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Experience with Paw Paw

Posted by bfrederick MA (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 25, 12 at 10:40

Hi All,
I just read a great book on native plants that got me interested in Paw Paw's. Has anyone had good experiences growing them? Also, I am in southcoast Massachusetts and am wondering if this species would even do well up in my area. I believe I'm up near the northern limit for it, but I could be wrong.

Thanks


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I've got three mature ones that bear (well, not this year due to the late April 26 degree freeze!). I love them. I think they are a wonderful ornamental as well as edible tree/shrub. All of mine are multi-stemmed grown as a shrub form. The flowers are very unique, the foliage stays nice all season, and fall color is a decent yellow.

I can't imagine that you would have any winter problems with them in coastal Mass. Maybe in the coldest parts of the Berkshires.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Bare root Pawpaws transplant poorly, so avoid the urge to buy small cheap bareroot plants. The best thing to do is to eat a Pawpaw and plant the seeds that day. Germination is very poor if the seed is allowed to dry for a day. If you can't find a Pawpaw, I know Ohio and PA have festivals where everything Pawpaw is done. Another route is to visit a farmers market and see if any are on sale. The season is short, 2 weeks in Sept. for me. They keep well refrigerated, but turn black as the inside of a black cow. This doesn't affect the flavor. Potted trees transplant fine, so you can start them in a pot and then put them out. They should do fine in your zone. Moist, well draining soil suits them best. Places with standing water stunts them and you'll wait forever for fruit. (Been there.)

Eat the Pawpaw, avoiding the thin sac that covers the seed. (Bitter). Plant the seeds and keep them moist, not soaking. Planting them where you want the tree is best. The first year, you will get a couple of leaves. Subsequent years you get a small tree with large leaves that look like the tree is shingled with them. Flowers after about 5 years. Best to have 2 trees. Also best to have a dead animal around when they bloom. Last year was a run over possum, this year was a groundhog and a chipmunk. (Coyotes took the groundhog.) I've also had road kill ducks, skunks and one year used chicken necks. The point is, carrion flies do the pollinating, not wasps or bees.

Trees are very soft wood, snow will break them if they have the leaves on. Usually not a problem. They grow prolifically from underground roots making a grove in 10 years. Young trees need some shade, older trees are able to stand full sun. Trees start to bear when they get about 8ft. There are some good selections out there, you may want to get grafted trees, but remember the rootstock will form the grove.

Flowers are different, and although they have both pistils and stamens, they are not fertile at the same time usually. Sort of like, the guys are ready for a few days then expire, then the females mature and wait for pollen. With 2 trees, you get a ton of fruit. One tree yields 3 Pawpaws. (Poetic license here.)


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

To add to what I said above, and to agree with the other person who commented, I would definitely go with potted, grated and named varieties if you want them for fruit, because the quality of the fruit will be superior. If you only want them as landscape/naturescape plants, seedling trees would be OK, but again still potted, as bare-root is really "iffy".

Regarding pollination, as I have commented before on the forums, they are fly-pollinated, and hanging something foul-smelling in the trees a few days ahead of buds opening really increases fruit set. Some people use roadkill or carrion. I've used rotten eggs, the bait from an Ortho fly trap, and rotten chicken skin all with success.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I have many pawpaw trees and over a decade of experience with them. I have seed-grown trees and grafted cultivars. I have pawpaw trees that arrived as container-grown (see next paragraph) specimens, some that arrived as bare-root specimens, and many pawpaw trees that were planted in their permanent location as seeds.

My least favorite way of getting a pawpaw tree is getting one that was pot-grown. I haven't lost many pot-grown pawpaws, but I have lost a few (maybe 1/3 of the ones I got that way). If you do get one that is container-grown, be sure to look for ones grown in open bottom containers rather than pots. This allows some air-pruning of the taproot, and results in less transplant shock and better root-system adaptation later on. The air-pruned root system is also less likely to have girdling and j-roots.

