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:
You may also enjoy my posts on Florida’s native pawpaws. Here’s post 1 and post 2.
Give growing pawpaws a try – they’re one of the strangest and most beautiful – not to mention delicious – fruits in North America.
That’s a real accomplishment!
I had a friend send me some sunflower paw paw seeds from the U. of Nebraska. They dried out on shipping, but I tossed them in a baggie with some water and left them in the fridge for over a year. I didn’t have much faith, but planted them anyway this spring in a little greenhouse pot, ignored them, and to my surprise the other day I discovered 4 of the 9 seeds germinating!
A year! Wow – that’s great. Life is amazing. May they bear much fruit.
How long did it take for seeds to germinate and come up
When I planted in fall, they would usually come up in late spring.
Can you tell me how far apart the paw paw seeds should be planted? Or the seedlings?
I would plant them 8′ apart, at least.
So much good info, thanks! We recently bought a small farm with some neglected fruit trees, and I just discovered one lonely pawpaw, with a few ripening fruits. Saving every single seed, fingers crossed ;).
You are very welcome. You’ll get some sprouts I’m sure. I’ll bet there’s another pawpaw not too far away, pollinating that one you found. Maybe at a neighbor’s place. Take pics and if you have success, send ’em on. I would love to share.
Will do, thanx! There is a new surprise every so often at this place, only bought it a bit over a year ago. First garden in rehabbed old chicken run, and that soil put out some great veggies this summer! Breaking ground this fall for more garden areas. So glad I found your site 🙂
How deep should I plant the seeds in Ohio if planting in fall?
I’d go for 2 – 3″.
Great! So you can plant the seeds in the Fall without fear of them freezing? That’s what I did with Black Walnuts, and I got a great crop. I think I will put a layer of wood chips to prevent weed growth in the Spring, and also act as insulation. Then chicken wire to prevent squirrels from getting to the seeds.
Yep – they won’t be killed by the cold. It’s amazing.
Just saw your article on paw paw seed. A friend gave me fresh fruit and they have been sitting in the fridge for a couple weeks since I went out of town. Are they still viable? One is getting soft the other is more firm. Thanks!
Heck yeah – they’ll all be good. Once they are out of the fruit, then the clock starts ticking. Plant away.
I don’t know Pawpaw tree seeds and
Papaya tree seeds
Are they different or same?
Very different – papaya is sometimes called pawpaw, but it is a tropical plant with orange fruit. True pawpaw, as in this article, is a colder-climate fruit tree which is related to soursop.
Hi! Most of the info Ive found on planting Paw Paw seeds states that they should start in pots and then be transplanted into the ground after established. Im not trying to go against the grain here but I feel like something with such a sensitive root system would prefer skipping a transplant. My expierence has proven that plants tend to be hardier when not pampered and are sown directly in the ground and amending if or when needed. I understand the photosensitivity of the Paw Paw but its pretty easy to remedy that. Any thoughts? Cheers
I think direct seeding pawpaws is a great idea. Go against the grain!
I grew most of mine in pots because I later offered them for sale in my plant nursery. They’ll develop awesome taproots when planted directly in the soil, though, and will certainly make for better trees.
Hi -this may be too late for your question – paw paw would probably do better if not transplanted – however, the first 1-2 years they are very sensitive to sunlight – after that, they do much better in full sunlight – not easy to satisfy without moving the tree – once planted in ground moving is not a good idea.. delicate root system.
Just wanted to add that I know you talk about direct seeding. Your article seems to be one of the first that Ive found saying that. Do you have an opinion on success rates and which way produces the most vigorous trees?! I plan to try both ways for fun.
I was lucky enough to work on a small farm in CT where PawPaw was a plenty. This year the owners needed to sell because of age and health. I have lots of seeds from the fall and have been stratisfying through the winter. My questions are:
When do I start planting to germinate in our area (yes, I know it takes a few months), and where can I find some tall seedling pots so that the taproot can grow strong enough to replant when necessary to their forever home? Any info you have on hand would be amazing, knowing I’m dealing with the Pawpaw pros. Thank You so much for all of the wonderful information and I look forward to hearing your response!
