
- Do not cover the stem with soil because it will rot.
- Papayas need little water.
- They will, however, give more and bigger fruit if they are watered every 2 weeks in the
dry season. The flowers will drop if they do not get enough water.
- If they are planted in clay soils, make sure that the soil does not stay too wet.
- To avoid waterlogging in clay soil, make a ridge and plant the papayas on the ridge.
Compost or manure
Give the tree:
- 1 bucketful in September,
- 1 bucketful in November
- another bucketful in January.
- Sprinkle a few handfuls of manure evenly around the tree each month from September to
the end of March.
NB: Do not apply chicken manure on trees younger than 2 years as it can burn the
young papaya trees.
- Give the trees 4 tablespoonfuls (115 g) of 2:3:2 in September, November and January.
- Sprinkle evenly around the tree, not against the stem.
- Keep the trees mulched all the time (use grass, leaves, etc).
- Do not grow other plants next to the trunk because it is quite soft. If the trunk is
damaged the papaya tree can get diseases.
- If the fruit shows humps the tree may be short of boron. Sprinkle 2 tablespoonfuls of
borax around the tree.
Pruning and thinning
You can cut the tree (remove top) so that it does not grow too tall. This encourages
branching. Cut into winter wood, where leaf scars are close together. Paint the cut with a
- You can pick the fruit when the skin starts to become yellow.
- The fruit will ripen after you have picked it.
- Handle it carefully because it gets bruised easily.
Papaya trees easily get black leafspot. Your nearest extension officer or cooperative
will be able to tell you how to treat this disease.
||For further information contact the ARC-Institute for Tropical and
Subtropical Crops, Private Bag X11208, Nelspruit 1200, tel (013) 753 2071
or the Institute of Natural Resources, Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209, tel (0331) 46
Compiled by Directorate Communication,
National Department of Agriculture
in cooperation with
Institute of Natural Resources (an Associate of the University of Natal) and
ARC-Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Crops
Printed and published by National Department of Agriculture
and obtainable from Resource Centre, Directorate Communication, Private Bag X144,
Pretoria 0001, South Africa