How do I care for a Paw-Paw colony?

Asked July 7, 2020, 1:43 PM EDT

Hi there,
Here I am in Massachusetts, and I know that the Paw-Paw experts are in Kentucky. So, I am asking for your advice. A decade or so ago, I planted two paw-paw trees as part of my large "vegetable" garden. They have grown well, and one began to colonize a couple of years ago. Both of them are sending up new trees this year. There are many little trees that want to grow, and I read at the U of Kentucky info that they are not likely to tolerate transplanting. I was hoping I could just dig some up and offer them to friends. If that is not recommended, then what is the best method for me to manage this little colony which is beginning to get crowded?

Hampshire County Massachusetts

1 Response

It is natural for pawpaw to send up suckers from the root system. Often a natural stand of pawpaw has resulted from a single tree and all plants in the stand are genetically identical. These stands can be quite large. Since pawpaw needs cross pollination between different genotypes to set fruit, these natural stands sometimes have no fruit unless they are located close to a genetically dissimilar stand. If you are successful at transplanting and giving away suckers, be sure to offer your friends one plant from each of your original trees. The problem with transplanting these suckers is that they are attached to the mother plant and may not have a very developed root system. Transplanting would be best in late fall after leaf color has changed and plants are becoming dormant. Better yet, if you can excavate around the sucker during late fall and sever it from the main root system,then recover, this will encourage the young plant to grow on its own. Allow it to grow in place (with connection to the main plant cut) for an additional year, and then dig and transplant in fall. If you decide only to thin your planting without trying to transplant the suckers, simply dig around them and try to cut them close to the original root system and remove.Thinning can be done at any time of year.