Growing a mango tree is best suited to tropical and subtropical hardiness zones where temperatures do not fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it can be tricky to grow, a mango tree can make an interesting specimen when grown in a large pot outdoors or indoors. In the right conditions, this tree forms a dense canopy of long oblong green leaves and rewards you with 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.
You can start a mango tree by planting a seed removed from a fruit, but if you want the tree to bear fruit, buy a grafted tree instead. The mango fruit you buy in a grocery store is likely produced from a hybrid, and its seed would produce a sterile tree that cannot bear fruit.
Many dwarf varieties of mango tree produce a manageable size of mature tree. By contrast, varieties suitable for an outdoor landscape can often reach 60 to 100 feet tall. Planted from seed, a mango tree requires five to eight years before it will bear fruit; a potted nursery sapling should produce fruit in about four years. The tree itself is fairly fast-growing and can grow from seed to a small tree in as little as four years.
Be forewarned, though, that it's difficult to keep an indoor mango tree alive for more than a few years, and it might never mature enough to bear fruit. Mango trees grown in a garden or potted on an outdoor deck or patio usually fare somewhat better. Saplings should be planted in spring; in the garden, it's important to plant during a cool season.
|Botanical Name:||Mangifera indica|
|Plant Type:||Tropical fruit tree|
|Mature Size:||Dwarf varieties reach 4 to 8 feet,
landscape varieties reach 60 to 100 feet
|Sun Exposure:||Full sun|
|Soil Type:||Rich, well-draining|
|Soil pH:||Acidic to neutral (5.5 to 7.5)|
|Hardiness Zones:||9b to 11, USDA|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans|
How to Plant a Mango Tree
A mango tree will require plenty of light and warmth to keep it happy. This tree reacts very badly to temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and will drop fruit if it gets too cold. Indoors, it can be hard to provide the plant with enough light to thrive.
Even dwarf mango trees will grow quite tall, so consider mature size when selecting a location for it. Dwarf mangos are most often grown in large pots, either indoors or on an outdoor deck or patio. The container must have good drainage filled with loose, rich, well-draining potting soil. Don't expect your mango tree to blossom until it is four years old or older. During the second year of flowering, let it set fruit, but be sure to stake the tree so it will have enough support as the fruit develops.
Mango Tree Care
Young mango tree seedlings require bright light but not direct sunlight. Once the tree starts to grow and mature, it requires as much sunlight as possible, which may mean a potted tree needs to move outdoors. The mango tree needs at least six hours of sun per day and preferably eight to ten hours. It's best if you can place it in a south-facing area. In the winter, you might need to use a grow light.
A rich, peat-based potting soil with excellent drainage is ideal for potted trees. If you are planting your mango tree in the garden, make sure it is planted in soil that dries out slightly between waterings.
Water regularly, several times a week in dry weather, but do not let the tree sit with wet feet in soggy soil. The mango tree, like many tropical fruit trees, thrives in periods of alternating wet and dry.
Temperature and Humidity
Mango trees prefer humidity above 50 percent; mist an indoor tree daily if the air is dry. Keep your tree as warm as possible and always above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Mango trees cannot tolerate freezing, and even at 40 degrees, flowers and fruit will drop. A mango tree can be grown outdoors in a garden in very warm climates where the average temperature is 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If your summers are warm enough, you can move your indoor mango tree outdoors for the season.
Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Reduce fertilizing to once a month or so in the winter. During the blooming season, use a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen and higher in potassium and phosphorus.
Is Mango Toxic?
The pollen, tree sap, and peel of the mango fruit contain urushiol, the same allergen found in poison ivy, although not all humans are sensitive to mango. If you develop a blistering rash after handling your mango plant, wear gloves in the future, and be very careful about eating the fruit until you understand your sensitivity level. The pulp of the fruit does not contain urushiol. Never burn the wood, as the toxic oil will be present in the smoke and can produce a severe reaction in sensitive individuals.
If you're growing a tree from collected seed, 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 dwarf 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 considered an excellent choice for growing in a container and is said to produce fruit consistently.
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. 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 to ripen it further over several days. Immature fruit is often used to make pickled mango.
Professional growers typically graft mango trees onto rootstock, while backyard growers often use an air-layering method to propagate.
To germinate mango seeds, very 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 will have just one seed. This seed can be suspended over water, like an avocado seed, in order to develop roots; or it can be planted with the bulging side up in a pot of seedling soil. It should sprout within two weeks. Keep the seed in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and give it plenty of water.
Wait to plant the sprouted seed into a larger container until the beginning of the second growing season. Mango trees will grow into small trees fairly quickly (about four or five years) and might require repotting when they become root-bound or become top-heavy for the pot.
Common Pests and 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. As always, start with the least toxic treatment option first, progressing to more serious chemicals only if your initial efforts fail.
Mango plants 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.
How to Grow Mango Trees in Pots
Most dwarf mango trees typically grow 4 to 8 feet tall, making them ideal for a patio or deck. The best time to plant them in containers is in the spring. Mango trees require good draining, so choose a large container, at least 20 inches tall and 20 inches wide, with large drainage holes. Because the pot will be heavy, it's a good idea to place it on plant caddie with rolling casters.
Side-dress the soil around the trunk with about 2 inches of organic mulch. Fertilize in early spring and water frequently but don't made the soil soggy. In the first year, snip off the flower buds to stimulate growth. Prune the tree in late winter or early spring to maintain it at a size in proportion with the pot.
Be patient; a mango tree will not bear fruit for the first four years or so.