Plants are intelligent forms of life who are capable of intention, preference, and a will to survive, thrive and interact. Scientific research indicates that plants communicate with insects, animals, human beings and other plants in order to keep themselves alive and safe. ~ Keith Varnum
As every gardener knows there are some successes and some failures. Papayas seemed to be my fail. Aya the Papaya is my third attempt at growing a papaya tree. I was determined to make this one stay. Papaya #1 shriveled within the first few days in direct sunlight. I thought, I’m not watering enough. So I planted in the same spot, but mulched around Papaya #2 and watered diligently. And still that papaya perished.
When one of my gardening friends gave me a third papaya, I left it in its pot. I was so afraid to plant it in the ground. I thought, At least it will stay alive in the pot. I kept the tree like this for three months. Then my friend asked me how that papaya was doing, and I had to admit my previous failures. My friend suggested I plant the papaya while it was raining and to talk to the plant. Yes, talk to the plant. So one day when it was pouring rain, I found my shovel and planted the papaya.
I moved the tree in a location that would be shaded for a few hours during the day in hopes not to fry the leaves. Then I did the only logical thing – I named that tree. Because if I was truly going to talk to this plant, she aught to have a name. That is how Aya the Papaya came to be.
Every morning, I greeted Aya by saying, I desperately want you to survive. Please do. I watered her well and caressed her leaves. Damn it, this plant was going to make it. For a week, I watched her leaves turn yellow and fall to the ground. Then finally on day ten, Aya started making new little green leaves. I knew she was safe. Now Aya is doing very well and growing bigger and more leaves. She even survived a hurricane beating, though she’s leaning a bit now.
Aya reminds me that gardening isn’t always only about soil, sunlight, water and fertilizers. Sometimes the most important part is understanding that this plant is a living being just as I am. And everyone is in need of a little extra attention at times. So if you are looking to grow a papaya, perhaps your tree needs a good rain, less sun and an entertaining story for the soul.
How to grow a papaya from seed:
Fall is a good time to plant papaya seeds in pots to be ready for a spring planting. You can get these seeds from a fruit at the store. Enjoy the fruit and then plant the seeds to produce your own fruit.
- Plant 2 or more seeds per container. Then thin to one once they germinate.
- Keep seedlings in the sun.
- Feed with a 20-20-20 fertilizer.
- Plant in the ground around mid-March.
- Mulch soil.
- Maintain moist soil; they need plenty of water.
- Feed monthly with a general garden fertilizer.
*Note: These trees may be susceptible to nematodes, papaya fruit fly, papaya webworms, spider mites, papaya whitefly, two-spotted mite, papaya ring spot, and powdery mildew.
Maccubbin, Tom. Month-By-Month Gardening Florida: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year. Minneapolis, MN: Cool Springs Press, 2014.
Maccubbin, T. and Tasker, G. Florida Gardener’s Resource. Minneapolis, MN: Cool Springs Press, 2010.