Foraged Gardening

How to grow pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba)

How to grow pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) thumbnail
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Our step-by-step guide, How To Grow Pawpaw Trees, will teach you how to produce your own pawpaw fruit, starting from seed or sapling.

Pawpaws, America’s largest and most delicious native fruit 

Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are our favorite native fruit, topping the list against some formidable competition including wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), American persimmons, and passionfruit.

Pawpaw fruit (Asimina triloba) and seeds. Pawpaws are our favorite native fruit.

Pawpaw fruit and seeds. Pawpaws are our favorite native fruit.

When we encountered our first pawpaws many years ago, we couldn’t believe our eyes or taste buds… Here was a mango-sized, native fruit we’d never even heard of that had an exceptional tropical flavor, like banana-mango-cream custard. “Why was this amazing fruit being hidden from the world?” we wondered.

Pawpaws used to be hugely popular — and their popularity is resurgent

As it turns out, pawpaws were enormously popular up until the mid 20th century. They simply fell out of favor because they don’t ship well or store very long after picking, thus becoming obsolete with the introduction of large grocery store chains.

However, pawpaw breeding work is being done to alleviate these “problems” for commercial orchardists. For home gardeners or smaller farmers selling directly to restaurants or farmers markets, these problems actually aren’t problems at all…

If you’re a gardener, homesteader, or forager, you can harvest, eat, or process your pawpaw fruit soon after ripening. As for local farmers: the relative unavailability of pawpaw fruit at a commercial scale can give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace if you’re the only local provider of this delicious, tropical-flavored fruit!

Mmm, pawpaw passionfruit sorbet, a summer delicacy made from native fruit.

Mmm, pawpaw passionfruit sorbet, a summer delicacy made from native fruit.

How to grow pawpaw trees: a step-by-step guide

We started growing pawpaws about a decade ago. We currently have 10+ pawpaw trees planted in our food forest, all of which were either started from seed or grown out from one year old saplings.

Pawpaw's native range in the US highlighted in green. Pawpaws are hardy in Zones 5 through 8.

Pawpaw’s native range in the US highlighted in green. If you live in the highlighted area, you can easily grow pawpaws. Pawpaws are hardy in Zones 5 through 8, so you may also be able to grow pawpaws outside of their native range if you live in those zones.

Each year, our pawpaw trees grow larger, yielding ever greater quantities of delicious pawpaw fruit. Last summer was the first time we ever had more pawpaw fruits than we could possibly eat fresh, which falls into the “good problem” category.

Perfectly ripened pawpaw fruits from the trees in our yard.

Perfectly ripened pawpaw fruits from the trees in our yard.

Below is a step-by-step guide showing you how to grow pawpaw trees based on our personal experience combined with collecting tips from other experts.

Step 1: Select pawpaw seeds OR saplings (and varietals)

You can grow pawpaws one of two ways:

Option 1: Start your pawpaws from seeds

  • Pros: Least expensive method. Using seeds from a few pawpaw fruits, you can start dozens of trees.
  • Cons: You won’t necessarily get a cultivar that’s exactly true to the parent, and some plants don’t produce as prolifically as others. There’s also variability in fruit size and flavor between plants. Also, starting from seed will add 1 year to your wait time for getting fruit.

Option 2: Buy young pawpaw saplings 

  • Pros: You can select the exact cultivars you want from a breeder and get fruit more quickly. Buying bred varieties guarantees high quality, more productive trees with larger fruit size. 
  • Cons: More expensive.
How to grow pawpaw trees from seed - Pawpaw seed in hand and a 1 year old pawpaw sapling (grown from seed) in a nursery pot).

Pawpaw seed in hand and a 1 year old pawpaw sapling we grew from seed in a nursery pot.

No matter how you choose to grow your pawpaws, note that you’ll need at least two genetically distinct trees growing in close proximity in order to get fruit. Pawpaw trees are typically NOT self-fertile, so a single pawpaw tree will not set fruit. (Caveat: Some bred pawpaw varieties are supposed to be self-fertile.) 

Can you dig up and transplant wild pawpaw saplings?

When foraging for morel mushrooms in early spring, we often encounter floodplains full of pawpaw trees just starting to flower.

