How Long Papaya Trees Last (And How Fast They Grow)

The papaya tree on a very large. Organic green papaya on tree

If you are growing your own papaya trees or merely considering growing them, you probably want to know how long papaya trees last and where papaya trees grow. After putting in the time and effort to grow these plants will you be rewarded with beautiful, broad-leaved foliage year after year, as well as tasty fruits.

Papaya trees are tropical tree-like plants that are generally short-lived. With the right conditions, papaya plants can live close to 20 years. Papaya trees grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-12 because they need a tropical climate to successfully grow and produce fruit.

Papaya trees can last for several years if they receive the right conditions. These finicky plants live life in the fast lane, require moderate care, but are relatively easy to grow. Keep reading! In this article, we’ll be going over how long papaya trees live, how fast papaya trees grow, and how to care for them.

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Why Papaya Trees Last So Long

Fresh papaya tree with bunch of fruits

Papaya trees live fast, grow up quickly, and burn out just as fast. They may live for a few decades if the conditions are perfect, and there are reports of a very limited selection of trees that reach the ripe old age of 40. The lifespan of a papaya tree is also related to the weather, the climate, and what you are growing the papaya trees for.

Papaya trees will start producing fruit theIr first year. Compare that to apples, citrus trees, or other fruit trees, which take years for the first fruits to show up, papayas are a great choice.

The downside to that is, that papaya trees don’t produce fruit for nearly as long as actual woody trees.

Papaya trees may last for a decade or three if they are cared for very well, but they typically only produce fruit for a small amount of that time. Either that or the quality of the fruit starts to decline after 3 to 4 years.

If you are growing papaya trees for the fruit, you can expect them to last for a handful of years; even commercial papaya producers replace their trees every 3 to 4 years because of this.

The good thing is they are easy to grow!

You can renew your crop from seeds every 2 to 3 years. When you get great fruit, keep those seeds and grow some more papaya trees. That way, when the older trees start to fizzle out, you’ll have replacement trees either growing or ready to grow.

Papaya trees grow tall with a single trunk that often has a top-heavy crown. This makes wind a major factor in the lifespan of papayas. If a papaya tree reaches 20 to 30 feet tall and is laden down with fruit, a good gust of wind could knock the tree to the ground, thus, ending its lifespan early.

Too much rain or a sudden cold snap could end a papaya tree’s growth as well. These plants are quite susceptible to root rot as well as cold temperatures.

There are a few areas in the United States where you can grow papaya trees outside year after year. These places include most of Florida, south Texas, Arizona, southern California, and Hawaii. If you’re like me and the vast majority of the population, you probably won’t be able to grow papaya trees outdoors, unless you replant them every year like annual flowers.

Freezing temperatures will surely destroy papaya trees, as these tropical plants have not become accustomed to the cold. With proper care, you can protect them from a short cold snap, but prolonged freezes will finish them off.

So, if you live in an area that gets a typical winter, your papaya trees will be ornamental tropical trees that grow beautifully for a few months and then shrivel up during the first frost.

As Papaya Trees Get Older, They Get Weaker

Young, vibrant papaya trees are healthy, strong trees that are very resistant to most tree diseases and pests, but as the trees age, they get more susceptible to mold, rot, and pests. This is another reason papaya plants don’t typically live very long.

When growing papayas at home, they will probably only live for 5 to 7 years before either getting root rot, being blown over or some other disease that ends the tree’s life cycle.

Papaya trees do well for a short time, but then they begin to fizzle out in a few years.

Since they are very easy to grow from seed, it’s usually not prudent to try and fight a pest invasion or treat diseases in papaya trees; just get rid of the problem trees and grow new ones.

How Long Do Papaya Trees Bear Fruit?

Papaya trees will start fruiting in the first year, often 6 to 12 months after seeds have germinated. If they stay warm and well-tended, they should continually grow taller as they produce more fruit. They will stop producing fruit when the weather starts to cool down.

