Should I try growin Paw Paws?

megamav(5a - NY)April 22, 2012

For those that grow paw paws are they really worth growing?

I have 3 semi-dwarf apple trees that consume the part of my yard that gets about 7 hours of sun a day, and I've been doing some reading about paw paws and they seem to prefer *some* shade.

In my backyard, the west side is all forest, so I could plant 2 paw paws as understory trees from white pines that are around 40 feet tall and not really all that thick in canopy. They would get about 4 hours of sun at the edge of the forest, from about 8:30 to about 1PM, then the sun would go back into the forest. My soil is sandy but somewhat moist near the forest's edge and acidic, from 5.8-6.3 ph.

I would have to take out a skinny ornamental cherry tree that isnt doing so hot in 3-4 hours sun and wipe out a few half dead 10 foot white pines.

Each spot has about a 12x12 of space between trees.

So... anyone think its worth it for me to do it?

I just dont know a lot about them, never had one, never see them around here farmers markets or stores, but prefer the flavors they're described to be, banana, mango, pineapple type of tropical flavors. The only things I've read are a few posts on here, and the link below to Purdue's hort department.

I thought it would be a neat project, but im not sure it would work out with my situation, or if they're worth the hassle.

Thanks in advance,


Here is a link that might be useful: Purdue University - Doc on Paw Paws

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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)

My mango pawpaw gets about 4-5 hrs of sun light and still produce large tasty fruit. My peterson ' paw paw only in 2 leaf (Susquehanna & shenandoah). My sunflower pawpaw has very large fruit and excellent flavor. It took the mango 4 yrs to produce fruit and the sunflower 6 yrs. Very slow growing trees.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 10:28PM
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I would say yes. For one, they are north america's largest native fruit, and they were all but wiped out in their natural range by logging. While the forests have recovered, the pawpaws have not due to their peculiar growth habits. Pawpaws are also the *ONLY* host for the zebra tail butterfly, a very pretty butterfly that can't survive without those trees.

As for the tree requirements, they only need shade when they're little, they do best in full sun after that. Much better to plant them somewhere in full sun and then put shade cloth over them for the first year or so (shade cloth is easy, just a couple layers of cheap screen door mesh work just fine). Once they're about a foot tall, they can take the sun just fine and will produce the most fruit that way.

They are also naturally pest and disease resistant, there's virtually nothing that will actively try to kill them, even deer won't touch them. The biggest hurdle to growing them is getting them to sprout from seed, after that its just shade cloth and then ignore them for the rest of their lives while getting lots of tropical fruit from a cold hardy tree.

Definitely worth it, IMO. But then, I am sprouting 18 of the things right now.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 10:29PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

Yes, definitely worth it. They would be more productive in full sun, but they are probably the best choice of fruit tree for the spot you describe.

If you buy some, do not get bare rooted plants, they take a long time to recover. Some never seem to, according to first hand reports I've heard.

Also, deer do not like them, but the deer don't know that until they take a bite. Not a big deal for a grown tree, but for a new grafted tree, one bite could take the whole graft.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 10:43PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

Sounds promising so far, thank you for your responses.
Where did you order your trees from where you got the best results?
I have a nursery down the road from me, but I HIGHLY doubt they have them, but I will call.
I would not be planting until next spring because I have some site prep work that needs to be done.
What are the differences between the different types of Paw Paws? On One Green World I see over a dozen different types.
See link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: One Green World Paw Paws

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 11:37PM
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Pawpaws, like other trees, are also vulnerable to rabbits. Rabbits make a lovely 45 degree cut about 4 inches above the ground. If you have rabbits in your area, protect any species of young trees with a tree shelter or some kind of wire cage.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:00AM
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I've ordered a Pennsylvania paw paw and a NC-1 from Raintree Nursery. I see that they're sold out now, but those two types are supposed to be the earliest-ripening varieties. I live in zone 5a in southern WI, which is close to the northern edge of their range. I read about them in Lee Reich's Unusual Fruits for Every Garden. He lives in NY, and I hear he has tasting workshops in September where people can taste paw paws. You'd be able to find out with an online search. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 7:52AM
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Pawpaws are one of my favorite fruits and quite different from any other fruit that can be grown in a temperate climate. It sounds like you have a good environment for them and One Green World is an excellent source for pawpaw trees. 'Pa golden', 'overleese', and 'allegheny' are early ripeners with excellent tasting fruit.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 8:42AM
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Marc, my rabbits have a more discriminating taste than yours. They will score the trunk and eat low branches from my apple, plum, peach and persimmon trees, all of which I need to protect, but leave my pawpaws alone. I have never needed to use any tree guards on them.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:03AM
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armyofda12mnkeys(7a, Philly, PA)

I read some stuff i thought was conflicting about pawpaws and could use some clarification ...
I read Pawpaws grow alot of times close to river banks on swampy wet soil, think it said they protected by sunlight initally, then reach out into the river towards more sunlight ...

