Growing Paw Paw Trees

One of the greatest horticultural mysteries of the world is: why have most paw paws, that were plentiful throughout early U.S. forests, virtually disappeared from their natural habitat today. That answer may lie within the research results (Peterson 1991), that showed that the paw paw trees are sensitive to ultraviolet light, thus, paw paw seedlings may not grow back after the forests have been harvested, and there are very few virgin forests left in the United States. Paw paws can be found growing there abundantly, but once the forests are clean-cut, the paw paw tree will usually become reestablished.

These experiments must be clearly remembered, when you order your paw paw trees. Paw paw trees must be planted under partial shade of other trees, however, you may plant your trees in the open, if the paw paw trees are grown under shade cloth for a couple of seasons. The paw paw tree will lose its sensitivity to full sunlight once it as become established and the shade cloth can be discarded.

Some gardeners wish to plant their paw paw trees in pots for a couple of years under shady conditions, but this is not necessary if the above guidelines are followed. Since paw paw trees are tap rooted, growth will be slow during the first year, but after that, very rapid growth occurs afterwards.

Paw paw leaves are large and that generally indicates a need for large amounts of soil moisture, and therefore, generally, paw paw trees are found in their greatest numbers near river flood plains. Leaves or other organic composted materials are very beneficial to paw paw trees.

The skin of paw paws is thin and edible and can vary in color from a light green to a golden yellow. Most people prefer to eat the fruit after it becomes soft to the touch. The custard-like pulp takes like a banana and varies in color from white to deep orange. The seed are few and large, thus, they are easy to eat raw, and discard the seeds.

Most paw paws are sold at roadside markets, because the shelf life is short. Commercially, the paw paw is important in juices, pies, cakes, custards, ice cream and other processed products.

There are a number of grafted cultivars of paw paw trees, but their range of adaptation is very narrow, and many cultivars that produce heavy crops of large fruit in Kentucky, Indiana or West Virginia do not perform satisfactorily in Georgia, Florida, Carolina or Alabama. TyTy offers improved seedling paw paw trees, which appear to be more adaptable universally. Try some of these paw paw trees in your orchard for a real tasty treat.

By Pat Rick