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Growing Pawpaws at Home

A "hand" of Pawpaw fruit.
Alice Crane [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr
A "hand" of Pawpaw fruit.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. If you have a partially shady area you’d like to use to grow fruits, pawpaw is the plant for you. This native small tree naturally grows in woodlands receiving filtered sun although in full sun it fruits more plentifully. The seeds are large and easy to sprout but fruits from seedlings are not necessarily tasty.

Fortunately, the University of Kentucky has done extensive research on pawpaws and lists sources for grafted trees which have a myriad of delightful flavors, from pineapple to mango and papaya, and that begin bearing fruit after just a few years. In nature these trees sucker from rootstocks and you may encounter stands of them if hiking near the edges of waterways. The nutritious fruit also contains complex compounds that prevent most insect feeding. However, the zebra swallowtail caterpillars are undeterred by these and this tree is their sole larval food source.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.