Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I grow a paw paw tree?

Paw paw, a Missouri native, is grown both as a small landscape tree and for its fruit. As an ornamental tree is grows 15 to 20 feet tall and about as broad. Because the plant suckers freely, it will develop into a grove or thicket when left undisturbed. It has oblong leaves six to twelve inches long that droop gracefully. Paw paws grow well in full sun but also tolerate shade. Transplanting is difficult so only small plants less than 6 feet tall should be moved. Take care to not damage the roots or let them dry out.

As a native fruit paw paw is unique. It is a member of the custard apple family which is predominantly tropical and subtropical. The family includes custard apple, cherimoya and soursop. It should not be confused with papaya which is commonly called papaw. The fruit of paw paw looks like a stout banana from 2-5 inches long. The color of the skin will vary from green to yellowish to brown when the fruit is ripe depending upon the variety. Yielding to slight pressure and fragrance is a better indicator of ripeness then color in many cases. The fruit has the consistency of egg custard with a flavor prized by many. Some people are allergic to paw paws.

Paw paws are generally self incompatible so two or more varieties or clones should be planted to assure good fruit set. Fruit generally ripens in September or October. They are highly perishable and bruise easily which limits their commercial availability.

Interest in growing paw paws is growing so more and better varieties should be available as time goes on. Varieties recommended by the University of Illinois are: 'Davis', 'Taylor', 'Taytwo', 'Sunflower', and 'Overleese'.