How to Grow Mango Trees

Mango tree with red mango hanging from branches

The Spruce/K. Dave

Although it can be tricky to grow, a mango tree (Mangifera indica) can make for an interesting specimen when grown in the ground or in a large pot. In the right conditions, this tree forms a dense canopy of long oblong green leaves and rewards you with white flowers in December through March; the fruit comes three to five months later. Mango trees planted in the garden are more likely to fruit than potted trees. But small varieties suitable for containers, such as a dwarf spotted mango, are capable of fruiting if they receive enough sunlight.

Mango trees should be planted in the spring and are generally fast-growing. However, it can be difficult to keep an indoor mango tree alive long enough for it to mature and bear fruit. Also, note that the sap, bark, or fruit skin can be toxic to people.

Common Name Mango
Botanical Name  Mangifera indica
Family Anacardiaceae
Plant Type Fruit, tree
Size Up to 100 ft. tall, 35 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline (5.5 to 7.5)
Bloom Time Winter
Hardiness Zones 9–11 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Toxic to people

How to Plant a Mango Tree

When to Plant

The best time to plant a mango tree is in the spring when the weather is still mild. However, be sure it will not be exposed to any frost.

Selecting a Planting Site

Mango trees prefer a sunny spot with loose, well-draining soil. Make sure to consider the tree's mature size when selecting a planting site, and note the site's proximity to other plants and structures. Container growth is an option for the small varieties. 

Spacing, Depth, and Support

Spacing depends on the mango variety you're growing. Check the mature canopy width, along with the height, to make sure you'll have enough room to grow your tree. Saplings should be planted at the same depth they were growing in their nursery container. Seeds should be planted about 1/2 inch deep. Saplings might need staking for support as they grow, especially if they are in an area that gets strong winds.

Mango Tree Care

Light

Mango trees require full sun, meaning at least eight hours of direct sunlight on most days. Their flower and fruit production will suffer if they don't get enough light. A south-facing window indoors can work, but it's best to move the pot outside as much as possible for full sunlight exposure.

Soil

These trees can tolerate a variety of soil types. But a sandy loam that's light and well-draining is best. The soil pH can range from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.

Water

Mango trees have some drought tolerance, though drought can negatively impact the fruit production. It's best to water whenever the top couple inches of soil dries out, but do not let the tree sit in soggy soil.

Temperature and Humidity

Mango trees prefer humidity above 50 percent; mist an indoor tree daily if the air is dry. Also, keep your tree as warm as possible, ideally always above 70 degrees. Mango trees can't tolerate freezing, and even temperatures in the 40s can cause flowers and fruit to drop.

Fertilizer

These trees don’t need a lot of fertilizer, and if you already have rich soil you likely won’t have to provide supplemental feeding. A slow-release balanced fertilizer can be applied in poor soil conditions, following label instructions. 

Pollination

Mango trees are pollinated by bees, ants, flies, and other pollinators, along with wind.

Red mangoes hanging from mango tree branch closeup
The Spruce / K. Dave
Mango tree with red mangoes hanging in garden
The Spruce / K. Dave
Green and yellow mangoes hanging from tree branches
The Spruce / K. Dave
Red, yellow and red mangoes piled on each other
The Spruce / K. Dave

Types of Mango Trees

If you're growing a tree from collected seeds, don't expect the fruit to be true to the parent plant. It is also possible that the propagated tree will be sterile and won't bear fruit at all, so it is generally best to buy a grafted mango variety if you want fruit. Some good choices include:

  • 'Pickering' develops into a bushy tree. You can expect it to flower in late winter and to bear fruit in the summer.
  • 'Ice Cream' makes a good plant for the patio, as it grows to 6 feet tall. When ripe, the fruit is yellow-green rather than red.
  • 'Cogshall' is an excellent choice for growing in a container and produces fruit consistently.

Mangoes vs. Peaches

Mangoes and peaches are often substituted for one another in recipes. Their fruit color and texture is similar. However, mangoes can taste a little more tangy than peaches. And peaches can be more watery. 

Harvesting Mangoes

Planted from seed, a mango tree requires five to eight years before it will bear fruit; a nursery sapling should produce fruit in about four years.