My favorite way of growing pawpaw seedlings is to plant the seed in its permanent location to start with. I do provide hardware cloth cages with a 50% shadecloth covering for the first two to three years. The cages provides protection from predation and the shadecloth provides protection from full sunlight which can be a real challenge for very young pawpaw trees. This method results in optimally adapted root systems and zero transplant shock.

All of my grafted pawpaws have arrived bare-root. I have never lost a single one! Maybe that says something about my source, but it also shows that healthy bare-root trees should not be a challenge (at least if they arrive dormant, like they should).

My larger trees (two of the three sites where I grow and work with pawpaws) have never had a problem being pollinated, and I've never bothered with dead animals. The trees get loaded with as many pawpaws as they'll hold without such extraordinary measures. I anticipate my third location to have similar results when the trees get production size.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I agree overall with your comments about bare-root, for someone who is experienced with nursery stock. I just think for the casual gardener potted would be better in this circumstance.

Regarding the pollination issue, I wonder if your better success rate in TN without carrion, or to flip the question, my poor success rate without carrion, is because there are pollinator species in TN with "experience" with paw paw, whereas, the tree being exceedingly rare where I am, most pollinator species wouldn't be "tuned into" it and require a little boost to pique their interest?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

That could very well be the case. I've done quite a bit of pawpaw research, but very little regarding pollinators. I have heard numerous reports of people using dead animals or dead-animal scents to encourage pollination, but never had to myself. I have also read reports that seem to support your proposal, but the details are fuzzy right now.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

bfrederick, I can't imagine why Pawpaw would not do well for you, you know that their native range extends northward to include New York, s. Michigan and s. Ontario?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

A tip of my hat to Brandon for never losing a bare root pawpaw. The fruit forum is full of stories of people losing them. Even if they don't die, they sometimes take quite a few years to get going. I'm 2 for 4 so far with bare root pawpaws, but one that is still alive has grown maybe 6 inches in three seasons. Another I got at the same time is growing really well, and set 12 fruit this year (thinned to 6).

One Green World sells potted grafted pawpaws grown in the open bottom pots Brandon is referring to. Forrest Keeling sells potted grafted pawpaws as well. They use an open bottom pot as well. They may or may not sell to you, depending on what state you are in.

Fruit from named selections is way better than that from wild trees. If you can get seed from named selections, you've got a great chance of growing a tree that makes good fruit, and a good pawpaw is fantastic to eat.

Alex


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Thank you for the great information and advice all.
I thought that perhaps they wouldn't do well in my area because most maps like the USDA plant database list them as absent in New England.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

What time of year would you plant one in Massachusetts?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

My two trees have been fruiting for several years, though I haven't gotten to sample any (the tail end of a hurricane knocked down the fruit before ripening one year, and certain furred pests ate them the other years).

I'm going for protective netting this season.

They certainly seem to be tough and adaptable trees, pest-free except for the fruit thieves.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

"What time of year would you plant one in Massachusetts?"

The ideal time would be spring, around the time of bud break. The idea is not to leave the fleshy compromised roots lying dormant in wet winter soil AND not to wait so late that the trees won't become at least somewhat established before having to face the stressful hot summer months.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

you can anctually make an organic pesticide out of the leaves....you just grind it up and mix it with water...then you spray it on plants that need protecting.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I have several pawpaw trees growing and fruiting in a colder area of Massachusetts. You need to water the plants well to establish and maintain the large root system.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I just planted some bare root pawpaws here in Virginia around May 1. It has been about three weeks and they have not leafed out. When should I expect that to happen?

Also, I planted them in very tall pots (2 ft) with the idea of keeping them in the shade until next spring and then planting them in the ground. Is that advisable? What advice would you offer?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Lazycomposter wrote, "It has been about three weeks and they have not leafed out."

Where'd you get your bare-root plants from (a nursery, dug up yourself, etc)? Any sign of buds, etc? If from a commercial source, do you have a guarantee?

"Also, I planted them in very tall pots (2 ft) with the idea of keeping them in the shade until next spring and then planting them in the ground."

