Papaya: Sex of Flowers or Tree?

meilie(z7 MD)September 7, 2005

I have a 1 yr. old papaya tree now in bloom. I have recently learned that there are 3 sexes of flowers. Can anyone tell me if these are found on separate plants or on the same plant? My flowers are apparently male, as they are long and slender and not taking to hand pollination. The seed I planted is from a South American/Mexican, elongated variety papaya.

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jon1949(z7 north tx.)

Hi meilie, I grew mine from seeds.The fruit came from the grocery store so i do not know the variety but i got blooms and fruit.The pictrue is poor but you can see a white bloom just above the lemon sized fruit.john

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 1:09PM
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If it is a Mexican papaya then it will either be male or female. Sometimes the males do produce fruit, but it is small, about avocado size. They do not produce male and female flowers on the same plant. And, you will need a male plant and a female plant for fruiting. Now, Hawaiian papayas are different and are self-fertile. If your plant is just now blooming it won't have time to ripen the fruit unless you have a very warm greenhouse for winter's duration. They are such attractive plants whether they have fruit or not. The hummingbirds love the male blossoms especially and they smell so good too.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 7:22PM
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This article shows the 3 types of flowers: male, female and hermaphroditic. Compare it to yours and see what you've got.

Here is a link that might be useful: Papaya article

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 4:35AM
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meilie(z7 MD)

Gee, I thanks for all the info, (that really is an excellent article) but now I feel gyped! 1) My tree only has male flowers, so no fruit.; 2) The male flowers have no scent. If it weren't for the fact that I salvaged this plant from the compost pile last Fall, I'd be upset that I spent good one money for a non-fruiting, non-scented tropical plant that takes up room in the basement and demands heat and light. ~sigh~

Guess I'll bring in an additional plant (more growing in the compost pile) and hope it's a female!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 4:21PM
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meilie(z7 MD)

Update: I used a fertilizer with iron in it on my male papaya tree and I have spotted at least one hermaphadite or female flower. I may have created a sex change here. I'll let you know if it takes to fruit.

The weather is changing here, so hopefully it'll stay warm enough to get some flowers pollinated before I have to take my tropicals indoors.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 2:49PM
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meilie(z7 MD)

My Mexican papaya tree is PREGNANT! Hurray!!! The fruit is about 2x1" torpedo shaped so if all goes well, we will be eating papaya by November! We're having a late, hot spell here in Maryland, so the tree is still outdoors. It will be brought in as soon as it's too chilly for the "baby". I applied more fertilizer w/ iron in it to see it that helps bring more siblings.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2005 at 7:01PM
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gardenguy_(z6b PA)

meilie, I'm very glad you made this post. Thanks to the other memebers here that replied as well, esp with the flower pics. I also have a papaya plant here as well. It's in a pot, but I'm afraid I have females. The papaya plant is about 4 feet tall now and has started flowering about a month ago. I am really new to papayas, being that I'm frequently post in the banana forums. I currently don't have the digital camera at the moment, otherwise I'd post a pic. I did get some photos with a 35mm camera tho. With papayas, I'm shocked at how fast they grow. In may, I picked up a very small seedling about 2 inches tall and have repotted it twice already. I only paid 2 dollars for the seedling, so it won't be a big loss for me being that the flowers are female. They are big and fat flowers, and this was the first time I ever saw papaya flowers.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 9:12PM
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meilie(z7 MD)

Hi Gardenguy,

Maybe we can get together and have our papayas congregate? What shape are your female flowers (round or elongated)? The sole papaya fruit is now about 3" long and growing. I have nipped the top leaf buds so it will stop growing up and more outwards so when I take it indoors I can have it sit under the lights, not above them. The new buds look to be male with some hermaphadite buds (I hope.).