Pawpaws blooming at one of our morel mushroom hunting spots.

Pawpaws blooming at one of our morel mushroom hunting spots.

While it’s tempting to try to dig up a few of the younger pawpaw saplings to plant in our yard, the reality is that our efforts would likely end up killing the tree.

A single pawpaw tree puts off lots of runners, so wild patches are often clonal colonies extending from the same parent plant. Digging them up will cause more damage to the feeder root than the runner plant can sustain for successful transplantation.

If you find a first or second year pawpaw sapling in the wild that grew from seed, you may be able to successfully transplant it.

Option 1: Starting Pawpaw Trees From Seeds

The most affordable way to grow pawpaw trees is from seed. We’ve started the majority of our pawpaw trees from seed, and it’s quite easy.

Here’ how you can grow pawpaw trees from seed as well: 

A. Get fresh pawpaw seeds.

In the late summer when pawpaw fruit is ripe, try to find fruit at a local farmers market. Then, remove and set aside the largest seeds from the largest, best-tasting pawpaw fruit when you’re eating them.

These are large-sized pawpaws from our trees, roughly the size of mangos. We save the largest seeds from our largest fruit each year to grow new pawpaw trees.

These are large-sized pawpaws from our trees, roughly the size of mangos. We save the largest seeds from our largest fruit each year to grow new pawpaw trees.

Do NOT store the seeds indoors for more than a couple weeks or let the seeds dry out. The seeds will only remain viable for a short period of time once dried.

Note: You can buy pawpaw seeds from Amazon and Baker Creek, but we’ve only ever used seeds planted from fresh fruit. 

B. Plant pawpaw seeds in nursery pots.

Put damp potting soil (we recommend FoxFarm potting soil) into a small one gallon nursery pot and plunk up to 5 seeds in each pot, about 1″ deep. (You can also use smaller containers with one pawpaw seed per container.)

We put multiple seeds into a single large container so we don’t have to keep track of lots of little containers. Then we separate the saplings out into individual pots during the fall/winter when the plants are dormant after their first year of growth.

C. Mulch and overwinter.

Put about 1″ of wood chip mulch on the soil surface, then leave the container outside to overwinter. Pawpaw seeds need cold stratification (freezing temps) to germinate.

In early spring the pawpaw seeds will germinate and you’ll see young sprouts pop through the mulch.

We haven’t measured our exact germination rates on our pawpaw seeds taken from fresh fruit and sown immediately, but our estimate would be about 80%+ of our seeds germinate.

Option 2: Buying young pawpaw saplings and selecting pawpaw varietals

There are now dozens of cultivated pawpaw varieties, and lots of breeding work is being done by universities and private breeders alike.

In our experience, there’s no such thing as a bad pawpaw — all of them taste amazing. If you’re going to buy saplings, it might be best to select the cultivars with the largest fruit size since this can make it easier to process them post-harvest.

Where do you buy pawpaw trees?

Check with your local plant nurseries or universities. You can also google “pawpaw nurseries” to find online retailers, or buy 1-gallon pawpaw saplings through highly rated nurseries on Amazon.

Step 2: Site selection for young pawpaw trees

Once you have your pawpaw saplings (grown from seed or purchased plants), it’s easiest to keep them growing in containers IN FULL TO PART SHADE for the first 1-3 years, or until they reach about 3′ tall. 

Why full-shade or part-shade?

In the wild, pawpaw trees are adapted to starting their lives as understory plants, growing in the shaded canopy of larger trees. Only when they’re older and/or when a larger tree dies opening up a hole in the canopy, will a pawpaw tree get direct sunlight and grow to its full height and fruiting potential.

If you decide to plant your young pawpaw saplings in a full sun spot, there’s a good chance they’ll die (or at least get highly stressed) from overexposure to sun. You can plant them in full sun IF you put a cage with shade cloth around it. However, we think it’s easier just to keep pawpaws growing in containers until they reach about 3′ tall (around year 3), at which point you can transplant them to their final full-sun spots.

To keep your young pawpaw trees from getting rootbound in their containers, “pot them up” to larger pots with new organic potting soil each fall until you transplant them.

How to grow pawpaw trees - These dormant, two year old pawpaw saplings were just potted up to larger containers. They'll be kept in a shaded spot for one more summer before being transplanted to their final, full-sun spots in the ground.

