Saturday, July 7, 2012

Growing a Papaya Plant From a Seed

From a Seed to a Lusciously Ripe Papaya

In July of 2011, I planted seeds from an organic Maui Sunrise papaya. Sunrise is also known as Strawberry papaya. It took over 4 weeks for the seeds to sprout and they grew very slowly over the next month.

At 3 Months - Sunrise Papaya Seedlings

At 3 months the seedlings were large enough to transplant into a garden bed.

Solo and Sunrise are the most commonly grown papayas on Maui. Their seeds predominately germinate hermaphrodite plants which are self-fertile.

The following link is a pdf with photos for identifying the sex of the papaya flowers:
Growing Papayas in Hawaii

At 7 Months - Hermaphrodite Flowers Began to Bloom

The seedling grew rapidly and the tree began to flower when it reached 5 feet tall. The first flowers appeared around 7 months (4 months from transplanting). Hermaphrodite flowers are cylindrical.

At 8 Months - The First Fruit Began to Grow

I don't recommend using seeds from Big Island or Oahu grown papayas as GMO papayas are aggressively being grown there. Cross pollination has been a significant problem for the non-GMO and organic farmers - organic papayas from the Big Island and Oahu could be contaminated.

Solo and Sunrise papaya should be planted in the ground as their root systems are too large and aggressive to be contained in a pot. Like other tropical fruit trees and plants, papaya grow very well in our acidic soil.

At 9 Months - A Tree Full of Developing Fruit

Several pests and diseases can affect papaya - the most common problem in Kihei is the nematode. Nematodes can destroy the root system of a papaya tree in a short period of time. French varieties of marigolds are suppose to deter the nematodes. I planted a mix of French marigold seeds in my garden bed and I also mixed ground eggshells into the soil. Finely ground eggshells reduce the population of rose beetles and ants but I don't know if they'll actually work for controlling nematodes.

At 11 Months - The First Ripening Fruit

Birds can damage the ripening fruit. The easiest remedy is to harvest the fruit when they just start to turn color and let them ripen in a protected area or indoors. In some areas of Maui the oriental fruit flies will attack ripening papayas. Although oriental fruit flies are found in Kihei, the population has been low in my garden.

Papaya ring spot (a mosaic virus) has been a problem on the Big Island and Oahu and that's why they have GMO papayas being grown there. Maui is considered ring spot virus free, another good reason to use papaya seeds from a Maui grown papaya.

Before I planted, I amended the garden bed with lots of compost. I added additional compost and a generous amount of an organic all-purpose fertilizer once a month. Some sources note not to over water papaya trees but it's hot in Kihei and I watered most every day. When transplanted, the papaya seedlings should be spaced at least 6 feet apart.

Solo and Sunrise are the most common papayas grown in Hawaii but there are other varieties of seeds sold online. Any variety that produces hermaphrodite flowers should grow well in our climate. If it produces male and female plants, I recommend finding out if the species of insect needed to pollinate the flowers is common in the area and elevation where your papaya trees will be growing.

Hawaiian Papaya Salsa
Thai Green Papaya Salad
Papaya Raspberry Smoothie

Papaya seeds online
Aloha Seed & Herb


  1. Hi Jane,

    Thanks for writing this new blog entry. I had been missing your posts. The pictures look great: I always enjoy seeing what people are growing. (Are those melon vines and fennel under the papaya tree?)

    I'll be moving back to Maui to help run the family business. I'll look forward to doing more year-round gardening, but I must admit that I will miss the changing seasons (Although I won't miss Chicago winters and the current heatwave!).


  2. Hi Chicago Transplant! Mahalo for your compliments! I planted some watermelon and wild fennel (for seeds) next to the papaya tree. Unfortunately my neighbors dogs kept jumping over the wall and dug up all of the watermelon but the fennel is still growing.

    That's great that you're moving back to Maui but I would imagine it's hard to leave such a cosmopolitan city. Maui is so quiet but I love living here.

  3. I would love to live where i can grow papayas! Apparently here (I live in Auckland, NZ) I could grow a type of mountain papaya... if I could find the seeds!
    And i love Maui :-) I was there centuries ago, I will return one day :-).

    Ciao and i am now following you and dreaming of a tropical garden!

    You can find me here if you like (and see my garden!)


  4. Hi Alessandra! I didn't try to grow papaya when I lived in a 4 season climate so I don't know if they'll grow outside of the tropic/subtropics. You might email Aloha Seed & Herb - they have the largest selection of papaya seeds I've seen online. They may have seeds for or know where to get seeds for papayas that will grow in your climate. Your blogs are great!!

  5. Where u got the seeds yeah?

  6. First of all papaya is a herbaceous perennial not a tree. "Sunrise" is a solo papaya (meaning single serving). Get non GMO seed from U of H Seed Lab at the University
    in Honolulu. It can be ordered online, by phone, or mail $1 Home Garden Pack will have enough seed to start and orchard. They also have many other garden seed. The solo line will produce 1/3 female plants, and 2/3 hermaphrodites, no males. Waimanalo Low Bearing will start producing very near the ground. Sunrise and Sunset just a little higher. Good Luck and Have Fun

  7. Moving back to Big Island for 3rd time in my life. Planted solo papaya seeds in 1x1-foot holes about 1/2 inch deep about 5 weeks ago. See sign of growth already. How long before they mature and ready for harvest?

    1. For me they took almost a year from a seed to the first ripe papaya.

  8. Hello
    how to tell male from female seedlings that are 4" tall?

    1. Here is information on how to identify the sex.