Fact Sheet from the Just Fruits and Exotics Nursery
by Brandy Cowley Gilbert

Asimina triloba


Another rare find. The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is one of this country's most over-looked fruits. Native to most parts of the United States, the Pawpaw thrives with little or no care. It is a small (12-20 feet tall), deciduous tree with a pyramidal shape. The fruit is 4 to 5 inches long with a custard smooth, white to apricot flesh. Delicious and complex banana-like flavor is awesome. The fruit is usually eaten fresh, but may also be used for making custard pies and preserves.

Pawpaw Pollination
Pawpaw pollination is worth knowing something about. Now these are truly strange trees. Two trees are needed for cross-pollination. Their favorite pollinator is the green bottle fly. Some growers have gone to great lengths to attract this shy creature. One noteworthy method is to place rotten hamburger in buckets around the tree for a few weeks before bloom to build up the fly colony. Whew! Must be a better way! (We also hand pollinate using small brushes to transfer pollen between trees).

Uses in the Landscape
Pawpaw trees are an under story tree with a neat pyramidal shape (to 20 feet tall) and tawnygold fall leaf color. So add them as a lower layer in your edible forest of chestnut, mulberry and pecan. Spot them in clearings in your woods, where they’ll get some shade when young. They are small, so you can fit them into a restricted area along a fence or tree-line. Or add them to your butterfly garden; they are a host plant of the fabulous Zebra Swallowtail.

Planting and Culture

Site Selection

Pawpaws prefer acidic soil with good organic content. Avoid heavy, wet, clay or alkaline soils. Young trees require partial shade, so choose a place with filtered sun or with shade from the west. You can also put plants under shade cloth for the first two years, after which they actually prefer full sun. Plant 15-20 feet apart for best results—these will be small trees that need to be close to one another to fruit successfully.

Soil Preparation and Planting
Pawpaws prefer slightly acid soil (pH 4.2-5.5) with good organic matter content. If you are in doubt about the acidity of your soil, take a sample to the Cooperative Extension Agent in your county for a soil test.

Dig a planting hole approximately three times the width of the pot and at the same depth as the root ball. Set that soil aside and mix it 50/50 with peat moss or rotted pine bark. Remove the plant from the pot and place in the planting hole.
Pawpaws have a deep tap root and are difficult to transplant; use care in handling your new plant to keep the root ball intact.

To avoid burying too deep, make sure plant is positioned with the top most roots at the soil line. Fill the planting hole with the mix of soil and organic matter; gently tamp it in. Water thoroughly to settle the roots and eliminate air pockets. Do NOT put fertilizer in the planting hole. Only apply fertilizer if it is the correct time of year (see Fertilization section below).
If desired, construct a water basin around the base of the tree approximately 36 inches in diameter. Mulch in spring and summer with approximately 4-6 inches of acidic mulch (pine bark or leaves). Pull mulch a couple of inches away from the trunk for good air circulation.

The type of fertilizer you choose may be chemical or organic. Look for a fertilizer meant for Acid Loving trees and make sure the fertilizer contains iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and boron. These minor elements are very important to plants and most soils are low in these elements. Application rates vary according to age of plant.

10-8-8 with minerals for
1 cup per each year of tree’s life
Max out at 9 cups for Mature tree
Espoma Holly Tone
6 cups for 1 year old
10 cups for 2 year old (4-6ft)
18 cups for 7-9ft tree
24 cups for tree over 9ft

Spread the fertilizer evenly under the entire canopy of the plant avoiding a 5-inch area around the trunk. Water or rake in. For Zones 8a-10, fertilize 3 times each year in late February, late May and late July/early August. For plants further north (Zone 7), fertilize 2 times each year in March and June/July. Never fertilize after August (July in Zone 7) as this will promote new growth late in the year which will be subject to freeze damage.

The first year is a critical time for the establishment of a new pawpaw. Water thoroughly twice a week on light soils and once a week on clay soils. Soak the entire root system deeply – this usually takes 40-50 minutes. Pawpaws should receive at least 1 inch of water each week for best growth and fruit production. Water regularly, especially during dry periods. Fruit may drop prematurely if insufficiently irrigated during dry spells. Growth will be fastest in moist, but well drained, conditions.

Pruning and Care
Pawpaws have few pests and diseases. Occasional pruning is necessary to open the center of thetree for greater light and air penetration. Remove crossing, dead or damaged branches as needed. In adult trees, periodic pruning to stimulate new growth is done to enhance fruit production, because fruit is produced on the previous season’s growth.

The ripe fruit is soft and thin-skinned with a sweet fragrance. It should yield easily to a gentle squeeze and the green skin has usually lightened in tone. The fruit may develop blackish splotches, but these do not affect flavor or edibility. Pawpaws ripen in August-September.

Variety Selection
SEEDLING We gather the seed for this variety from the North Florida area. It reliably fruits in Zones 8B and 9. Fruit varies in size from 3-5 inches with a pale yellow flesh. Excellent flavor. Two trees are required for pollination. Ripens late August-September. Zones 7-9.

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Pawpaw Page


Gilbert, Cowley, Brandy. "Pawpaw." justfruitsandexotics.com. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

Published 23 Feb. 2015 LR
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