Position – The papino tree likes a sunny spot with plenty of moisture and a frost-free location. It needs to be sheltered from strong winds and may need to be supported until it is strong enough to keep the fruit off the ground. Cover it with frost cover in winter if your climate is cold, as they are tropical fruits.
They do not transplant well so don’t move them once planted.
Size – A papino tree can grow quite large (approximately 6 metres in height) and requires about 5 to 6 metres between its trunk and other plants or structures. This will also help their huge leaves to absorb as much sunlight as possible for photosynthesis.
Soil Type – They grow best in a rich, well-drained soil with a pH of between 6 and 6.5.
Mulch – Add a thick layer of pine bark mulch around the tree, keeping it about 20 or 30 centimetres away from the trunk. This will keep the soil moist and reduce weed problems. Keep the tree well mulched all year round as the roots are shallow. In winter, this will prevent the soil from becoming too cold.
Watering – Water your papaya tree every second day after transplanting it and in hot weather. Be careful not to overwater it as they are susceptible to root rot. In winter, watering once a week is usually enough.
Pruning – Minimal pruning is required. Remove broken or dead leaves and their stems when needed. Cut off any shoots sprouting from the base of the tree. If fruit production is slowing, allow one shoot to grow after the harvest. In spring, remove the main stem and stake the shoot, encouraging it to become a new, fruiting stem.
The papaya sap and pollen may cause a severe allergic reaction in sensitive individuals, including skin irritation and breathing difficulties. So, use gloves to prune.
Fertilising – Use good organic compost and start fertilising your young plant early. They like regular fertilising to grow well. Use a low nitrogen-based fertiliser early in spring. Well-rotted manure can be added to the plant as well.
Harvesting – Pick your paw-paws when the skin starts to turn yellow. They will continue to ripen after being picked, and are ready to enjoy when the flesh is firm but gives a little under light pressure.
The older a papino plant gets, the weaker it becomes. It will produce less and smaller fruit after about 5 years and it may succumb to diseases. At this stage, plant new trees.