Native to primarily east of the Mississippi River (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8-9) Pawpaw trees, Asimina triloba
, also known as Hoosier Banana and Indiana Banana, are acclimated to a temperate humid zone, requiring warm to hot summers, mild to cold winters, and roughly 32 inches of annual rainfall. They are hardy to minus 15F degrees. Trees require winter cold, from 400 to 750 and up to 1200 chilling hours (temperatures below 45F degrees).
Pawpaws prefer fertile, moist soil that is slightly acidic. They can be grown in sun or shade, exhibiting dense growth in sun and open growth in shade. Trees usually grow 15-20 feet tall. Seedlings should be planted in 3-gallon nursery containers. Keep the plants well watered and partially shaded for the first year or two, until they reach about 3-feet tall. Then, transplant to a full sun location for best fruiting. Sun grown trees exhibit a pyramidal shape, with dense, drooping foliage down to ground level. In the shade they have a more open branching habit, with few lower limbs and horizontally held leaves. Growth rate is moderate.
A few pawpaw trees will bear fruit without pollination but almost all require cross pollination. Cross pollination benefits genetic diversity and improves chances of successful cross pollination. To help assure cross pollination and fruit set, hand pollination is recommended. Although it requires a little extra labor, hand pollination can be well worth the effort. The fruit attracts wildlife including the beautiful zebra swallowtail butterfly.
Ripe pawpaws have a pronounced aroma that is fruity and floral and are very nutritious. Pawpaw fruit ripens between mid August and into October, depending on location, weather conditions and tree genetics. The skin of the green fruit usually lightens in color as it ripens and often develops blackish splotches which do not affect the flavor or edibility. Pawpaws are usually eaten right off the tree as a fresh fruit but they lend themselves nicely to a variety of dessert recipes.