I have potted a new plant thinking I may need it, and I have a few others still growing in the compost pile. If you would like to have one (for cost of shipping), I'll salvage one before the frost hits us. They do go into shock and may lose most of the older leaves, but the tap root is strong and they grow back.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 7:02PM
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I'm glad I found this about papaya flowers & it would appear that my 4 plants are hermaphroditic. I do have another question while there are folks raising the plants are around. I have mine in a greenhouse & about two months ago the plants got dry. Ever since then the new leaves are growing curled all over the place. They don't come out flat like they should. I don't see any bugs of any kind so I'm confused.
Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 10:46PM
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Papayas are susceptible to a number of viral diseases, several of which can cause curled or distorted leaves. The link shows some of them, but you can google and find more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Common Papaya Diseases

    Bookmark   October 5, 2005 at 12:16AM
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meilie(z7 MD)

UPDATE: My papaya tree is indoors for the winter. It's under a couple of shoplights w/ "diamond" metal reflective casings, 48" 40 watt bulbs (1 gro light bulb, plus regluar bulbs). These lamps are really quite bright, much brighter than the previous shoplights and they're very reasonable ($25./from HD). The tree is about 7 ft tall, leaves are another foot or so high. The first fruit is now about 3" long and I have more hermaphadite flowers opening! If this proves fruitful, I may have to dump all my other tropicals and start a papaya farm in the basement.

I will be bringing in the gingers soon, so it'll have lots of company. Do I dare try a tomato? What a shame the season is over, the Trombone squash are going full swing too.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 5:35PM
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AndreaZn7(z7 MD)

Hi All,
I have two 18 inch papaya plants growing in a pot since this March. One recently put on what looks like a flower. From the location and shape of the flower I'm guessing is a hermaphrodite. What do you think? Here are two pix

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 6:15PM
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I have two small trees (4') tall planted from seed (from a red papaya if I remember correctly) Base of "trunk" is about 1.5" and all leaves are on top 18". I have not seen any sign of flowers. The trees are about two years old and live in great SW light under large skylights. They are in fairly small pots - 9". Should they have flowered already and, if not, does anyone have ideas/suggestions?


Alan Smith

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 2:18PM
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amazondk(+ 11 Humid Equatorial Tropics)

I heard a story from a friend of mine in Miami that if you drove a nail into the stem of male plant it would change into a female. I have no idea if this works. Around here the plants sprout up all over the place like weeds.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 8:29PM
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thank you for the photos i realized i have papayas (lots) growing in my compost!)

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 10:21PM
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I think hawaii grown papayas are more likely to have hermaphrodite flowers wich increase fruit yeild.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 10:21AM
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Growing papaya trees in pots

Can anyone please tell me what size pot (gallons) I should
use to grow papaya trees in:
1. To grow the tree till it flowers
2. T grow the tree till it bears papaya fruit.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 4:18AM
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We have a few types of papayas including a rare dwarf papaya from the philippines. I even have one that has both male and female flowers on the same tree. Today I read a realy great blog article on papayas and had loads of information It even shows you how to grow the plant in non tropical areas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Papaya - Not Just a Tropical Fruit

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 4:57PM
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The sex of the papaya tree is a gamble, but the odd are mostly determined on the fruit / parent combination.

The mexican "large" variety most popular in markets now, is the Red Maradol.

and it is similar in regards to sex chance as the Hawaiian varieties.

the elongated torpedo shaped fruits are from Hermaphrodite
( bisex ) trees. the rounder shaped fruit come from Female

so here is how the percentages work out.






Example, if all your trees are Hermaphrodite, and they are the only pollinators, your seeds, will have a 66% chance of growing to be Hermaphrodite, and 33% chance of becoming female trees.

A hermaphrodite tree pollinated by a male, will give you equal chance 33% male 33% Female and 33% Herm.

Most papaya plantations work to have as many Hermaphrodites as possible. so if you get seeds from an elongated ( hermaphrodite ) fruit. it was most likely pollinated by another Herm. or self pollinated, which would result in a 66% chance that those seeds will be Hermaphrodite.

