You can grow an indoor mango tree from the seed of the fruit, but if you want it to bear fruit, you should buy a grafted plant instead. There are dwarf varieties available that will produce an appropriately sized plant rather than the outdoor versions, which often reach 60 to 100 feet. It will grow into a small tree with green, oblong leaves that are somewhat ordinary in appearance. It's difficult to keep an indoor mango plant alive for a few years, and it may never mature enough to bear fruit. 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).
- Botanical Name: Mangifera indica
- Common Name: Mango
- Plant Type: Tree
- Mature Size: 7 to 15 feet
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Soil Type: Loamy
- Soil pH: 5.5 to 7.5
- Bloom Time: Winter
- Flower Color: White
- Hardiness Zones: 9b, 10b, 11
- Native Area: Tropical South Asia
How to Grow a Mango Plant
Your indoor mango tree will require plenty of light and warmth to keep it happy. Even dwarf mango trees will grow quite tall, so you will need to consider that in where you can locate them.
Don't expect your mango tree to blossom until it is four years old or more. It's recommended that you cut off the blossoms the first year. The second year you can let it set fruit, but be sure to stake it so it will have enough support as the fruit develops.
Mango seedlings require bright 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 provide a grow light.
A rich, peat-based potting soil with excellent drainage is beneficial.
Water regularly, but do not leave the plant with wet feet. 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 F. Mango plants cannot tolerate freezing, and even at 40 F any flowers or fruit will drop. A mango tree can be grown outdoors if the average temperature is 80 to 100 F. If your summers are warm enough, you can put your container-grown 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 (the first number) and higher in potassium and phosphorus.
Professional growers typically graft mango, while backyard growers often air-layer their trees to get the desired tree. 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, 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 F to sprout and need to be given plenty of water.
Potting and Repotting
Mango seeds are best sprouted at the beginning of the growing season. They will grow fairly fast throughout that first growing season, but should not be repotted until the beginning of the second growing season. Mango will grow into small trees fairly quickly (about four or five years). A mango tree will not bear fruit for at least the first four years.
If you're growing from seed, don't expect the fruit to be true to the parent plant as most are hybrids. It is also likely that the plant will be sterile and won't bear fruit. For the best chance of bearing fruit, consider grafted dwarf mango varieties.
- '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 six feet tall. When ripe, the fruit is yellow-green rather 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 fruit takes three to four months to ripen after the tree has flowered. The color of the ripe fruit depends on the variety. One way to test for whether it is ready to pick is to give it a sniff and see if it has a sweet scent. If you pick unripe fruit, you can place it in a paper bag to ripen further over several days. Immature fruit is often used to make pickled mango.
Mango sometimes suffers from 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.