These dormant, two year old pawpaw saplings were just potted up to larger containers. They’ll be kept in a shaded spot for one more summer before being transplanted to their final, full-sun spots in the ground.

Step 3: Pawpaw transplanting & site selection 

Full sun:

Once your pawpaws have reached 3′ tall, it’s time to transplant them into their final, full-sun location.

When to transplant:

The two best times of year to transplant your pawpaw trees into their final location are:

  • fall – after they’ve gone dormant and dropped their leaves, or
  • spring – before they break dormancy.

Multiple trees needed for pollination:

As mentioned earlier, pawpaw flowers are typically NOT self-fertile, so you’ll need to plant at least two, genetically distinct pawpaw trees close together for fruit production. A single pawpaw tree in isolation will not set/bear fruit.


Plant each pawpaw tree anywhere from 8-15 feet apart.

Soil Prep:

Pawpaws grow in low floodplains and bottomland areas with rich, fertile soil, that’s high in organic matter. As a late succession plant, they prefer fungally-dominated soil.

It always surprises us when we see pawpaws being grown in bare soil, as we did recently at a research farm where they told us that their pawpaws “don’t set much fruit.” This practice diminishes the nutrient- and moisture-holding capacity of the soil. It also selects for bacterially-dominated soil and makes it very difficult for late-succession soil ecology (dominated by mycorrhizae fungi) to flourish.

When preparing your pawpaw site, mix in high quality compost or worm castings with your native soil in the hole. Ratio should be about 30% compost to 70% native soil. If you have heavy or compacted soil and you fill a hole with 100% compost, your pawpaws can actually get rootbound in their planting hole (same is true for other perennial trees you plant).

Next, put 3-4″ of compost/worm castings in a 3′ diameter around the tree. Then cover the whole area with 3-6″ of wood chips/mulch.

Be careful not to pile the compost or mulch against the trunk of the tree as this can cause the trunk to rot, killing the tree. 

In addition to building the type of rich, biologically active soil that pawpaws thrive in, the mulch will help provide good habitat for the native flies that pollinate your pawpaw flowers (pawpaws are not pollinated by bees).

Healthier pawpaw plants + more pollinators = improved fruit set.

Step 4: Pawpaw tree maintenance

Relative to other fruit trees we grow, pawpaws are very low maintenance.


Only prune branches that cross over or rub against each other. Otherwise, let them be.

Under ideal conditions, mature pawpaw trees can reach 30′ or more in height, producing boxes full of fruit.


Since pawpaws are accustomed to growing in low-lying floodplains and bottomlands, they like moist (not wet) soil. The first summer after you transplant your pawpaw tree, make sure it gets at least 1″ of water per week, whether from rain or irrigation.

As your pawpaw trees mature, they might not need irrigation unless you have prolonged droughts and/or extreme heat that might stress the plants, causing fruit drop.

Soil/fertility maintenance:

Every spring, add 2-3″ of high quality compost or seasoned manure in a wide circle around your pawpaw tree, followed by another 3-6″ of wood chips. Let the tree roots and their symbiotic microbial partners do the rest of the work for you.


Remember above where we mentioned finding large clonal colonies of pawpaw trees in the woods? Well, your pawpaw trees will try to do the same thing in your yard.

When you see pawpaw runners coming up, we recommend pulling or cutting them out, otherwise the parent plant will put more energy into its suckers and less into fruit production. 

Pests & diseases: 

Perhaps due to the fact that they’re native plants, pawpaws are incredibly disease and pest-resistant – especially if you keep them healthy.

During years when Japanese beetles are abundant, they will do some leaf damage to our trees, but not enough for us to bother intervening. The beetles seem to much prefer our grape leaves and anything in the stone fruit family. (Read: How to control Japanese beetles organically.)

Please grow your pawpaw trees without using synthetic insecticides or other pesticides since pawpaws are the exclusive larval host plant for the gorgeous Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus). There again, the majority of the butterfly caterpillars will be eaten by birds and other predators. The few remaining caterpillars won’t do enough leaf damage to warrant intervention.

 Photo of a Zebra Swallowtail butterfly taken by Megan McCarty, (CC BY 3.0).

