Pawpaw shading ideas

gregkdcDecember 17, 2013

After trying pawpaws for the first time this fall I have decided that I am going to plant more trees in the front yard. I really like how Tony had his along the sidewalk as that is exactly where I would like to put mine.
I saved the seeds from the pawpaws I got and have them in the refrigerator right now. They should have their entire chill requirement by the middle of next month at which point I will start them indoors.
The area that I am planting them is pretty hot and I know it will be a challenge, but worth it if I can pull it off.
I want to know what people have done to shade their pawpaws in particular if it is aesthetically pleasing? There is a very real possibly that the shading will be in my front yard for at least 2 years and I would hope it is not an eyesore.
Any tips, pointers and especially pictures would be appreciated. Thanks Greg

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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


At KSU Dr Pomper used this set up to protect the young paw paw seedlings.


Here is a link that might be useful: Paw paw shading idea

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 5:38PM
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Do you know what percent shade cloth to use? In the past I have used a tomato cage flipped upside down and covered it with a burlap sack. This actually worked pretty well but it eventually was too small to contain the growing tree.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 6:19PM
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I used 50% this past year, along with floating row fabric (much cooler where I am than for you). I made a rectangular prism out of 1/2" PVC pipe and used waste pieces of drip irrigation tubing slit down one side as clamps for the cloth. Held up really well. One year down!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 6:37PM
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Steve and Toni thanks for the follow up! I was wondering what I could use for a frame that would be bigger than a tomato cage and PVC would definitely work. You have given me some ideas to think about.
True it is a hot place in my yard but I have sprinklers that water it 3 times a week and I can give it a deep watering with a hose as needed. It is also really hot were my other pawpaw tree is growing but it seems to be doing fine, I just need to make sure it has plenty of water.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 7:01PM
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What about tying a few bamboo or similar poles together in teepee fashion? Would a cone like that wind up being too tall?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 8:13PM
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I saw a setup which was a 1X1 driven into the ground with two small slats (about the size of large paint stir sticks) nailed across the top. Stapled to these slats was a piece of old window screen that provided shade during the hottest part of the day.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 8:08AM
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Greg, you might want to consider keeping the trees in containers for two years--until they are 18" tall and out of infancy. At that point they will thrive in full sun. While in containers you have the luxury of putting them in any convenient location, using anything for shade--other trees, cloth, the north side of a building. Then move them to their permanent location after two growing seasons. They transplant very well from containers. I used this method recently for several hundred, and it worked fine.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:08AM
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My experience has been similar to Marc's. Have never bothered with 'shading' container-grown pawpaws, and they don't sulk or seem to suffer any undue consequences.
Bareroot transplants probably would benefit from shading, but a well-grown container-grown plant... I think not.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:20AM
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When you guys container grow pawpaws how big of a container do you use for a 2 year old tree? My wife works at a bakery and has access to used 5 gallon buckets. I could drill a few holes in the bottom and transplant them outside to the buckets after the last frost.
Also what time of year would you recommend planting these pawpaws in sunlight? I am assuming when they are dormant, late fall or early spring after they have had 2 full growing seasons?
I have plenty of shady places they could grow until they are mature, under the grape arbor would be perfect. Like I have said many times before the biggest problem for pawpaws here is the dry heat and they really like a lot of water. Even though my soil is clay it actually drains water amazing fast so if I used a good potting soil that should really help. I think over all it would be easier and probably cheaper to buy a few bags of potting soil versus shade cloth and some sort of cage. My main concern is how well the tree does after being in shade to direct sun if its roots haven't really grown into the soil?
The down side of all of this is the place I want to plant them is pretty close to my sprinkler line so it could be a problem digger a bigger hole for an older tree.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:53AM
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While folks will advocate a large - and more importantly - tall/deep pots, I've grown (and imprisoned) pawpaws in things as small as 20 oz. styrofoam cups - sometimes for as long as 2-3 years, before I got around to transplanting or moving them up to a larger pot.
Yes, roots were circling like crazy in the bottom, and exiting drainage holes to root into the soil underneath - but I just cut them loose from the soil, unfurled the circling roots in the cup - sometimes cutting off a really tightly-knit mass of curling/interwoven roots, and planted them, or potted them up to a larger container - with no indication that it set them back in the least.
There REALLY is NOTHING MAGICAL about a taproot.

Is this the best way to grow them? No; but they're not as fragile as some folks would have us believe.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 12:12PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

Lucky is right that they are not so fragile, but if you take the time and effort to baby them, I think you will be rewarded with faster growth and fruit production at an earlier age.

I agree with the recommendation of starting them in containers. I started several in 3 liter soda bottles, which I think worked well. One advantage of starting them in containers is that you can get a very long first growing season. As you are planning, starting them next month is a good idea. If they are in containers, and you have some space inside, you can bring them in before the frosts come, and they will get another couple months of growing season. They won't put on any more height during this time, but I assume the roots are growing (all that photosynthate is going somewhere!)