The mango fruit takes three to five months to ripen after the tree has flowered. The color of the ripe fruit depends on the variety. The fruit is typically harvested by hand and must be handled gently to avoid breaking the skin. One way to test for readiness is to pick a fruit and sniff to see if it has a sweet scent. If you pick unripe fruit, you can place it in a paper bag at room temperature to ripen further over several days. Mango can be eaten raw or cooked. Immature fruit is often used to make pickled mango. Store fully ripe fruit in the refrigerator, and aim to use it within a week. It also can be frozen.

How to Grow Mango Trees in Pots

Most dwarf mango trees typically reach 4 to 8 feet tall, making them ideal for growing in pots. With container growth, you can keep your tree in an easily accessible spot for harvesting, and you don't have to dedicate a lot of garden space to it. The best time to plant mango trees in containers is in the spring. Choose a container that's at least 20 inches tall and wide with ample drainage holes. An unglazed clay container is best because it will allow excess soil moisture to escape through its walls. Place it on a plant caddie with rolling casters for easy mobility.

Pruning

Pruning typically should occur every year or two after the tree is done fruiting to keep its size manageable. The trees can tolerate a heavy pruning well, though it can take a season for fruit production to bounce back. Thin some of the canopy branches to improve air flow and allow sunlight to reach the remaining branches. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches as they arise. 

Propagating Mango Trees

Mango trees are typically grown from seed or from grafted nursery trees. It's also possible to grow them from cuttings, though this doesn't always result in a strong root system. However, propagating from cuttings is an inexpensive and easy way to create new trees. The best time to do so is in the summer. Here's how:

  1. Cut a 6- to 8-inch portion of a young, thin branch from a healthy mango tree, and remove the leaves on the lower half. Also, remove any flowers or fruit. 
  2. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
  3. Plant the cutting in a small container with moistened soilless potting mix. The container should have drainage holes. 
  4. Put the container in a warm, humid spot with bright, indirect light. And keep the growing medium moist but not soggy. Adding a heat mat under the container to keep the soil between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit can help to promote roots to form. It can take several weeks to have substantial root growth. 

How to Grow Mango Trees From Seed

To germinate mango seeds, carefully remove the outer hairy husk to reveal the inner seed. Polyembryonic plants, such as the mango tree, have seeds with several smaller seeds inside, while other plants have just one seed. This seed can be suspended over water like an avocado seed to develop roots. Or it can be planted with the bulging side up about 1/2 inch deep in a container of seed-starting mix. It should sprout within two weeks. Keep the seed in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and keep the growing medium moist but not soggy. Wait to plant the sprouted seed in a larger container until the beginning of its second growing season.

Potting and Repotting Mango Trees

A well-draining potting mix made for citrus plants or palms is suitable for potting mangoes. Mango trees will grow into small trees fairly quickly (in about four or five years) and will require repotting when they become root-bound or too top-heavy for the pot. The timing of this can vary depending on your pot size and variety of tree. To repot, gently remove the tree from its old container, place it at the same depth it was previously growing in a larger container, and fill around it with fresh potting mix. Then, water it deeply, making sure the excess water drains out of the container.

Overwintering

Potted mango trees should be brought indoors for the winter before the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Place them by a bright, south-facing window, and use grow lights if necessary. The trees should be kept warm and protected from drafts.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Mango may suffer from some common insect pests, including mealybugs, aphids, and mites. Signs of infestation include tiny webs on plants, clumps of white powdery residue, and visible insects. Treat infestations as soon as possible to prevent them from spreading to the rest of your collection. Start with the least toxic treatment option first, progressing to more serious chemicals only if your initial efforts fail.

Mango plants also are susceptible to anthracnose, a fungal disease causing black lesions that gradually spread. Seriously infected trees stop producing fruit. The best preventive measure is to plant a resistant variety in full sun where moisture will quickly evaporate. Extreme humidity fosters anthracnose and other fungal diseases. Copper-based fungicides can sometimes be effective against anthracnose on mango trees, but they should not be used within 14 days of planned fruit harvest.

FAQ
  • Are mango trees easy to grow?

    Mango trees can be fairly difficult to grow outside of their natural environment. They require lots of sun and warmth.

  • How long does it take to grow mango trees?

    Mango trees grow relatively quickly, bearing fruit in roughly four to eight years after planting.

  • Can you grow mango trees indoors?

    Mango trees can grow indoors with sufficient light, but they often won't produce fruit.

Article Sources
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