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By: Ilana Goldowitz Jimenez, Plant Scientist & Writer
Pawpaw is a tasty, although unusual, fruit. Though it is a member of the mostly tropical Anonnaceae plant family, the pawpaw is suited for growing in humid temperate regions in USDA gardening zones 5 through 8. Besides the interesting fruits, pawpaws also have beautiful, deep red or purple flowers that look like they date from the age of the dinosaurs.
Growing Pawpaw Sucker Root Cuttings
You’ve probably only tasted a pawpaw if you’re lucky enough to have a tree growing nearby, either in the wild or on a neighbor’s property. You may have noticed suckers (shoots that grow directly from the roots) emerging from the ground. Seeing these emerging from the ground, some may ask: “can you root pawpaw suckers?”
It is difficult to propagate the tree in this manner. But it can be done.
How to Propagate Pawpaw Root Cuttings
Pawpaw trees produce root suckers because of their natural growth strategy in the wild. They grow in patches of clonal (genetically identical) trees that spread underground via the root system. It is possible to take advantage of this to propagate the trees.
Growing pawpaw sucker root cuttings tends to be most successful if you first encourage the sucker to produce more roots and establish its own, independent existence. To do this, cut the root sucker off from its parent tree by cutting into the ground with a spade the year before you will transplant. If you didn’t do this the year before, do it a few weeks before you intend to transplant. You may want to use several root suckers to do this, since it’s likely that not all will survive.
The best time to transplant the tree shoot is a few weeks after bud break in the spring, when the suckers have leaves that are not yet full size. Dig up the sucker along with the soil around its roots. Bring as many roots as possible with it. Immediately transplant directly into the ground or into pots filled with a rich soil mix. Keep the suckers well watered, because if they dry out, they will likely die. Provide with shade in the first two years.
Propagating Pawpaw Suckers vs. Other Methods
Pawpaw sucker propagation is difficult but, if successful, it has several advantages over seed propagation. Plants grown from root suckers should produce fruit in 2 to 3 years, and they should have the same characteristics as the parent tree, since they are genetically identical to it.
Growing pawpaws from seed is the most common method for home propagation. Plants grown from seed usually produce fruit between 4 to 8 years after sowing. Pawpaw seeds must be treated with cold stratification to break dormancy, and they take about 45 to 60 days to emerge from the soil after sowing. Be sure to germinate them in deep containers (such as tree pots), because the root grows to be over a foot long (30 cm.) before the shoot emerges from the soil.
Grafting is a common method of growing pawpaw. A grafted tree can produce fruit in as little as 2 to 3 years. Chip budding is the most common grafting technique, but other techniques can also be successful.
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Read more about Pawpaw Trees
This has been 4 months in the making – it didn’t die, and it did grow a few new leaves – but I couldn’t be certain that it was going to continue growing…
Well, another Curious experiment has come to a happy conclusion. The new stem that I broke off from our re-sprouting papaya tree has finally given me the proof that I needed to know that it will keep living…
We have ROOTS, ladies and gentlemen! Roots growing from the papaya cutting that I took 4 months ago. ‘Tis time to plant this in a bigger container before it goes to a permanent spot in the garden.
And it’s a good thing, because the tree stump that the stem had grown from is now unable to support any more stems – I guess, because it has rotted right down its middle.
On top of that, our remaining Red Lady papaya tree is too tall – at least eight metres (a rough estimation) – for us to comfortably reach the fruits. Yes, we could use a very long pole to harvest the fruits, but they’re terribly infested with mealybugs and black mould, and I can’t do a thing from ground level to get rid of them. Only the birds are benefitting from the papaya tree.
Can you see how infested the green fruits are? They’re thoroughly coated with mealybugs!
So, since we now have a new hermaphroditic Red Lady papaya tree growing, I think I’m ready to chop down this tree. Besides, it ought to give us a few more sprouts to attempt to propagate new plants from. Out of all the other stems that I attempted to propagate, only one looks like a possible contender. Until I see signs of roots showing, however, I am not going to hold my breath in anticipation.
Oh well, I’m happy to have a definite hermaphroditic tree growing, especially since this is from a plant I was told that will not grow similar plants from seeds harvested from it. Oh wait… the fruits were all seedless, anyway!
In case you want to know more about our journey growing these Red Lady papaya trees, you can start reading about it HERE and follow the thread from there. It sure had its ups and downs…
Have you heard of the pawpaw, Asimina triloba? It’s the largest native North American fruit, and it has a tropical flavor and custardy texture.
If you’re confused, that’s because there are other tropical fruits called pawpaw, including the papaya, Carica papaya, and the graviola, or soursop, Annona muricata.
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Unlike them, A. triloba grows in the temperate regions of USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9, and has three intriguing qualities:
- It is a hardy deciduous perennial that grows as either a tree or shrub.
- Fruit is optional because the plant does not self-pollinate.
- With or without fruit, its drooping golden leaves in fall and musky, maroon flowers in spring make for a striking and structural focal point.
Read on to discover a temperate zone fruit once so popular it was celebrated with song, and learn how to grow it in your home landscape.
Planting and Aftercare
No matter how you propagate "Kiwi" aeonium, the resulting plants must be allowed to produce a viable root system before planting them into a garden bed. Grow the immature "Kiwi" aeoniums in a sheltered spot with morning shade and afternoon sun until they produce several sets of leaves. Slowly acclimate them to full, all-day sun over the course of a week. Water deeply but infrequently so the soil has a chance to dry out slightly between waterings. Move the "Kiwi" aeoniums into a sunny bed or permanent planter in fall, just as they enter dormancy. Water them occasionally during their first summer, but only if no rain has fallen for longer than three weeks.
- Monrovia: Kiwi Aeonium
- The Wisconsin Master Gardener Program: Aeonium
- American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques Alan Toogood
- RarePlants.de: Sowing and Cultivation Information for Aeonium, Aichryson & Greenovia
- University of California, Irvine Arboretum: The Genus Aeonium
- Arizona Cooperative Extension: Plant Propagation: Asexual Propagation
- University of California Alameda County Master Gardeners: Your Alameda County Garden Month-by-Month
Samantha McMullen began writing professionally in 2001. Her nearly 20 years of experience in horticulture informs her work, which has appeared in publications such as Mother Earth News.