using mycorrhiza to help papaya survive winter

jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)October 24, 2012

Even with a heating mat(on most of the time) and grow lights, last year all my papaya plants ended up dying by February-March. I watered them as little as possible to try to minimize the root rot, but it still got them. Now I've just read that mycorrhiza will act to keep various rot organisms at bay and also make the roots tougher. Has anyone tried this with iffy tropical plants such as papaya and plumeria?


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newgen(9 Central California)

Are these plants are in containers, left outdoors, or are they under cover (as in your garage, or under a patio?). Your plumerias shouldn't need much help. All my plumerias are outdoor, either in the ground or in containers, they survive the MUCH colder temps of my area (Bakersfield) than in your area. Lost all leaves, but all came back. Papayas are more sensitive. I have 2 TR Hovey papays in containers, but all their roots have grown out of the container drain holes and into the ground pretty deep. They're both at least 8' tall. I'm still debating whether I should cut off the outgrown roots and bring the containers under cover.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 4:00PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

Of this years papaya crop (Maridol and Waimanolo), most are still under lights, and in transparent 16oz plastic cup containers. I've potted up two Maridol in 1 gal containers and they've been outdoors doing well for 2-3 months now. I've ordered some Mycorrhiza from Fungi Perfecti, and I'd like to put my plastic cup papayas in 1 gal containers with Mycorrhiza added to the potting soil. I'll keep most of them indoors under lights and heat mats for the winter. Usually from Dec-March I get two to four 26-28F nights and plenty of 30-32F ones so I'll probably bring the Maridols inside also (and add Mycorrhiza next time I water them).

The Mycorrhiza take months to get established, I wish I had come across this idea six months ago, winter's coming up soon...the last two Novembers we had some low 30's weather up here.

I'm intrigued to hear that your Plumeria are surviving outdoors through the Bakersfield winters. Are they old established plants? Do they get any water in the winter, or do you protect their roots from the rain. I had some young ones survive last winter, the first time that's happened for me, but I kept them indoors(in 1 gal containers) and didn't water them once until they showed signs of life in the spring. Plumerias die like flies for me, just like the papayas...I'm slowing figuring out ways to keep them alive, and I hope if they get past a certain age they'll be tougher.

Have you had any fruit from your TR Hovey's. They have become easy to acquire now that they are tissue cultured, I'll probably try some soon. And is the fruit any the real papayas you'd pick in Hawaii. If you leave them outdoors, you should try several layers of frost protection cloth...I've kept bananas alive over the winter with two to three layers of Agribon 19, and sometimes heavy mover's blankets on top.

There's a man in south Texas (San Antonio I think) who has some large in ground Thai papaya trees that live through some very cold spells in the winter. One is 30 feet tall, I've seem the photos...he calls them Sweet Sue. He sent me some seeds, but they all died on me (that was before grow lights and heat mats).

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 8:21PM
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newgen(9 Central California)


My plumerias are a few years old. However, until 1 year ago, they were all in containers, and I brought them inside my garage, under a grow light. For the past year or so, they've been outside. I have some still inside the plastic nursery pots, but I drill TONS of holes under, and around the pots. Look like they've been blasted by a shotgun. 8-)) I then submerged the plants, still inside the pots, into the ground, filling up the soil to cover the edge of the pots, and barks on top. You can see them in the photos below.

I've had the 2 TR Hoveys for less than a year. So realistically, I don't expect any fruits, especially now that the cold weather is here. If they survive this winter, I should get some fruits next year. I've no idea if they need a pollinating partner or not. I think a papaya tree can have both male and female flowers. Thanks for the frost protection advice. I've never eaten a TR Hovey, from the description and photos, they look good, guess I'll have to wait. I tried a bunch of papayas (don't know their names, though) while visiting HI last year, they were all delicious, MUCH better than the Mexican papayas that are readily available in SoCal supermarkets.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 9:51PM
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I have papaya tree (tatong papaya) in ground since last 4 years in NW Houston. I protected it for first 2 years but in 2010 freeze it was reduced to 4 ft stump. Later it formed 7-8 branches and this year we got over 80 papayas (still many fruits on the tree). It is about 13 ft tall right now and completely unprotected since last 2 years. I will post some pictures tomorrow.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 3:48AM
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TR Hovey is a parthenocarpic hybrid. No need for pollination, no seeds. The flowers might even be sterile--not sure about that.

