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growing papaya from seed in pots

Growing papaya from seed in pots
Papaya plants sprout readily from seeds, even the seed harvested from grocery store papaya. To prepare seeds, scoop them from papaya and spread them out on a single sheet of paper towel and leave out to dry for a week. At the end of the week, roll the seeds around to remove the dried husks of the seed coverings, then store them in a cool, dry place. To sprout papaya seeds, place them in seedling starting soil and keep moist and warm. Seeds sprout quickly, and the plants will begin rapid growth.

How to Grow Papaya Indoors

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Papayas are not a natural houseplant—which is precisely why you might consider growing them. That, and because the seeds are so plentiful and easy to sprout. Single supermarket papaya will yield several hundred black seeds. Simply dry them out on a paper towel, and you’ll have enough seeds to sprout papayas for the rest of your life. The plants themselves are beautiful and highly tropical. Papayas feature wide, deeply lobed leaves atop a fleshy trunk. Papaya is a very fast-growing plant, and in nature, it quickly assumes its adult size and bears fruit. Indoors, it won’t be practical to grow 15-foot tall papaya to fruiting (and unless you had both male and female plants, it wouldn’t be fertilized, so there’d be no fruit anyway). But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow these fantastical plants. It just means you won’t be eating them.

Growing Conditions

  • Light: Full sun, or as bright as you can provide. Papayas are also a great patio plant for summer climates and will grow very fast.
  • Water: Prodigiously. As the plant grows, expect to water daily.
  • Temperature: On the warm side (up to 80 F). If you keep the plant during winter, try to keep the temperature as warm as possible, with high ambient humidity.
  • Soil: A loose, well-drained, very rich potting mix.
  • Fertilizer:Fertilize abundantly. Papayas are very rapidly growing herbaceous plants that consume fertilizer.

Propagation

Papaya plants sprout readily from seeds, even the seed harvested from grocery store papaya. To prepare seeds, scoop them from papaya and spread them out on a single sheet of paper towel and leave out to dry for a week. At the end of the week, roll the seeds around to remove the dried husks of the seed coverings, then store them in a cool, dry place. To sprout papaya seeds, place them in seedling starting soil and keep moist and warm. Seeds sprout quickly, and the plants will begin rapid growth.

Repotting

Papaya plants grown from seeds should only be repotted once: from the container you started the seed into a larger permanent container. Unless you live in USDA Zone 9b or higher, your papaya is a single-season novelty plant. It’s best to grow them in fairly large containers (at least three gallons) as part of a mixed container. At the end of the season, cut the papaya off at the soil level and let the other plants fill in. If you live in a warm enough climate (no frost), you might be able to transplant the papaya outside.

Varieties

Papaya plants have been in cultivation for so long that the origins of the commonly cultivated plant (Carica papaya) have been lost. It’s believed the plant probably originated in Central America, but it’s now found in every tropical country in the world, where it’s an important food source. As a landscape plant, papaya is often grown as a tender annual in colder climates; as a houseplant, it’s grown only during warm months in large containers. There are several varieties of papaya available based on their fruit type, but this is immaterial for indoor cultivation. Just use seeds from whatever fruit is available.

Grower’s Tips

Papaya plants grow in similar situations to bananas, requiring bright light, humidity, heat, plenty of fertilizer, and water. Also, like the banana, it’s an extremely fast-growing semi-woody plant with large leaves that are the very essence of the tropics. As the plant grows, the lower leaves will yellow and fall off, leaving behind half-moon shaped leaf scars. It’s unlikely indoor papaya will flower, but if it does, you’ll find out if your plant is male or female. Female plants have fragrant white flowers that emerge from the axis between the stem and leaf. Male plants have smaller yellow or white flowers that grow on pendant stalks. Papaya sap can be slightly caustic, so it’s best to avoid the sticky white sap whenever possible. The plant itself is not toxic, but it is used as a digestive aid because of the presence of enzymes that help digest protein.

Growing papaya from seed in pots
Place the container in the spot you wish to grow the papaya tree, or have a dolly available to move the container once the papaya tree is replanted. Depending on the size of the container, it will be too heavy to move easily.

How to Grow Papayas Indoors

Dwarf papaya varieties are available for easier indoor growing.

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Papayas (Carica papaya L.), like many fruit trees, can be grown indoors in a container. If you do not have access to a greenhouse, choose your home’s sunniest spot that is also close to a heating vent in colder months. With water and basic plant nutrition, your papaya should grow successfully.

Choose a container for the papaya tree that is two to three times larger than the root ball. A 15-gallon container holds a 5-foot tree; adjust accordingly to the proper sized container. Wash the container with a mild soap and water and allow it to air dry.

Place the container in the spot you wish to grow the papaya tree, or have a dolly available to move the container once the papaya tree is replanted. Depending on the size of the container, it will be too heavy to move easily.

Fill half of the container with a lightweight potting soil. Place the papaya tree’s root ball in the center of the container. Pour additional potting soil around the root ball until the container is full within 3 to 4 inches of the top. Make sure the tree is positioned in the middle of the container; push the soil down firmly to make sure it does not move out of position.

Water the tree thoroughly but do not allow water to stand on top of the soil. Keep the soil watered every three to four days to avoid moisture-stress of the tree.

Place a layer of mulch over the top of the soil to preserve moisture and keep the roots of the tree at a steady temperature.

Feed the tree every three to four weeks with a water soluble-fertilizer that contains equal portions of nitrogen, potassium and phosphate — such as a 10-10-10 formula. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to mix the fertilizer with water; do not apply too much.