How Do You Grow Paw Paws?

How Do You Grow Paw Paws? (Image thanks to Stark Bro’s)

“I have heard that it is almost impossible to grow a pawpaw tree. Is it possible for someone that is not a master gardener to grow this tree?  I would love to have a few.” Question from Cheryl or Harrison, Arkansas

Answer: You are in luck! Pawpaws (Asimina triloba, USDA Hardiness Zone 5-9), also called custard apples, are easy to grow. Some varieties are self-fruiting, but most require cross-pollination, so you will need more than one tree for fruit development. Pawpaws are also growing in popularity, so there are more and more varieties with great tasting fruit from which to choose.

Pawpaws are native across eastern North America and look great as small specimen trees (15 to 30 feet) in sunny locations. In spring, the tidy, attractive trees produce unique, three-petaled purplish-maroon flowers, and in fall the large leaves turn shades of golden yellow. Pawpaw fruits are oval, greenish-yellow on the outside, and custardy, sweet and yellow on the inside with large black seeds. The fruits are ready to harvest by late summer or fall, depending on the variety. Wild fruits are sweet and taste somewhat like a ripe banana when mature, but new varieties have been selected for their improved flavor.

Five Great Paw Paw Varieties

  1. Mango‘: The late-to-ripen fruits have extra flavorful, orange flesh.
  2. ‘Pennsylvania Golden’: Super sweet, gold-fleshed fruits bedeck this tree.
  3. Shenandoah™: The extra-large pawpaws of Shenandoah have few seeds and taste very mild and sweet.
  4. Sunflower‘: The self-fruiting variety has fruits with a banana custard flavor.
  5. Susquehanna®: Expect large fruits with few seeds, smooth texture, and sweet flavor.

For more great varieties, visit Peterson Paw Paws.

How to Grow Paw Paws

These trees look very nice when planted in open, sunny lawns as specimen trees. They grow best in fertile soil with average drainage and a slightly acid to slightly alkaline pH of 5.5 to 7.5. At planting time, amend the soil with a little Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss. (Click here for more details about how to plant trees.) Keep the trees well irrigated in the late spring and summer of the first year, especially during hot spells. Fertilize with a granular fertilizer at planting time. Space the trees at least 20 feet apart in anticipation of their mature size.

I hope that these tips help.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

What are the Best Fast-Growing Trees for South Carolina?

“What are the best trees to plant that will live great in South Carolina and grow fast?” Question from Donna of Newberry, South Carolina

Answer: What a great question! I always like to stick with regional natives or varieties of natives that are well-adapted to an area, in addition to being attractive and fast growing. Trees are real long-term investments, so you want to get your plantings right from the start. Here are my top 5 favorite beautiful South Carolina native trees that are large, fast-growing, and long-lived.

  1. October Glory Red Maple (Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’): All red maples are fast growers, but ‘October Glory’ has the added benefits of spectacular orange-red fall leaves and a nice rounded crown. This moderately large tree can reach 40-50 feet when mature, is adaptable to many soil types and requires full to partial sun for best growth.
  2. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora): What a southern classic! This medium- to fast-growing tree is fully evergreen and boasts fragrant, platter-sized, ivory flowers in late spring and early summer. It is adaptable but grows best in fertile, well-drained soil and full to partial sun. A mature specimen can reach 60-80 feet in height.
  3. Shawnee Brave Bald Cypress (Taxodium disticum ‘Shawnee Brave’): Bald cypress are elegant conifers that grow very fast and lose their soft, feathery needles every fall. What makes ‘Shawnee Brave’ special is its tall, columnar habit, which allows it to grow to great heights in smaller yards. It can grow in almost any soil type and looks best when planted in full to partial sun.
  4. Skyline Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis SKYLINE): This open, airy honey locust grows really fast, reaches a modest height of 35-40 feet, and is fruitless and thornless. It has a pyramidal habit and fine leaves that turn yellow in fall. It will grow in all soil types and prefers full sun.
  5. Live Oak (Quercus virginiana): This traditional southern oak can grow up to 3 feet a year, making it a pretty fast grower for its kind. The trees can reach an enormous size with elegant, broad, spreading branches that dangle with Spanish moss. Reserve this tree for an open yard where it can grow to become a glorious, long-lived specimen tree.

Happy tree planting!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist