Pawpaw planting and maintenance questions

Finding some mixed info on the following:

How often should they be watered? Every Day for year 1? 1 gallon a day? At least an inch a week?

How long should they be shaded? 1 year (ockoo)? 2 years (Michael Judd)? 3 or more?

No fertilizer till year 3 (ockoo)?

Amend planting hole soil at all? I never do this for any planting. I usually just add mykos

Spacing between trees? 8-10 feet?

Once established – how should they be watered during drought?

Answered: With a strong taproot they are fairly drought tolerant, so this depends on fruit load, if heavy load your fruit size will depend on keeping the soil moist out to the drip line
Kent, Wa


If your 7B Maryland is as rainy as my 8A Georgia, you might not need to stress about watering them. I have never watered mine, and have never seen any signs of water stress, even in late summer, when rain is less frequent.

I think that shading matters mainly for seedlings, not grafted trees. Never shaded any of mine, despite the fact that they were tiny grafted twigs when I got them. Some were planted in shadier spots, and those have grown much less than the ones that were planted in full sun from the get-go. And my full sun is probably more intense than yours.

On the other hand, I tried in vain to grow pawpaws in Vegas, and they could never make it through the summer, no matter what I tried. They just fried, even with shading and misting.

Since I have heavy clay and pawpaws make long taproots, I dig the hole deeper and narrower than usual, amending a bit more than I ordinarily would, to give the taproot a channel to go down further. I don’t know if it is necessary, though. Pawpaw roots seem to be fragile, so when you plant them, you might want to take extra care not to bend them too much.

I did 12 to 15 feet, and I think that might have been too much. Pawpaw flowers don’t attract very efficient pollinators — you are relying mainly on beetles and flies — so being closer would be an advantage for pollination.

On the other hand, pawpaw trees will eventually get big, and mine are still young (mostly fourth leaf). Maybe I will be glad later that there is plenty of space.


I think it depends on your location, geography, and microclimate.

I’m in C NH and receive a lot of reliable precipitation throughout the year. I also tend to have persistent moist soil in the grove even during relatively dry periods.

I grow and graft my own seedlings now and start them in full sun. So they’re accustomed to the summer solar radiation and UV from the beginning. I don’t use shade cloth anymore and have not had any sunburn.

When I bought grafted trees online I did shade them for that remaining summer after they arrived. Most of those trees are raised in greenhouses or shaded so they don’t necessarily have the root density to support the moisture requirements for the vegetation.

So as for shading, my answer is your mileage will vary. Make sure newly planted trees are kept moist.

Fertilizer…I only used compost or pelletized chicken manure for the first 2 years. After that I use some diluted urea and fish/seaweed fert. I’m going to try adding the fish around pollination time this year to hopefully attract more flies. Maybe it won’t make a difference.

I don’t add anything special to the planting hole. Just a mix of the native soil and potting soil I use to help keep the roots from circling in the hole. I usually plant them at a depth of about 3/4 the length of the pot and build up the soil a bit around them to mound them. That helps account for a little settling as well. All of my spacing is 8ft apart.

So basically, your mileage may vary. Make sure they stay moist and that you’re not overdoing it with the sun. In NC I’d be tempted to at least partially shade them the first year…especially Jun and Jul. If that subtropical ridge sets in over the SE you can go long periods without convection and get into drought conditions with intense sun and heat. They like warm, moist, and humid, but not hot and dry.


I think you will. I somewhat regret my 6 feet.

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Please tell me more. I have a row of 3 all 6 ft apart entering year 4. Any tips in offsetting whatever led to your regret?

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Well, I mean it’s nothing too serious. Certainly have great pollination.

But in my case I’d just like for the trees to have more room to be themselves :sweat_smile:

They are growing into each other and partially shading each other. Fungus can be an issue with pawpaws too, so more space allows for more airflow which helps reduce fungal pressure.

I’m not really sure what to do, if anything, about the “crashing” …would prefer not to have to think about it LOL

But I knew I was going close; at the time I wanted a hedge effect for privacy but also wanted to fit in more varieties (I only have one repeat).


I agree with the previous posters concerning watering your trees. I have treated mine like any other fruit trees and haven’t had any problems.

For my first couple trees I shaded them the first year but I haven’t done anything to shade my last few and I haven’t had any issues. I have come to the conclusion that you don’t need to do anything special for them here on the east coast.

I fertilize mine with a complete fertilizer early in the spring and again in early summer.

I have mine planted ten feet apart. I certainly wouldn’t want to have them any closer together.

I just took this picture a couple minutes ago.


If mulched you should be ok with watering less regularly if the taproot is in good shape. Water deeply a few times a week or if drooping due to the heat/drying for establishment. No need to water while dormant unless there is no water in the soil.

I’ve heard conflicts on shade. My current recommendation is to make sure they are hardened off gradually for a few weeks and they should basically be good a month or two in. Monitor for sunburn and add shade if needed, but you probably won’t.

Fertilize less or not at all year 1, less year two, and more onward if faster growth is desired. They love nitrogen more than any other fruit tree I know of.

Don’t amend the hole, mulch/leaves as mulch on the surface but not touching the trunk.

1/2 acrylic white paint and 1/2 water paint your trunks to limit southwest injury.

