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Growing Papayas in Texas

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

Papayas grow extremely fast and make beautiful summertime shade umbrellas. Since the plants won’t survive freezes, we recommend starting with small plants one year, potting them up into larger containers and overwintering them indoors until they’re a couple feet tall, then planting them in the spring as soon as danger of frost has passed. This will give them the longest possible growing season and, from our experience, they’ll shoot up fast and tall as soon as they’re in the ground. Its a pretty amazing process to watch. These plants are so fun to grow! The leaves are edible as well as the fruits, and even if yours don’t ripen all the way before a freeze comes (Texas weather is unpredictable), the green fruits are great and can be cooked with like squash.

We often have baby papaya trees for sale. Here’s how to buy a papaya tree from us.

And below you’ll find some papaya-growing tips + a log of our personal experience attempting to grow papayas from seed in Central Texas thus far. Its been an interesting experiment and we’ll keep updating this post as we learn and experiment more.

Papaya Growing Attempt #1

In 2020, we had a papaya seedling pop up in our compost. We transplanted it to the garden, where it quickly developed lush, gorgeous leaves and soon some fruits. Papayas come in several genders, as we learned, and we were lucky to end up with one that could produce fruits on its own. It was a beautiful plant, but then it abruptly started melting, however, which we believe to be a combo of root rot and a root-munching critter.

Papaya Growing Attempt #2

In 2021, we decided to try again and casually planted four papaya seedlings we grew from seed. We overwintered them in our greenhouse, repotted them along the south side of our house in mid March when they were a few feet tall, and they shot up quickly with the wet and humid summer, rooting deep into the ground through their pots and growing taller than our roof! The idea with leaving them in pots was so we could drag them back into the greenhouse if it made sense, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen. We didn’t get our first real freeze until New Year though, so the papayas were lucky to have an extra month and a half of warm. Even that wasn’t enough for them to ripen all the way, however, so we ended up harvesting a lot of them and leaving a few on there to continue the experiment. Next time we’ll pot them into larger pots before we overwinter them. That way they’ll have a change to grow as large as possible indoors before we put them in the ground.

Here’s some pics of our papaya tree development month by month.

June 9

July 13

Aug 19

*notice the swallowtail butterfly photo bomber! 😂

Sept 10

Oct 13

Nov 12

Dec 10

Jan 2

This is what happened after 14+ hours of 20mph winds, some rain, and temps in the 20s-30s. We left the papayas alone to see if they’d come back from the roots in the spring, but they rotted.

Papaya-growing attempt #3:

This will be a 2-year project. In the summer of 2022, we started some papaya seedlings. It’s July and they’re currently in 1-gallon pots and about a foot tall. We’ll repot some into larger pots that we can overwinter inside, and we’ll sell some to others so they can do the same. Then in the spring of 2023, as soon as all chance of freeze has passed and our plants are a few feet bigger, we’ll plant them in the ground. Since we know they provide a lovely shade canopy and only survive one season, we’ll plant them strategically around the garden like we do with our okra and sunflowers, using them as shade umbrellas that other plants can benefit from. We’re exited to have papaya trees available for others in Central Texas too. Hopefully we can all compare notes with each other next year.

Growing Papayas in Texas: Lessons Learned

🌱Papayas don’t like wet feet and are prone to root rot. Soggy soil without enough drainage will melt them just as freezing temps will.

🌱Papayas come in three genders: male, female, hermaphrodite. Many are hermaphroditea, but since you won’t know what you have until you flower, it’s best to grow several to increase your chances of getting fruits.

🌱If you eat papayas from the grocery store and throw them into the compost, chances are you’ll end up with some volunteer papaya seedlings. They grow quickly in good conditions, but can be tricky to time right if you want to get ripe fruit before the freeze. Will need good protection/a greenhouse to fully develop. Green papayas are doable though, and good eating too.

🌱Papayas make a nice fast-growing tree for annual, summertime shade and the leaves make a great summertime canopy that becomes a home to frogs, lizards, and critters.

Growing Resources:

Cooking with Green Papayas

Here’s what we’ve made with the green papayas so far:

Green Papaya Curry

powdered dry roasted sesame seeds, powdered dry roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, dry unsweetened coconut, garlic, coriander, paprika, onions, curry leaves, chiles

Green Papaya Stirfry

-add olive oil and 1 tsp mustard seeds to a pan, splutter

-add 1 sliced onion, 2 cloves diced onions,1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 stems curry leaves and stir fry

-add 1 green papaya (peeled and cut into thin strips)

Green Papaya Latkes

Stirfry shredded green papaya with garlic, green onion, salt, and pepper. Beat an egg into a bowl, add papaya mixture, and pan fry little pancake-sized portions until brown and crispy. Serve with aioli dipping sauce.

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