Pawpaw - multi stem clump
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The Pawpaw Tree, with foot-long leaves that droop lazily from the branches, will give your garden a laid-back tropical vibe. Plant it where you’ll be able to appreciate its bold presencethroughout the growing season—especially in fall, when the foliage turns the color of ripe pineapple. If you plant more than one tree, you may also be rewarded with the gift of delectable fruits which have a tropical flair as well. About the size of a potato, the uncommon pawpaw fruit contains a sweet, creamy yellow flesh that’s often compared to banana custard in flavor. You’ll find it hard to believe that this dramatic tree doesn’t hail from some tropical paradise, but is actually native as far north as New York!
- Hardiness Zone: 5-9
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Way down yonder in the Pawpaw patch... so goes the old folk song celebrating this beloved native plant, which has a long history in America. Pawpaw was valued in ancient times by Native Americans, and the delicious fruits later nourished European settlers and explorers like Lewis and Clark. Human aren’t the only ones who delight in this yummy fruit treat—wildlife love pawpaws, too. The foliage feeds the young of the dazzling white, black, and red zebra swallowtail butterfly. In fact, Pawpaw is the ONLY thing that zebra swallowtail caterpillars will eat, which is reason enough to grow this splendid tree.
Look for Pawpaw’s interesting flowers in mid- to late spring. These thick-textured, triangular, burgundy-colored blooms are primitive from a botanical standpoint. Exuding a very faint musky scent, they are meant to attract beetles and flies for pollination instead of bees. It isn’t clear whether or not a single Pawpaw Tree can pollinate itself, but planting two different trees will ensure cross-pollination, promoting optimum fruit set in fall.
How to Grow
Pawpaw’s home in the wild is at forest edges or in the woodland understory, and it appreciates similar conditions in the landscape. It is happiest in a site with rich, organic-laden, well-drained soil and a generous layer of mulch. It flourishes in shade but will tolerate full sun if it is shaded for the first few years and if regular irrigation can be provided. This tree doesn’t like constantly soggy soil, but it doesn’t like to dry out, either. Suckers may appear around the tree—this is simply Pawpaw’s natural growth habit. You may pull or mow off the suckers to maintain the tree as a single-trunked specimen, or you may let them grow to allow a Pawpaw patch of your own to form.
Questions & Answers
Q: If permitted to sucker and form a pawpaw patch, will the pawpaw(s) still produce fruit.
A: Pawpaw does naturally sucker and form patches. This occurrence does not affect the plants ability to flower and produce fruit. Those suckers are still all genetically the same as the mother plant so you will need another Pawpaw so they can cross-pollinate.
Q: Are flies and beetles the only pollinators?
A: Pawpaw blossoms are designed by their color (purplish red) and odor (fetid) to attract their primary pollinators which are various species of flies and beetles. Bees rarely, if ever, visit pawpaw flowers. If natural pollination is inadequate, you may wish to attract flies to your pawpaw trees. Corwin Davis (he is the Godfather of pawpaw growing) found that hanging road kill in his trees during blossom season worked well. Although Bower & Branch does not endorse or encourage this action we share this only for understanding. Attracting flies to your trees can be accomplished many other ways not as offensive.
Q: How much water should the trees/patches get?
A: Pawpaw like a moist but well drained soil and lots of organic material in the soil. They will not thrive in a dry soil. So, now match this to your question of how much water. Assuming you have chosen a spot that matches the needs of your Pawpaws, water regularly for the first growing season, spring thru fall. After that I would consider watering only when drought conditions existed and then water slowly, deeply and infrequently. Consider watering every two to four weeks during dry periods once your pawpaws are established. Our Bower & Branch Water Element provides for this perfectly during times of drought or heat stress.
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