So, you are going to put them through transplant shock twice?? The second time may be even harder on them since you'll likely need significant root manipulation to deal with pot-bound roots. Why not just plant them directly where you want them and provide temporary partial shade?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

What companies could one purchase healthy, productive, and most importantly a named variety of a pawpaw tree?

I'm looking to establish a minor grove and would like to have information about farms that sell these sorts of trees.

Tripple brook and Noni farms both sell pawpaws, but only sell an un-named, 'common' variety. After my short amount of research I know there's more varieties than just common...

For the original question, I remember on one pawpaw website that there was a cold-adapted pawpaw that /does/ grow well in MA.
The website I'm linking has some more info from a farm that USED to sell pawpaws but can no longer handle the orders and has redirected to other farms.

Here is a link that might be useful: Peterson Pawpaws


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

most named varieties are grafts so the rootstock will be just the common wild type....that means that any trees that sucker will be from the wild rootstock not the named variety. Only place I know that sells named varieties is Stark Bros.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

There are many sources for named cultivar pawpaws. I'm not sure how up to date this list is, but, linked below is a list of pawpaw sources from Kentucky State University (a very important source of pawpaw info).

Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery may be the single best retail mail-order source as far as selection goes. Nolin River has a very good Garden Watchdog rating. I've always received excellent service from them.

Here is a link that might be useful: 2009 Pawpaw Cultivars and Grafted Tree Sources


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I had very good luck with buying from One Green World. They are a bit expensive but the quality is excellent.

Frank

Here is a link that might be useful: One Green World


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Be cautious about buying from One Green World. Their Garden Watchdog rating is below average (35% neutral to negative). I would check any potential source, that I wasn't familiar with, through Garden Watchdog before buying. You can save yourself a lot of headaches that way. One Green World isn't as bad as some, but there is some reason their rating is as low as it is (and you can read through the negative comments to get an idea).

Sorry GardenWeb won't let me post a link to their competition where Garden Watchdog is located, but you can find it easy with a quick Google search.

This post was edited by brandon7 on Mon, Dec 30, 13 at 12:53


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I planted four at my parent's place in Southeastern Massachusetts last Spring. (Fingers crossed that it survives the winter) One bare root one grew leaves and survived the summer, one potted one is doing well. One potted one fell prey to a lawnmower and one fell prey to a rabbit.

You can buy potted Paw Paw at the Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA. In the early Spring Bristol and Plymouth County Soil Conservation districts sell bare root seedling cheaply at their annual plant sale.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Brandon, I wonder if you're anywhere close to Hidden Springs Nursery. When I saw you were from Tennessee and had bought your named varieties of pawpaws bare root, I was guessing it was them. I haven't ever bought pawpaws from them, but I've ordered other things from them on about three separate occasions, and I highly recommend them generally. Some of their stock has been on the small side, but their prices are often quite a bit less than other sources, and I give them credit for growing organically. Anyway, I wonder what success people have had particularly with their pawpaws.

I started with pawpaws before I heard all the special warnings about their finickiness. A friend told me to come in the spring and dig up some seedlings from where he had thrown seeds from his fruit out in the woods behind his house. So I dug up about a dozen seedlings from about 10" to 4' tall without any special precautions and direct planted them at my place. All but one survived, and that could very well have been due to insufficient watering. Now six years later they're all still alive, but I can't say they've done well. The way I transplanted the trees might be partly to blame, but they definitely survived, and I think pawpaws generally need much fussier care than I gave them. The pawpaws that started out smaller are still nowhere near fruiting size, which I think would be the case even if I hadn't cut them back in mostly failed attempts to graft them over to named varieties. The two trees that were about 4' to start with have grown well enough. It looked like they had set little fruitlets in 2012 before the late freeze wiped them out. This year I don't know if they failed to set fruit or just aborted really early, but only one fruit held on, the first fruit I've gotten, but it only got as big as a smallish fig, and it had two big seeds in it, so there really wasn't any flesh at all. I expect it will produce better fruit with time, although I also grafted the central leader -- a central leader doesn't seem to come naturally -- of those two trees to named varieties this year. I've found some wild stands of pawpaws in the meantime, and all the wild pawpaws I've eaten have had more or less desirable fruit (mostly just smaller and seedier than some of the named varieties I've tried.)