I have stratified my seed and about to plant in pots indoors and save a few seeds to directly plant outside once the frost come out of the ground. Some told me I need to score the seed but I have never read this before?
Also so you know Pawpaws with naturally grow in southern Ontario. I am in the Niagara area and we have a few areas with Caroline forest. I was given pawpaws from an employee from his tree in his yard.
Do you have any paw paw. I would like to try some. Also I would like grow some. I live in alden ny. Thank you so much.
Hi Barbara Shaw, I have some Paw Paw Seeds, that I can share with you, they’re seeds from this years fruit.. Please let me know if you want them. Send me your address and I will send you some seeds to plant..
Hey, Nora –
I saw your post regarding pawpaw seeds on the SurvivalGardener (David the good) website, and was wondering if you still have any pawpaw seed that you could spare? If so, let me know if you’d be interested in any specific vegetable seed(s), and I’d be happy to send you some in trade.
I saved 12 paw paw seeds in the Fall of 2016. Put them in paper towels and then into a zip lock bag. My helpful wife put them into the freezer instead of one of the lower drawers down below. I just found them today(May 13). I have placed them into the lower drawer until I hear from you. Do you think the 12 will germinate or are they too dry and have died? Thank you so much for your help.
I’m sure they freeze sometimes in nature, but that’s a long time. I would plant them and wait a few months – there’s really nothing to lose, other than time. If they come up, please let me know!
How often, and how much do you water when thw seed is first planted in a pot?
Not much – I just keep them somewhat moist.
I have even had some success transplanting seedlings started in-ground. A friend planted two patches, with about a dozen seeds, inside of a 1.5 ft diameter. I dug up and moved both patches, while the seedlings were small, no more than two or three years old, and winter dormant. I left the soil clod intact, and dug down and around each patch, as best I could, with a trenching shovel. Had excellent success. Most of the small seedlings (<2ft) survived., the patches have both made fruit, after 8-10 years, and are sending out clonal runners.
I harvested 50+ pounds of pawpaw fruit yesterday. I have saved all the seeds and have questions about them?
I read that they need to remain moist; to that end, the completely clean ones are divided into 2 bowls, one with vinegar and the other with water. I’m hoping you can reassure me that I haven’t wrecked them by leaving them in water til I learn.
I have a huge bowl of seeds still in their membrane. Can I store them that way or must I clean them all of their membranes. Having soaked overnight, some shed their membrane, but many did not. It’s not hard to clean them, but it is very tedious and time consuming if you have hundreds if not thousands of seeds.
Why would I want that many seeds? To share with my county’s Master Gardeners and my large garden club and to sell at our plant sale this spring.
If I clean them all of their membranes, are the membranes edible with the pulp or should they be discarded?
I just wash them and bag them in the fridge in some moist soil.
I just was given some PawPaw fruit that a friend gave me from his tree. I live in NE Ohio. If I put these in moist soil in a bag in the refrigerator until Spring then plant them either in pots or the ground should they be ok? Also, can they stay in the frig. for more than three months? One last question. Can these seeds that just fell from the tree be planted in pots right away or do they have to go through the refrigeration process first? Thanks so much for your expertise , I’m really looking forward to growing a few trees.
You can either keep them in the fridge or plant them right outside or in the ground. They’ll get the cold they need in your climate. Just remember where you planted them. I have been surprised by finding trees sprouting in random places I forgot I planted them in.
Paw paws have had a fantastic season right now where I am in WV. My question is…for planting them directly outside. We are currently having a hot spell. Can I still go ahead and plant them or should I keep them in the fridge a couple weeks until it cools down better? I am in paw paw heaven right now as it was always such a treat to find one as a kid.
