Tropical Papaya: An Herb Plant

Tropical Papayas can be grown as a perennial in areas without frost or as an annual in areas with mild frost. Papaya trees are actually not trees but herb plants whose leaves last only 4-6 months. Plants bear well for 2 yrs and then should be replaced.

Papayas come in 3 sexes: male, female and hermaphrodite.
Male flowers do not produce fruit, though they do bear pollen that can pollinate either of the other 2 sexes. Female flowers must be pollinated by either a male or a hermaphrodite. Hermaphrodite flowers contain both parts necessary for pollination, and are self-fertile.

According to the International Tropical Fruits Network, there are 6 different known types of papaya flowers, and at least 15 different named forms of flowers.  It gets complicated.  If you'd like the details, read more here.

papaya fruit

typical ripe papaya

Ripe Papaya

Our first ripe papaya from the 'King George' -- yum!

Here's a simple video
that illustrates
the difference between
male & female papaya plants:

Hermaphroditic papaya plants are even more complicated.  They can have male, female or "perfect" flowers  --- all on the same plant.  And male flowers on the Hermaphroditic plants are not on such a long raceme (the "stalk" or "stem" from which they are attached to the plant) as the male flowers are on a true "male" plant.

That said, Hermaphrodite plants can be "unstable" under certain conditions and subject to "sex reversal", leaving you with a female plant. Cool weather or high soil moisture can lead to a shift toward femaleness.  (Papaya plants need good drainage but consistent water.)

The best way to ensure fertilization of your papaya plant is to avoid having just one plant in the area.

Tropical Papayas to buy:

We currently have 2 varieties of papayas for sale, subject to seasonal availability:  Red Lady & a new hybrid that matures more rapidly, bred to produce large fruit earlier in the season.
Papayas can grow as tall as 20-30', but dwarfs are just 10-12' hgt. and fit well in the home landscape.

Red Lady

Red Lady is a well known dwarf, semi-self fertile variety that can fruit the first year but definitely the second year.  Fruits are oblong, 3-5 lbs and orange-red. Generally grows 10-12' tall and begins fruiting at about 4' height.

But the sooner your papaya fruits, the more likely you are to get a crop in North Central & Central FL,  due to the comparably short growing season (compared to the tropics).  Hence our new hybrid:

New Hybrid:  dubbed 'King George'

We also have a new dwarf hybrid bred to produce earlier in the season at just 2-2.5' tall.   It has a higher frost resistance (hardy to short spells of 30-32 degrees), and larger fruit on very short stocky plants.

This variety produces a thin-skinned, orange-red, sweet papaya 2-4 lbs with good PRSV (Papaya Ring Spot Virus) resistance.  Fruit is a very tender, sweet and tasty combination. Grows 10-12' tall and produces fruit when only a few feet tall.

King George produces hermaphodite plants 60% of the time. So planting one gives you a 60/40 chance of fruit; planting 2 gives you an 80/20 chance of fruit; and 3 give you a 96-98% chance of fruit.

This would be the better variety to grow in the northern half of zone 9 that has a shorter growing season than south Florida.


7 gal  'King George' papaya beginning to bloom

It is a cross between Tainung #2 (Asian variety) and the Weiman Olo (Hawaiian variety) aka 'Waimanolo'.

King George papaya blossoms

blossoms up close

Great video showing what a healthy papaya plant looks like heavy with fruit. Also shows preparing a ripe papaya to eat.

Papayas can range from 1-10 lbs!