John, did those Florida Jack seeds I sent you ever germinate for you? I'm down to only one of those now. Last winter was brutal (for us) and I have that plant in a high tunnel, which is open partly at both ends. It lived, but the main trunk gave up above a certain height and all kinds of branches grew out below that point. Spider mites got it's buddy.

I have a Waimanolo in the unheated greenhouse which finally formed flower buds (I *think* they were bisexual), but every one dropped off before opening... Maybe next year. Actually, if it survives the winter it will have to be next year because it will be too tall and it can't be moved without severing a tap root that escaped the container and went into the ground.

I also have a TR Hovey in the greenhouse, but it has been a really slow grower under my conditions here. Well, it's not dead yet.

I think the Mycos are a good idea to try. Wish I had thought of it!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 6:53PM
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I have one up here in Syracuse, NY! I use lights and a heat mat for the soil. Kept it alive for 2 years but seems to be suffering more this year. I don't want to lose it. It's almost 5 feet tall!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 1:00PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

newgen, the trunks on your in-ground plumerias look pretty woody, that must help it survive the cold. Do the tops die back; and how long did it take for the trunks to get like that. I see your cherimoya and dragonfruits are planted in the ground, so they must also be handling the weather. I have those two in containers and so far no problem with the cold either. Is the chicken wire around the banana to keep pests away, or do you fill it with straw or leaves as a winter protection? I wonder if that might work for the papaya, surrounding it with straw/leaves and also draping frost protection cloth or blankets over the rest. The frost protection cloth is very light but those long branches and large leaves would make it tricky to surround or cover. Perhaps mangobaby's example would work, if it dies back and forms multiple lower branches it would then be easier to protect. But I always thought TR Hovey was a dwarf plant with low bearing "tr hovey papaya photos" and you'll see most of the photos look different from your plants. However, 8' is the T.R. Hovey mature size, so maybe that's how they look when they're old. I remember a few of the Florida Jack seeds germinated and I had the seedlings for a while, they succumbed to my 5 year run of papaya bad luck. I'm looking for the remaining seeds (if there were any) thinking I might mix up a batch of gibberellic acid and see if that might coax a few seeds back to life.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 5:38AM
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newgen(9 Central California)

The tops of the plumerias don't die back, only all the leaves will be gone. That particular plumeria that you're asking about is approximately 3 years old, 2 of those years in a container above ground. However, that cutting was not a slender stick to begin with, it was a nice thick cutting. The chicken wire fence is actually around a star fruit tree, the bananas are outside of the enclosure. I put the fence there a few years ago to keep out the squirrels, but now I found out that's not as big of a problem as anticipated. I'll probably rip it off soon to let all the branches grow unrestricted. Cherimoya and atemoya and dragon fruit do OK here in the ground. I know what you're talking about with regards to the TR Hovey. I saw those photos of them, the tree is much shorter than mine. Must be because mine have their roots growing out of pots and into the ground, essentially an in-ground payapa.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 7:46PM
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Waiting to see how my Red Lady Papaya holds up with the latest cold wave we are having. The tree is young only bought it in June 2014. Covered up about ten papayas still green on the tree with cloth that I had. Wrapped the cloth between the branches for support all around the tree from top to bottom. Used safety pins to keep sections closed. Put throw rugs around roots for warmth. Will remove them with coming rain as it gets warm again. Thinking of leaving the cloth for cooler nights to ripen the papaya. Do use the green ones in cooking and roasts. Been ripening in a brown bag. Looking forward to ripe off my tree.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2015 at 9:36PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

Sueanne, you don't say where you're located, but nothing kills papaya faster in cold weather than water(rain) on the roots. Unless you're in a tropical climate with warm rain, but to me zone 9b means 26-28F lows. Instead of throw rugs around the base, I'd use plastic all the way around, out about 18-24" and snug it tight on the trunk with clothespins, and up enough to help direct the water away from the trunk.

I hope your plants survive, I do envy anyone with papaya trees that large.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2015 at 6:22AM
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