Plant them – the cold winter will make them sprout in the spring. The heat now isn’t important.
I’m in southern Maine, zone 5a. Will a Paw Paw tree survive in this area?
Yes, they will grow in zone 5. I would plant it in a slightly warmer area of your yard, if possible.
I just found some 1 lb+ pawpaws in the woods in Hocking County, Ohio. I took the seeds and put them in a moist paper towel in a baggie and put in the fridge.
Should I wait the 4 months and plant in Feb, or should I just plant them now? (Or wait until spring to plant?)
Great find! I would stick some in the fridge and some right in the ground so you have redundancy. They’ll grow well both ways but if you lose one batch you’ll still have the other.
Good call. Kind of what I was thinking too. I figure I’ll have a good 15-20 seeds total, so I can try now, Feb, and wait until early spring as well.
Is October okayorir planting pawpaw seeds in central Missouri, or should I stratify in fridge and plant in spring?
I’d do both. Stick some in the ground, some in the fridge. Then you have redundancy in case one batch fails. Chances are both will do great.
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 disapointing 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?
I will answer you in a full post.
Dear Mr. I’ve been searching for new species of fruit trees and found the pawpaw. I do not know which native species of fertile self which is best suited to sow. I know there are three species (Sumflower, press 1216 and Georgia). It has seeds of the three species that can send me. 5 or 10 seeds of each. I’m from the north of Portugal. Thank you.
Try ebay – I don’t have seeds anymore, but at this time of year you can often buy them there. Make sure they’re fresh by reading the description and/or asking the seller. All the best!
So glad to find your site. I live in Northeast Ohio and just found some paw paw trees and fruit today. I have about 30 seeds. Should I clean the mushy pith off or leave it on the seeds? Should I plant directly in the wooded area in our back yard–maple trees mostly and ground is usually very moist, a lot of leaves decompose. A lot of shade also. Should I refrigerate the seeds now and also directly plant some of the seeds now in the back yard woods? Also–last question–since these seeds were all from the same group of trees, should I try to find some seeds elsewhere from someone online to plant along with the seeds I just got today in order to produce fruit?? Thanks for all your assistance!
I have had paw paw seeds on my counter for 4-6 weeks. I just read your article. Is it too late to save them?
This may be the most bizarre comment you’ve ever read, but I live in WV where the historical Hatfield McCoy feud occurred. I am related to the Hatfields and a classmate from high school sent me three seeds years ago, knowing I would appreciate the connection. Here’s where it gets crazy. My friend, a gardener who worked at a local State Park, passed away in September, 2017. When her family ask her dying wishes she jokingly said, “throw my ashes in a hole and let me fertalize a tree.”
Upon talking with the bereaved family, I mentioned having the papaw seeds from the famous tree sent to me 10 years ago by my friend. I know your response will be, “it’s too late to plant the old seeds,” but we were given permission by the park where she worked to plant a tree in her honor and use some of her ashes. We ask for class members to volunteer to start the tree from the seeds and one classmate has volunteered and just informed me of the importance of using fresh seeds. Our plans were to have her memorial service in June 2018 and we have invited our classmates to the Service to dedicate the tree in her honor. This plan has been a blessing to the family and has replaced their grief with the upcoming anticipation. Help! I need a miracle.
I would hunt down the original tree and get fresh seeds again. Your classmate is right – unless God Himself intervenes, your 10-year-old seeds won’t germinate.
We live in Canada! And our local historic gardens have pawpaw trees which have fruited. I have several fruit sitting on my counter! I am going to shortly take the seeds out and would like to see if I can get them to grow! Thinking using these seeds as the plants are doing really well in our climate! Do the seeds need to be washed before placing in the potting soil before going into the fridge?
Thanks for you advice.
some sites say you have to remove the embryo, is this true.
