Papaya, a native to Central America and Mexico, is a fast-growing herbaceous plant, even if you grow it indoors and in containers. The flowers are flexy, waxy, and have five petals. The height of the tree can reach 10 to 12 feet. The fruits, on the other hand, can be two types – Mexican or Hawaiian. The ones that you can always find in supermarkets are Hawaiian papayas. It has a pear shape and has an average weight of one pound. When it is ripe, the outer skin turns yellow. The flesh, on the other hand, is bright pink or orange. meanwhile, in the case of Mexican papaya, the weight can reach up to 10 pounds. The flesh is pink, orange or yellow. Mexican papayas are easier to cultivate as against Hawaiian. For flavor, Hawaiian papayas have a stronger taste.
Planting and Growing Conditions
When it comes to growing papaya, one of the most common is through seeds. Before anything else, you need to treat the seeds, which will help in speeding up its germination. You can wash the seeds or immerse it in water for at least four days. When the seeds are ready, you can sow them directly in the soil. If you want things to be easier, on the other hand, it would be best to grow papaya from a young tree, which you can readily purchase from a local nursery.
Regardless of which you choose to propagate a papaya tree, one of the most important things that need your attention is the right choice of a container. Make sure that it is up to three times larger than the root ball of the papaya tree that you will replant. For a 5-foot tree, a 15-gallon container will be more than enough. You can start with a small container and change into a larger one as the tree grows.
Another equally important factor is the soil that you will use. A well-drained and a loose potting mix is the best choice. Fill half the container with soil, bury the root ball, and cover it with more soil. When it comes to pH level, meanwhile, the best would be anywhere from 5.5 to 7, which means that you will need a neutral soil. The presence of high organic matter is also important for a healthy soil. Lastly, it should be well-draining. Otherwise, it will end up soggy and will let the plant suffer from root rot.
After planting your papaya tree, your next concern is where to position it indoors. Because of the plant’s high photosynthetic activity, it needs abundant sunlight. With this, choose the sunniest spot at home. Also, keep in mind that the tree can be fragile, especially at a young age. With this, avoid a location that is too windy.
Papaya is not only a delicious fruit, but it also has plenty of health benefits, which include the following:
- Has Anti-Cancer Properties: This can be due to the high concentration of free radicals, which are the ones responsible for lessening cellular damage. It also slows down the progression of cancer.
- Improve Heart Health: This is another benefit of the antioxidants that you can find in papaya. The Vitamins A, C, and E in the fruit will also help in improving cardiovascular health.
- Improves Skin Health: If you are prone to acne and other skin problems, papaya can also be beneficial. Even the skin of the papaya with flesh can be effective as a treatment for acne.
- Prevents Macular Degeneration: Ocular cells may degenerate as a result of aging. The good news is that papaya can reverse this process and can help to improve your vision. This is basically because of beta carotene, another antioxidant in papaya.
- Treats Constipation: If you are suffering from digestive problems, such as constipation, eating papaya will help. It is rich in fiber, which makes it instrumental in improving digestion and bowel movement.
- Fights Inflammation: The antioxidant in papaya also makes it effective as an anti-inflammatory. It has enzymes that will reduce inflammation in different parts of your body, making it effective for people who suffer from problems like arthritis.
- Helps in Weight Loss: If you are interested in transitioning into a fitter lifestyle, eating papaya should be part of your diet. It is low in calories and high in fiber, making it excellent for a diet food.
Pests and Diseases
Even if you grow papaya indoors, it will still be prone to infestation of pests and various diseases. Some of its most common diseases include anthracnose, charcoal spot, internal yellowing, black spot, black rot, and bacterial canker. For pests, meanwhile, the causes of infestation include mealybugs, slugs, and snails.
Care and Maintenance
Even without technical gardening expertise, growing papaya is an easy task. Keep in mind the following things to ensure the healthy growth of the tree:
- Water is one of the basic requirements of every fruit tree. In the case of papaya, you need to water it thoroughly and regularly, especially during its initial stages of development. See to it that the container has proper drainage so that water will not accumulate in the soil. Also, note that the plant is about 85% water, which is why it needs hydration for its survival.
- Like water, moisture is essential for the tree. With this, mulching will prove to be necessary. Use organic matter as a mulch, which will not only increase moisture retention, but will also supplement the nutrients that the plant needs.
- Since papaya is a heavy feeder, fertilizing is also critical. As much as possible, feed the tree with compost or manure. Once every month, it will also be good to feed the tree with a water-soluble fertilizer. The application of the fertilizer will vary depending on the instructions from the manufacturer, especially the concentration.
- For the tree to produce fruit, pollination is essential. This can be a bit of a challenge since the plant is indoors. Male papaya trees will not pollinate. Female papaya trees, on the other hand, will need males for pollination. Cross-pollination from hand is the best way to make the papaya bear fruit. Also, during finer weather, you might also want to move the plant outdoors.
Growing papaya does not need to be a difficult task, even if you are a beginner in gardening. You can grow it straight from seeds, although it will require more patience as against growing from a young tree. Regardless of how you propagate, to ensure healthy growth, make sure to choose the right location and provide the plants with the nutrients that it needs, such as through watering or fertilizing as necessary.