This page has information about growing papaya at home in the Northern Territory (NT).


About papaya

Names: papaya, pawpaw, carica papaya (caricaceae).

Origin: Mexico and Costa Rica.

Distribution: papaya is grown in many tropical and sub-tropical countries.

Australian distribution: papaya is grown around Darwin in the NT, in north and central Queensland and in Western Australia. 


Papaya is a herbaceous plant with a soft-wooded single stem. It grows up to 4m tall. 

A crown of large palmate leaves grows directly from the trunk. 

Female flowers form in the area where the leaf has grown from, called the leaf axis. Male flowers grow in pendulous racemes - in long bunches on a long, flowering stem.

The fruit is large and turns from green to yellow or orange when mature.

Preferred climate and soil

Papaya prefers warm tropical climates. 

It needs deep and porous loam to sandy loam soils with a high organic content. Soil must be well drained as waterlogging can lead to root rot. 


There are many papaya varieties available, so a plant should be chosen to suit the area where it is grown. 

All of the following varieties grow well in the NT:

  • Northern Territory red
  • Hawaiian sunrise
  • yellow.


Plants are grown from seeds in beds, or suitable containers, in a good seed-raising mix. They can be planted in mounded rows with two to three plants per site. 

When the plants are old enough to identify which is male and female, the male plants should be removed to leave one male for every 10 females. 

Papaya should be planted in the early Dry Season. Soil should be kept moist until the plants are well established.

Papaya trees should produce their first crop at nine to 12 months and keep fruiting for two to three years.

Pests and diseases

There are several pests and diseases that affect this crop, including red spider mite, fruit fly, root rot, stem rot and ripe fruit rot. 

Fruit season

Papaya fruits all year in the NT. 


Fruit is harvested at the first sign of colour and will continue to ripen after harvesting. Green fruit are harvested as an Asian vegetable, as are the flowers and leaves.


Papaya should be stored and transported at 13 degrees Celsius and at 90% relative humidity.


Papaya is mostly eaten as a fresh fruit. It can also be canned, dried, pureed or made into jams and pickles.

It can be eaten green as a vegetable and the leaves can be used to help soften meat. A milky latex sap collected from the unripe fruit is used to make chewing gum, medicines, and in the brewing and tanning industries. 

Papaya seeds can be ground up and made into a salad dressing.

Last updated: 26 February 2016

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