My new approach to pawpaws is to do as a couple others have recommended in this thread, and that's to start from seed in the place where the tree's going to stay. I know pawpaws need shade at first. I don't think pawpaws actually benefit from full sun until they start fruiting. It seems like pawpaws are especially needy when it comes to water and weed competition, so if you want them to do well, and especially if you want them to get to a mature fruiting size, I'd take measures particularly to water and mulch them/suppress weeds/grass very well, to a degree I wouldn't bother with most other species. With good care I think pawpaws could be setting good crops of fruit from seed in 6 to 7 years, but I think I started out on the no-less-than-20-year plan.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I've not purchased from Hidden Springs. They are a little over 100 miles from here, so would probably have to mail-order if I wanted something from there. The last commercial pawpaw purchase I made was from Nolin River Nursery, and they were bare root (and did very well).

getting called away...will try to come back later and finish this post.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

...I'm back

I haven't fund pawpaws to be any pickier about weed competition than any other tree. I do try to keep mine weeded, but, like with the rest of my place, weeds less than chest level high (unfortunately that's not much of an exaggeration) often get put on the back burner. I think all plants do better if not overran by grass and weeds, but I don't give my pawpaws preference over anything else. I only provide supplemental water at planting, maybe a few times after planting, and then only very rarely in very bad drought conditions (in other words, almost never).

I don't think your trees are way off track. You said you started with some that were about 10" tall, 6 years ago, and they've had at least one setback from a grafting attempt. Sure, given good conditions, you'd expect them to be decent sized and fruiting by now, but with less than great conditions, I'm not surprised that they aren't that big yet. It sounds like they are just about there, and maybe you'll have a small crop next year.

You are exactly correct about the shade/sun-exposure needs and timing. I described what I use for shade in my first post way up near the top of this thread.

If you want a head start on some good eating-quality fruit, order a couple of large (4'-5') trees from Nolin River. If I wanted some now, I'd call John and ask him when he expected to have some ready for sale. I think he had a large pawpaw tree crop loss a couple of years back due to a flood, so that may be why they show to be out right now. I don't know if he expects to be "back in the pawpaw tree business" by next fall or not, but he could tell you. Some of the better cultivars are NC-1, Overleese, Susquehanna, and Shenandoah.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I've seen pawpaw trees -- I'm thinking particularly of the demonstration planting at the Forsyth County Cooperative Extension office -- with substantial crops after just 3 of 4 years in the ground, starting with trees that I assume were just 2 or 3 years from seed. I doubt any of the trees from my first planting will get to that point even in double that time. It sure seemed to me that drip irrigation and generous mulching explained most of the difference. What else could it be?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Good soil? A good deep, well-draining soil is an important factor in getting pawpaws to preform their best.

4 years at the current site + 3 years from seed (and that's an assumption, from what you said) = a 7 year old tree (if I'm understanding what you said correctly)

and BTW, Happy New Year!!!!! (why'd they do away with that nice blink feature in HTML?)


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Yes, adding my best memory of what I was told plus my best guess of how old the trees would have been at planting, I'd say the trees at the demonstration planting are no more than 7 years old (from seed) and possibly a year or even two less than that, and this wasn't the first year they fruited. For comparison, the two larger (~4' tall) trees I transplanted 6 years ago might be at a comparable stage by next year, even though I haven't gotten any real fruit yet. I figure they must have been at the very least 3 years old to be 4' tall already, so that's 10 years. That's not a huge difference, and I suppose it might be explained in part by the demonstration trees likely having been transplanted with more intact root systems. The smaller trees I transplanted at the same time (mostly ~12-18") might finally be getting close to 4' tall, so that theoretically puts them another 6 years behind my two larger trees, so that's 14 (or more) years til fruiting for them (if they're not permanently stunted.) I don't think transplanting issues could be very significant, because whatever my issues they were worse on the trees that were smaller at transplanting. The leaves never looked sun-stressed, but maybe they could have used more years of shade? I don't think soil is the difference, because I planted my pawpaws in a variety of different areas, and the extension folks said their soil was on the poor end of what's typical for the region. Why do you think weed/grass competition and the difference in watering aren't very significant? I know plenty of other species (peach, Chinese chestnut, sugar maple, chickasaw plum, Asian pear, mulberry...) have grown very vigorously over the same years with comparable care, but my impression of the pawpaws is that they could have been a lot happier.

