Pawpaw Trimming Guide: Learn How To Prune A Pawpaw Tree

Pawpaw Trimming Guide: Learn How To Prune A Pawpaw Tree

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By: Teo Spengler

Pawpaw trees are the most common fruit trees native to North America. These medium size hardwoods were popular fruit trees for home gardens in yesteryear, and are making a comeback in modern days. To find out if and when you should cut back pawpaw trees, read on.

About Pawpaw Tree Pruning

Pruning pawpaw trees is not something a gardener should worry about on a daily basis. These are native trees. They have been growing in the wild in bottomlands and along creek banks for centuries without assistance, staying healthy and producing fruit.

Pawpaws in the wild are usually understory trees, slender trees with slender branches widely spaced. In sunny locations, they are shorter and denser. While pawpaw trimming can assist in keeping your tree healthy, pruning pawpaw trees should be done sparingly.

When to Cut Back Pawpaw Trees

Consider undertaking pawpaw tree pruning on an annual basis. The best time to do this is during the tree’s annual dormancy, in late winter or early spring.

The primary reason to cut back pawpaw trees is to remove branches that might cause problems. For example, dead or diseased branches can fall, injuring the bark on the pawpaw trunk. Removing problem branches will assist your tree to thrive.

However, you may also want to cut back pawpaw trees to shape them. Pawpaw trimming can also help a tree produce more fruit.

How to Prune a Pawpaw

If you are wondering how to prune a pawpaw, it should be done with sharp pruners or else with a limb lopper. Which tool to use depends on the size of the branches involved in pawpaw trimming.

The first step in pawpaw pruning is to identify all problem branches. These include dead, diseased or broken branches. Crossing branches can also present a problem, since they may rub on each other.

Pruning pawpaw trees can also stimulate new growth on older trees. Since the fruit appears on new growth, an annual pruning can result in more of the sweet fruit. To accomplish this, consider pruning pawpaw trees to remove older, less productive branches.

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Read more about Pawpaw Trees

Paw Paw Tree Facts

The oddly named pawpaw tree has nicknames that may be even stranger, such as Poor Man’s Banana, Hoosier Banana and Papaw. The pawpaw is a member of the Annona family of plants, also referred to as the Custard-Apple family, with most of its relatives being tropical species. Pawpaw produces the biggest edible fruit of any plant native to the United States. The pawpaw is a landscaping tree that you may find appealing for some of its features, with the fruit as a bonus.

The pawpaw does not grow very tall--a 30-foot specimen is considered large and most grow to heights between 12 and 20 feet. The trunk is around 8 inches in diameter. Pawpaw leaves can grow to a foot in length and the flowers are as wide as 2 inches. The fruit, which can weigh as much as a pound, is up to 6 inches long. It contains two separate rows of large seeds, which may remind you of lima beans in size and shape.

  • The oddly named pawpaw tree has nicknames that may be even stranger, such as Poor Man’s Banana, Hoosier Banana and Papaw.
  • The pawpaw is a member of the Annona family of plants, also referred to as the Custard-Apple family, with most of its relatives being tropical species.

Papaya is a herbaceous plant of relatively rapid growth and short life. This is the reason why it’s not commercially profitable to cultivate mature papaya trees for longer than 3 years because the fruit yield gets low.

The tree has a hollow, segmented, and erect single stem and no branches. It presents many large, lobed leaves. The plant height can reach up to several meters (usually 6-20 feet), which makes it an excellent choice for container growing.

The fruit comes in a wide variety of forms, shapes and sizes vary depending on the cultivar and type of flower. If you want to learn about the best papaya varieties, read this article!

Growing Pawpaws

Luckily for me, the pawpaw is easy to grow organically. The tree itself is naturally small with an average height of 10-20 feet. They often grow wild in thickets along creek beds.

Growing Zones

Pawpaws are cold hardy down too -20°F with a long blossoming period. They grow best in zones 5-9.

Sun Requirements

Young plants are sun-sensitive and they need protection during the first and possibly second year. After that, give plants full sun.

Soil Requirements

Pawpaws adapt to a wide range of soils. They prefer a pH level from 5.0-7.0 but they do seem to like more acidic soil.