If you live in areas where you can grow papaya trees outdoors you will likely have better, longer yields of fruit. They thrive in hot humid temperatures and a lot of sunlight, which is a little harder to mimic indoors.

With optimal conditions, papaya trees will produce fruit for 7 to 8 years, but as the trees mature, the quality of fruit tends to decline. As the trees age, they are more likely to either get blown over by wind because they are always growing taller, or some other malady will strike them down. It’s recommended to replace your fruiting papaya trees every 3 to 4 years.

If you grow your papaya trees indoors, even if you can replicate outdoor, natural conditions it is still recommended they be replaced about every 5 years. This helps with fruit production, the height of the plants, and reducing the likelihood of disease in the trees.

What Is The Life Cycle Of A Papaya Tree?

Tree very full of green papaya

Papaya trees grow fast, are easy to start from seed, produce fruit within the first year, continue to produce quality fruit for a few years then they quickly hit their twilight years.

Let’s put that into a timeframe so you know what to expect.

According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, papaya fruit production depends on factors like climate and plant care. A healthy papaya tree will start producing flowers about four months in, and then 3 to 7 months after that it will likely start producing fruit.

Seedling: Starting a papaya tree from seed only takes about 2 to 4 weeks if you rinse them and break the outer coating off the seed. Cover the seeds with about a quarter-inch of soil and keep it moist, soon you’ll have seedlings pushing up from the soil.

Sapling: After a month or two, if you started your seeds indoors, it is time to transplant the papaya plants to their permanent areas. It could be outdoors or in a large planter if you’re keeping them indoors. They should be about a foot or two tall before transplanting.

Young Tree: Around the four-month mark you should start seeing flowers on the plants. Papaya trees can be either male, female, or both. The seeds you get from fruits at the grocery store are likely to be both male and female.

Male flowers grow in thin clusters, with thin shoots that extend off the tree a few inches. Female flowers are fuller and grow right above leaf stems. The female flowers need to be pollinated to produce fruits. If you are growing papaya plants inside strictly, you can pollinate these flowers yourself by using a cotton swab or a small paintbrush.

Fruiting Stage: After the flowering stage, if the flowers have been pollinated you should begin seeing fruits growing from the flowers after a few more months. About 3 to 7 months after the flowers you could be harvesting fresh papaya fruit for yourself. Depending on conditions and the vitality of the plant, you could get high-quality fruit from your trees for the next 4 to 5 years.

Mature Tree: During this time the tree starts to get very high. You may not be able to safely reach the fruits of the tree, it could break and fall with a high wind gust, or it could get something like root rot. As the trees mature they get weaker and more susceptible to disease. Around this age, it’s time to start thinking about replacing existing trees.

Papaya Trees Are Easy To Grow

Papaya flower on the papaya tree

You can go to the grocery store, buy a papaya fruit, and grow your own plant from the seeds. All you have to do is wash the seeds, break the outer sac that contains the seed—this outer shell inhibits germination—dry the seeds for a day or two, then plant them.

That’s basically it, no stratification is required. The seeds will start sprouting in a few weeks. You’ll just need to have well-drained soil, keep the soil moist, and make sure they are kept very warm. Papaya trees thrive in higher temperatures.

According to the University of Florida, to start growing papaya trees, remove the seeds from ripe fruit and rinse through a colander. Break the seed’s surrounding sac by pressing the seeds against the side of the colander. Rinse them thoroughly then lay them out on a paper towel to dry. Once they are dry, the seeds can be stored in a plastic bag and in the refrigerator for a few years for later use.

Papaya Trees Need Moist Soil

One of the biggest problems with papaya trees is that the roots don’t handle standing water at all. They love water but are finicky about it. The soil has to stay moist, and the plant can’t dry out, but standing water will cause root rot to set in quickly.

If you plan to grow papaya or other fruit trees, the FoxFarm FX14100 Coco Loco Potting Mix is the perfect soil to do so! The coconut coir in this potting mix can hold more water than its weight, while still being a well-draining soil.