I have routinely observed groves of Paw Paw trees in this Northern Virginia/West Virginia/Marylland state line area. I’ve tried to propagate but apparently used old seed preserved the wrong way- bummer- all those lovely seeds wasted. No wonder I wasn’t successful. However, what I have NOT seen on any site on Paw Paw prorogation is ANY reference whatsoever to what appears to be the Native Pollinator of the Paw Paw tree- The Zebra (no not Tiger, not spice, not Giant), the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. When the paw paws here have a spring freeze, the Tiger Swallowtail, whose larva (caterpillars) also feeds on the tree, also doesn’t do well since the lack of blossoms equals the lack of nectar. Late freezes produce a shortage of both the beautiful black and white striped butterflies and the blossoms. Why not help native polinators by growing the butterfly as well?
The Zebra Swallowtail feeds on pawpaw but isn’t a known pollinator – flies are the pollinators. The butterflies show up by not for the flowers. They are a beautiful insect, though. I loved seeing them in my yard.
[…] pawpaws are difficult to start from seed because they require a certain amount of “stratifying” (which is a period of cold). Also, they can not be allowed to dry out. Despite this, there are […]
How deep do you plant the seeds and how far apart? Will black walnut juglong or pine tree acidity effect their growth? If yes, how far from either should we plant the seeds? Thanks
I have a nice source of Paw Paw at my hunting camp. Question is can I extract the seeds from the fruit before they fall to ground? or does it have to fall to ground? Can i take seeds from hard fruit? thanks
If you pick fruit that aren’t fully ripe, take them home and let them sit until they get soft. The best is fullyripe fruit, but if they’re close enough they may still sprout.
There was no “Print icon”. Impossible to print-toomany pictures etc-tried page sideways- no good.
Copy and paste it into a word doc, then try printing.
THANKS-NOT SUR HOW to do that.
Person doesnt have a computer
Wish the rticle had the little “Print” signal to clickon.
I started paw paw trees from seed this spring, and while I have had a rough year the trees have been on hold and still awaiting transplant to their location. I’m thinking of placing them in the garage & planting them out in Spring 2019. Average first frost is Oct. 11-20. Maybe I should consider planting half in the ground & mulching deeply when time comes (and ‘garaging’ the other half. I’d greatly appreciate your advice!
I just now found 2 wild pawpaws in the woods next to my place and rushed back to show and eat with the wife,she’s never seen or eaten one before now and I’ve not seen one in years! DELICIOUS! Now come my question. I would like to germinate the seeds but should I put em in the ground now or stratify them in the fridge? The days here in SW VA are still in the 70-80’s right now?
I would stick them in the fridge, then plant them in pots in spring and wait for them to come up.
Hi David! Is the membrane around the seed edible? Are the seeds poisonous? Is the skin poisonous? I’m not talking allergy inducing, I’m asking about poisonous as in being dangerous (coma, seizures, worse) versus toxic (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting). And how many membranes (if you can’t eat them), or how many seeds or how much skin?
I ask because while eating these, it’s easy to get a seed among the pulp and sucking the pulp off takes the membrane with it. And scraping the pulp from the skin sometimes has little pieces of skin come off with it. Thanks!
Hi David. The whole pawpaws I had were in the freezer for a month or so. Will the seeds still be viable?
I’m not sure – I would just try it and see.
Ive had 10 pawpaw seeds in the fridge for months,more than four months.i live in southeastern kentucky.it is march still quite cold outside.was wondering if i plant these seeds into the ground now would i be able to transplant them later to a different location later?
I harvested seeds from a delicious papaya and dried them straight away after washing and removing their sacs, I then kept them in a container with a silica bag to keep them perfectly dry for around four months. The other day I soaked the seeds in water for 24 hours and then put them between two layers of moist paper towels and more than 50% have germinated by day 3. Maybe I’m just lucky, lol.
Good work, but papaya is a different plant than the pawpaw.