Pawpaws prefer moist well-drained soil. Deep, loamy soil with a lot of aged compost will get your trees off to a great start. Remember, they’re forest trees that naturally grow near waterways and have a thick layer of leaves around them.


Pawpaws require cross-pollination, so you’ll need to plant more than one. You can plant pawpaws by direct sowing seed outdoors. While this is a slow way to get fruit, it does contribute to a healthy tree. It’s essential not to let seeds freeze or dry out.

Seeds need a cold period. Plant seeds outdoors in the fall. They will chill over the winter. Protect the area you plant the seeds in so they don’t get trampled and the ground compressed.

You can also purchase bare-root plants or seedlings. Plant these in the spring.


Pawpaw’s respond well to grafting. Whip-and-tongue, cleft, and chip budding work best. Grafted trees produce fruit in as little as three years.


Pawpaws have a long taproot and roots that aren’t very fibrous. The roots seek and bring up nutrients from the subsoil. For this reason, you should provide a deep hole at least 12-inches longer and three times wider than the root ball when planting. Make sure you loosen up the soil before backfilling to give roots a good start.


Plant trees between 10-20 feet apart. Don’t plant them further than 30 feet away from each other or you’ll risk pollination issues.

All About Pawpaws

What are pawpaws? Pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) are shade-loving understory trees that grow the largest edible fruit native to North America. Take a look.

Guest article by Patti Moreno

What are pawpaws?

Also known as the American Custard Apple, or Indiana Banana, pawpaws were widely eaten and enjoyed by Native Americans back in the day. Currently, pawpaw trees can be found growing wild in the U.S. as a shade-loving, understory tree.

Pawpaws are actually very large berries, sometimes growing longer than 6 inches. They turn from green to yellow (or brown) when ripe. The fruit has a strong tropical flavor — similar to bananas, pineapples, or mangoes.

Ripe pawpaw fruits have a very short shelf life: about 3-5 days. This has made it impossible for pawpaws to be sold in most grocery stores, since they can’t be transported to market quickly enough. Growing pawpaws in your backyard is the best way for you to enjoy this fruit.

Young pawpaw trees can be sensitive to full sunlight and require filtered sun for the first year or two. This is because, in nature, pawpaw trees grow as "understory trees", in the shade of other much larger trees. Once established, pawpaw trees produce the most fruit when grown in full sun. Pawpaws fruit in shade too, but they may produce less fruit than trees grown in full sun. The solution here is to build a temporary shade cloth structure over young trees and remove it once they are older and established (you can tell once they start blooming that they're ready to fruit!) so that they can take advantage of the full sun exposure.

Pawpaw trees are cold-hardy fruit trees, meaning they grow well in colder climates. This applies to the Asimina triloba pawpaw, or common pawpaw, which grows from North Florida all the way to Canada.

For proper pollination plant at least two different grafted varieties of pawpaws (two or more grafted trees cannot cross-pollinate if they are the same variety). Alternately, you can plant two or more seedling pawpaw trees, which will be able to cross-pollinate one another. Pawpaw trees rely on insects to cross-pollinate the flowers, so it is important that your landscape is friendly to pollen-moving insects.

Pawpaw fruit forms in clusters, from 2 to 9 fruits per cluster. Pawpaws are low maintenance and, because they are native to the US, there are very few issues with garden pests making pawpaw trees great to plant if you practice organic gardening.

Grafted pawpaw trees purchased from Stark Bro’s start fruiting in about 3-5 years!

Begin harvesting pawpaws in mid August through the first frost (generally early- to mid-October). Pawpaws are great to eat fresh off the tree, but they have a lot of uses in recipes as well! Because of their banana-like taste and texture, pawpaws make a good banana substitute for recipes like banana bread. They are healthy, too, with more protein, vitamin C, iron, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, cooper, and manganese than apples, oranges, or bananas.

Pawpaw fruit is nutritious, making it perfect fruit for healthy, delicious smoothies! Smoothies are quick, easy, and fun to make, as you can see in my video below. You’ll need to separate the skin and the seeds from the custardy flesh. The skin is edible, but doesn’t taste good and the seeds should not be eaten. Have fun and mix them with all sorts of other fruit!

Watch my video for how to make pawpaw smoothies:

— Enjoying the fruits of my labor,



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