How much shade Paw Paw can tolerate?

Hi There,

I am new to paw paw. I know it can tolerate shade. I just planted my two paw paw plants last week.

I thought the area could get about 4 hours of sun. I was wrong. One of the two plants gets about 2 hours of sun only, the other gets about 4 hours.

Are two hours of sun too little for paw paw to be productive? If needed, I could move it. I am in zone 6 MA.

I appreciate your input.

I have some pawpaws in similar conditions. They don’t fruit much at all, but I also don’t eat a lot of pawpaw so it works out OK. Most of my pawpaws are in the 4-hour sun range.

Scott is right about paw paw fruit production and shade. Shaded paw paw tree tends to be lengthy and less productive but in full sun it grows wider, shorter in height, and way more productive.


Thanks Scott and Tony.

If paw paw tastes like its relative, custard apple, I think I want my trees to be more productive. Have to move them to a sunnier area.

Tony, I know paw paw grows slowly. In the sun, you said it will grow wider. Can you tell me how wide can it be in, please?

I may need to sqeeze them among the pear trees. Can they be managed at about 5-6 ft apart? Thanks again.

I have mine 6’ apart, it works very well.

This lack of production in the shade combined with the photosensitivity for the first two years is why I’m growing mine in root pruning containers. I’ll keep them in the shade for the first two growing seasons and then plant them in full sun when they able to handle it.

If you scroll down in this thread: Pawpaw Mortality you will see some pictures of mine. I tried and experiment placing two of these first season pawpaws where they could get slightly more sun and they got scorched pretty quickly.

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Hi forest,
I did read that thread. I bought my plants from a nursery in CT called Logee’s. They were in the sun at a display stand when I bough them. They are about 1.5 Ft tall in a 4x4" pot.

These pots were nothing like those long pots I read on the thread or saw on a video. They were regular very small pots. So far, the plants are in ground in a mostly shade area. They look the same as the day I bought them.

If I should be careful about them getting sunburned, I could move them next spring instead of now.


When you grow paw paw from seeds then you have to worry about sun sensitivity but yours are grafted varieties and you don’t have to worry about the sun. I have a paw paw stooling bed with 20 suckers right now in open sun without any sun burn because they’re not seedlings but suckers.


Thanks, Tony. Yup, they are grafted. I will move them soon, then.

I have to give those growing paw paw from seeds a lot of credit. It is more complicated than what I was used to, like sticking a mango seed in moist soil and it grew.

I’m not really far enough along in the process to speak from significant experience, but I think my oldest seed-grown (by me) pawpaws must be in their 3rd leaf this year. I’ve had enough issues with transplanting pawpaws (the potting mix seeming to invite voles… growth that seemingly got stunted for a year or two (or more) with bare root trees…a purchased grafted tree dying back to the graft…) whereas direct seeding although theoretically slower is potentially very easy… in any case, I’m definitely inclined both to grow pawpaws directly from seed and to recommend that path to other beginners. What seems easiest and best to me is to plant seeds in the shade of tall weeds (poke, brambles…) or brush or trees that I plan to cut down later to open up the pawpaws to full sun after they’re ready for it. I suppose a lot of backyard growers might not have any “wild” areas of their properties like I’m more or less describing, but for those that do it seems very easy. For those that don’t, artificial shade could be very simple. I’ve also started pawpaws underneath some beehives which are up on 12" cinder blocks. I figure once the pawpaws get up to 12" I can just move the beehive over just a little. I don’t mean to say one would need a beehive; I just mean a couple cinder blocks with some wood on top and a weight to keep it the wood in place (i.e. what a beehive is to a pawpaw tree) would suffice.

That makes perfect sense since the top growth on a grafted tree is coming from a mature tree.

I got 11 Davis Pawpaw seedlings grown in pot in 7 hours of sun and they did just fine without any shade cloth. I planted these seeds outdoor in April. I think if you plant the seeds indoor under grow lights and bring them outdoor in the Spring then they need to be in the shade or else
they get sun burn.



That is a good point. Pawpaws almost seem like two different trees depending on how you grow them. I use fluorescent lights for starting my trees indoors because they are cool and since light energy diminishes with distance squared, I prefer inexpensive cool lights that I can adjust to keep them close as the trees grow.

As I did my research before starting, I found that when you grow them under lights you don’t need to worry about too much light. Most trees that I start under lights require an adjustment period. When the last frost passes, I move them outdoors moving them from shade to filtered light, to full sun over a 2 week period and they are fine in full sun. Pawpaws don’t seem to make that adjustment and even if you move them slowly the burn.

The growth I get in containers under light I the root pruning containers seems phenomenal to the pictures I’ve seen of folks direct seeding. However, I’ve talked to several folks like you who started them from seed outdoors either directly in the field or in containers in full sun that have slow growth but no signs of sun damage.

I think one take away for me is that even though Rootmaker grown trees can be transplanted to the field any time and do well as long as supplemental water is available during establishment unlike bare root trees, I should probably transplant these pawpaws when they are dormant. This should allow new leaves to form in the field environment from the start.