Photo of a Zebra Swallowtail butterfly taken by Megan McCarty, (CC BY 3.0). Pawpaws are their exclusive larval host plant.

Step 5: Harvesting your pawpaw fruit.

Years to harvest:

How many years does it take to grow a pawpaw tree from seed to fruit? Your pawpaw trees may produce their first fruit in their fourth year under ideal conditions. However, it’s more likely to be year 5-6.

Pawpaw flower pollination:

The first year our pawpaw trees flowered, we saw few flies visit the flowers. To compensate and ensure we got fruit, we went from flower-to-flower, tree-to-tree with q-tips to pollinate them ourselves.

The second year our trees flowered, the number of flies pollinating our pawpaw flowers had grown exponentially. The third year, even more flies.

We don’t know the exact species of fly that pollinates pawpaws or whether it/they only comes out once per year while pawpaws are flowering, similar to the Southeastern blueberry bee (Habropoda laboriosa) and blueberry flowers. What we do know is that we didn’t bring the flies to our pawpaw trees — they just showed up and flourished.

If you do your best to mirror the specific ecosystems in which a plant grows best (in the case of pawpaws, lowland forests) nature seems to somehow figure things out for you. Your job is to cultivate knowledge and trust.

Pawpaw: from flower to ripe fruit. In our area, pawpaw flowers come out in early March and the ripe fruit is ready to harvest for 2-3 weeks, from late August through mid-September.

Pawpaws, from flower to ripe fruit. In our area, pawpaw flowers come out in early March and the ripe fruit is ready to harvest for 2-3 weeks, from late August through mid-September.

Pawpaw fruit ripening:

When does pawpaw fruit ripen? In the late summer. We usually get our first fruit during the last days of August and our last fruit around mid-September.

Ripe pawpaws look like small, bruised mangoes. Don't let their lack of surface beauty fool you - under that skin is mango-banana-cream flavored goodness.

Ripe pawpaws look like small, bruised mangoes. Don’t let their lack of surface beauty fool you – under that skin is mango-banana-cream flavored goodness.

How can you tell if pawpaw fruit is ripe?

Perfectly ripe pawpaws soften and fall off the tree when ripe. They’re also wonderfully fragrant.

You can also give a pawpaw tree a gentle shake to get ripe fruit to fall to the ground. However, if you have to use any force to remove the fruit from the tree, it’s not at peak ripeness and it won’t taste good.

If you pick an unripe pawpaw fruit early, it might not develop as good a flavor as one left on the tree until peak ripeness.

Do animals eat pawpaw fruit?  

Ripe pawpaw fruit are extremely fragrant, so they do attract fruit-eating wildlife, such as racoons, skunks, possums, and squirrels in our area. We’ve also seen a mocking bird take a few jabs at a ripe pawpaw fruit.

To help prevent pawpaw fruit theft, make a habit of harvesting your ripe fruit each afternoon or evening. In our experience, a ripe pawpaw fruit laying on the ground overnight is unlikely to be whole the next morning.


How long will a pawpaw fruit last? About 3-5 days on the kitchen counter at room temperature. If you bag them and put them in the refrigerator immediately after harvest, they can last for up to 2-3 weeks.

Processing extra pawpaw fruit:

If you’re fortunate enough to have more pawpaws than you can possibly eat fresh, you’ll be glad to know that pawpaw fruit freezes very well and maintains its delicious flavor.

Bags of processed pawpaw fruit ready for freezer storage.

Bags of processed pawpaw fruit ready for freezer storage.

To learn how to quickly process and freeze your pawpaw fruit for long-term storage, read our article How to eat and process pawpaw fruit.

How to grow pawpaw trees. Learn how to grow pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) from seed or from sapling, so you can grow your own supply of North America's largest and most delicious native fruit for decades to come. #growyourown #tyrantfarms #pawpaws #growpawpaw

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We hope this article helps you grow healthy pawpaw trees and enjoy these delicious native fruits for many years to come!


