Papaya is kind of challenging to grow indoors but it is definitely possible, although this one is maybe not for beginners unless you like a challenge.
There is some debate around whether papaya is a plant or a tree.
If you choose the correct variety then there is nothing better than having a beautiful papaya plant in your house or apartment.
Whilst papaya plants are difficult to successfully grow inside, when you get it right they really do grow at a phenomenal speed and I have achieved it with some difficulties along the way.
So if you want to know how to grow papaya indoors read on…
To grow papaya indoors choose one of the dwarf varieties and you can start it off in a 2-3 gallon pot. Position it somewhere that will get between 6-8 hours direct sunlight and top it up with an LED grow light if you can’t get enough natural light. Use fertilizer during the summer and watch your plant thrive.
What variety of papaya plant is best for growing indoors?
There are so many different varieties of papaya plant to choose from and choosing the correct variety will be fundamental to how successful you will be.
Some varieties will grow to 15 feet, I would definitely recommend a dwarf papaya variety for growing indoors as they will grow to less than 10 feet some only grow to 3 or 4 feet tall.
I would recommend growing the ‘dwarf solo’ variety as it only grows to 5 or 6 feet in a pot, other varieties you could grow indoors would be the ‘golden dwarf’ ‘hai Fruit Dwarf’ ‘Carica papaya’ or the ‘Dwarf Waimanalo’.
How to germinate papaya seeds
If you choose to grow a papaya plant from seed you can either collect seeds from a store bought papaya or buy seeds for one of the above varieties so you know what type of papaya you are growing.
It is simple enough to grow papaya from seeds, first, you want to press the seeds against something like the side of a colander, this is to break the sack that surrounds the seeds without damaging the actual seeds, rinse the seeds then leave them to dry on a paper towel.
Next pick out the darkest seeds as they are more likely to be females that will produce fruit, plant as many of the seeds as you can fit in your pot or container 5cm apart, this is because they won’t all germinate and depending on the variety you grow you may need both a male and a female plant.
After between 2 and 5 weeks pull out the smallest seedlings and throw them away.
At this point, you want to leave 5 seedlings as this gives you a 96% chance of producing a male and female plant.
When the plants are about 3 feet tall you will be able to tell the female plants that have larger flowers near the trunk and male plants that normally flower first and produce a long thin stalk with several flowers on it.
One male plant should be enough to pollinate 15 female plants.
Store bought papayas are normally bisexual so will produce seeds that are bisexual and produce both male and female flowers.
What sort of pot should I use for a papaya plant?
If you want to grow papaya that produces fruit then you will need a relatively large pot or container.
If you use a pot that is too small then that can sometimes limit the size of the papaya plant which can sometimes be a good idea if you are growing a papaya plant indoors.
To have the best chance of fruit production you want to give your plant as much room to grow as it requires.
When starting off you can use a 2-3 gallon container but if you use a 15-gallon container that should be ample size to grow a healthy 5-foot papaya plant and you won’t have to transfer it as it grows.
What sort of soil should I use for a papaya plant?
To grow a healthy papaya plant you should use a lightweight potting soil.
An outdoor papaya plant will grow in most soil types but for a plant in a container, you should use a rich, sandy loam soil.
Mix compost into the soil before planting if you can or add a layer of compost on the top of the soil so that these added nutrients get absorbed down into the soil and into your plant.
Papayas prefer a soil where the pH is between 4.5 and 8.
How much light does a papaya plant require?
Papaya plants do love the sun, the more direct sunlight your plant receives the healthier it will grow and the greater chance of fruit production it will have.
A papaya plant will require at least 6 – 8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
If you have a south-facing window this should be doable and if you have a conservatory for putting your papaya plant in this is easily achievable.
If you think it will be a struggle to get your plant the 6-8 hours of direct sunlight that it needs you can always use an LED grow light as they are very affordable and can be run on a small budget.
How often should I water my papaya tree?
Papaya trees do like water and you should ideally keep the soil moist but not soaking as papayas don’t like to be in standing water.
I poke my finger in the soil to check the moisture level and if the top 2 inches are dry it’s time to give it a deep water and this is usually every 3 or 4 days depending on the temperature.
Depending on the time of year you will have to alter how much water you give your papaya tree as it will probably need a lot during the summer months and not so much during the winter.
What is the best climate for indoor papaya trees?
