Pawpaw seeds can be slow to wake

I’ve been using a three-stage process for germinating my pawpaws, as recommended by the local pawpaw expert I got my seeds from. First, I stratify in the fridge for a few months, shortly after collection. Then, I put them all in a shallow, covered container with moist soil at around the start of the new year. My daughter and I would regularly check for any that germinated. Sprouts graduate to their own soda bottle to grow a while, before ultimately going in the ground.

In theory, this is good for a few extra months worth of growth. In practice, most of them waited until May-June to germinate anyway.

I thought we were done by now. All the seeds that remain look black and dead, and it’s been a while since anything sprouted. But my daughter still insists on checking every night, and despite my expressed skepticism, two seeds have germinated in the past week.

So don’t toss those pawpaw seeds. Their schedules are unpredictable.

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They can take until the following summer just to emerge from the earth!

After stratifying the seeds, I planted mine in Rootmaker 18s with bottom heat last October and grew them indoors under lights. I transplanted the to 1 gal Roobuilder II pots in March and took them outside in April after the last threat of frost in our are. They stalled for a while and have started growing again.

This picture was taken in the middle of June. The smaller ones in the rear were germinated and planted this spring.

Mine look like the small ones there. None are even close to that big one in front.

Worth noting that the late sprouters seem to be the ones I did a poor job of keeping moist. Perhaps dryness doesn’t kill pawpaw seeds like they say, but just sends them further into dormancy. That would make more sense to me when it comes to surviving in the wild.

@forestandfarm How important is winter dormancy for young pawpaw seedlings, and how short can I cut it? I have a lot of little ones that aren’t going in the ground this year, but I don’t have a garage to keep them in. Can I just let them keep growing inside, or would that be bad?

I don’t know the answer to your question, but they did evolve to handle the winters of North America.

I’d recommend you “heel them in,” by mounding up dirt around the potted seedlings. This will help insulate the delicate roots from the cold and dessicating winter winds.

Without a lot of light, they might go dormant inside over the winter, regardless of whether you want them to or not. I don’t know this for sure, but is my best guess. They are deciduous trees.

I don’t have a first hand answer but I’ll tell you what I know. I got my seeds from Cliff England and started them back in October. I was concerned about just letting them grow from October through the next October so I ask Cliff.

Cliff told me that once they are old enough to harden, I could chill them for 30 days and then warm them up and get two growing seasons in one. He said that if I didn’t do this they would stall in the spring but would still be larger by the end of the summer than if I had started them in the spring but not as large as if I did the 30 day chill.

Based on the timing, when they were ready to harden, it was too warm for me to chill them with my facilities so I did the latter and just let them grow.

Given that, I would think that if you let your go dormant naturally and gave them 30 days of chill hours or more, you could wake them early. Since these are my first pawpaw, I’ve never tried it.

For what it is worth, I have done an early wakeup with both Jujube and Persimmon seedlings grown in rootmaker containers. Here is what I did: First, I’m in zone 7A so take that into account on timing. I let them go dormant naturally. Before we got a hard freeze, I moved them into an unheated garage so I didn’t have the roots freeze. Between Christmas and New Year, I brought them into my heated finished basement and put them under lights and cranked the heat to 73. The Jujube leafed out and grew very quickly. It took the persimmons quite a bit longer but they did very well also.

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That’s the truth! These were started in March and finally have emerged in the last week or two.