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  • Reply
    James C Anderson
    November 8, 2023 at 3:57 am

    I currently have a small bag of pawpaw seeds in my fridge and am keeping they damp using peat moss. I had planned on putting them into individual smaller pots after 80 to 100 days of refrigeration (which would be in early January) and placing them outside for the remainder of winter. Is this ok to do as long as I keep the pots within some covered insulation (mulch)? Have you ever seen radicles grow from the seeds before you put them in the earth after they have stratified in the refrigerator?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      November 8, 2023 at 1:48 pm

      Hi James! Sounds like a perfectly good plan for your pawpaw seeds. We’ve never seen radicle development on our pawpaw seeds until conditions are ideal for germination, namely: 1) adequate cold stratification, 2) consistent warmer soil temps, AND 3) ideal moisture. You won’t be able to get criteria #2 and #3 met until your seeds are in their smaller pots outdoors. Best of luck!

  • Reply
    October 3, 2022 at 10:33 am

    I have a pawpaw that I planted. I am on the Mass/NH border. I have about 12 or 13 ripe fruit sitting next to me as I write this. So far we have picked probably 30 ripe fruit. I would be surprised to hear that anyone else around me had any pawpaws growing. So I was curious how they would have set fruit, if you need more than one?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      October 3, 2022 at 11:01 am

      Interesting, thanks Jason! Do you happen to know if you got a named pawpaw variety or a wild type? As mentioned in the article, we’ve heard various pawpaw breeders claim that they’ve developed self-fertile varieties, so perhaps you have one of those? Or perhaps you got lucky and found a wild pawpaw that happens to be self-fertile.

      Another possibility is that you have wild pawpaws growing fairly close by that you don’t know about. This is a less likely scenario since they’d have to be pretty close to your pawpaw tree for pollination to occur since pawpaws are fly-pollinated, not bee-pollinated. Ergo you’d probably be able to see the wild pawpaw trees without much searching.

      • Reply
        October 3, 2022 at 11:41 am

        I ordered two trees sometime back. I don’t recall that they were named varieties. But I can’t find the receipt. One of them was run over by the lawnmower not long after it was planted. So I have just the one. There are just other suburban yards immediately around my house. There is a little stream not too far away. But I don’t see anything that looks like a pawpaw tree down there. The nearest one I am aware of is on a farm two towns away from where I live.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2022 at 11:11 am

    By genetically different, do you mean not from the parent tree but can be the same variety, or completely different variety?
    Thank you for this post!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 28, 2022 at 1:13 pm

      Sorry for any confusion on that point, Angela! By “genetically different” pawpaws we mean pawpaws trees that are not: a) clonal (pawpaws produce a lot of runners and form clonal colonies), or b) the same grafted variety.

      Ideal would be: a) completely different varieties bought from pawpaw breeders, or b) pawpaw trees you grew yourself from seeds sourced at different locations. However, a parent pawpaw could reproduce with its offspring, but the offspring of that pairing might not have the same vigor as trees with more varied genetics.

      Hope this helps!

  • Reply
    Gary Gilino
    September 21, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    Great article on paw paw trees and cultivation! I am new to this plant and am thinking about growing them having just tasted this treat from a local farmers market. Question: if one paw paw fruit has brown seeds and another one has black seeds does that assure that they are genetically different?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 22, 2021 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Gary! I’m speculating here, but my guess would be yes. Pawpaw seeds that comes from fruit from the same tree on our property is pretty uniform in color. This assumes you’re looking at seeds that have just come out of a fruit (e.g. still fresh), not one batch of seeds that’s dry and another batch that’s still fresh/wet.

  • Reply
    Melissa W.
    September 19, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    I have an 8-year-old paw paw tree that has produced flowers for the last three years. I’ve been pollinating them by hand and the last two years, the tree sets fruit but before they can get larger than a cooked grain of rice, they disappear. Is something eating them?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 19, 2021 at 9:53 pm

      Hi Melissa! Sounds like they’re not getting pollinated for some reason. Are you using pollen from genetically distinct trees? If you only have one tree (which will send off genetically identical runners), you won’t get fruit. However, there are supposed to be some new bred pawpaw cultivars that are self-fertile. If you are using pollen from genetically distinct trees but are still not getting fruit set, there must be some other factor (example: late freezes) that are keeping you from getting fruit. Hope this helps!

