Ever wonder how to grow pawpaws from seed?
Wonder no longer – I’m going to teach you how. And I know, since right now I have a tray of about 60 pawpaw seedlings in my nursery, proudly germinated by yours truly.
Right now, it’s pawpaw season. Depending on where you live, chances are there’s a wild tree with fruit near you… provided you can find it. If not, I recommend searching for fresh pawpaw seeds on ebay.
Pawpaw seed germination requires a few steps. It’s about a six-to-seven month process but it’s not hard. It just takes time.
1. Start with Fresh PawPaw Seeds
If your pawpaw seed dries out, your pawpaws will fail. If they’re old seeds, they’ll fail. Unless they’ve been taken from a ripe fruit and popped right into the refrigerator and kept slightly moist, the embryos will dry out and die. Pawpaws are not like beans! Get fresh seed!
2. Stratify Your PawPaw Seeds
Now you need to give your Asimina triloba seeds a good chilling in the refrigerator. This is called “stratifying” the seeds. Pop them in the fridge for four months in a baggie of slightly moist peat moss or potting soil. (I haven’t germinated any other species of pawpaw other than A. triloba, so you’re on your own with those.)
3. Plant Your PawPaw Seeds!
Once you’ve had the seeds in the fridge for four months, plant them in spring. The pawpaw seeds will usually germinate a couple of months later… often in early summer. I haven’t germinated any other species of pawpaw yet, so you’re on your own with those.
Notes On Growing PawPaw
PawPaws are basically an understory tree – they don’t like a lot of sun when they’re small, so plant them in at least half-shade.
You can plant your seeds right in the ground after stratification (or, if you live in a cold state, skip the fridge and just plant them in pots or in the ground before winter and let nature stratify them for you) or you can plant them in pots. I like deep pots that will accommodate pawpaw taproots. You can transplant pawpaw trees if they’re first started in pots… but if you plant them in the ground, good luck transplanting them! As they get older, pawpaw trees can handle more sun, so feel free to grow them in the woods as baby trees, then clear-cut around them. Just kidding.
Pollinating PawPaw Trees
PawPaw trees are a bit funny about pollination. Their flowers are fly-pollinated and smell faintly of carrion. Unfortunately, flies are not very good pollinators so if you want fruit, it’s a good idea to hand-pollinate the trees when they bloom. There are reports of farmers hanging chicken necks in their pawpaw orchards to attract more flies, but as a homeowner or small grow of trees, you’ll probably have more luck with a paintbrush. A paintbrush? Yep. Go get a little artists’ brush and tough the inside of the flowers on one tree to get the pollen, then go touch the brush to the blooms on another tree. Then go back to the first tree, do it again, then do the second tree again. Congrats – you’ve hand-pollinated pawpaw trees!
Here’s a little video on germinating pawpaw trees that may help you fill in any blanks:
Give growing pawpaws a try – they’re one of the strangest and most beautiful – not to mention delicious – fruits in North America.