Planting a papaya tree as an indoor plant will add an eye-catching tropical flair to your space, and you’ll reap all its rewards in due time! Papayas are rapidly growing fruit trees with non-branched woody branches. Their large leaves are divided into 5-9 segments and supported by petioles at their tops – giving the illusion of an umbrella! Plus, papayas don’t require cutting down for maintenance!
Place this tropical plant in a warm, sunny location all year. If you plan to move it outdoors during the summer, make sure it is shielded from windy conditions and bring inside when temperatures dip below 60degF/16degC; papaya trees do not tolerate cold at all and two factors that can destroy them: frost and wet soil. During summertime, papaya flowers take the shape of trumpets and are visible within the leaf-axils of the tree; these sweet yellow or white blooms are only one inch (2.5 centimeters) long and have five petals.
Papaya flowers can be female or male. Carica papaya “Solo” has two varieties of flowers. Some indoor papaya trees might require hand pollination to stimulate fruit production – it’s best to ask your nursery if this is necessary in order for your tree to produce fruits.
Pollinate Your Papaya Flowers using a Dry Paintbrush
Use a small dry paintbrush to lightly dab each flower with the brush as you move between them, swinging across its middle as you do so – similar to how bees do it. This will transfer pollen from male flowers to female blooms, just as bees do.
When papaya fruit mature, their color changes from dark green to light yellow. When most of the flesh has turned yellow, allow to ripen for another couple days at room temperatures until it feels slightly soft to touch and the flesh has turned yellow. Green papayas should never be consumed raw as they won’t fully develop if picked while still green.
Papaya fruit is juicy with hard flesh and mildly sweet – not to mention healthy for you! One of the benefits of papayas is that they contain papain, an enzyme which aids digestion.
Repotting young plants annually requires one size larger when their roots have filled the pot. Use a sturdy pot to avoid tipping over and make sure there is an outlet for drainage to prevent root decay.
Be mindful of pests and diseases. Papaya trees don’t seem to be affected by pests in indoor environments, but be wary of spider mites which thrive during dry conditions during winter. White flies or thrips could also be the source of infestation. Take steps to eliminate any infestation as soon as it occurs with an all-purpose organic spray made up of neem oil which will eliminate mildew and insects – just remember not to spray directly onto fruits you plan to eat!
Papaya Tree Care Tips
Native: Southern Mexico and Central America
Height: As high as 10 feet (3 meters) when grown in a pot. Smaller varieties can grow to heights of 4-8 feet (1.2-2.4 meters).
Light Full Sunlight: Give your papaya tree as much direct sunlight as possible year-round, moving it outdoors during the summer months to allow the fruit to develop. Rotate the plant by one quarter every week as it tends to move towards direct sunlight sources.
Water: To ensure the health of your fruit tree, water it regularly during hot weather and let dry out in winter. Be sure to water thoroughly but do not overwater as this could lead to root death.
Humidity: For optimal plant growth and humidity levels, aim for 40%-50 percent relative humidity. The most efficient way to increase humidity levels in tropical plants is by using a cool-mist humidifier.
Temperature: This tropical tree thrives best when kept at temperatures between 65-75degF/18-24degC. To ensure the health of your tree, keep it cool year-round – even if you leave it out on the patio during summer. Just bring it inside again when temperatures drop; any prolonged cold spell or exposure to 32 degrees F/0degC could prove fatal for a papaya tree.
Soil: Moderately acidic (pH balance of 6.0-6.5). Mix for potting that has been well drained.
Fertilizer: Feeding citrus trees monthly during summer and spring. I highly recommend organic fertilizers for fruit trees as they contain all essential nutrients necessary for healthy root development, plus it encourages flower and fruit production as well.
Growing: Planting papayas from seed is possible. Simply sow the seeds in moist perlite and cover with plastic to retain humidity. Place in a warm, well-lit area (ideally using a heat mat to maintain an even 75deg/24degC temperature). Within 5-8 weeks, they should start sprouting; flowers should appear 10-12 months later.