How to Grow Papaya from Seed
Growing papaya is relatively easy. Papaya is one of my favorite hot plants.
Papaya fruit (carica papaya) in their normal tropical home are normally grown from seed. The farmers plant them in fields, in drills, popping three or 4 seed in holes in the ground set maybe 3 feet apart, then getting rid of the weaker seedlings as they grow, leaving only the strongest one in each hole.
Papayas grow into quite tall trees, but you don't wan't then to grow too tall, else you will never be able to reach the papaya fruit as they come ready. Papaya trees are short-lived compared to other trees, but are very fast growing and generally reach 10' - 12' in height with 18 months of planting, and can reach as high as 30'.
There are two types of carica papaya, Mexican and Hawaiian, and it is generally the Hawaiian type that is to be found in supermarkets.
Papaya Seed Planting and Germination
Papaya fruit seeds are found inside the fruit. They are large and easy to remove as you can see in the photos here. Hold each seed individually between forefinger and thumb and squeeze gently until it 'pops' to remove it from its sac which may inhibit germination.
Then rinse your papaya seeds in a sieve under cold running water to clean any remnants of fruit off them, and then lay on paper towels to dry.
When drying is complete in a day or two, plant them to their depth in moist potting compost, which needs to be kept moist until they germinate. It is easiest just the pop the whole pot into a plastic bag and seal. Keep in a light area but out of direct sunlight, and several weeks later you should be rewarded with your new papaya seedlings.
They do germinate well, but don't transplant well, so it is perhaps advisable to only plant one or two papaya seeds per pot.
Even better to plant them into a peat pot or similar that can be transplanted straight into the garden or a larger pot without disturbing the roots.
Transplanting Papaya Seedlings
Papaya plants do not transplant well, but if you don't want to cull the smaller ones, they can all be successfully transplanted if you move them with extreme care, so as not to damage their roots.
Also hold seedlings by the leaves, NEVER BY THE STEM.
Move them when they are large enough to handle.
It is probably best to transplant papaya directly into large pots, or straight into the ground outside if you live in a frost-free area, though perhaps when very small they should be offered some kind of protective cover, like an upturned cut down 2L plastic drinks bottle, especially if your garden suffers from snails and slugs who would like nothing better to eat!
Male and Female Papayas
When growing papaya, you will need separate male and female plants in order to produce fruit.
They should flower in their second year. One male is more than enough to fertilise 8 females.
Papayas like as much sun as possible, but they also need wind protection if you live in an exposed position. It is not unknown for winds to snap their stems in half. This doesn't usually kill the plant as they can regrow from just below the broken stump. In fact it might even be beneficial as the papaya fruit will be easier to get to! However, the strong architectural look of the plant will be lost.
They like a lot of water to drink too, used as they are to growing in the tropics where it is wet as well as warm.
Papaya plants will not tolerate frost at all. We haven't had frost here in my part of South-East Spain for at least six years, but there is always an odd year, I'm told, when it is possible. That is when I will lose my papayas, as they are too big to grow inside the house. However they would make a nice conservatory plant, especially if you have a high-roofed one.
Growing Papaya from seed
The Papaya Plant
The papaya plant above is six months old, and about 2 - 3 feet tall in this picture; they grow rapidly. They can reach a height of 12 feet or more inside 18 months.
Warning: Frost Kills.
I am sad to report that this beauty in the picture here has now gone to papaya heaven because of the particularly cold winter we have just suffered.
However, I do have all the little papaya seeds from the pictures above ready to start growing papaya from seed all over again.