• Common name: Papaya, Pawpaw
  • Scientific name: Carica papaya
  • Family name: Caricaceae
  • Origin: Central America
  • Height: 10-15 ft
  • Width: 3-7 ft
  • Growth: Fast
  • Zone: USDA zones 9b through 11
  • Light needs: Full sun
  • Salt tolerance: Low
  • Soil/pH/Texture: Prefers a well-draining, loamy soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
  • Moisture: Soil should be kept consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Prefers to grow in a humid environment.
  • Drought tolerance: Low
  • Pests/Diseases: Papayas are susceptible to several pests and diseases. One of the most damaging is the papaya whitefly, which destroys leaves and fruit. The papaya fruit fly is another common pest that destroys fruit. Spider mites also cause leaf damage and fruit death. There are also several fungal and viral diseases, such as papaya mosaic virus and phytophthora blight, can cause serious problems and kill plants.
  • Growing conditions: Should be grown in a warm, humid area will full sun. Soil should not be allowed to dry out or become too waterlogged. It can tolerate some shade but will likely not produce fruit if not in full sun. It should be planted at least 10 ft away from other plants to ensure that it gets enough sunlight. It should also be fertilized regularly to ensure good fruit production.
  • Characteristics: It is not actually a tree, but a large herbaceous perennial. The singular “trunk” is scarred and woody in appearance from old dropped leaves. Leaves emerge from the top of the stem on 1 to 3 ft long petioles. The leaves are large (1 to 2 ft in width), and palmately lobed. Flowers may be either male, female, or a combination of both. Some individual plants have only male or female flowers, some have flowers with both pistil and stamens, and some have both male and female flowers. The flowers are ivory-white and have a sweet fragrance. The fruits are large (weighing up to 10 lbs), pear-shaped, with yellow-orange skin. The flesh is orange and edible.
  • Propagation: By seed or by cuttings.
  • Wildlife: Many different wild animals eat the fruit.
  • Facts: The fruit has a creamy texture and a taste reminiscent of mango and cantaloupe. It is also a great source of vitamins. Fruits are eaten raw or made into juices and jams, and they are incorporated in many different dishes. The immature fruit also contains a latex called papain, which is used to tenderize meat.
  • Designer considerations: Although it is mostly grown for its fruit, it makes for a good accent plant and conversation piece. Its broad, complex leaves and palm-tree-like appearance make it a good choice for tropical gardens. 


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