Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Papaya Tree (Carica papaya )

This has to be one of the easiest plants I’ve tried. I stuck in in the ground last spring. Then it didn’t rain for 4 months. And we were on strict water rations. Didn’t even phase this papaya. As you can see it grew itself up and just now in mid August has begun to fruit.

Papaya trees can reach 20′ tall, I’ve yet to see one over 6′ in the Houston area. Leaves can be 2′ across, mine are about a 1′ in width and 18″ in length.

The stem is soft, rings are from previous leaves, much like a palm.

I’ve read fruit and flowering occurs year round, I’ve only seen fruit late summer to fall locally.

There are male and female plants, male flowers are on short stalks, female on the trunk. You need both. I guess I just got lucky.

Grow in full sun. Loves lots of water I’m told, this one seems to have been just fine with out it this summer.

Will be damaged or die in freezing or near freezing weather. Really a plant for the south side of Houston. This one died after several hard frosts.

Like many tropical plants it has a white, milky sap, which should make you think it is toxic and it is toxic. Unripe fruit must be cooked and don’t eat the leaves.

Close relative of passion vine.

South American Native used as an important food source in ancient times. Many grow wild near the Mayan ruins. Interestingly papaya contains an enzyme which helps to dissolve raw meat. In Africa papaya leaves are wrapped around raw meat before it is eaten. The meat is then cooked in the leaves. ( see note about toxin and don’t try this at home ) Some believe the juice of the fruit aids stomach problems.

Several viruses can attack papaya, watch for rings on leaves and destroy plant if found. Also cotton root rot can attack papaya.