Papaya Trees Love The Heat

Since they come from a tropical climate, papaya trees need it hot to grow and produce fruit.

If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-12 you should be able to plant papayas outside as long as you protect them from freezing temperatures. If you live in cooler climates the trees will most likely be ornamental trees for one year, unless you can bring them inside during the cooler months.

Starting your own papaya seeds is easy with this 2 Sets Seed Starter Tray with Heat Mats. This will help to keep the seeds moist, and it offers the correct soil temperatures as papaya seeds need the soil temperature to stay in the range of 60-70°F for proper growth.

Papaya Trees Need Fertilizer

Papaya fruit are growing on trees in the garden on a blurry natural background.

Papaya trees grow quite fast, so they require a lot of organic material such as compost, and/or fertilizer. Typical trees native to your growing zone only require fertilizer about every one or two years, whereas papayas will need nutrients about every month during the warm, growing months.

So while they are easy to grow, they do require a decent amount of your attention.

The Nelson Citrus Fruit and Avocado Tree Plant Food is a great fertilizer choice for your papaya tree. It has a balanced nutrient ratio specifically for fruit trees to properly grow fruit. Additionally, this fertilizer has added calcium to help improve the growth of the papaya tree trunk and limbs and added potassium to assist the tree during colder temperatures.

Papaya Trees Need Full Sun

Sunlight is crucial for the growth and development of your papaya tree. Papayas need a lot of sun. If you plant papaya trees outside, they need all the sunlight, so don’t plant them around other trees or buildings that might shade them. If you grow them inside you’ll need either a sunroom that gets 6 to 8 hours a day of full sun or a greenhouse.

Papaya Trees As Ornamentals

Some people like to grow papaya trees as annual, fast-growing, ornamental trees outdoors.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with this, and they can be beautiful specimens prized for their large, broad leaves and tropical look. Once cold weather sets in and they get a hard frost, it will finish them off for the season.

Once winter has played out, you can start seeds inside again, and once the threat of frost is gone, plant the papaya trees outdoors for a new round of ornamental trees. Papaya trees need consistent temperatures in the 80s and 90s to grow fruits, so areas farther north may not get the hot weather that will grow papaya fruit.

If you do end up getting green fruits but they don’t ripen, you can still use them. Green, unripe papaya is used in cooking or as a substitute for winter squash. There are a lot of recipes out there that utilize green papaya, so if that’s all you can grow in your area, don’t throw them away, cook them!

That’s A Wrap!

Fresh papaya tree with bunch of fruits

Now that you know how long papaya trees will last and how fast they grow, we hope you go out there and grow your own. These trees are easy to grow, but they are a bit finicky. Once you have everything figured out, it’s not hard to keep papaya trees growing.

In perfect tropical conditions, papaya trees will last for decades. If you are growing them for fruit production, then you’ll only want to keep them growing for 4 to 7 years, after that it’s best to replace them with new, vigorous growing papaya trees. You can keep your trees alive for years with proper care, but as they age it gets less prudent to keep them alive because they are so easy to replace.

We hope this has been of some help to you on your papaya tree journey!

References

Wang, Ren-Huang, et al. “Leaf age and light intensity affect gas exchange parameters and photosynthesis within the developing canopy of field net-house-grown papaya trees.” Scientia Horticulturae 165 (2014): 365-373.

Wadekar, Ashish B., et al. “Morphology, phytochemistry and pharmacological aspects of Carica papaya, an review.” GSC Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences 14.3 (2021): 234-248.

Liao, Zhenyang, Qingyi Yu, and Ray Ming. “Development of male-specific markers and identification of sex reversal mutants in papaya.” Euphytica 213.2 (2017): 1-12.

Niklas, Karl J., and Thomas E. Marler. “Carica papaya (Caricaceae): a case study into the effects of domestication on plant vegetative growth and reproduction.” American Journal of Botany 94.6 (2007): 999-1002.

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