My Papaya Tree Is Wilting

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It's lucky for papaya trees (​Carica papaya​) that their fruit is so luscious. Otherwise, many a gardener would pass them up, given how difficult they can be to grow. These tropical fruit trees are sensitive to cold temperatures, drought, high winds, and shade. And that's not all. They are very susceptible to disease, but the neglect of almost any cultural care factor can also cause trees to wilt.


Meet the Papaya Tree

Papaya trees are also known as pawpaws, and they are native to Central America. They grow to 33 feet tall and don't live beyond 20 years. When you purchase a young seedling, it has only one trunk, but may develop more as it matures.

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The palmate leaves only live for six to eight months. When the weather is warm or hot, new leaves grow every week, but in cool weather, no new leaves appear. The fruit is a large berry with thin skin, usually orange, yellow, or red. The numerous small black seeds are in the center of the fruit.


Papaya Tree Issues

Think of a papaya tree in your backyard as an easily irritated guest. It is happy in a sunny site where temperatures never dip below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but stay below 90 degrees. Shade and/or chilly temperatures will slow or stop growth and cause leaf wilt. Freezing temperatures can kill the vulnerable tree.


The ideal irrigation for a papaya is well-distributed rainfall, but that's a hard thing to count on. And, in fact, any climatic factor can cause issues. Cool or cold temperatures, too little water, strong or constant breezes, or insufficient light can cause the tree to react negatively. Any unfavorable weather conditions may lead to problems, including wilting leaves.

Watering, the Most Critical Factor

Proper watering is the most decisive factor in successfully growing papayas, and insufficient irrigation is a common cause of leaf wilt. First the tree leaves will wilt; then the plants will drop leaves. Soon after, flowers and fruit will fall and, even if they don't, the resulting fruit will be small and sour.


How often do you need to water? Plants growing in loamy soil only need to be watered every three or four days, but if your papaya plant is growing in sandy, well-drained soil, it needs watering regularly during the growing season. This can mean every other day, or even daily if the weather is hot and dry. Using a thick layer of organic mulch is recommended.

Diseases Can Cause Wilting Leaves

A variety of diseases may attack a papaya plant and result in wilting leaves. Papaya ringspot virus is one of them and is a prevalent papaya disease in Florida. Look for yellow mottling and clear veining of leaves, followed by leaf distortion. There is no effective cure. Remove and destroy any papaya plants showing symptoms of the virus.


Phytophthora is a fungal disease that causes root, stem, and fruit rot as well as rapid wilting and death. Water-soaked areas appear on the stem and, if they encircle it, the entire top part of the plant will wilt and die. Water-soaked spots also appear on the fruit, and it shrivels and drops to the ground. This fungus is spread by wind and rain. Although fungicide sprays are available to treat this disease, they must be used in conjunction with good cultural practices.



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