Spring came, and while the rest of my trees burst into life, the pawpaws stayed dormant. They finally decided to come to life in mid to late April.
I was very exited that 1) they had survived the terrible freezes of February, and 2) they had survived being transplanted. Pawpaws are notoriously difficult to transplant, and as a pawpaw novice I was worried that I may have killed them. They all put on leaves and began to grow, and I continued to try to give them extra attention.
Then one died suddenly. Then another. By June I was down to two, and they weren't looking very good. The two remaining pawpaws stopped growing, and have never put on another leaf after their initial flush. Now in August, the leaves look sad and yellowing, and I have little hope that they will take off and really establish themselves.
When I planted these seedlings, I also planted several pawpaw seeds in a large pot. They germinated in April, and have been growing beautifully ever since. The plants I grew from the seeds are half as old and twice as big, with beautiful green leaves, and continuous growth. The success of the container-grown plants leads me to conclude that the problem has to be the soil. The soil in the front yard is a tough sandy-silty clay, which just doesn't drain that well.
This winter I plan to dig up the two survivors and put them in pots. I'll continue to try growing pawpaws in containers, but I obviously don't have the drainage and/or soil conditions they need to grow them in the ground successfully. I'm thinking of replacing them with another multiple-variety plum tree, and maybe another persimmon tree to add to the fall fruit harvest. If you've had success growing pawpaws, I'd love to hear about it.