Papaya trees, also known as paw-paws, are fast-growing with a short life span, reaching 15 feet or higher in optimal conditions. Known as either Hawaiian or Mexican varieties, fruit “berries” can be ½ Kg and sweet (Hawaiian) or up to 4.5 Kgs and milder (Mexican). Red Maradol papayas come from Mexico and range from 2 to 8 pounds with edible seeds. The trees are easily grown in containers, but require lots of watering and fertilizer to produce the heavy fruits.
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- Choose a sunny spot for planting the red maradol papaya or placing its container. Provide well-drained soil and a consistent temperature of 70 to 90 degrees in a wind-buffered area. Placing the papaya next to a building offers heat reflection it enjoys, but the tree’s eventual size could be a detriment to the building.
- Purchase a Red Maradol papaya that is a small tree in a large container, without roots that have circled inside the container with nowhere to go. Look for a tree that is certified as disease-free and appears healthy and pest-free.
- Plant the Red Maradol papaya tree after soil temperatures have warmed in the spring. Containers can be placed outside after the last frost date, but soil temperatures should remain above 60 degrees for non-container trees. Anchor black plastic over the soil several weeks before planting to raise the soil temperature; once the tree is planted and watered, place the black plastic around it to control soil temperatures until the threat of cold soil has passed.
- Dig a large hole for the Red Maradol papaya with a spade for planted trees. Make the hole at least 3 times as deep and 3 to 4 times the width of the container to loosen the soil and help the roots expand easily. Partially fill the hole with the native soil and place the papaya tree on top of the soil so that the root ball is level with the rim of the hole; fill in the rest of the hole and gently press the soil down.
- Water the tree thoroughly at planting, but do not saturate the soil so that the tree is sitting in a puddle, as this could cause the roots to rot. Water the soil deeply and keep it moist as the tree establishes.
- Mulch around the base of the tree to retain moisture, suppress weeds and even out soil temperatures so that the tree is not subjected to sudden change. Keep the mulch about 8 inches away from the trunk of the tree if it is planted in the ground. Mulching container trees is also beneficial, but depending on the size of the container, mulch may need to be closer to the trunk. Use an organic mulch, such as tree bark or compost.
- Apply fertilizer to establishing Red Maradol papaya trees every 2 weeks; by 8 months, scale back to once a month. Fertilizing is especially important for container trees, as they are unable to pull any nutrients in from the surrounding soil. Use a commercial granular fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and can be diluted in water; follow the manufacturer’s directions to properly mix and apply. Apply it to the soil, not to the tree trunk or leaves, to prevent burning.
- Large container (optional)
- Black plastic
- Container-grown trees dry out quickly and the tree requires a lot of water for fruit establishment.
- Papayas do not need pruning due to their short life span.
- Compost may be added to the native soil during planting, but no more than a 50/50 mix is recommended for the initial planting.