Papaya Planting and Care

Follow this guide carefully to have success growing Papayas.  There are a few KEY tricks to having success with Papaya growing.  Pay special attention to BOLDED text.

Papaya Planting

#1 Plant in the right season

Papaya trees are at most high risk for critical damage in the winter when temperatures reach nearly freezing. Plant papayas as early as you can during your regions warm season to give them the longest possible warm weather window to get established. For California residents, this window starts around March. The latest you will likely want to plant is July.

#2 Choose a warm location

Papayas are at most high risk for critical damage in the winter when temperatures reach nearly freezing. Keep papayas healthy and surviving through the winter by choosing a warm location in your garden where the ground DOES NOT FREEZE.

Urban and suburban environments have lots of "heat sinks" that will help your subtropicals through the winter. Concrete and asphalt store up heat during the day and release it at night, use this to your advantage. Plant next to a building, next to a concrete or brick wall, next to a concrete patio, next to a driveway or any other large mass of stone-like material.

#3 Planting

Papaya's NEED GOOD DRAINAGE in our climate.  DO NOT PLANT DIRECTLY INTO THE GROUND unless you have very well draining silty or sandy soil.  Instead, plant into a raised mound or a raised bed.  Papayas actually grow perfectly in a raised vegetable garden bed, as they will get the drainage they want along with the fertile soil of a raised bed. 

Make a hole slightly larger than the plant's root ball. Gently remove the plant from its container, loosen the roots, and place it in the hole. Position the plant at the same depth it was in the container and backfill with soil. Water thoroughly after planting. DO NOT ADD COMPOST TO THE PLANTING HOLE.

#4 Amend the Soil

Papayas will prefer highly fertile soil, and soil in most home gardens has been damaged from construction and years of dehydration and sun exposure. Improve soil quality by amending it with organic matter such as compost. Add a 3 inch thick layer of compost in a 5 foot diameter around the trunk of trees, or a 2 foot diameter around the base of smaller plants.

#5 Mulch

Apply a 3 inch thick layer of wood chip mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Keep the mulch away from the plant's stem to prevent rot.

#6 Watering

Water newly planted subtropical plants deeply to establish their roots. Water regularly to maintain soil moisture.

Papaya Care


Papayas require regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water regularly, as you would a plant in a vegetable garden, depending on weather conditions and soil moisture levels. Adjust watering frequency during periods of heavy rain or drought.

DO NOT WATER IN THE WINTER unless there is a prolonged dry spell. Cold wet roots are an easy way to kill a Papaya plant.


Papaya do not require pruning.

Pest and Disease Management

Papaya do not generally have many pests or diseases in SoCal.


Papaya branch with male flowers

Papaya branch with female flowers

Papaya branch with intersex flowers

Papaya STEMS are typically dioecious, meaning individual BRANCHES of a palnt are either male, female, OR intersex. To ensure fruit production, it's essential to have both male and female stems, OR A SINGLE INTERSEX stem for pollination. If you get only male flowers on your main trunk, pinch the growing tip off to force the tree to branch.  You will now get 2-3 branches growing, and most likely one you will have the right combination of branch sexes to produce fruit.


Papayas generally take 6-9 months to mature and produce fruit, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Harvest ripe papayas when they have developed a yellow-orange hue and yield slightly to gentle pressure. Use a sharp knife to cut the fruit from the tree, leaving a short stem attached. Unripe papayas can be left to ripen further on the counter at room temperature.

Winter Protection

Papayas are sensitive to cold temperatures and can be damaged or killed by frost. Protect young or vulnerable plants during cold spells by covering them with frost cloth or blankets.

By following these guidelines and providing proper care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious papayas in your Southern California garden.