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How to Plant a Paw Paw Tree

paw paw image by isatori from Fotolia.com

Paw paw (Asimina triloba), or Indian banana, is a member of a mostly tropical family of fruit trees which bears potato-sized fruit with creamy flesh and a taste often compared to banana and mango. Native to the eastern woodlands of North America, it was popular before exotic fruits like banana and pineapple became readily available. Hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10, paw paw is easy to grow and makes a great addition to the garden.

Choose a paw paw that has a sturdy trunk and a healthy root system. It’s always better to get a small plant with a great root system than a large plant with a skimpy root system.

Dig a hole in a sunny location as deep as the root system and 1 1/2 times as wide.

Improve the excavated soil by mixing in 1/3 compost. Scratch about 1 inch of compost into the bottom of the hole.

Remove the root ball from its container and gently set it in the hole. If the tree is balled and burlapped, cut the twine from the base of the trunk so it doesn’t girdle the tree as it grows.

Fill in the hole with the improved soil, tamping it gently to avoid air pockets.

Water so that the root ball and surrounding soil is damp, but not waterlogged. Add a vitamin-rich plant starter to the water to help the tree acclimate to its new location and start root growth.

Mulch a circle about 6 inches wider than the root ball to a depth of 2 inches. Keep the mulch 2 inches from the trunk to avoid excessive moisture that can rot bark.

Tip

Spring and fall are both great times to plant paw paw.

You will have better success if you plant two varieties for cross-pollination.

Most paw paw selections grow to 20 feet. If you require a smaller tree, look for dwarf paw paw (A. parviflora), which only grows 6 to 8 feet tall. The dwarf variety, while very ornamental, will not bear as much fruit as the larger varieties.

Staking a paw paw is not necessary. The movement of the trunk on windy days stimulates root growth.

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