growing hawaiian papaya in southern california

zipper1111June 28, 2013

A year ago I purchased 2 Hawaiian papaya trees from Armstrong nursery.

Ever since, they haven't grown one bit. I have sandy, clay soil and live near the beach.

I planted them in potting soil but they just aren't growing and it's almost July.

What should I do with them?

Has anyone ever grown hawaiian papaya successfully in this area?

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They need HOT weather to grow in California. 80's everyday,the hotter the better. From planting out in spring 6" Papaya's,my best effort only got me 16" tall Papaya plants before they died in early December.
And the word is where they do grow in warmest coastal California climates..they lack flavor. They WILL grow in soucal..but the quality is lacking. Only if you cover them in clear plastic to boost the heat has given good results. And that might be on two year old plants overwintered.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 1:27PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I quote a local expert who's grown/tried to grow Papaya for many years:

"Realistically [Southern California] is a marginal climate for growing papaya (native to southern Mexico and Central America). The tree-like plant sulks when temperature drop below 60 degrees F and performs best when daily temperatures are well above 80 degrees. A healthy tree is quite a sight!

There is a devastating Worldwide disease called Papaya Ringspot Virus PRSV. Although it doesn't kill the plant, the production drops off dramatically (80-90%) and even these few fruit are of poor quality (not sweet). This disease appeared less than 3 generations ago but has spread around the World. The disease is spread primarily by aphids (also by infected seed) and shows up in young plants as distorted leaves with yellow blotches. Older plants often become symptom free, but don't ever perform well.

In the 1980's I grew many plants, but although the mature plants looked healthy they bloomed very little and produced just a few fruit of poor quality. I do remember seeing the distorted, blotched foliage on the young seedlings, but didn't know what it meant at the time.

By the late 1980's the papaya industry in Hawaii was in full retreat. PRSV was causing farmers to move their plantings to uninfected areas but they were quickly running out of real estate because the disease kept spreading. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to help the farmers. They tried inoculating the plants with limited success. The researchers then took a portion of the PRSV's DNA (a portion not capable of producing disease symptoms) and introduced it into the genetic makeup of a papaya. The resulting plant developed an immunity (mechanism unknown since plants do not have an immune system) toward PRSV and its offspring inherited the immunity. The hybrid called RAINBOW became the new successful variety for Hawaiian papaya farmers.

These papayas, although genetically modified, were cleared for human consumption by the EPA, as the introduced DNA has already been consumed by most papaya fruit lovers (myself included). The findings are that much more of the virus's DNA is found in infected fruit than in the genetically modified papaya fruit.

Cornell never intended to profit from this research. They merely wanted to save the industry.

Of course, there are anti-GMO activist groups that are up in arms about the use of GM papaya plants even though in this particular case no foreign genes are being introduced. Some spokespeople have stated that proper farming techniques would have made GM papaya unnecessary. After reading all of the history, I believe, that proper farming techniques couldn't stop PRSV. So even though I'm not particularly fond of GMO, I'll grow and eat these. "

You don't say where you are, but interior zones where there is enough summer heat have the drawback of colder winters, which the Papaya does not like. Coastal zones with warmer winters lack the summer heat to produce sweet fruit.

'Red Lady', 'Bella' or 'Sungold' are F1 hybrids. The F1 hybrids are crosses bred with a genetically modified parent so they should be tolerant to the PRSV disease. Perhaps if you are in an interior zone and can move your tree into a greenhouse for the months when temperatures drop below 60F, you have a chance at some fruit.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 4:03AM
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