  • Reply
    Carol McLaughlin
    May 30, 2021 at 7:28 am

    I have several Pawpaw growing and wanted to plant more, I am in Massachusetts Zone 6. I ordered three cultivars from Starkbros in May but they are giving me a shipping date of July/August….. Do you think it is okay to plant in middle of summer?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 30, 2021 at 12:20 pm

      Looks like you’ll be getting grafted cultivars that are probably 2 years old. The thing with young pawpaws is they don’t like full sun. As we say in the article: “… we think it’s easier just to keep pawpaws growing in containers until they reach about 3′ tall (around year 3), at which point we transplant them to their final full-sun spot. To keep your young pawpaw trees from getting rootbound in their containers, pot them up to larger pots with new organic potting soil each fall until you transplant them.”

      If I were you, I’d do one of the following:
      1) Keep your pawpaws in containers in a part shade area until fall then transplant them into their final spot after they’ve dropped their leaves. They might not be very happy the first year in full sun and if the heat and sun are too intense, they could die.
      2) Pot them up into larger pots this fall once they’re dormant, then transplant into their final full-sun spots the following fall while keeping them in a part shade spot until then.

      Option 2 means you’ll need to keep them regularly watered and alive in a pot, which can be a challenge if you go on vacation for a week during a dry spell, etc. So you decide which option is right for you.

      • Reply
        Mark Robertson
        May 20, 2022 at 1:51 pm

        Hi Aaron, Great article. When you say “organic potting soil” do you mean potting soil with lots of organic matter: humus, compost, leaf mold, etc? Or do you mean potting soil that contains manure rather than chemical fertilizer?

        • Aaron von Frank
          May 20, 2022 at 4:10 pm

          Hi Mark! Sorry for any confusion. By organic potting soil, we mean OMRI/organic potting soil, which by definition does not contain synthetic fertilizers. Our personal favorite is Fox Farm’s ( but there are plenty of good options out there. POTTING soil is also lighter than GARDEN soil and formulated so as not to compact in pots, which is very important for plant root health. Hope this clarifies but please feel free to ask any other questions you have. And good luck growing your pawpaws!

  • Reply
    Buddy boo
    March 31, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    I don’t have a lot of space. I’m wondering how far I can get away with planting this from a 4 foot high fence. Do you think I can squeeze in a couple of paw paws within 2-3 feet of the fence and keep their growth tight?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 31, 2021 at 4:54 pm

      Hi Buddy! Mature pawpaw trees can grow pretty huge – 30′ or taller with a width of 15’+. Our oldest pawpaw tree is nearing a decade and is already about 20′ tall x 10′ wide. You *could* grow your pawpaws in a tight space next to your fence and trim out the lower branches to accommodate a 4′ tall fence height as the plant matures, but not sure who or what is on the other side of the fence – a street, sidewalk, picky neighbor, etc?

      • Reply
        Buddy boo
        March 31, 2021 at 6:20 pm

        Thanks for sharing, Aaron. It is a neighbor on the other side. I was hoping to get him to sign on by offering him all of the pawpaws he can eat. But given what you’ve shared, I might be better off trying to find another spot in the yard with a bit more room to grow.

  • Reply
    March 2, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    Great article. I was interested in whether, in Ag Zone 7a, it made sense to keep saplings in containers for a few years beyond just one or two and then transplant them? And if I do that, should I bring the containers into the basement for their first few winters to make sure they don’t get water-logged or frozen? And if I do go the longer-in-container route but bring them outside to overwinter, should I still cover them in mulch even as they get a bit taller? Thanks for the awesome insight, this is the best article I’ve seen on the subject!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 2, 2021 at 10:11 pm

      Great questions, Cady, thanks! My thoughts on your three questions:

      1. Yes, we recommend keeping your pawpaw saplings in pots/containers for the first few years. That’s because young pawpaws (up to ~3 years old) actually don’t do well in full sun. They’re adapted to grow as understory plants that only grow large once there’s an opening in the canopy (a larger tree falls) or an opening at the edge of a body of water/river. You can mimic this growth pattern by starting them in containers and keeping them in part shade during the warm months (especially afternoon shade) until they’re 4-5 years old, after which you transplant them to their final full-sun spots.

