Papaya is not a typical houseplant—which is precisely why you might consider growing one. Indoors, it generally won't be practical to grow plants to the 15-foot stature necessary for them to produce fruit. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't grow these fantastic plants—it just means you won't be eating fruit from them. A single supermarket papaya will yield several hundred black seeds. Plants grown from seeds will sprout in about two weeks and grow to flowering maturity in just five to six months. Unless pruned, many varieties will reach the ceiling before a year has passed.
|Botanical Name||Carica papaya|
|Plant Type||Semi-woody herbaceous perennial|
Can You Grow Papaya Inside?
Papaya plants grow in similar conditions as bananas, requiring bright light, humidity, heat, and plenty of fertilizer and water. Also, like the banana, it's an extremely fast-growing semi-woody plant with large leaves that are the very essence of the tropics. Though it's easier to grow this plant outdoors, growing it inside is certainly doable if you have enough space - this plant will need a large container and a very sunny window for vibrant growth.
How to Grow Papaya Indoors
Give this plant full sun for six to eight hours for the best growth, or conditions as bright as you can provide. Rotate the plant from time to time to help ensure the plant grows straight and true in the pot with no leaning. Papayas are a great sunny patio plant for summer climates.
Temperature and Humidity
Papaya plants need quite warm conditions, up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you keep the plant during winter, try to keep the temperature as warm as possible, with high ambient humidity. This is not a plant that will tolerate a location near a drafty window.
In warm-weather climates, potted papayas are sometimes grown on a patio. But they will not react well to any temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
These plants need a prodigious amount of water. As the plant grows, expect to water it every three to four days. You want to water it thoroughly but never let water stand on top of the soil.
Feed your papaya plant abundantly. Papayas are very rapidly growing plants that need nutrients to support that growth. Feed it every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer.
Pruning and Maintenance
Papaya plants grown indoors grow so fast that they may reach the ceiling in a matter of months. For this reason, they are often pruned off at the top to keep them in check. Cut off the main stem to a couple of feet tall. The plant will send up several new shoots from the base of the plant. When these shoots are one to two feet tall, select the best one and trim off the others, including the original central stem.
If you have moved a potted papaya plant outdoors for the summer, prune it back heavily before bringing it indoors for the cooler months.
Container and Size
Papaya can become very large, so start with a 15-20 gallon container with a diameter of at least 18 inches. A very large pot fashioned of an old barrel or large bucket is a great option.
Potting Soil and Drainage
When grown indoors, use a loose, well-drained, very rich potting mix. Rot problems may occur if the potting soil is too dense and lacking in drainage.
Potting and Repotting Papaya
Papaya plants grown from seeds should be repotted only once: from the seed-starting container into a larger permanent container. Unless you live in USDA Zone 9 or higher, your papaya is a single-season novelty plant. At the end of the season, cut the papaya off at the soil level and let the other shoots fill in.
Moving Papaya Outdoors for the Summer
Papaya thrives in heat and humidity, so it moves very easily to the outdoors during the summer. There is no need to acclimate the plant, as it will handle the high temperatures of summer just fine.
There are no particular considerations to keep in mind for the plant itself; however, remember that the papaya pot will be quite heavy, especially as the plant grows more mature. Take care when moving the container.
When to Bring Papaya Back Inside
When the temperatures begin to dip below 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, it's time to bring the plant inside. Keep it in a very warm, sunny spot through the winter. If the area isn't quite warm enough to keep the papaya tree at about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, protect the base of the tree with bubble wrap and aluminum foil to insulate it.
What plant pests are common to papaya?
There are few pests and diseases to worry about, though some of the standard indoor houseplant pests—aphids, mealybugs, and mites—may also affect papaya plants.
How do you grow papaya from seed?
Papaya plants sprout readily from seeds, even the seeds harvested from grocery store papaya fruit. To prepare the seeds, scoop them from papaya, spread them out on a single sheet of paper towel, and leave them out to dry for a week. At the end of the week, roll the seeds around to remove the dried seed-covering husks, then store them in a cool, dry place.
To sprout papaya seeds, place them in seed-starting soil and keep moist and warm (75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit). Seeds sprout quickly, and the plants will begin rapid growth. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, transplant into larger containers to grow as houseplants.
How do you harvest papaya?
Indoor papaya plants rarely flower and produce fruit, especially when grown from seeds harvested from the grocery store fruit. However, if you have a dwarf variety and have given it enough heat and light, it may produce fruits within six to 12 months of planting. Pick them from the tree just after the fruits have turned fully yellow. It's best to store them in the refrigerator for two to three days before eating papaya fruits.