How to Grow Paw Paw Trees in Your Backyard

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Have you ever eaten a paw paw?  This unique fruit isn’t commonly seen in stores, because they don’t ship well.  However, they are a great fruit tree for urban yards!  These handsome trees have a pyramid shape and large tropical-looking leaves in addition to their tasty fruit.

Paw paws are similar to a banana in both nutrition and use, but they grow in a much wider variety of climates.  If it’s too cold where you live for bananas, it’s likely that you can grow paw paws instead.

The paw paw tree has few pests and diseases and other problems.  Plus it’s versatile.  Not only does it produce fruit, but it is also a host plant for swallowtail butterflies.  Another advantage is that they are deer resistant and they can grow in partial shade.

Photo by Jadom on Pixabay

One interesting fact about paw paw trees is that they are pollinated by flies.  Paw paws do need a second tree to pollinate each other.  Plant the two trees within 10-15 feet of each other.  If you don’t have flies or if you plant them too far apart, it is possible to hand pollinate your paw paw flowers using a paint brush.  (Although, just because something is possible doesn’t mean we necessarily have the time to DO it!)

When deciding where to plant the trees there are a few things to take into consideration.  First, the trees can reach about 20 feet tall when fully grown.  Look up and make sure to site your trees away from any overhead power lines.

Next, check to make sure there are no power lines or pipelines where you are planning to plant to the tree.  If you’re not sure where underground pipes are on your property, you can usually call your city and they will send someone out to mark it for you.

Third, consider shade and sun.  Paw paws do well in partial shade or full sun, but you’ll want to avoid complete shade for them.  Also consider where they will cast shade once they will grow.  Will they shade other sun loving plants?  Block solar panels?  Or perhaps you can use these attractive trees to passively cool a warm west wall of your home or add to a small garden oasis.

If you know someone who has a paw paw tree, you can grow your own tree from the fruit.  The seeds will require 100 days of cold before they will sprout.  If your climate is too warm for that you can stash the seeds in an unused corner of your fridge.  (Am I the only one with a seed shelf in my fridge?).  Just don’t let the seeds dry out during this time.  A good way to store them is in a Ziploc bag with a damp paper towel.

If you are growing your tree from seed it will take a few years before your paw paw tree will bear fruit.  If you plant transplants you will be able to harvest sooner.  Paw paws tend to ripen near the end of summer or beginning of fall. The fruit grow on the tree in clusters and may become lighter when ripe.

The best way to tell it’s time to harvest the fruit is your paw paw fruit should smell pleasant and fruit and be slightly soft (think of a ripe peach).

Once you harvest them you can use them as you would bananas.  They can be added to smoothies or other desserts.  You can eat it straight with a spoon or even make a cream pie!  Being able to harvest this unique and yummy fruit is one of the benefits of growing your own fruit trees!

Mother Earth Living
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