How Long Does a Pawpaw Tree Take to Produce Fruit from Seed?

how-long-does-it-take-pawpaw-to-fruit-from-seed

Maria has questions about how long it takes a pawpaw tree to produce fruit from seed (note that she is asking about Asimina triloba, not the tropical “pawpaw” Carica papaya):

“I read with interest how to grow pawpaw from seeds. Nowhere is mentioned how long does it take to produce fruit. I live in southern Ontario and don’t know any place with pawpaw fruit, we never eat it either. Local nursery is selling a plant about 3 ft tall ($40), must be 2 to 3 years old. They told me it will take another 6 to 10 years to produce fruit. We may not be around in 10 years therefore I was reluctant to buy the plant. The plant is common pawpaw and they suggested to get another variety from somewhere else as 2 trees are need it. It’s disappointing that knowledge of such a big nursery is so limited to a fruit tree common to southern Ontario. Should I buy the plant and when it blooms (how many years?) try to cross pollinate as suggested in your article. Can I pollinate from bloom to bloom or I need another tree?”

Great questions, Maria.

So How Long Does it Take for a Seedling PawPaw Tree to Bear Fruit?

According to a presentation by Patrick Byers at the University of Missouri:

“Seedling trees take longer to come into production (5 – 7 years) than grafted trees (3 – 4 years).”
I have read in multiple locations that a seedling pawpaw will bear fruit in 4 – 8 years, which lines up pretty closely with Byers’ 5 – 7 years. 10 years would be quite long.
Grafted trees already think they’re a mature specimen, so if you want to take some of the time off your wait for fruit, plus take the guesswork out of what kind of fruit the tree will bear – buy a grafted tree. I enjoy growing pawpaws from seed, as I share in my popular how-to post here, but if you have a source for improved pawpaw tree varieties, go for it.

Getting Your PawPaw to Fruit Faster

As pawpaw trees usually start to bear fruit at around 6′ in height, if you want a pawpaw to fruit faster, take better care of it. This goes for most fruit trees. Regular water, feeding, mulching – these are what get them established and growing.
For pollination, you should really have two pawpaw trees. It’s even better to plant three as it gives you a little redundancy in case you lose one. Some pawpaw trees can pollinate themselves from pollen from one flower to the next on the same tree; however, you cannot count on this tendency.
You can hand-pollinate pawpaw trees. I have not done it myself as the local insects did a fine job for me. The California Rare Fruit Growers have a very good guide to growing pawpaws and in it they cover pollination:

“Poor pollination has always plagued the pawpaw in nature, and the problem has followed them into domestication. Pawpaw flowers are perfect, in that they have both male and female reproduction parts, but they are not self-pollinating. The flowers are also protogynaus, i.e., the female stigma matures and is no longer receptive when the male pollen is shed. In addition pawpaws are self-incompatible, requiring cross pollination from another unrelated pawpaw tree.Bees show no interest in pawpaw flowers. The task of pollenization is left to unenthusiastic species of flies and beetles. A better solution for the home gardener is to hand pollinate, using a small, soft artist’s brush to transfer pollen to the stigma. Pollen is ripe for gathering when the ball of anthers is brownish in color, loose and friable. Pollen grains should appear as small beige-colored particles on the brush hairs. The stigma is receptive when the tips of the pistils are green, glossy and sticky, and the anther ball is firm and greenish to light yellow in color.”

I had a Florida pawpaw variety (Asimina parviflora) bloom and set fruit at the young age of three, but that isn’t all that common for the common pawpaw.

If you want to “create your own luck,” get a few grafted trees, take great care of them and throw in a few more seedling trees at the same time. The trees don’t take up a lot of space and can fit in around larger trees such as oak and hickory due to their shade tolerance.
Good luck – may you get much fruit!
*Original image at top by Wendell Smith. Creative Commons license.

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5 comments

  • I have a small established grove of 15 Paw Paw trees. Our Paw Paw trees have done better in full sun vs. our shaded trees. Where we live in south west Ohio, Paw Paws are abundant. We had a bumper crop of 4″-6″ fruits this year. We gathered around 130 pounds of fruit.

    Thank you,
    Janel Terrell

    • Yes! They produce more in sun – that is a good point to make. For limited space, some shade – but maximum production, sun.

      And GREAT HARVEST! What a blessing.

  • How would they grow in Florida? I don’t see them here…

    • Asimina triloba grows well even south of Gainesville. Asimina parviflora and other Florida species go even farther south in the state.

  • We picked wild pawpaw for the first time this year. The fruit is amazing. I look forward to the grafted trees in our front yard producing in the next year or two.

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