Yet I also read Pawpaws need very well-draining/non-clay soil.

Why do they do so well on swampy soil then, seems like that wouldn't be well draining (and if it was, it wouldnt matter as it would still be moist most of the time)?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:45PM
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Pawpaws, and muscadine grapes for that matter, grow well naturally on sites that flood every winter (when they are dormant and thus presumably far more tolerant of flooding), but that also flood deeply for a while every few years in the growing season. I have eaten pawpaws from healthy trees among which I had waded in water three feet deep just two to three months before. Yet experienced growers swear that overwatering can lead to root rot on these same plants. Neither pawpaws nor muscadines are far removed from native selections (breeding and selection work is recent) and cultivars should not be hugely atypical of native plants, and the growers are not speaking idly. I do not know the resolution to this apparent lack of agreement.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 5:51PM
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Burnt Ridge also has a selection of pawpaws at a price that I can afford.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 5:59PM
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Well, pawpaws (like virtually all fruit trees) like to have a steady supply of water. For established trees, they can withstand short period flooding as long as the soil is well draining because the ground doesn't stay swampy all the time.

So yeah, there's a difference between growing alongside a riverbed and being in a mangrove swamp.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:17PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

Definitely thinking about doing it, seriously now.
I have nothing to lose, other than about $50 for 2 trees.
I've had less fun with $50. :)
I've narrowed it down to 3.
NC-1 - Early Ripener, highest scores on UKY taste test.
Shenandoah - Early Ripener, a farmers market favorite.
Susquehanna - Mid-Season, very little seed, 5 for 5 on taste testers, even in limited quantity.
Considering the short shelf life, I may want to spread out the 2 tree harvest, so I may go with NC-1 and Susquehanna

I gotta be honest, the mortality rate definitely scares me a bit (50%?!?!?). Im not a green thumb, but I did plan out and put in 3 apple trees in a difficult sun situation, that now works well, they seem to be OK so far. Apples are pretty easy though.

From what I've read, bare root is a no-no unlike apple trees. I am 99% sold on One Green World, even though they are 5 business days shipping away from me, Oregon to New York. Do they come potted from them?

I DO want potted plants, and I'll want to essentially bury the contents of the pot into the ground to not disturb the tap root(s). I've got a long time to read about this stuff, it just seems to be different from apple trees, no diseases or pests to worry about other than the above mentioned rabbits, which are scoring the cherry tree I have because the previous owner didnt put up protection, but I have hardware clothed out the apples as a precaution, and I would do the same for the Paw Paws. I understand that I would have to self-pollinate.

Learn, learn, learn, apply.
Any advice on narrowing down between the 3 varieties to 2, but Im thinking it doesnt matter, they're probably all excellent.

Thanks everyone for the posts, its all been really helpful.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:20PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

One Green World pawpaws are potted.

I don't know about NC-1, but Susquehanna has a rich paw paw flavor, Shenandoah is more mild, I'd say both are excellent. Shenandoah might be better for introducing paw paw to less adventurous tasters, Susquehanna better for really getting the pawpaw flavor, especially if you're mixing it in a smoothie or making pawpaw bread or something. Also, I believe NC-1 ripens earlier than Shenandoah, so NC-1 with Susquehanna would give you the longest season.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

I am growing some plants from seeds of the Kentucky Champion tree.They were planted on February 25th and kept heated at about 80F.Normally in that environment,they will send up a shoot in 50-60 days.These did in 35 days.They now have two to three sets of leaves.
I have too many for myself,so I could send one to try,if shipping could be covered on your end.I think the best time to ship these might be early spring,so by that time,they should be fair sized.Let me know.
Here is a link to information about the tree.Brady

Here is a link that might be useful: Kentucky Champion Pawpaw

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 1:08AM
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megamav(5a - NY)


I really appreciate the offer, but looking at that link, I just dont have that kind of space in my back yard for a tree that size. My area is about 12x12 each for 2 trees.
It would be a great looking tree for a wide open space though!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 4:28PM
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