Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Ed Self

Pawpaws are Possible in Florida

The Asimina triloba, or pawpaw is a very difficult plant to get established in the
Deep South. I have tried plants from just about every Northeastern nursery that sold pawpaws for over five years, with the same results; they all died.

One reason is that most of these plants had very poor-quality root systems. Usually the long taproot would be missing altogether. I have found, from sprouting my own seed, that a six to eight inch plant could have up to a two foot long taproot! Also, if these plants did live the first season, they did not want to break dormancy the second season. I finally got pawpaw trees established in my yard by sprouting seed that I located in the Southeast.

When trying to establish pawpaws, they need for the first two or three years to be grown in the shade, or at least all afternoon shade. The first couple of years after transplanting, the trees just seem to set there without much active growth. Do not give up; usually, if they survive to the third year, they start growing fairly rapidly. After about three years, they seem to be able to take full sun.

The trees transplant better when they are in active growth. Pawpaws respond well to regular watering and being mulched with an organic material.

I recommend to anyone in Florida who is interested in trying to grow pawpaws, to try planting seeds first. Avoid low quality bareroot plants from Northern nurseries. To get the best plants growing quickly, it is best to plant the seeds in their permanent location. I usually plant several seeds where I want a tree, and then remove all of the plants but the very best one. Also, if enough people in Florida will plant pawpaw seeds, we should be able to come up with some very good cultivars fro the Deep South. I have had very good luck growing both Southern and Northern seeds. It seems that if you plant enough seeds, a few of them will adapt to the Florida climate.

I am sure that a few people have had different experiences growing pawpaws but this is what has worked for me. This year I had lots of blooms and fruit. Anyone who wants to contact me about pawpaws is invited to do so.

Sprouting Pawpaw Seeds and Growing Trees

Seed Storage
1. Store seeds in the refrigerator in slightly damp peat moss or similar material until  April or early May.
2. Check stored seed often for mold. If they are too damp, they will mold and rot. If mold does occur, just clean seed and replace peat moss with fresh. Moisten slightly and return to storage.

Planting Instructions
1. Soak seeds for 20 minutes in full strength hydrogen peroxide. Then soak in 50 water/50 hydrogen peroxide for 24 to 72 hours before planting.
2. Plant seeds in deep pots or plant in the permanent location which gives best results. Mulch planted seed with oak leaves or pine straw. seeds usually do not start sprouting until June or July.
3. Young pawpaw seedlings do not tolerate full sun. They need at least afternoon, if not all day shade for the first two years. Pawpaw trees normally occur as understory trees in the wild. They grow very well in medium to heavy shade.
4. Once the seedlings start growing, they need regular watering for best growth. Also, lightly fertilize with 8-8-8 or a similar product.

This is what works for me
I know there are always exceptions.
Good Luck

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Self, Ed. "Pawpaws are Possible in Florida." Tropical Fruit News, Miami Rare Fruit Council.  Web. 2 Mar. 2017.

Published 2 Mar. 2017 LR
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