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How to Care for a Papaya Plant

Papaya (Carica papaya), also known as pawpaw and malakor, is in the family of Caricaceae and is native to regions of Central America and Mexico. Papaya will grow best in the tropical and subtropical regions on the United States, as it will not tolerate freezing conditions. Depending on the variety, some can reach a height of 33 feet. Papaya trees are relatively easy to grow, but they do require regular care for them to produce quality fruit and have successful growth.

Plant and grow the papaya in an area that receives full sunlight. Papaya trees will not grow in areas of deep shade. Grow the papaya in a warm area protected from high winds, as they can damage the plant.

Maintain the growing area, keeping it free of weeds and other vegetation. Clear an area of approximately 3 feet in diameter around the base of the plant, as lawn equipment can damage the soft wood.

Grow the papaya in soil that drains well and has been amended with organic compost. Growing in sands, sandy loams and rocky soils will suit the papaya best. Do not grow the papaya in areas that are prone to flooding, as the tree will die.

Remove only the dead leaves from the tree, as each leaf has a lifespan of only 7 to 8 months. Do not prune the papaya tree, as it grows with only one main terminal. Pruning the terminal will result in branches that will produce no fruit and might even kill the tree.

Water the papaya tree every other day when temperatures are hot if the soil is sandy. Water the papaya tree every 3 to 4 days if the soil is loam or sandy loam. Water the planting site regularly during the warmer months so the plant produces the best fruit and does not drop flowers and leaves. Cut the watering in half during the cooler months.

Mulch around the base of the papaya tree to retain the soil’s moisture and hinder weed growth. Apply a fresh application of mulch yearly.

Fertilize young papaya trees up to 8 months old with a good quality all-purpose fertilizer every 2 weeks. Fertilize mature trees every other month. Select a fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphate, potash, iron and magnesium.

Select an insecticide specifically designed for papaya trees and the insect you are treating, if insects become a problem. Papaya fruit fly, webworms, whiteflies and two-spotted mites can sometimes affect papaya trees.


Do not overwater papaya trees as they can develop root rot and die.

Harvest the fruit as it begins to turn yellow. Store it at room temperature until fully ripe, and then the papaya can be stored in the refrigerator.

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