Fruiting Papaya in zone 5/6

August 6, 2008

Posted this in Tropicalesque gardens, but realized it was also appropriate here.

zone 6a/5b Papayas

Hello. I notice alot of people on these forums growing bananas outside of the tropics (as do I) but not so many growing papaya-which I think is kind of a shame. About 10 years ago I grew my first papaya in a pot, and it made it to about 2 feet in height before it died. Since then I have tried several more times, and finaly hit the proverbial jackpot-I grew and ate my first zone 5 papaya-and it was every bit as good as the ones I've eaten in the tropics of Costa Rica.

Bananas are alot of fun to grow, but it's highly unlikely that someone in my zone would ever be able to produce a crop of properly ripened fruit. I decided why not, and planted some papayas just to see what they would do. I started them in march of '07, by a south facing window. I got the seeds out of a maradol papaya from an oriental grocery. I planted them in small kitchen trashcans in a mixture of 50/50 turface MVP and horticultural grade vermiculite. When frost danger had passed, I moved them outside to an area with partial sun, along a south wall.

In early summer I clipped off all but the strongest seedling in each pot. By the middle of the summer, when flowers were produced, I was able to thin down again, to a single hermephrodite. That summer, it put on lots of flowers, and made it to a height of around 3 feet. I brought it inside in the first week of september, and kept it by a south window. Every time a flower fell, it left a small fruit, which would fall after a few days-until one fruit in november stayed on the plant. The tree got lots of spider mites in the winter, and had to be sprayed with soap repeatedly. By spring, it only had 3 small leaves left-and a six inch green fruit hanging to the stem for dear life.

When I put it outside, the fruit just kept hanging there, new leaves formed, and eventually in early july, the fruit turned a glorious red and orange, softened, and my wife and I made a little party of eating it. It wasn't the biggest papaya in the world, but it was sweet and musky. Now the tree has put on two more fruits, which are rapidly expanding. Hopefully, I'll be able to eat them before it gets cold enough to stop their ripening. By the way, the tree is now around 4 1/2 feet tall, with a crown of leaves far too large to put my arms around. I have lots of photos-I'll post them one day. It was really quite a thrill getting the tree to bear fruit-I've been gardening for quite a while, and this is by far my most rewarding project!

Hope you enjoyed my story; and feel inclined to give papaya a try!

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