A single-stemmed, succulent, giant herb, taking the form of a palm tree as it grows.
It is not a true tree, merely an overgrown succulent herb.
Up to 25 years. Productivity declines with age and commercial plantations
usually replace each plant after 3 years. In residential settings, plants often last only four
years, usually dying because of overwatering in winter or hard freezes.
Usually 8-15' high, but can reach 30' in its native environment.
Five white to yellow-orange petals, bright yellow stamens, slightly fragrant.
Individual plants have flowers that are only female, only male, or bisexual. Flowers grow
on the main trunk just above a leaf stalk.
Six months after sowing seed. The plant may flower repeatedly in regions without
Depends on cultivar. Bisexual flowers are self-pollinating. Most female
flowers require pollination from another plant and will shrivel and die if not pollinated.
Some female plants will produce seedless fruit without pollination.
Years before fruiting:
Plants normally fruit in their first year in year-round warm climates.
Smooth skinned, pear, oval, or cylindrical shaped, with red, pink or orange flesh.
May be seedless or contain large numbers of edible, black seeds that have a peppery taste
when the fruit is ripe. Be warned, many people do not like the taste of this fruit, comparing
it to dirty socks, or worse. The fruit are attached directly to the trunk, or side branches,
of the plant.
Months for fruit to ripen:
4-5 months from flowering. The fruit should be picked when the
outside is fully yellow. Papaya do not ripen significantly after harvesting and should stay
on the plant as long as possible to improve their flavor.
Unripe fruit contain latex but can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable.
Storage after harvest:
Fully ripe papaya last 2-3 days after harvest. Partially colored
fruit normally last 5-7 days.
Deeply lobed, palmate, with long, hollow stalks. Each leaf falls off the trunk
after 4-6 months as the plant grows.
The single straight trunk, usually unbranched, is succulent, herbaceous, hollow,
and has scars where fallen leaves were attached. If a plant is top-killed by a freeze,
or the top is cut off, it will grow branches to produce new leaves, flowers and fruit
if the root system is well established.
Shallow. These plants are subject to root rot in wet soils, especially in winter.
Root rot is usually fatal. They do better planted on a mound that provides excellent drainage.
Cultivars of Note:
Papayas can be categorized as Mexican or Hawaiian. The Mexican are better adapted to hot,
dry climates. The Hawaiian papaya fruit are smaller, usually pear shaped, and often
considered better tasting.
'Dwarf Solo' Grows 6-10' tall. Grown from seed, two-thirds of plants are
self-fruitful, one-third are female. Sweet, pink-orange flesh. Fruit weighs 1-1.5 lbs.
'Strawberry' / 'Sunrise' Grows 10-12' tall. Sweet, orange-red flesh,
often considered the best-tasting papaya. Fruit weighs 1.5 lbs. Hawaiian.
'Red Lady Dwarf' Grows to 10' tall. Self-fruitful. Orange-red flesh.
Fruit weighs 4-6 lbs.
'Tainung #5' Grows to 10' tall. Self-fruitful. Red flesh. Fruit
weighs 3-5 lbs.
'TR Hovey' Grows 6-8' tall and 4-6' wide. Self-fruitful. Reddish-orange
flesh. Fruit weighs 3-4 lbs. Can be grown in a pot.
Attracts bees, butterflies, moths, birds.
Toxic / Danger:
All parts, except ripe fruit, contain latex sap which may cause skin rash
or allergies in sensitive individuals.
Central America and Mexico.