top of page

Pawpaw Germination Guide


Growing pawpaw seedlings from seed is an easy and affordable way to start your pawpaw orchard. The instructions below allow us to consistently achieve above 95% germination. Happy planting!

Sourcing Pawpaw Seeds

There are many ways to obtain pawpaw seeds, but the most delicious way is by eating a pawpaw fruit! To save seeds from a fruit, wash the seeds and remove any flesh from them before storing them in a damp paper towel or in damp peat moss. Seeds are also available for sale online. Be aware that seeds from a named pawpaw cultivar will not make trees of that cultivar, since pawpaws are not true to seed. However, pawpaw seedlings from seed parents that produce excellent fruit are more likely to produce high quality fruit than seedlings grown from wild or inferior seed sources. 

A pawpaw fruit cut in half and being eaten with a spoon
Seed Care & Storage:

Never allow your pawpaw seeds to dry out, once they have dried germination rates dramatically drop. An excellent way to keep seeds moist and viable is to store them in a plastic bag of damp peat moss. Peat moss is acidic and will help prevent mold from growing on your seeds. The optimal moisture level is when only a few drops of water can be squeezed out of a handful of the peat moss. Keep your seeds in a cool (35-40°F), dark place such as in the refrigerator. Do not store seeds in the freezer, as freezing will damage the embryo and reduce germination rates. Pawpaw seeds require a stratification period of 70 to 100 days before they will germinate. During this period the seeds are kept cool and moist to simulate winter conditions.

If you purchase pawpaw seeds from Project Pawpaw in the Fall or Winter, you will have to store them in your refrigerator. If you purchase seeds in the Spring, then your seeds have already been stratified!

Pawpaw seeds being soaked in water before germination
Germinating pawpaw seeds ready to be planted in the soil
A pawpaw sprout emerges from the soil
Seed Germination

After stratification, plant seeds 1” deep in moist, warm (70-75°F) soil. Germination may be improved by soaking the seeds overnight prior to planting. Pawpaws can be direct sown, but many people choose to grow them in pots for at least the first season to improve survival rates. If growing in containers, choose deep pots (8”+) to allow enough space for seedlings to develop a strong tap root. Popular container options include tree pots, plastic grow bags, or ½ gallon milk containers with drainage holes punched in the bottom. Make sure that the soil has adequate drainage and is not waterlogged to prevent seeds and developing roots from rotting.
Store the pots in a shaded but warm area so the the soil does not dry out as quickly. Pawpaws can be slow to germinate, and seeds can be expected to germinate 2-4 weeks after planting and seedlings to emerge from the soil approximately 6-8 weeks after planting. Be patient and do not let the soil dry out! It is not uncommon for seeds planted in April to take until July before they emerge from the soil.

Pawpaw seedlings growing in a germination crate
Seedling Care

For the rest of the season after your seedlings have emerged, keep them in a shaded area. Water the seedlings enough that the soil stays moist. When the seedlings have lost their leaves and gone dormant in the Fall, you can place the entire pot in a garage, unheated basement, or other protected areas. Dormant pawpaw seedlings should be stored in a cool place that will allow them to remain dormant, and storing them in a heated living area will cause them to break dormancy in early winter before they can be planted outside. In Spring, you may choose to plant your seedlings outside or to keep them in pots for one more season. 

For information about how to plant, establish, and care for pawpaw seedlings, head over to our planting guide!

Stay up to Date!

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page