Pawpaw Care At A Glance
- Pawpaw trees typically grow 12-15 feet but can reach 25-30 feet in height.
- North American native understory tree, preferring some shade.
- Require proper cross-pollination to produce fruits.
- Reach bearing age in 5-7 years from planting.
- Require well-drained, organically rich soil and hardy for USDA zones 5-8.
Follow the same planting instructions, as you would for other bareroot trees.
- Amend existing soil to improve drainage with ample organic matter and add adequate soil sulfur to lower and maintain soil pH in the optimal range of 5.5-6.5.
- Hole size for potted plants should be 1-2 feet wide and just as deep as the existing rootball.
- Plant with soil level in the pot matching the natural soil grade, making sure not to cover the crown.
- Tip pruning can benefit the establishment of all woody shrubs or trees.
- Properly water new plants using the 1 inch per week rule for the entire first growing season.
- 1 inch of water equates to about 2.5-3 gallons every other day.
- Remove competitive grass & weeds and apply 2-3 inches of mulch or compost around the plant.
- Cage or protect as needed to prevent predation from deer or rodents.
NOTE: Proper drainage is critical for fruit-bearing plants to do well long-term. Do not use potting soil.
Varieties & Cross-Pollination
- High-yielding variety, producing medium to large-sized fruits.
- Plant with Shenandoah™ or any seedling types for cross-pollination.
- Patented variety produces some of the largest, high-quality fruits.
- Plant with Prolific or any seedling types for cross-pollination.
- Trees grown from seed have genetic diversity and durability.
- Fruit size and yield can be variable.
- Plant with Prolific, Shenandoah™, or any other seedlings.
- Grafted, named varieties typically reach maturity sooner than seedling trees do.
NOTE: Pawpaw flowers are pollinated by insects like flies, ants, or beetles, but not by bees or butterflies. Although humans do not notice the scent of the flowers, they have evolved with the scent of carrion to attract their pollinators. Hand-pollinating immature trees can be beneficial to help trees set first fruits.
Care & Maintenance
- Pawpaw trees naturally grow as understory trees, therefore require shade to partial shade locations. Although, as trees mature, they can become more sun tolerant.
- Chill hours are relatively low at 400-600 hours to produce fruit, but they require a long, warm growing season for fruits to ripen fully.
- Pawpaw trees bloom in the spring, but typically later than apples, pears, or peaches, so threats of late damaging frosts are less.
- Fruits ripen between mid-August to mid-Oct, depending on climate and growing conditions, with fruits being fragile with soft skin that can be easily damaged. This delicate nature makes fruits perishable with a short shelf-life of just 2-3 days, but fruits will keep longer when refrigerated.
- Little to no pest or disease issues.
- Regular, ample watering is essential for establishing healthy productive pawpaw trees.
- Follow the rule of applying 1-2 inches of water per week, per tree during the growing season, which equates to about 3-5 gallons of water every 2-3 days, per tree.
- Prune as needed starting the second year after planting, while trees are dormant in late winter to early spring.
- Follow basic fruit tree pruning techniques to remove broken, rubbing, or crossing branches.
- Maintain an open canopy for sunlight and proper airflow.
- Light fertilizing can be done starting the 2nd year.
- Fertilize trees in early spring using a balanced 10-10-10 all-purpose food or an organic 3-5-3 formula.
- Apply once annually in early spring for immature trees.
- Once trees reach bearing age, fertilizer applications can be split in two, feeding with 1/2 in early spring and the other 1/2 in June.
- Top-dressing with fresh compost or aged manure in spring and again mid-summer is also beneficial.