Growing papaya in pots is not difficult, considering it is a short living small tree. You can grow any papaya variety in a pot and cut the top off to shorten it. However, it is better to choose a dwarf variety, if you’ve options available. Hawaiin papaya trees are considerably shorter than Mexican ones and seldom grow over 8-10 feet!
Choosing a Container
Choose a large 15-20 gallon size container for growing papaya in pots, also, ensure there are enough drainage holes in the bottom before planting. A pot that is around 18-22 inches in diameter and 14-16 inches deep should be sufficient.
Sow the seeds directly in the pot you wish to use for growing papaya tree because this fruit doesn’t transplant well. All the other growing requirements are given below in the article.
Growing Papaya from Seeds
Seeds must be given treatment before sowing for germination. The first method is to simply wash the seeds to remove the gelatinous coating before sowing. Another method is to immerse them in a container full of neutral water for a period of 4 days. Change the water twice a day. After 2 days of soaking, separate the seeds that are floating on the surface from those that have settled down.
Leave the seeds that are settled down for another day. After this time, the seeds that float up again must be removed. This way, only the viable papaya seeds are left. On the last day when changing the water, add fungicides in it.
After this process, keep the seeds on a cotton cloth for 2 days, keeping up the seeds moist. Once the white dot in them can be observed, they are ready for sowing.
Proceed to sow the seeds directly on the ground or in the container. If you’re using seed pots, make sure they’re biodegradable as papaya plants don’t transplant well, and you’ll have a low success rate otherwise. Seeds will germinate in 1-3 weeks. It can take up to 5 weeks, so don’t give hope early! The optimum germination temperature is around 70 F (20 C).
Planting Papaya Tree
Once the seedlings germinate, sow them directly at the desired spot. If you’ve got plants from a nursery, prepare the ground well before planting. Dig a hole that is of the same depth as of rootball of the plant but twice wide.
Apply slow release 16-48-0, 18-46-0, or balanced 15-15-15 fertilizer according to the product’s instruction but in a weak dose at the base of the hole. Later, fill it with a thin layer of soil to prevent the plant roots from coming in direct contact with the fertilizer.
The base of each plant should be 1 cm above ground level, to prevent rot at the stem base. After transplanting, a fungicide can be applied to ensure greater protection, especially if planting during the rainy season.
Requirements for Growing Papaya Tree
The papaya needs plenty of sun due to its high photosynthetic activity. It is impossible to grow it in the lack of sunlight. One more thing you need to keep in mind when choosing a location for growing papaya trees is that they are not strongest and must not be planted in a too windy spot.
Good soil preparation practices are key to growing papaya, such as deep plowing and mixing a lot of organic matter. Therefore the main characteristics of soil for growing a papaya tree are the following:
- Loose and Moist
- Good Drainage
- High Organic Matter Content
- pH Level 5.5 to 7 (Neutral)
- Fertile and Deep
The ideal growing medium must be loamy and have adequate content of organic matter with good moisture retention capacity and efficient drainage. Soil depth is also an important factor for root development.
Soil that is more than a meter deep is suitable. Compact soil must be avoided, also, clean the rocks or other debris that is limiting the development of roots till the following depth.
Drainage is crucial in papaya cultivation. The proportion of sand, silt, and clay determine the texture and soil structure:
- Sandy soils have better drainage than clay. But too sandy soils that are low in organic matter have reduced water retention capacity, which must be avoided.
- In clay-rich soils, water movement remains slow, which can lead to root rot, slow development of the plant, and inhibit nutrition uptake.
- In very alkaline soils (above pH level 8.0), Zinc, iron, and other micro-element deficiency can occur.
Water is the main contributor to the plant (the plant is composed of about 85% of water). In the process of germination, and the first few months after planting, papaya needs a lot of water at that stage.
In the dry season, to get the optimum results in production, watering must be increased again. Keep the soil slightly moist but not wet. As a rule of thumb, water papaya plant deeply when the top one inch of soil dries out.
Excess water causes the yellowing of young leaves, premature fall of flowers, and contributes to root rot. Low moisture in the soil can lead to slow growth, accelerated aging and premature foliage, and fruit drop.
Papaya trees must be spaced 8-10 feet apart from each other.
It is also an important factor that determines if the plant will grow or not. Papaya is one of the easiest fruit trees you can grow. The optimum temperature for growing papaya ranges between 68-90 F (20-32 C). Low temperatures lead to slow growth of the plant and higher temperatures cause low production.
The papaya tree can bear cold temperatures down to 32 F (0 C) for a short period of time. In hot climates, it can tolerate temperatures above 100 F (38 C). But due to extreme temperature, heatwaves and drought, flower buds fall and the plant suspends its growth.