      It’s also very easy to cold-stratify pawpaw seeds using this method. I always take a bunch of seeds from particularly large, tasty pawpaws and plop them in a pot to overwinter outdoors. They then cold stratify and stay wet on their own with zero work required. Then they germinate in the spring. I’ll grow ~10 saplings in a 1-gallon pot this way until they’re 2 year old dormant saplings. I then separate out the individual saplings, pot them up into larger individual containers while the plants are still dormant in late winter, being careful not to do too much damage to the roots. I’ve never lost a sapling this way. (Be sure to use potting mix, not garden soil or you risk soil compaction and poor root development.)

      I think pawpaw’s reputation as not being easy to transplant is probably due to people digging up wild saplings/runners and doing significant root damage prior to attempted transplant.

      2. No, I wouldn’t recommend bringing your containers inside to overwinter unless you want to make extra work for yourself and cause a bit of plant stress by not letting them experience winter/dormant period, which is actually good for plants adapted to do as such.

      Pawpaws are extremely cold-hardy so they won’t be damaged outdoors in pots in your Ag Zone. And since rain is free and doesn’t require you to produce it, that’s something else you don’t have to remember to do.

      You could feasibly continue to grow pawpaw saplings in containers for up to 5 years, but you’d need some fairly large containers by year 5, prob 5 gallons or so.

      3. We put mulch over our pawpaw seeds prior to germination and also keep mulch in the pots for however long until we transplant them out. With the saplings, you don’t want to bury the trunks or you can rot and kill the plants since they don’t form adventitious roots. So: not too thick a mulch layer, and taper it down to the soil line as it approaches the sapling trunk.

      The reason for mulch: it reduces weed seed germination in your pots, and it helps maintain more even soil moisture and soil temps in the pots. I have no actual scientific data to support this, but since pawpaws: a) tend to grow in forests with deep leaf litter on the forest floors, b) are later stage plants in ecological succession, and c) likely have numerous species of symbiont mycorrhizal partners, mulch helps both mimic that environment and promote a more fungal-dominated soil system.

  • Reply
    Catherine White
    August 30, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    I have well over two hundred paw paw trees on my lot. How to I take care of them? I haven’t gotten any fruit . I suspect they are all one tree

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 1, 2020 at 8:59 am

      Wow, that’s a lot of pawpaw trees! If you’re not getting fruit, that does point to the likelihood that it’s a single, clonal colony. You’ll want to order some new pawpaw trees and get them planted asap, and fall is a good time to do that. I’d recommend getting a few different varieties, just to make sure you have lots of genetic diversity (we have links in the article to good pawpaw cultivars and online nurseries). You’ll probably also want to thin out a lot of your young runner trees to give the primary trees maximum resources – sunlight, water, and nutrition. Hope this helps – be patient as you’re likely going to be waiting at least a couple more years for fruit, depending on the age of the new pawpaw trees you plant.

      • Reply
        Catherine White
        November 11, 2020 at 7:35 pm

        I bought four different varieties of paw paw trees …. I just don’t know where to plant them. I’m have they may get too much sun. I bought one variety that is said to definitely produce fruit.

        • Aaron von Frank
          November 12, 2020 at 11:43 am

          Hi Catherine! All pawpaw trees should produce fruit. Regarding sun: it’s only the first few years that you need to worry about them getting too much sun. As we state in the article: “You can plant them [pawpaw saplings] in full sun IF you put a cage with shade cloth around it. However, we think it’s easier just to keep pawpaws growing in containers until they reach about 3′ tall (around year 3), at which point we transplant them to their final full-sun spot.”

  • Reply
    November 18, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Excellent article – invaluable information here! Thank you for writing it! We’re just about to sink our first-year seedlings into the ground for their first winter.

  • Reply
    Yram Htrow
    October 20, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    I’ve lived my whole life 20 miles from the town of Paw Paw, Michigan and have never seen one for sale. I found one at the farmer’s market this week and just got my first taste. WONDERFUL! I’m so glad I found your article on growing pawpaws. I intend to plant some seeds today. I can’t wait 50 years to have my second one!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      October 21, 2019 at 9:42 am

      Right on! In ~5 years you’ll have your own pawpaw fruit. In the meantime, support those local farmers who are growing them and maybe try to find some good pawpaw foraging spots near you. Easiest time of year to ID good pawpaw foraging spots is in the spring when morel mushrooms are fruiting. They’re not leafed out at that point, but the flowers are very unique and easy to spot. Then you can come back to the same spots for pawpaw fruit in late summer.

