One Fruit Tree You Need To Plant Right Now!

Easy to Grow Backyard Fruit Tree

What makes a paw paw tree the number one fruit tree you need to plant right now?

When asked, most people say they would love a fruit tree in their backyard. When asked why they don’t currently have any, there are a myriad of reasons why. People don’t know how to prune them correctly, they don’t know how to fertilize them, they don’t know which varieties they will enjoy. Overall, it is an expensive, time consuming endeavor that may well not produce the benefits people are looking for when they first set out on the project.

A paw paw tree is the perfect solution to all of these problems. Paw Paw trees require little care as they are a native species. They do not require pruning, fertilizer or any other inputs to thrive. Most other fruit trees are not native which means there are all kinds of inputs needed to care for the tree. There are pests that easily destroy your tree and many other environmental conditions that need to be changed to best suit a tree that isn’t native.

Paw paw  fruit tree

A standard, full grown paw paw tree

A Native Tree

Paw paw trees are native to the eastern half of the North American continent. When planted in their native range paw paw trees require very little care to thrive. These trees evolved in this climate for millennia which means they have evolved to fight off the pests and diseases present here.

Other types of fruit trees are not native, so when planted here in North America, they don’t have the adaptability to contend with the pests and diseases present here. Apples, for instance, are native to Kazakhstan. Having evolved in that area, you can find thriving apple forests there. Aside from any pests and diseases brought in from other places, apples can thrive naturally in that climate the same way paw paws can thrive naturally here.

In Kazakhstan, they have actually started having a problem with fire blight, a common disease in apples. There are conservation projects in place to fight this, but now that it has been introduced to the ecosystem it will be an on going effort to fight. So, while apples can thrive naturally there, they are still vulnerable to pests and diseases brought in due to globalization.

Paw paw trees are remarkably resilient trees. Not only do we have the benefit of being in their native range, due to their resiliency, threat of foreign pests and diseases are very minimal. An example of this is Japanese beetles. Japanese beetles can easily decimate a crop of plum or peach trees, but have very little effect on paw paw trees.

While paw paw trees are a native species, they are not equally represented in the ecosystem when compared to other native species. Most people have no idea paw paw trees exist, let alone that they are a native species. This lack of paw paw trees in the native habitat leaves a void where certain other native species could be thriving. The term for this is symbiosis. From an ecological perspective, paw paw trees are extremely underrepresented. Paw paw trees and the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly (Protographium marcellus) are symbiotic organisms.

The paw paw is actually on obligate host of the Zebra Swallowtail. This means paw paw trees are the only species the Zebra Swallowtail can use as its host. Without the paw paw, Zebra Swallowtail butterflies have nowhere to lay their eggs as the caterpillars will have nothing to feed on upon hatching. There are efforts to re-establish wild paw paw groves just for this conservative effort. If everyone had a paw paw tree in their yard, we could see a resurgence in two native species.

Find more information on the relationship between paw paw trees and Zebra Swallowtail Butterflies here.

Paw Paw Pest and disease- zebra swallowtail butterfly

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly

Paw Paw Tree Care

Pests and Disease

Now that we have learned that the paw paw tree is a native species, we have reason enough to plant one, right? We still need to learn about how to care for paw paw trees.

Caring for paw paws is easy enough, you absolutely do not need a green thumb to be successful. As we discussed above, paw paws are a native species and are remarkable resilient. While other fruit trees require fungicides, pesticides, fertilizer and pruning, paw paw trees do not require any of that.

Fungicides are often used on fruits like apples and peaches to keep the fruit looking beautiful, but also because you eat the skin where the fungus is present. Having little black spots on your apple or peach isn’t harmful to the consumer, but it is not appetizing. With a paw paw, the skin is not consumed, so this is a non-issue. Fungicides are also used on a crop like peaches do to the presence of diseases like brown rot and peach leaf curl. Both of these diseases are more than just cosmetic and can heavily effect fruit yield. Paw paws are not effect by such diseases, and fungal issues are meerly cosmetic.

As paw paws are remarkably unaffected by pests and diseases, it is very easy to grow the fruit organically.

Pruning

The need for pruning is another factor that comes to mind when people consider planting fruit trees. Other types of fruit trees require pruning to keep an open canopy which benefits the tree by exposing the fruit to sunlight to aid ripening and also to improve airflow through the canopy of the tree which helps keep disease pressure down.

Paw paws do not require this yearly pruning and in fact it can be detrimental. Paw paws do not need to be pruned for pest/disease purposes and if pruned to thin the canopy, exposing the fruit to direct sunlight, the fruit can crack. Paw paw fruit needs to be in the shade to avoid cracking. This does not mean the tree its self should be planted in the shade- more sunlight equals more fruit as the tree can better photosynthesize. The fruit just needs to be in a thick canopy to avoid direct sunlight to avoid cracking.

Planting

So you’re pretty sure you need a paw paw tree in your yard now? Where do you plant it? Do you have room for one? Do you have the right soil conditions?

For a tree, paw paws are small. They will reach around 20’x20′ at maturity. Spacing them out about 12′-15′ will mean that, when mature, the tree canopies will grow into one another. This saves space in your yard and also increases the shade the canopy provides to the fruit.

Paw paws do best in direct sunlight and will produce the most fruit if grown in such conditions, but direct sunlight is by no means necessary. In the wild, paw paw trees are an under story tree. They will grow fine in full shade and are actually one of the few species that will tolerate juglone present in soils under black walnut trees. They will grow taller in a shady spot and produce less fruit. This doesn’t mean no fruit, just less. A mature tree planted in ideal conditions can produce up to 100lbs of fruit in a season. More than enough for a family to enjoy.

Paw paw trees will grow fine in most soils, they thrive in Georgia clay and will also grow fine in sand. With a deep taproot the trees require minimal irrigation once established and because the tap root grows so deep into the soil minimal fertilizer is required once established. The best fruit set will occur if the trees are well watered in the spring and fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer, but again, this isn’t a requirment.

Paw Paw Fruit

Paw paw fruit is a wonderful treat in the fall. When most other fruits have finished for the season, paw paws are there to keep the fresh fruit eating time of year going. With a very sweet flavor similar to tropical fruit such as banana, mango and pineapple, paw paws bring a taste of the tropics to temperate regions. With a texture similar to a ripe avocado, paw paws are a favorite with the kids!

So, are you ready to get yourself a paw paw tree? Remember, you need two different trees for cross pollination. This will lead to an abundant crop of paw paw fruit each season! Check out our shop below to browse out selection of paw paw trees.

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Ready to get your own paw paw tree planted?

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