What's the least number of years from seed to fruit that any of you have experienced? Or do you have second-hand information? By direct-seeding (so no transplant issues) and mulching but probably not watering very much at all -- my newer plantings will mostly be in places difficult to water -- I'm hoping (best case) to get to about 8' tall and first fruit in about 8 years from seed. 8 years to 8' is pretty slow for a fruit tree, isn't it?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I'm not at all saying that weed competition wouldn't make a difference: it would! I'm just saying that I haven't noticed pawpaws being stunted more by weed competition than other types of trees. The importance of drip irrigation would depend on your climate, your soil, and the irrigation. It could be a net positive or even a net negative, depending on the variables.

Pawpaws are considered a medium growth-rate tree (which means different things in different environments/conditions), and can typically grow from 1' to 2' per year (in "typical" conditions). If I am remembering correctly, my seed-grown pawpaws have taken 5 to 6 years before beginning to bear fruit and didn't produce much fruit until a few years after that. I don't think 8 years is totally out of the normal range.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I have 11 trees started from seed in the spring of 2010, and 4 of them have set flower buds that will bloom next spring (2 of them from Brandon!). Assuming they set fruit, that will be fruit in their 5th season. I have a 12th tree that was started in 2009, and set flower buds this year, so that should mean fruit in its 6th season.

Alex


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Alexander, let us know how things turn out. Obviously, I'm a poor example of how to grow pawpaws, but I can say that I've had flowers for at least 3 if not 4 or 5 years now on my two larger pawpaws, and I still haven't gotten any real fruit. This year I don't know why the fruit didn't set. Maybe it was a pollination issue, although I did try hand pollinating. Last year a late frost got them. The year before I think they succumbed to a late frost that most other things weathered okay. The year or two before that -- I can't remember that far back very well -- I think they might have flowered, but I figured they just weren't mature enough to set fruit yet. Don't most fruit trees flower for two or three years before they actually set fruit? I think of that as fairly normal. Are your trees grafted, by the way? I know that grafted trees sometimes mean earlier fruiting than seedlings. My trees weren't grafted until just this year, so all the flowers so far were on seedling wood.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

They are not grafted, they are just seedlings from selected parents. The heights of the trees with flower buds are 69", 79", 81", 101", and 106". They are between 1 and 1.5 inches in caliper.

I have seen grafted trees fail to set fruit the first year or two that they flower, but those trees were much smaller. I've always thought that the flowers/fruit failed because of the small size of the tree, so I'm hopeful that these will produce next season, since they are larger. I will definitely be hand pollinating as often as possible!

Alex


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

my experience with pawpaw is that
1. Stark Bro.s has very good stock.
2. They are very drought intolerant and don't like hot dry weather. Mine died because of it. :(


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Looks like Stark Brothers is down to only three named cultivars right now, and none of them are the most highly rated types. Maybe they'll have more later in the year. They are not an authorized distributor of any of the Person varieties though.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

My Father in-law gave me a paw paw tree that came from a paw paw tree I gave him 5 or 6 years ago. It is about five foot tall. I planted it between two apple trees where it will get some shade but also some sun.
What is the most important thing I need to do to get it to grow well? It has some leaves on it but after a week they are just hanging down. How long should i expect it to take before it looks better? Are rabbits a problem if so I may need to protect it. also do I need two trees for it to fruit? I understand that may take a few years. Thanks


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

Do you mean he dug up a sucker that grew from the roots of his tree? At 5 feet tall, I don't expect rabbits to be a problem. The most important thing this year is to make sure it is watered well.

