Carica papaya
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July 1998 G.Gaelen Meiser

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Carica papaya

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 Carica papaya

Carica papaya, is an evergreen big shrub or small tree for the tropical or subtropical landscape. Grows best in full sun to light shade. Soil should have excellent drainage and be rich with plenty of humus or compost. These tropicals like warmth and the more the better but should be kept on the dry side in the cool, cold winter months (treat them like cacti). You will need a female and a male plant to produce fruit, although sometime both sexes are present on the same plant. Fruit taste better when allowed to ripen in the heat of the summer months, especially when temperatures are in the high 80°s or better. Carica likes lots of water and fertilizer in warm weather. Papaya can be grown in a heated greenhouse up north. Plant them in large tubs or containers, keep warm in the winter, and move them outside during the summer months to give them some fresh air. Minimum low temperature about 28°F or slightly lower with day time temperatures above freezing and remember papaya do not like frost!

There are many Carica papaya cultivars and a few species worth mentioning, Dr. Moi of the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, has developed one such cultivar (hybrid) that will produce ripe fruit within a San Antonio growing season, and it is quite hardy, but still requires lots of summer heat to grow and produce fruit.

The success of Carica depends on several factors, such as, papaya needs full sun or very little shade, excellent drainage and again warmth. Failure is usually from root rot, especially when planted in cold wet soil. By planting on the south side and close to a building, where plants can benefit from reflected heat, can really make a difference in the way it grows and produces fruit.

Other species of Carica are; C. heilbornii, sometimes sold a C. pentagona, (Bush melon of the Andes). This is a dwarf, seedless (4-7 feet tall) plant, and the fruit having the flavor of a honeydew and lime. This may prove to be a much hardier papaya, although one must have a cutting or a plant to start with. Carica pubescens (Mountain Papaya), is a large shrub that grows to 10-12 feet and it's fruit must be cooked before eaten. Male and female flowers are needed to produce fruit. Somewhat tropical in its requirements.


Female plant and flowers

 


Male plant and flowers


Female plant with fruit

 

 


Fruit getting ripe




Female plant showing leaf and small fruit

 


Two female plants

 

 


looking up at male



Female with fruit

 


Fruit getting ripe

Fruit ready to eat!


Papaya harvest


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