Questions about pawpaw germination

Until this year I always had nearly perfect germination with pawpaws. I thought at first that my seeds just hadn’t germinated well this year, but then about three weeks ago several that I thought had failed started to germinate. Any ideas why they might have waited until October to germinate? Having germinated this late, is there any way to get them to harden off enough to survive the rest of the winter? I assume I’d need to let them grow for at least a month or two before they could begin to harden off? For right now I have them in an unheated building with a south facing window, but it’s going to freeze in there before long, at which point I guess I need to either (1) give up on them or (2) move them in the house or (3) move them into a building with one very small west-facing window that I keep above freezing but otherwise stays at more or less an average of outdoor temperatures.

Maybe they didn’t get enough ‘cool’ last winter? I’d go with your option d.

1 Like

Thanks, Jesse! The possibility of inadequate cold stratification of the seeds occurred to me, but they were in the fridge for at least 3-1/2 months. To hedge against that possibility, I’ll probably go 4 or 4-1/2 months with the seeds I plan to sow for next year.

1 Like


It is perfectly natural for pawpaws to be slow to “peak their heads up out of the ground.” I’ve mentioned this in other threads. Some scientific publications indicate it can take up to TWO YEARS before pawpaw seedlings poke up out of the ground! Their first year, they are busy dropping their notoriously fragile tap root.

Sounds like yours are in pots? Or are they in nursery beds?

Can you surround the pots with lots of dirt or mulch? This might help keep up the ambient humidity and ward off any chilly drafts from freezer-burning the roots.

Pawpaws like deep soil and humid conditions. They don’t like to be moved. They don’t like to be fall planted. Good luck.


Check it out:

My observation on pawpaw tap roots:

This year I planted pawpaw seeds in small pots in May. I didn’t have enough trays for all of the pots and set a pot on the soil of another pot having an apple tree in it. Sometime in late July I went to move the pawpaw pots and found that the taproot had grown out the bottom of the small pot into the larger pot. The tap root had done all of that growing despite the fact that the leaves had yet to emerge.

I pulled the pawpaw pot out and broke the tap-root off at the bottom of the pot. It survived just fine.

1 Like

If you decide to bring them into a warm environment where they will grow during the winter, you will want to add artificial light. There is research showing that seedlings started early in a greenhouse with only sunlight develop very poor root systems. I was going to point you to a thread with pictures of some container grown pawpaws started in a greenhouse compared to those started under lights where the medium was removed and the roots exposed for examination, but since photobucket did there little blackmail deal for 3rd party posting those pics are no longer available.

You won’t have that issue with option 3) since there won’t be enough top growth to make them unbalanced at cold room temps.

1 Like