Papaya growing in compost pile.
Common Name: Papaya
Botanical Name: Carica papaya
Type and Use: Tropical fruit tree with fruit production in the southern half of the state
Planting Dates: Plant seed indoors in the fall and set plants out in the spring after danger of frost.
Planting Method: Seed or transplants
Seed Emergence: 7-15 days
Harvest Time: If you are lucky, harvest the ripe fruit in the fall.
Height: 8-10 feet
Spread: 5-6 feet
Final Spacing: 4-6 feet
Growth Habits: Papaya has a straight trunks and a crown of very large, deeply cut leaves on long stems. Fruit on female plants. Both male and female plants are needed for fruit production. Papaya plants have the ability to change sex. Fruit production is best when plants are started from seed in the winter and set outside in beds after the last frost.
Culture: Feed with organic fertilizer every 30 days and spray foliage weekly with Garrett Juice.
Fruit photo from Wikipedia
Troubles and Solutions: These plants can't take any frost, but that's about it.
Harvest and Storage: If you plant the seed early enough to set out large plants in the spring, you will have ripe fruit by fall. Eat it as soon as harvested.
Notes: It is best to start new plants every year rather than trying to over winter established plants in a greenhouse.
Papaya can't take any freezing weather at all but can be grown easily from seed. Here's how it works. Go to the grocery store and buy a ripe papaya and enjoy the fruit. Hopefully you can find one that is organically grown. Scoop out the black BB-sized seeds and put them on paper to dry. Once they have shriveled and fully dried, treat with a spray of Garrett Juice. Use a quart spray bottle and spritz the seed. Plant at a depth about twice the length of a seed - about ¼ inch. Put the pot or flat in a bright sunny spot and the seed will germinate easily. Bottom heat is beneficial. Outside is okay during warm days but remember again that this plant is tropical and will easily freeze. The little papaya plants can be moved to larger pots in the spring and moved outdoors or they can be planted in the garden in full sun. By starting the plants early indoors, you may get some fruit, but they will rarely mature in north Texas, unless of course they are in a greenhouse. On the other hand, papaya is a beautiful ornamental plant that adds a different texture of garden foliage.
Start the seed for the next year before the current plants freeze in the fall.