I planted them in the ground in the early spring of their second year (so only one year in containers) just as the buds were starting to open, and shaded them with two layers of black nylon window screen for that season.

I also have well drained clay. If you start your trees in containers, I'd recommend taking advantage of that time to prepare the soil where they will be planted. Just loosen the soil a bit, then put a layer of compost or wood chips covering a 2 or 3 foot circle. After one season, it is amazing how different the soil is under the compost/wood chips compared to the surrounding lawn. This method avoids a sharp transition between prepared and unprepared soil, which can create problems in clay.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 4:57PM
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I agree with Lucky that you will succeed with a wide variety of containers. I've had very good luck with the one gallon tall pots. I used them in the belief that they accommodated the precious tap root, but now I have come to believe, like Lucky, that it's not so important. In fact, Dr. Carl Whitcomb, who has done a large amount of research on container plants, has stated that the tap root "is obsolete." I am currently growing a lot of pawpaws in one gallon Rootmaker containers after starting them in smaller propagation cells. I have seen a lot of healthy pawpaws grown in regular one gallon containers. My only caution is that you consider overwintering. In very small containers, there is a greater chance that the roots may freeze and the tree may die (experience talking here). Overwinter in the ground or some unheated building where the temperature will not drop much below 28F.

I prefer to plant out in the spring as the buds are pushing, but I know of people with good luck in the fall.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:24PM
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For paw paws I believe shading is needed only in zones7 or higher and in locations where the tree gets basicly all-day sun. I planted mine in an area which gets about 8-9 hours of sun and although I saw some leaf droop and slight yellowing, the trees did no drop their leaves and seem to be doing well after more than a year.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 6:43AM
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My seedling pawpaws are getting bigger but I noticed something that got me thinking about what the trees really need in their first year of life.
The seedlings are on a small table next to a window in my kitchen. They get a fair amount of light with additional light in the afternoon from a bulb. As they grow they are all reaching for the light of the window and the bulb even though they are supposed to be in shade for the first year. I know a window is not going to transmit the same amount of light they would receive compared to what they would get outside but I think it is more then being in the shade. I remember reading (KSU's website?) UV light is what damages young pawpaws.
So do they need shade or do they really UV protection for the first year? Has anyone tried growing a seedling with UV filtered sun light the first year? It would be a good experiment to see if the addition light would help a "slower" growing plant grow and get established faster.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:42AM
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meredith_e Z7b, Piedmont of NC, 1000' elevation

I don't know about the UV, but I do wonder if it's the baking heat that they can't take. In my area, even partial shade feels much different than the direct sun shining in the intense summer heat.

For my pawpaws, I have an enormous tree with branches that droop low that shades them now. I'll cut off the droopy branch when they are bigger :D

But a suggestion for folks who need pretty and temporary shading of small trees: ornamental grasses. I'm doing that with a couple of other plants. Don't plant the roots too close, of course, but the grasses get tall fast and provide shade if sited to do so. Then you can dig up the grass when you need full sun. Don't get a spreading kind, lol.

I have some to trade, etc, btw, if anyone needs any. It's variegated and a miscanthus (5-6') and that's all I know except that it makes great screening and lives anywhere with no care if sunny.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 3:29PM
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I started mine in pots(2 1/2 gal tall) and grew them under a giant fruitless mulberry for shade. They had to be propt up with cinder blocks because of high winds. Unfortunately I left the gate open and the deer pruned them back to the base. I will start over this year.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:39AM
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Meredith you are probably right about the heat I have an uneasy feeling about planting a pawpaw under glass in the summer time. Anyway I do have a place to grow them out I have them in 44 oz plastic cups and in the next week or so after last frost I will place them outside under a grape trellis.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:55AM
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Greg, you raise an interesting question regarding pawpaws and UV exposure. The standard advice given about starting pawpaws is that they need partial shade until approximately 18" tall. More recently I have been reading research indicating they don't need shade inside a greenhouse, at least after two leaves appear.

This year I started pawpaws indoors under fluorescent lighting. I have no idea how the light level compares to sunlight, but I use the same setup to start tomatoes. The results were interesting. Many of the plants, upon emergence, seemed to have their tiny heads "burned." Others, slightly out of the strong light, struggled to bend toward the bulbs. About half were transplanted to my high tunnel in healthy condition. There must be a very narrow "sweet spot" where the light is optimal.

It seems that the UV emitted by the bulbs (apparently they emit high levels of UV--think tanning booths) damaged the tiny trees. I would like to repeat the experiment with LED or incandescent bulbs.

What does 50 percent shade cloth filter out? I don't know, but it protects pawpaws started outdoors.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 8:20AM
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