Plant Something Unusual: The All-American Pawpaw Tree
If you like fruit trees, you can always plant the usual apple, plum, or peach. But maybe
you're hankering for something different. Something exclusive, unusual, even exotic. Something
that also looks great in your landscaping. If that's the case, you could be in the market for a
pawpaw tree (Asimina Triloba). It produces big, almost tropical fruit that tastes like a
mixture of banana and mango.
Some Background on the Pawpaw
While the pawpaw is native to the east, Native Americans spread it as far west as Kansas and
almost as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. They had their reasons. Pawpaw is the largest
American fruit, growing up to 16 ounces. The reason you won't find this fruit in your grocery
store is that it doesn't transport easily. So stores don't want to stock it. That's why people
have forgotten how good this fruit is. All the more reason to grow your own.
Packed with Nutrition
Nutritionally, the fruit is a treasure trove. Vegans will be happy to learn that pawpaw is
the only fruit with all the essential amino acids humans need. Pawpaws provide as much
potassium as bananas, and 3 times the Vitamin C of apples. They also contain plenty of
The fruit has a creamy texture, and you can spoon out the pulp for making puddings, ice
cream, sorbets, pies, and smoothies. You can even freeze it. You can bake with pawpaw pulp,
using it as a substitute for bananas or applesauce in your recipes. Most people just love to
pick the fruit off the tree and eat it then and there.
Landscaping with Pawpaws
The pawpaw's landscaping potential is great. You could have a 20-40 foot cone-shaped tree
that produces thick, heavy leaves in the spring and a rich golden color in the fall. Also, the
caterpillars of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies feed exclusively on pawpaws, so your yard will
have even more interesting features. Even better, deer and rabbits stay away from pawpaw trees,
which are also resistant to disease.
You can sometimes find pawpaw trees for sale at nurseries. If not, you can find them online.
For best results, buy at least two that are not clones or siblings for pollination. Pawpaws
will not self-pollinate, and the flies and beetles that are supposed to do the job are
unreliable. You may need to pollinate your trees with a small watercolor brush.
The Best Conditions for Pawpaws
The ideal spot for a mature pawpaw is sunny, protected from the wind, and endowed with
plenty of rich, well-drained soil. The seedling can't take direct sunlight for the first year
or two, so you'll need to filter the sun with an open-ended barrel or some netting. After that,
full sun is great.
How to Plant Pawpaws
You can start pawpaw seeds in containers with rich soil, such as
Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil. Keep them shaded, and then transplant them after
a year or two. With pawpaw trees purchased at the local nursery or online just follow the
instructions in our article on
Planting a Fruit Tree.
Find Out More about Pawpaws
There are many resources for learning more about pawpaws. A good one is the Ohio Pawpaw
Growers' Association, at www.ohiopawpaw.com. This group provided the photos you see in this