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Growing good to eat papayas

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

I just bought a 2nd house in Port St. Lucie (between Ft. Pierce and Stuart) and wanted to add papayas to the yard, both to eat and because I always liked the way they look.

Are there any named varieties I should try to get for good fruiting or for ease in growth?

Green Cove Springs, FL(Zone 9a)

IFAS mentions 'Red Lady' and 'Maradol' as popular varieties that are more commonly available

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Thank you Amy, I'll try to print the IFAS bulletin. I see many papayas growing in yards but my guess is that they are all seedlings.


Green Cove Springs, FL(Zone 9a)

I think that is what most people do, start seedlings from friends or a store-bought fruit (Including me - I have seeds to plant that I collected from my Grandmother's home in Boynton Beach shortly after she passed away)... but there's no telling what you're getting!
If you get a chance, let us know what you find!

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Hi Amy, I will tell you what I find out. I am planning a trip to a large fruit tree nursery (30 miles South of me) just to look around and see what they offer. I want to look at mangos, papayas, avocados and tangerines. (What is the correct name for that new one? - something like Honeybell ?). I also plan to ask about their papayas.

I'm even going to try one of my fig trees from NC- I have a concrete patio that I can plant it next to, so the roots can hide fro the nematodes.

BTW, does anyone know what the pictured tree leaf is from? I have 3 in my back yard. They aren't Brazillian Pepper - those are all around here and are blooming.

Thumbnail by pbyrley
Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

I found two "recommended" cultivars of papaya from IFAS; Red Lady and Maradol. My conclusion is that there isn't much interest in the best papaya. I have asked several neighbors since I posted my above question and all basically planted seeds from a grocery store purchase. My next question will be, how long from seed sprout to fruit?

Green Cove Springs, FL(Zone 9a)

They will take a few weeks to germinate, possibly more. You'll want a VERY VERY rich, well-drained soil, they are heavy feeders. Since you'll be planting them in a frost-free area, if possible you should plant them in place and keep the seedlings protected. If you start them out of the ground, then transplant them when as small as possible - they don't really like transplanting. Either way, plant LOTS and cull the smaller and less vigorous seedlings when 6" - 1' tall.

Papayas will have male and female plants - and sometimes bisexual plants too. You'll need 1 male for every 10 or so females for good fruiting. You can tell by the flowers, which will start on plants about 3' tall. To tell them apart, check here:

Finally, keep them watered but not soggy - they are susceptible to root rots (hence the need for good drainage). Fertilize regularly and add compost on a regular basis too (every month or two should do it). They should grow quickly! Planted now, they will fruit in 10-12 months, so you can share smoothies with us by summer's end next year :^)


Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Amy, thank you very much for this info- pretty much all I need to know. I saw some for sale in Publix yesterday, but they were all very green, Maybe they get ripe in the window? Anyhow, I will probably buy one unless I see a neighbor with lots and ask for a ripe (or over-ripe) one.

I had forgotten all about the male. female and bisexual papaya plants. There are so many in this neighborhood I bet there is lots of cross pollination, but I will start with many seedlings anyhow.

I will have to get a few bags of some kind of garden soil from Home Depot because my yard is all sand (at least it's well drained). Maybe there is a farmer's co-op near that I could get Everglades muck from. I don't think I will have enough leaves or grass for composting or enough kitchen scraps for vermiculture - and I don't want to transport it from my NC house.

Thanks again!

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