Hermaphrodites are preferred not only because they can self pollinate, but also because the elongated fruit on those trees is more productive ( more fruit mass per tree ). and is usually preferred by consumers.

commercially, farmers will plant 4 seedlings per location, and. with seeds that have a 66/33% Herm / Fem. chance.

this way there is only about a 7% chance that all 4 would become female, and they can have a field that is over 90% hermaphrodite.

I know that some funky GMO stuff is happening now, and all these rules of thumb will get tossed out the window. personally, I stay away from anything GMO.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 1:28AM
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amazondk, driving a nail through a tree is an old trick to put it into shock. naturally a plant in shock will try to produce as much seeds as possible before its perceived death.

the plant your friend did this on was probably hermaphrodite, meaning it had the ability to produce both flowers. what happens sometimes is these flowers only flush one sex at a time preventing pollination. if it produced both sexes, by definition it is not a dioecious variety, which many Papya plants are.

the nail probably sent the plant into shock promoting it to flower more prolifically, helping it produce more flowers of both sexes.

male flowers are closer to the tree in clusters while female flowers hang lower to eventually hold fruit. they are easily distinguished once you know what to look for

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 10:37AM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Sorry to bring up such an old thread, but if I'm understanding what you're saying correctly, then my papaya that is flowering but not fruiting (flowers close to main trunk like the first photo above my post) is capable of producing hermaphrodite flowers? The flowers have no miniature fruit/bulbous ovary so I think the plant may be hermaphroditic and just putting out male flowers due to environmental (dry) or seasonal conditions.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2015 at 11:34PM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

Male flowers will only have stamens.Hermaphrodite flowers have both stamens and stigma.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2015 at 6:19PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Okay I will post some pictures of my papaya and flowers, please help identify the sex if possible :)

This is a picture of the flowers

    Bookmark   February 4, 2015 at 2:46PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Another picture of its flowers

    Bookmark   February 4, 2015 at 2:47PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

A picture of the full tree; it has been flowering since late last summer but no fruit. What sex does it seem to be? Thanks.

Also I was thinking of trying to fertilize it with some ammonium sulphate to encourage growth and hopefully fruit, but depending on the sex this may be a fool's errand I guess.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2015 at 2:49PM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

Hello BahamaDan,your flowers are male flowers for the time being.Cut back on watering your papaya.Drought stress will actually make the tree produce female flowers slowly.When I was still in FL,the dry season will actually trigger the tree into fruit production.Looking at your tree,you should remove the tiny leaflets on the trunk,as that hampers the growth of the mature leaves.

If that doesn't work on the long run,there is way to cheat.Carefully cut an 2 inch incision near the bottom of the trunk.This injures the tree and a little amount of papain will leak out.The injury would induce female flowers as the tree thinks that it's now important to reproduce!Use caution thought to make sure the trunk won't get infected.Remember that this will also retard vegetative growth as the tree will put most of its energy into fruit.

This post was edited by coconutman on Wed, Feb 4, 15 at 21:08

    Bookmark   February 4, 2015 at 9:06PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Thanks for the advice coconutman (love the tropical-esque name),

I have actually been fairly lax with watering this papaya, and it sits on a concrete southern-facing pool patio exposed to full sun all day so I am fairly sure it has already experienced some drought stress. Have not tried the injuring method, could you elaborate on what type of 2-inch injury you are referring to? Eg vertical/horizontal, into the truck/across the skin etc.

I would also like to mention that I noticed what looks to be a new kind of flower on the tree a few days ago, it's similar to the ones I posted but the base appears to be slightly more bulbous; could this be a female/hermaphrodite? I will post a photo:

You can see in this next photo that it has a bigger base than the flower below it, which is what is has been producing all along and those ones just fall off. Dare I hope? :D

    Bookmark   February 9, 2015 at 3:06PM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

That flower looks promising! In a couple days,look inside if you see the stigma when it opens. On my papaya, hermaphrodite flowers tend to look like these.