Papaya is a tropical plant so ideally, it prefers a tropical climate with a warm consistent temperature year long.
This is easily achievable for my indoor papaya plant as I have my apartments heating on a thermostat so the temperature will definitely not go below the temperature I set, and I set it so that I am comfortable not to suit my plants and they do just fine.
The ideal temperature for a papaya plant is between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit (21-32C) standard household temperature is ideal for these plants.
What is the best fertilizer for papaya trees tree in a pot?
If you have grown your papaya from a seed it is best to add phosphorus to the hole when you are potting your plant as it will greatly help your plant grow roots and establish its root system.
When your plant is established you shouldn’t fertilize it during the winter dormant months but during the spring and summer, you should fertilize on a monthly basis.
I would recommend that you use an organic fruit tree fertilizer and also add some organic compost, manure or mulch to the soil if you can.
How to prune an indoor papaya tree in a pot
When you are growing papaya indoors is you will have to prune it to keep it short as you don’t want a full-size tree growing in your house.
When pruning your papaya you should cut the top off making sure you leave some branches growing out the way, doing this will encourage the energy to go into growing the branches and stop it shooting up the way.
Some people use the topping off method when the papaya plant is still a fairly young seedling.
This method involves cutting the top off but then placing some sort of lattice system above it so that you can train it to grow at more of a right angle than straight up. For my full article on how to keep a papaya short Click Here.
How to pollinate a papaya tree?
Papaya trees come in male, female and if you get lucky bisexual varieties.
If you have male and female trees you will need one of each so that they can pollinate but if you luck out and get a bisexual tree (store bought papayas are normally bisexual) you only need one as they produce both male and female flowers.
To hand pollinate simply use a small paintbrush and brush the pollen off male flowers and into the female flowers that will look sticky inside.
You will have to hand pollinate your papayas if you want it to produce fruit indoors as you shouldn’t have enough insects in your house to carry out the job like they do in an outdoor setting.
When to pick papaya from a potted tree
The best indicator for when it is time to pick your papaya is the color of it, when it starts to turn yellow from the bottom it’s ready to be picked.
You can leave papaya on your tree to fully ripen and turn completely yellow or you can pick it when it starts to turn yellow and it will take a few days to fully ripen off the tree or quicker if you put it in a brown paper bag.
You should not eat unripe papayas when they are ready for eating they will be fully yellow and become slightly softer.
How to store freshly picked papaya from the tree
The best place to store papaya that will keep it fresh for about a week is in the fridge.
To store papaya in a fridge the best thing to do is put it in a sealable plastic bag or large sealable container.
To keep your papaya edible for the longest time the option would be to freeze it.
When you plan to freeze papaya the best thing to do is peel it, remove the seeds and slice it up.
Once prepared like this put it into a sealable container or sealable plastic bag, cover it with a sugar water solution, yes sugar water 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water and it will keep good in the freezer for approximately 10 months.
What to do if your papaya tree isn’t producing fruit
If your papaya isn’t producing fruits the first thing I would ask is do you have a bisexual tree that produces male and female flowers or do you have a single male or female?
If you have a single male or female that will likely be the reason your papaya tree isn’t producing as you need one of each for pollination to occur.
Have you helped with the pollination? indoor plants don’t have insects to pollinate them you will have to help them by using the paintbrush method I mentioned above.
Check how much you are watering and fertilizing as if you are doing it too much or not enough that could result in no fruit being produced.
To grow a papaya tree outdoors
If you are growing papaya outdoors you will have to make sure you don’t live in an area that gets frosty during the winter months as frost will likely kill your papaya trees or result in no fruit.
To plant papaya you should dig a hole that is larger than required then mix the soil you have removed 50/50 with compost.
Put the plant in the hole and refill with the compost mix then give it a good water.
As long as you have planted it somewhere warm and sunny with good drainage you should expect to be eating papaya in between 6-11 months depending on your local climate.
Common papaya tree problems and how to solve them
Papaya can be fairly straightforward to grow but like all plants it can be affected by various diseases and if they are not treated quickly and correctly they could spread and ultimately kill your plant.
Indoor plants will not be subjected to the same risk of diseases or funguses and if your tree starts to look unhealthy you should make sure it is getting enough light, water and make sure you are using the correct amount of fertilizer as over fertilizing can be very bad.
If your tree becomes unhealthy and you cannot figure out what is wrong you should consult a specialist immediately.
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