I love to experiment. I suppose you noticed that by now. Well, someone asked me how to propagate a papaya tree so that it would produce true to the original fruit type. You see, if I save seed from an exceptionally nice papaya fruit, that seed may have been produced with pollen from some other less desirable tree, therefore giving less preferred fruit in the next generation. Papaya doesn't come true to seed, and unless one intentionally controls the pollination process, you never know what you'll get. Maybe similar to the mother tree, maybe not.
So here I am. I find myself with a tree producing a nice flavored fruit. How can I clone this tree? I suppose I could reproduce it via tissure culture, although in not sure that works with papayas. But regardless, I don't have the equipment nor the skill to do tissure culture propagation. Or I could purposely pollinate a female flower with the tree's own pollen and hope for the best. This tree came from seed given to me, so I don't know it's genetic background. So even self pollinating it may not give me the type of fruit I am looking for. This tree could be like a mixbred mutt....a combination of assorted DNA.
Air laying is a possibility if a tree produces side branches. I've never heard of anyone air layering a papaya. But it's something I plan to try in the future if my current experiment fails. The other day an elderly neighbor suggested the "tropics method" of simply taking a cutting and sticking it into the ground. Ok. That's the easiest method, and surprisingly it works for a lot of tropical plants. Will it work for papaya? I haven't the foggiest idea. Sooooo, why not give it a try?
Above is the papaya I will experiment with. It has grown two side shoots coming off the "trunk".
Here's a closer photo. Stepping up to the tree, I bravely and firmly snapped the too shoots off from the tree. Having never done this before I wasn't even sure if the shoots would come off. Would I need a saw? Would they just bend? Surprisingly they came of easily and cleanly.
So here are my two shoots. The stalks are firm and somewhat woody at the base, no longer green. When I removed them from the trunk, they came off with a "collar" at their base. The collar is a decided raised band around the stalk where it joins the trunk. In some plants, roots grow out from the collar zone, so I wonder if this is important for papayas too. I was careful to leave the collars intact and undamaged. I next removed all the leaves except for the top few baby leaves.
I then planted about 10 inches of the stalk into the ground and watered them well. By the next day the leaves had wilted. I had expected that they would. So I again watered the shoots. The past several days have been overcast with light drizzle, which is excellent for this experiment. The ground is staying moist. There has been no wind to dry the shoots out. And importantly, no sun. The weather conditions are giving these shoots their best chance at rooting via this simplistic method.
I don't know how long it will take for roots to develop, assuming that roots will actually grow at all. But 6 days have passed and the leaves still look perky and the stalks haven't rotted yet. We will have to check back in on this experiment in a week or two and see what's happened.
If this experiment fails, I plan to try using some rooting hormone on the next attempt. Well actually, I plan to consult a friend who is retired from agricultural research. He may be able to give me options to try.