Although it can be tricky to grow, a mango tree can make an interesting specimen for a large pot on a deck or patio, or for indoor use. In the right conditions, the plant forms a dense canopy of long oblong green leaves and rewards you with flowers in December through March and fruit three to five months later. Specimens planted in the garden are more likely to fruit, but even a dwarf spotted mango can produce fruit if it gets plenty of light.
You can start a mango tree by planting the seed removed from a fruit, but if you want the tree to bear fruit, you should buy a grafted plant instead. The mango fruit you buy in the store is likely from a hybrid, so a plant grown from its seed won't grow "true" and is likely to be sterile (unable to bear fruit). There are many dwarf varieties of mango available that will produce a plant of manageable size rather than the landscape versions that can often reach 60 to 100 feet. Planted from seed, a mango requires five to eight years before it will bear fruit; a potted nursery sapling should fruit in four years or so.
Be forewarned, though, that it's difficult to keep an indoor mango plant alive for more than a few years, and it may never mature enough to bear fruit. Mango trees in the outdoor garden or potted on a deck or patio usually fare somewhat better. If you are planting it in the garden, choose a cool season to do it.
|Botanical Name:||Mangifera indica|
|Plant Type:||Tropical fruit tree|
|Mature Size:||7 to 15 feet, depending on variety|
|Sun Exposure:||Full sun|
|Soil Type:||Rich, well-draining|
|Soil pH:||5.5 to 7.5|
|Hardiness Zones:||9b to 11, USDA|
|Native Area:||Tropical southeast Asia, India|
How to Grow a Mango Plant
Your mango tree will require plenty of light and warmth to keep it happy. This plant reacts very badly to temperatures below about 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 you will need to consider that when choosing a location for it. Dwarf mangos are most often grown in large pots, either indoors or on a deck or patio, in a container with 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 more. During the second year of flowering, you can let it set fruit, but be sure to stake the plant so it will have enough support as the fruit develops.
Mango seedlings require bright light but not direct sunlight. Once the plant starts to grow, give it as much light as possible, including moving it outside if possible. It needs at least six hours of sun per day and preferably eight to 10 hours. It's best if you can place it in a south-facing area. In the winter, you might need to provide a grow light.
A rich, peat-based potting soil with excellent drainage is beneficial. If planting a mango in the garden, make sure it is in soil that can dry out slightly between waterings.
Water regularly, several times a week in dry weather, but do not leave the plant to sit with "wet feet" in soggy soil. The mango plant, like many tropical fruits, thrives in periods of alternating wet and dry. Seeds require regular moisture to sprout.
Temperature and Humidity
Mango plants like humidity above 50 percent, so you may need to mist your plant daily. Keep your tree as warm as possible and always above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Mango plants cannot tolerate freezing, and even at 40 degrees, any flowers or fruit will drop. A mango tree can be grown outdoors in very warm climates where the average temperature is 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If your summers are warm enough, you can put your indoor mango tree outdoors for the season.
Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Cut fertilizer back 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.
Growing in Containers
Most dwarf mangos typically grow 4 to 8 feet tall, making them ideal plants for a patio or deck. The best time to plant them in containers is in the spring. Choose a large container, at least 20 inches tall and 20 inches wide with good drainage holes. Mangos need good drainage, so line the bottom of the pot with broken pottery and a layer of gravel before adding a lightweight, nutritious potting soil.
This will be a heavy pot, so placing it on rolling casters is a good idea. Side-dress the soil around the trunk with about 2 inches of organic mulch. Fertilize in early spring, and water frequently but don't let the soil remain soggy. In the first year, snip off the flower buds to stimulate growth. Prune the plant in late winter or early spring to maintain it in a good size and proportion for the pot.
Be patient; a mango tree will not bear fruit for the first four years or so.
Potting and Repotting
If you sprout mango seeds, don't pot them up into larger containers until the beginning of the second growing season. Mango will grow into small trees fairly quickly (about four or five years) and may require repotting when they become root-bound or become top-heavy for the pot.
Propagating Mango Plants
Professional growers typically graft mango onto rootstock, while backyard growers often use air-layering to propagate the plants. In an indoor home setting, you can try to sprout a mango seed from any fruit you buy at a grocery store. To germinate the seed, very carefully remove the outer hairy husk to reveal the inner seed. "Polyembryonic" plants will have 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. Seeds need to be kept above 70 degrees Fahrenheit to sprout and need to be given plenty of water.
Varieties of Mango
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 plant 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.
Toxicity of Mango
The pollen, tree sap, and peel of the mango fruit contain oily compounds that produce a reaction similar to the poison ivy rash in sensitive individuals. If you develop a blistering rash after handling your mango plant, wear gloves in the future. Never burn the wood, as the toxic oil will be present in the smoke and can produce a severe reaction in sensitive people.
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.
Common Pests/ 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, or visible insects on the plant. 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, only progressing to more serious chemicals 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 effective against anthracnose on mango plants, but they should not be used within 14 days of planned fruit harvest.