I purchased a pack of these from Baker Creek and potted them. It’s been quite a while now and I’m worried they might fail. The pots I planted them in are not as deep as those in the video. I did request some free seeds, though, so maybe I’ll have better luck. I’ll definitely get deeper pots next time.
Good Afternoon David,
I was blessed with some pawpaw seeds from my nephew and was able to get several them germinated in a 18″ diameter x 24″ deep planter. They are about 1″ tall and it is the first of August. I live in North central Kentucky and would like to know when would be the best time for transplanting the seedlings. I was afraid that a cold early fall or a hard winter might kill them. Thanks in advance.
Good question. They do not transplant well after growing taproots, so I would probably plant some in deeeeep buckets, if you have them, and transplant others right into the ground where you want them. The ones in pots you can put on a protected porch through the cold. Then you can do a side-by-side to see which do better. I have a feeling they will do okay in the ground through winter, but it’s good to have a backup.
Thanks for the solid advice and quick response. Do you think a 5 gallon bucket would be deeeeep enough?
Five gallon buckets should be plenty deep, thinking that’s my option as those pecan/citrus pots (in the video) are 18 inches tall; which KSU recommends. They are also very expensive and only available from nursery suppliers. I see five gallon buckets on the side of the road all the time, bakeries (every grocery chain has them) will often give them away for free upon request and they’re pretty cheap at retailers as well. It does take quite a bit to fill them, though, but potting soil is on sale a lot during the season. My backup seeds from KSU came in this week and this is the most affordable way I came up with to plant the ten seeds they sent.
I ended up doing this five-gallon buckets I purchased from Walmart. I made Hugel Buckets using rotted branches that I had previously pruned that were lying next to my annual garden area. Then I threw some grass clippings in and a tree potting mix on top of that. I just went out to water them and they’ve already germinated! It’s been roughly four and a half weeks, nearly five. That’s a good sign, I think. I have the ten buckets sitting under an oak I transplanted many years ago from sapling.
Every paw paw seed I have germinated has come straight off the ground in the beating sun. I have never had worry about them drying out. I just pick last year’s seeds off the ground and have at it. Perhaps variety may have something to do with their sensitivity to drying out?
Might be, I don’t know. That is the first I’ve heard of them living through the winter laying on top of the ground in the sun.
Experience trumps theory.
Hi, I live in La Russell Missouri and having a friend that has a small Paw Paw Patch is a wonderful feeling for me. I have dug up 3 tiny Paw Paw trees and I brought home a few Paw Paws, I have kept the seeds for planting my own Paw Paw Patch, I really found your article very interested and I will be following your instructions for planting the Paw Paw Seeds,, I will keep you posted as to when I can see the new plants popping up, next spring. I want to thank you for your help with this matter..wish me luck on my Paw Paw Patch.
The plants you show in your article on Pawpaw are not Pawpaw trees. What’s that about.
There are tropical pawpas – Carica papaya – and temperate – Asimina triloba. Not at all related.
If I plant from seed in NE Ohio, how long will it take until I can expect fruit?
Some years ago I cut a limb off of a big maple tree near my pawpaw patch. The wound was covered by large black flies. It occurred to me that those were the same flies I was trying to attract to my pawpaw patch with manure and other foul smelling items like fish (per a university recommendation). There is a lot of nonsense out there regarding pawpaws. Anyway, I took a tablespoon of maple syrup (actually fake maple syrup) and mixed it with a quart of water. I sprayed the mixture on my pawpaw flowers at the right time and had the largest yield of pawpaws ever.
That was a great idea, James. Thank you for sharing it. I’m actually planting a few pawpaws today.
Another observation about pawpaw propagation. When you plant or transplant be aware that the tree is an understory plant. You may think this position is to be shaded, but in fact, it is to take advantage of the microrizia and debris on the forest floor. In other words, it is important to throw in aged woodchips and leaves (prefer maple leaves). Avoid walnut and other trees that contain Juglans when planting pawpaws.