Spacing- some of mine are in the same hole. Most are ~5’ apart. I prefer smaller trees in my yard with solar panels on the roof so being stunted is ok for me. I’ll keep them pruned to about 12’ once mature.

I’d hold off watering during drought unless they look very sad, assuming they have a taproot and mulch.


I’m at 2000 feet elevation in high desert. they are up to a fence on the south side which is about 6 feet tall, so they are shaded until they get that tall. indirect bright light full day. the little strip of them gets all the roof runoff from one side of the house; I water in the hottest months, every other day or three, enough to see standing water when I stop. it’s likely more than they need but I have my winecap all around in their mulch so the mushrooms do need it.

the oldest is 3 years old the others are younger- one was sent to me a small tree knee high the others started from seed.

all seem fine, if slow. they are 6-8 feet apart in a row. I don’t mind if they come on slow, as long as they survive and eventually produce I’ll be happy enough. I would do like some fruit sooner but, it’s the cost of growing these trees, in this place, on my dirt, I think.

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All Planted late yesterday. thanks everyone for your help and advice!



caged with shade cloth and the sunset

this morning


Well done sir. You’ve set those trees up for long term success.


Ive honestly never given my pawpaws any special tlc. I have two in full sun, two in partial shade and one of a pretty shaded area. The ones receiving full sun have been my best performers. They have never showed any signs of distress to date and finally flowered on their third year. The one in shade is runted and barely put on any growth in its three years of life.

I could be wrong but I dont think that Three Fold Farm shades their pawpaws as well.


I think it slows em down, I’m still debating whether to keep mine in place as they’re still small. I’m limited for choice here though as it’s a dry dry summer.

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I saw mixed advice about shading from multiple sources. at the very least it was recommended to shade new seedlings in their first year. I’m trying to play it safe by shading in their first year on my property even though they are grafts.

I really like @Blake 's book and it says any grafted pawpaw under 18 inches and any seedling under 30 inches requires UV protection. I’m trying to stick to his guidance.

The pots I received these 2 pawpaws in were quite small and the root systems seemed lacking so if they have little top growth so they can focus on root growth in the first 1-2 years that is fine with me.


I think the key is how they’re raised. I start all of my seedlings in air pots in full sun. No issues at all. They always have water because I keep them wicked with water in storage bins. Seedlings from a nursery are probably started differently so there’s no problem with playing it safe.

These are some of my seedlings last year enjoying the sun…even the ones still holding onto the seed casing.


I think you’ve threaded the needle correctly on this.
Folks saying shade stunted their trees - but how much shade? Deets.

30-50% shade I feel convinced has zero deleterious effect and is the safe play.

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I’m only starting my paw paws, but to me it seems logical to shade them from the most intense mid day sun when young.

I have an area that only gets sun in the morning and aft/evening. This is where I intend to keep my paw paws until they are at least a couple of years old.

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I have too. From my experience, on my farm, I have lost young pawpaws to general neglect. I planted 30-40 pawpaw seedings all in the same area fall of 2022, however about half were planted in shade or shaded and the rest were not. 99% of the ones that are shaded survived this past winter, while it looks like most of the ones that were not shaded didn’t.

I’m not saying that shading was my only issue though, because I also did not provide any supplemental watering, so that could have contributed to their demise as well. That’s why I am labeling it as “general neglect”.

About a month or so ago, I planted pawpaw seeds in the same area (full sun) and I plan on shading them this time.


I am by no means a pawpaw expert, but I can contribute some anecdotal data points to the conversation.

I planted many pawpaws four years ago in North GA (zone 8A). All were grafted, and most were tiny (like OneGreenWorld size, maybe around 12" in height and diameter less than half of a pencil). I got them from a variety of nurseries from all over the country, so they were presumably reared in different conditions.

Most of my 2020 pawpaws were planted in full sun, with a few in shadier spots. By shadier, I mean closer to the woodsline, so the number of hours of direct sunlight would be reduced to maybe as much as 50%.

I did not fertilize or water them, but I did provide them with a generous, thick mulch of shredded oak bark. Other than that, they were left on their own.

That is interesting, and is almost the opposite of my experience with grafted trees.

I had 0% mortality in the first year. The pawpaws in full sun grew more, and after four years, the difference in size is now measurable in multiples. Also, some of the full sun pawpaws are fruiting right now while none of the partially-shaded ones are fruiting.

For me, the biggest threat to my pawpaws appears to be late freezes. The bad late freeze of 2023 following an extra-warm late winter killed many to the graft, especially the smaller ones – which happened to be the ones planted in more shaded spots.

I have not had any diseases or pests so far. I also do not need to cage them – the voracious deer here, who will eat almost any unprotected non-poisonous plant, have zero interest in my pawpaws (this may be because the woods are full of wild ones and so the deer know that the leaves are not good to eat).

Like @TrilobaTracker says, that is surely the safest play – nobody thinks that shading your trees will kill them, while my experience further south of you, where leaving them in full sun seems safe and advantageous, might be atypical.

But if you have some of an appetite for risk, maybe you could leave just one pawpaw unshaded, and see how things turn out – whether and to what extent it puts on more growth, etc. I think KSU Chappell is usually more vigorous than your other two, so if you leave it shaded and make Susquehanna or Shenandoah your experimental tree, those two trees might end up closer to the same size, which might be an aesthetics benefit, or might even result in you getting your first fruit one season earlier.