Pawpaw shade requirements

Planted my first pawpaws last week, NC-1 and Allegheny (Burnt Ridge), just budding out. They’re about knee-high. I read differing reports, some say grafted pawpaws are old enough not to need shade, but I’m inclined to give them some protection this year. They are planted out in my main orchard on a slight slope in south-central IA. We are lucky to have excellent (though clayey) soil. We receive abundant, well-spaced rainfall throughout the growing season and my soil has excellent water-holding capacity with high organic content. My trees have a 4-6’ diameter heavy mulch of cardboard, then ~6" of composted goat bedding and hay (as I do for all my orchard trees). Do I need to shade this first year? If so, I was planning on making a cage with concrete reinforcing mesh (like I use for tomato cages) and wrap in burlap. Good idea, bad idea? Thanks for your input pawpaw people!

What I recall reading is definitely provide sun protection this entire year. And if next year leaves still haven’t adjusted, keep up your shade screen.


It is common to read that young Pawpaws need sun protection. I purchased two trees that were 12 inches high. I assume they were one or two years old. They were planted in a location that received 4 to 5 hrs of sun a day and they did fine.
Has anyone experienced sun damage on Pawpaws?

Last year I planted four tiny pawpaw trees. They are mainly in the full sun, with some afternoon shade. We had lots of rain last summer, so the soil was constantly wet. The trees did showed signs of stress with small undeveloped leaves which yellowed and dried. I put card board boxes with the open bottom around each of the plant. I also had a small piece of burlap and I threw it on the top of the box on one of the plants. After a month or so I had time to open the burlap and pick inside. The plant which had it looked the best out of four. It had large green leaves, whereas the others still showed the signs of distress. None of them grew very much during last season, but I think it is very typical for pawpaws.

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Neat idea to use burlap.

I have had been trying to grow pawpaws in Utah for the past six years and all of my grafted trees die after a year or two, but the seedlings seem to do just fine. The climate and soil type is not favorable to growing them. The grafted pawpaws grow just fine without protection, the scion wood is already mature and will even blossom the next year after planting them. For some reason after a really good growing season the graft fails when they come out of dormancy. I have a hunch it is because they don’t go dormant soon enough and get frozen. If I get any more grafted trees I will try stripping the leaves in the fall.
The seedlings on the other hand do get burned quite easily and need a minimum of 2 years with shading or they will die. However even my 6 year old seedling still gets a little scorched. Your burlap shading cage is almost exactly what I did with tomato cages. I took a tomato cage cut off the spikes on the bottom and bent them into large staples. I then covered about half of the cage with burlap and placed it up side down “fat side down” over the pawpaw and then used the staples to secure it. I did it this way because it seems to shade them better. Greg

My two grafted pawpaws were in pots when I bought it from Logee’s. The nursery put all their potted pawpaws in full sun.

I brught them home planted them where They got sun from 11 am to 3 pm. They grew well with no problem.

The problem was I move them last month to better spots. I damaged their long tap roots. Not sure they will die on me or not :disappointed:

I planted my sunflower pawpaw in full sun, and it didn’t mind at all. Close by, I also planted a seedling, and it did mind a great deal until I shaded it. So I’d agree that graftees probably don’t need shade.

In my experience starting hundreds of pawpaws each year, they generally do not need shade protection in their second year. That’s assuming they got off to a good start, and would be 18" tall and pencil diameter. I have found this to be true for both grafted trees and seedlings (I graft in the second year). In their first year, 50 percent shade cloth seems to be optimal for protection. Burlap would be quite a bit darker. The worst thing you can do is move them out into full sun during their first year.

Greg’s experience in Utah is interesting. Could be elevation, intense sun, temperature…

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I appreciate all the replies (and am happy to hear more). I think I’ll set my cages up but roll with full sun and see how they do. If they seem stressed I may just shade the top with burlap or perhaps the top and west sides (I suppose I could also use 2-3 layers of Agribon which I have on hand and is supposed to have 85% light transmission).

As far as Greg’s experience, when I lived in Colorado and grew blueberries in the ground, but in bags of peat and irrigated with vinegar-acidified water, I wrapped the bushes in burlap over the winter as the drying winter winds were otherwise too much for the otherwise hardy bushes. Perhaps that would help, although it doesn’t explain why his seedlings are not affected.

Hi @gregkdc did you cover the top or bottom of the tomato cage? (I.e. did you shade the trunk or the leaves)

50/50 is about the right shade/sun balance for year one, sometimes year two seedlings. Tomato cage with burlap around the outside with top open is perfect in a sunny spot.

Too much shade is almost as bad as too much sun the first year or two.

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