      • Reply
        Yram Htrow
        October 25, 2019 at 4:58 pm

        Good idea, thanks!

  • Reply
    October 15, 2019 at 5:41 am

    The seedlings that sprout near the mother plant, (approx. 2 to 3 ft away), can they be dug up and transplanted to another location? If so, when is the best time to do this? Also, I have one seedling that became very tall and sturdy, but I don’t want it that close to the mother tree, can I just cut this down at the base without damaging the mother which is producing well?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      October 15, 2019 at 10:46 am

      Those are probably runners from the mother pawpaw tree, not true seedlings that sprouted from fallen fruit/seeds. It’s generally advised that you cut those out to prevent overcrowding. It would be difficult to dig them up and successfully transplant since you’d cause significant root damage when doing so (they’re still attached to the parent tree). Better off growing new pawpaws from fruit seed in small containers, then transplanting those out after 3-5 years to their final desired location. If you do try to dig up a runner, you’d want to do it in the fall/winter once the tree is dormant so the roots might have a chance at recovering – never tried it though, so can’t advise as to potential odds of success.

  • Reply
    Jennifer Malig
    October 4, 2019 at 6:10 am

    Thanks for the easy instructions. I followed them to grow some pawpaw seeds this week, but I have a question. Once the seeds are in the pot to overwinter, do you have to keep the soil moist? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      October 4, 2019 at 10:22 am

      You’re very welcome, Jennifer. Answer: it depends. For instance, right now, we have a container planted with new pawpaw seeds from this season’s fruit sitting out front at our house. Since we’re in a severe drought (no rain for last ~8 weeks), we water the container a few times per week to keep it moist. Usually, over the winter, there’s plenty of rain and the soil stays moist since it’s not hot out. So, we don’t worry about watering them then. The seeds usually germinate in early spring and we keep them in containers for a few years (potting them up as they grow). From there, we water the pots in the warm months (keeping the pots in shade since young pawpaws don’t like full sun) but not during the cold months when the plants are dormant. Let me know if that answers your question(s)!

      • Reply
        Jennifer Malig
        October 16, 2019 at 5:58 pm

        Thank you for the response! I live in Maryland and we’ve been in a bit of a drought ourselves, so I’ve been checking the soil and keeping it moist. Thanks for all the tips! I’m hoping to see baby paw paws next spring. Fingers crossed!

        • Aaron von Frank
          October 21, 2019 at 9:42 am

          Always wonderful seeing the baby pawpaws sprout in spring. We’re at capacity for how many pawpaw trees we can grow on our property so we’re growing ours in nursery pots, then transplanting them out in ideal spots at hiking spots that we frequent.

  • Reply
    Steve Gilbert
    September 25, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    I harvest pawpaw each year from the wild.
    I have planted the seeds each year in the woods closer to my house.
    I have still after four years never gotten a single tree to sprout.
    So they certainly can be difficult to get them to grow.
    My woods should be the perfect place for them.
    Have I seen the light and given up, NO, of course not, I’ll keep trying.
    That’s why I’m reading this article to see if I am doing anything wrong

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 25, 2019 at 1:41 pm

      Steve: one thing to note is that pawpaw seeds lose viability very quickly once they’re out of the fruit. We sow our seeds in small containers same-day as we eat the fruit. The next spring, we have close to 100% seed germination. It may be that you’re waiting too long to get your seeds in the ground?

  • Reply
    September 24, 2019 at 12:28 am

    I have a few seedlings that sprouted this spring and was wondering if I need to do anything in anticipation for winter (in Michigan). Do I need to overmulch or insulate? (They are currently potted on my balcony).

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 24, 2019 at 11:40 am

      Hi Angie! You probably don’t need to take any extra precautions. Pawpaws’ native range extends into Michigan and beyond, so young pawpaw plants are used to surviving your winters with frozen ground that extends deep into the soil’s subsurface. They’ll look like dead twigs come spring time, but as the weather warms, buds and leaves will soon emerge.

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