Yes, you need two trees to produce fruit. If you know how to graft, you could graft branches of a different variety on to your tree, so you would have two varieties on one tree, and they could pollinate each other.

Alex


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Alex to be honest I don't know . My Father in-law said it came up from the tree I gave him. It was an older tree I gave him I dug out of the woods a man gave me. It surprised us at how well the tree transplanted . I will have to ask him.
I will have to find another tree. Thanks Jerry


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can anyone comment on how long seedlings take to grow fruit and the growth rate?


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I started several pawpaw trees from seed in the spring of 2010. I started them early that season, in February, and since they were in containers, I kept them inside in the fall, and they had leaves until November, so they had a long first year.

In the spring of 2011, I planted 12 of them in the ground. this spring, several had flower buds, but only two flowered. One of them has set fruit.

Most of the trees were between 80" and 106" tall at the end of last season. One is way behind at 38".

Alex


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Thanks for the amazing info Alex! Any tips on how I can get my paw paws to grow faster?


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I did everything I could think of to help them out. First of all the long first season as described above, following advice I got in the container growing forum (planted in 5-1-1 mix, fertigated weekly with Dyna-gro Foliage Pro) They had leaves well after top growth stopped, so I think they were growing their roots.

I prepared the ground where they were to be planted the season before, while they were in pots. To do that, I killed the grass with Roundup in August. A week later I planted a mixed cover crop (Soil builder mix form Peaceful Valley Farm Supply plus alfalfa) and mulched those seeds with maybe an inch of compost. The cover crop was over 3 feet tall by October when the frosts came. I added several inches of leaves that fall (no tilling ever, just put everything on top). I planted the trees that spring as soon as their buds started swelling. I shaded them that first season in the ground with two layers of window screen, and fertilized every couple weeks with Miracle Grow at half strength. They grew well that year, but it was the next season that they really took off, with some of them putting on 4 feet of height that summer (2012). More raked leaves on top of the soil in the fall. The next year I continued feeding with Miracle grow, and they did not put on quite as much height, but had great growth of their lateral branches.

I've always kept a diverse herbaceous layer underneath them and in the whole planting plot. This is a great way to add organic matter throughout the soil (through root turnover). I also throw all the prunings/twigs from my yard there. My goal was to mimic the soil of the pawpaw's natural environment, the forest understory, as closely as possible (lots of roots, lots of organic matter, a nice layer of organic litter on top, fungally dominated). The difference in the soil compared to the surrounding lawn, in both color and texture/structure is amazing (started with orange clay). Lots of mushrooms show up in the patch as well.

Alex


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

My Paw Paw seems to be doing well. I transplanted one just a couple of months ago my father in-law brought to me. I was concerned I would not be able to water it as much as I should. I have been down with a leg surgery and will be most of the summer. But so far here in central Ohio we have had enough rain. I did water it everyday right after I got it. I trust my wife will keep it up as needed. But so far the rain is doing a fine job. I do wonder if I should mulch around it? Thanks guys. I would encourage anyone to plant those native plants that has been neglected and over looked.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I'm in Mid-Missouri and I planted 2 Paw Paws 2 years ago. 1 was a seedling I'm sure as it was not named. The other was Prolific. Last winters freeze took the Prolific graft out but the root stock came back.

The seedling got to 4' this year. Of course the root stock is only 18" tall now. I'm hoping for fruit next year or the year after.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

jbraun,
That's optimistic. Maybe you'll be lucky.
What you know have are two seedling pawpaws. In my experience, they usually take 7-8 years to begin flowering/fruiting.


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RE: Experience with Paw Paw

I have two PawPaws. One, I planted from seed 9 years ago. It has never flowered/fruited. The other is large and very healthy and came up from roots of the first tree. Now little guys are coming up all around very far from the tree and I know it has never set seed. How far do these roots go?????


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