Pawpaw Cultural Practices

I planted two Peterson pawpaws in april 2014 and they did not grow at all the first year in the ground. They were ~12" twigs in 4" square open bottom pots from forrest keeling nursery. This past summer they have grown some (10") but seem especially slow. I’m in the deep south so maybe they don’t like it down here?

Anyway, I wondering what other folks’ experiences have been. Specifically, I am wondering about fertilizer and watering timing, frequency, amount, and type (for the ferts), and also how/if you are mulching. There does not seem to be much published on this subject, so the collective experience of this community is probably better than anything else out there.

Here are a few points to stimulate discussion: I’ve heard they like a lot of water, so are small frequent doses better than big weekly doese? Another thing I’ve heard is no ferts the first year; is that really true? I’ve heard they like a high K fert, anyone tried that?

My Pawpaws are also slow growers. About 12 inches growth second year and 20 inches the third. It has been a very dry summer but I only watered them a few times when they looked wilted. I gave them a little fertilizer in the spring. As a comparison I haven’t watered or fertilized my mulberry all summer and it has grown 6 ft.

The first year or so with pawpaws you should protect them from hot sun. In their natural habitat they are an undergrowth species, used to shade. I have found here in the Washington DC area, where they are a native plant, that they grow fine with morning sun and afternoon shade, protected, as noted, the first year or two. Certainly it won’t hurt to water them. They are also a lot slower growing than mulberries, but should have grown more than you describe.

Mine get about 5-6 hrs direct AM sun then dappled shade after that. Seems perfect. They set a couple flower buds in July and stopped growing around that time. I picked off the flower buds. After several weeks of no growth I covered them with a shade cloth to see if they would resume growth, but they did not. I watered twice a week this summer and gave them dilute miracle grow in one of the weekly waterings. Soil is right around 6.0 PH and I think they like a little acid so those numbers seem OK. I have high P and low K in my soil, so the MG should give what they need. Mulched heavy with leaves and twigs.

Pawpaws like a Ph between 5.5 and 6.0.

I have two seedlings that were planted last year. one in it’s final location, the other in a pot with good potting soil. The one started in the ground is still less then 12" tall. The one started in a pot and transplanted this spring is more like 18" tall. that is it after two growing seasons for both. Next year I will water more and fertilize early.

My paw paws have mostly been slow growers. In the second season, my Susquehanna and PA Golden still look like 12" twigs with leaves. Mango has been true to its reputation as a fast grower. Even though I planted it at the same time and received it as a <12" tall starter, it towers over the other two trees at 36+".

Whoops! I accidently posted this to the wrong thread. I meant to post it here:

I just started with pawpaw, so I don’t have answers to your questions. I started mine using a root pruning container system under lights indoors last winter and then took them outside this spring. They stalled for a while and then started growing again.

This pictures was taken on 7/21. The small ones in the rear were started this spring while the large one in the front was started last winter.

As I understand it, they are photosensitive when young. That is why I decided to grow them in containers for the first 2 years where I can keep them in the shade on my lower deck. I will then plant them in full sun where they should fruit the best.

I can’t say what is best for them, but I’ve fertilized mine with Osmocote which is a slow release fertilizer. I keep them in the shade with very little early morning sun. They don’t seem particularly water hungry except when in a growth spurt. I’m sure I could have gotten more growth by upsizing the containers but I don’t have room to overwinter the larger containers. I will transplant them to 3 gal containers next spring.

I planted 2 peterson paw paw trees (a Shanandoah and a Susquehanna) in 2011. I did not shade them and they grew slowly. They grow about 10 inches a year. This was the first year they bloomed, but made no fruit. One plant had only one bloom that dropped off quickly; thus no pollination. I am hoping for fruit this next season; I plan to hand pollinate, although this year I saw a lot of flies around the blooms.

That’s the same two varieties I have. Nothing after five years - that’s a downer. Maybe those peterson’s pawpaws.are just not very vigorous. What was your fertilization and watering schedule? Were they competing with weeds,grass,etc or did you have them mulched?

Sounds like they grow painfully slow no matter what, except that one in the pot by forestandfarm. That one looks great for being <2 yr old. But based on what I am hearing, I’m wondering it it would slow way down if put in the ground. I’m still hoping someone comes out of the woodwork and shares some magic trick that pushes better growth. Anyone have luck with drip irrigation that comes on a little bit each day or every other day - maybe with some fertigation too?

Here are my 5 years old Shenandoah and Susquehanna. They loved full sun and Urea Nitrogen. I gave them a teaspoon of Urea Nitrogen every 3 weeks from April until July then stop. Both about 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide and fruited well with hand pollination


Just to clarify the age of the pawpaws in the picture in my post above, the large pawpaw in the foreground was planted on 10/18/2014 so it is 11 months since the seed was planted. The small ones in the bags in the background were planted in April or May (can’t remember which) so they are about 5 months.


I have them mulched, but only about a 2 foot diameter; so they do compete with the grass. I am told they they do okay with little fertilizer, but I add some 10-10-10 in the early spring and then again in June. For the past years they were a light green color, but this year they are a dark green, which to me signifies health. I water them once a week if it does not rain.

Those trees look awesome. Thanks for the fertilizer report. I’ll have to do the math and see how your approach compares with my miracle grow applications. Maybe I need to push them a little harder. I’ve got some urea coated ammonium sulfate 33-0-0 that I could use, but I want to be careful not to burn them. Do you know any details about the rootstock?

Your trees look about like my One Green World trees. I wish more was known about growth characteristics of different seedling rootstocks. Maybe our trees are on a wimpy root? But seems like growerd would try to put them on a vigorous root so it is probably how we are growing them, along with their natural tendency for slow growth. Or maybe it is the small root mass. That little 4"X4"X4" pot they they came in seems like a pretty small root system, and the tap root was definitely clipped.

Somewhat off topic, I read a book called “Pawpaw: in search of America’s forgotten fruit” by Andrew Moore. It’s an interesting read but more of a narrative story than a how-to manual, which is fine. However there are a few tidbits on cultural practices scattered in there. I recommend it to pawpaw nuts. I think it was published just this past summer.

Tony,your trees look mine will probably be in about 6-8 years.Very nice growth.The environment there must be just about ideal for them. Brady