The stigma up close

    Bookmark   February 9, 2015 at 5:34PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Glad to hear it! And thanks for posting the photos, I thought that it was a male tree since the flowers were all on short clusters but glad to see your hermies do the same thing. What do you feed yours?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2015 at 11:44AM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

I usually feed them miracle grow plant food every 2 weeks.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2015 at 1:08PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

One tablespoon per gallon?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2015 at 3:11PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

And which miracle-gro? I have a small amount of 24-8-16 all-purpose water-soluble on hand, it has micros and such except Ca and Mg.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2015 at 3:15PM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

That's correct, about 1 tablespoon per gallon.Since your papaya is in a container, maybe half a gallon per week at a time.My papayas were in the ground so they usually get more.

I just use the all purpose plant food.They are heavy feeders so the Nitrogen is good for their brilliant green foliage.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2015 at 4:21PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Sounds good! :)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2015 at 5:13PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

I forgot to ask but do you acidify your irrigation water or is it naturally good pH? It seems ours is very high pH/alkaline from the underground limestone aquifiers the city pumps it from (tested 8.2+ on my dad's pool kit). I'm been seeing some symptoms of lack of nutrients on some of my container plants which a few people on this forum said could be due to high pH irrigation water so I was curious.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2015 at 11:30AM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

Usually, I just water them from tap. I know that the city does keep their water at a more basic pH to prevent corrosion on pipes though. A way to lower pH is having a water softener. It's usually installed on places with hard, basic water and reduces pH in places that use well water. I wonder if you are you using well water or reclaimed water to irrigate? Reclaimed water will have a more basic pH due to build up of metals and minerals in reclaim recycled water.I heard that there are some soluble, and granular applications that you can buy for water.

I've haven't experimented on lowering pH in water, but I had tried lowering pH in soil.Compost will help lowering your pH naturally over time.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2015 at 1:07PM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

Hey BahamaDan, How's your papaya flowers coming along?

1 Like    Bookmark   February 16, 2015 at 6:14PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Hi! I was just looking at this post today lol, nice of you to respond. It's still there, hasn't really turned into anything too much yet (the papaya is growing a bit slow so I'm not worried) but it still definitely has that swollen base. I took of one of the non-hermie flowers and tried to pollinate it with the anthers from that and my finger so we'll see. I think the issue with using soft water is they use sodium or something similar to make the water soft (operates on an ion exchange basis, where they exchange carbonates (calcium and magnesium) for salts (sodium and potassium)) and the problem is I don't want salt (sodium) to build up in the containers. Adding the acid also works on the carbonates but changes them into salts (notably gypsum when using sulfuric acid) and takes it out of the pH interplay. I'm just using normal city water to irrigate, it's just that high because the city pumps it from the ground, and our ground is made up of limestone (like pouring dissolved lime on the plants when I water).

As for lowering the pH in soil, irrigating with acidified water will do that over time, the same as watering with high pH/highly alkaline water with lots of bicarbonates will raise soil pH over time. The sulfuric acid performs the same job as adding sulfur to lower soil pH, just quicker ;D

So to answer your question my papaya flower is still there, I just added 2 oz or so of slow-release fertilizer to the pot (for micros and such) this weekend, and will be irrigating it with ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) on a weekly basis. How're yours? :)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2015 at 8:07PM
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coconutman(Usda zone 9b Sunset zone 14)

They were great plants that grown,and fruited when I was still living in Florida.Sad to say that I no longer have them but the experience of growing one is really rewarding!Maybe I'll try again in Cali!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2015 at 10:33PM
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BahamaDan ZTropic

Well glad to hear that they did well for you! And what an incredible disparity of locales for you to move cross-continent from Florida to California! I'm sure you could get them to grow well for you there as well though :)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2015 at 11:58PM
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