Problems with Papayas

If I was in charge of papayas around here, nobody would have any papayas. I have been growing them since I’ve been here, but I’ve only had a couple fairly bad fruits in all this time.

They are easy to plant. Drop seeds on the ground and they sprout. Don’t drop seeds on the ground and papayas will still sprout everywhere in places you don’t expect, like the ones I have now. But, in my experience, most of these trees will never reach maturity. The few that do get big and start making fruit seem to want to fall over. We had one very promising tree loaded with fruit and one night I heard this crashing sound, and there it was on the ground with the fruit scattered everywhere (these were the couple bad fruits that I tried to salvage and ripen. Apparently they were too green). The trunk tried to grow again but after a while, it also died.

A couple days ago, Joel went to the window and saw this outside.

What the heck?? The top of the tree just fell off like someone had whacked it off with a machete. The tree has a couple sprouts so it might grow again, but this fruit is certainly lost. I picked out a few of the most promising looking ones and we will see what happens, but I’m not holding out for anything remarkable.

I have a couple other promising trees at the moment, one at the back corner of the house and the other just outside the front fence.

I have another small papaya also just outside the front fence that has male flowers, something you don’t see as often.

Maybe I need some instruction on papayas. I haven’t noticed any other trees getting special care, and I’ve seen others loaded with fruit that seem to be doing OK. Maybe I need to lighten the load on mine and remove some of the fruit so they can support the rest of the fruit? I don’t know. The one that just fell was super tall, but the others have been short enough that removing fruit would be possible. I’ll have to do some asking around.

Meanwhile, thank goodness, other people know how to manage papayas. They are available in the markets year around and they are delicious.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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23 Responses to Problems with Papayas

  1. Carole says:

    When we first moved to St Croix w.e bought a Papaya tree, not knowing any better. It never produced fruit. I have had wild papayas growing all over the yard since, the birds drop the seeds everywhere. There is one growing next to our chain link fence that has fruit starting to grow. I planted a lot of seeds in a pot from a red papaya, it is full of small plants. Once they get bigger i will try to put them in the ground all around the yard to see if they grow bigger. Not sure if I will ever see it produce, but nice to try to grow them from the seeds. I always seem to grow the orange ones, but i love the red ones better.


    • We seem to have the orange ones here. Once I saw some small, sweeter yellow/orange variety, but that’s unusual. I wonder if you could bring some red papaya seeds with you to see if they would do well here.


  2. Yolande Scotland says:

    I am from Montserrat where papaya trees grow and survive very well. Maybe someone at the Botancal Gardens can tell you the reason and how to help to maintain the trees.


    • There are papaya trees all over the place here too. I’ll have to ask the neighbors about mine falling down and what I need to do to care for them. The people across the street grow a lot of stuff including papayas so I’ll start there.


  3. oldsalt1942 says:

    I had a couple where I was house-sitting in Potrerillos Arriba when I first got down here to Panama. I found they were quite susceptible to root rot which caused them to fall over.


    • Ahh ok, I could understand that. Mine though, it’s like the trunk snaps. This tree is probably 12 feet tall and only the upper three feet or so fell down. The trunk looks fine, not rotten inside or anything.


  4. I was told by my previous Panamanian Gardner to remove all the first blossoms in order to allow the tree to strengthen its trunk. Then allow the second set of blossoms to begin maturing after the trunk has gotten bigger. Also was told that if the tree grows big and strong but produces no blossoms the following. First thing in the morning, get up, do NOT say a single word, go out to the tree and stab it with a knife or machete. Then it will blossom. Who knows, stranger things have come true! Have not tried this.

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  5. Hey Kris,,, I just wanted to say HI, hope you and Joel are doing ok. We sure did hate to leave from down there, we miss y’all.. and say that i thought you can grow almost anything in Panama??? LOL


    • Hey there! How are you? We’re fine here, thanks.
      I think pretty much anything can be grown here, but that doesn’t mean that I myself can do it successfully. But, someone is doing well because you can find lots of papayas in any market.


  6. Good for you that you like them … I’ve heard the locals don’t care for them all that much, maybe they are sick of them. They are not my favorite either, but not bad in a fruit bowl mixed with other stuff 😀 …


    • I never ate papayas either before coming here, but I like these a lot. Of course the locals all have their preferences but many of them must like papayas too, judging by all the papayas for sale in the markets.


  7. Laureen says:

    When you figure it out, let me know! I’d like to plant a couple of trees in MX. I was told that their maximum lifespan for giving fruit is about 7-8 years, so keep planting every few years. I too have seen some prolific trees that are not very big.
    The casita is not quite ready, so we are staying with friends. We should be ready for you sometime next year!


  8. OK will do, and the locals can probably tell you what works well in your area.
    How exciting that you made it there! Everything will come together in time and when you are ready, we will definitely come and visit you 🙂


  9. Papayas! Love them, though the only time I’d eat a papaya is for breakfast, as first course – slice a wedge, scrape out the seeds, squeeze some fresh lime juice over it and eat with a spoon. Enjoy! If you’re not averse to a little sugar, then sprinkle a bit over the wedge before squeezing the lime.
    Then move on to eggs and sausage and toast – preferably served by the butler. Finish off with a cup,of coffee.

    Green papaya is often used to tenderize meat in India, by the way. Then again, some Indian men believe green papaya makes them impotent (my husband would never touch anything made with them!)

    I’ve heard of the (and seen) trouble with the tops of the trees breaking off as well – I think you have the answer to solve that problem above though. Possibly.

    Thanks Kris, for another lovely post.


    • We have limons here, and that juice is also great on papayas.
      That’s right about green papaya being a tenderizer. I met someone from a Caribbean island who uses them that way but I’d forgotten about it.


  10. Papayas are great in Smoothies. I make banana, papaya, pineapple and mango Smoothies, all fruit with a bit of Mango juice, so it will blend easier and some ice cubes to chill it a bit. I use a Blendtec heavy duty blender.


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  12. Sunni Morris says:

    As with anything new, you have to learn what to do and not to do and then hope for the best. Good luck.


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