How to Grow Mango Trees (Mangifera indica) in 8 Steps
I have learned quite a lot in the past six years, but to be honest I am really glad I had some expert resources to point me in the right direction. This is my guide for successfully growing mango trees. I will share both my personal tips, and direct you towards the experts.
Mangoes do require some maintenance, but it is not too much work, and gives you a reason to go out and enjoy your garden.
How to Grow Mango Trees
- Choose a Mango Cultivar
Research which varieties of mango are suited to your climate. Consider taste, yield and disease resistant to narrow down your choice.
- Buy a Mango Sapling
Buy a healthy sapling over 2 feet tall, ready for training
- Plant your Mango Tree
Choose a good place in your garden based on sunlight and drainage and available space. Plant in your soil with some added organic matter.
- Train your Mango Tree
Start pruning early to train your mango tree for productivity, aesthetics and disease resistance.
- Feed your Mango Tree
Mulch with mature compost. Avoid feeding with excessive nitrogen.
- Maintain your Mango Tree through Flowering
The flowering season is enjoyable and easy part of the cycle, but you should inspect regularly and remove any diseased leaves.
- Harvest your Mangoes
Harvest your mangoes before the birds do. Remove any diseased leaves and old fruit spurs.
- Tip & Prune your Mango Tree
Straight after harvest is the best time to prepare for the next season.
Choose a Mango Cultivar
One of the things that amazes me about mango is the sheer number of varieties. There are hundreds of popular cultivars. Most of these have good tastes and yields, you really don;t need to compromise.
If you have a variety of fresh mango fruit available for sale in your area you could try tasting a few different mangoes and see if you have a strong preference for a particular type. On the other hand there is a definite benefit to having fruit from your garden that is different to what you can buy in a shop.
If you have space in your garden for more than one mango tree then I would definitely suggest planting multiple cultivars. They usually have slightly different seasons so if you do a little research you can spread your harvest out over a bigger chunk of the year.
Buy a Mango Sapling
Choose a healthy looking young tree. You should avoid buying a more mature tree as it will be expensive, permanently dwarfed by the constraints of a small pot, untrained, or possibly all three of the above.
Plant your Mango Tree
Select an area of your garden with decent exposure to sunlight and 5 meters (17 feet) from any other trees. If there is any chance of flooding in your garden, choose a higher spot and/or consider making a small mound in your soil.
Dig a nice deep hole, then put some soil back in the bottom of the hole to raise the level of planting as needed and to provide good drainage. Place your sapling in the hole and make sure it is nicely vertical. Mix your soil with some potting mix and a little mature compost and push back in around the sapling, and water in well.
If you have strong sunlight and hot temperatures, plant in the evening. You can also temporarily shade your young tree for the first few days. Just be careful not to create shaded with something the wind can blow over and cause damage.
Train your Mango Tree
This is where you will see a benefit of buying a young sapling rather than a more mature tree. You want a single stem that will become the tree trunk. Establish the crotching (the point where the first branches attach to the trunk).
You create the crotching by tipping the sapling at just below hip height. The stem and branches of the mango grow in segments, so you find the segment closest to the ideal height and cut just above it. New branches will emerge from where you cut. The video below explains this in detail.
You will get a lot of branches growing, so after a growth spurt, you need to select 3 or 4 of these and remove all other growth. The branches you keep (and whether you choose 3 or 4) is based on the health of the branches and symmetry. Your goal is to promote 3 or 4 strong branches that are equally spaced.
Once the initial branches have grown, allow 2 segments to form then tip again. Repeat the process of selecting 3 or 4 new branches to promote from the regrowth. This process will lead to a balanced healthy tree over time.
Feed your Mango Tree
Mulch heavily with mature compost. Excessive nitrogen will stimulate too much wood growth in mature trees at the expense of leaf growth and flowering. I have mulched young trees with fall leaves and rice straw in addition to compost with no ill effects.
Leave several inches space around the trunk and mulch outward extending just beyond the drip-line (allowing for growth).
If you insist on artificial fertilizers, use a small amount of potassium nitrate (KNO3) which has an NPK rating of 13-0-44. Potassium Chloride and other fertilizers are cheaper, but potentially more harmful to your soil biology. I personally think your time and money is better spent building up your soil with organic compost over time.
Maintain you Mango Tree Through Flowering
Mango trees have a natural two year cycle of heavy yield and light yield seasons. In many cases this can manifest as having no fruit at all in the light season. Pruning makes the yield much more consistent.
Mango flowers are a riot of color, various shades of red and yellow depending on cultivar
Commercially, mango farmers spray the foliage with potassium nitrate to induce flowering, but at home I think you are better to give your mango tree a rest if it feels it needs to take a year off. Even for commercial applications, the foliar spraying is only recommended for mature years of 10 or more years age.
Dry Winters Induce Flowering
The other thing to say about flowering is that it is naturally induced by a dry winter. If you are lucky and have dry winters you may need to water, but do not over do it.
Once flowering starts it is a good idea to water regularly. Inconsistent watering can lead to tiny fruit dropping off the fruit spurs, and larger unripe mangoes cracking open. When watering, take care not to spray the flowers (and hope it does not rain).
Fruit spurs emerge from the same locations as normal branches but soon show their true nature with a glorious burst of color. The downside is that the flowers contain a lot of sugar and as the die off they are a source of disease to the surrounding leaves.
Clearing Away Dead Flowers & Fruit Spurs
You will likely have a flush of flowering that does not produce fruit early in the season. It is a good idea to carefully remove dead fruit spurs and dried flowers before the more productive flushes of growth.
I say carefully, because you are likely to have a mixture of old dry flowers and tiny mangoes on each fruit spur once the season starts. It is easy to knock the really small fruit off the spur at the early stage. It is even more disappointing when you remove what you think is an expired spur and then realize there is a half-grown fruit attached.
Harvest your Mangoes
You want to remove the mangoes before birds start eating them. People commonly wrap unripe mangoes in newspaper on the tree to give them some protection, but I do not bother with this.
You should avoid squeezing the mangoes too much to assess ripeness, but sometimes this is necessary. Some cultivars can maintain a dark green skin but be soft and ripe on the inside. Smell is a good guide to ripeness, and for most cultivars the color will change.
Tip & Prune your Mango Tree
The best time for pruning mango tree is straight after harvest. This gives your tree the most time to recover for the next season.
You should take this opportunity to remove any weak limbs that are likely to under-perform next season, including vertical branches. Removing large sections of excess wood gives the tree more vigor for growing leaves and flowers. The other objective is to open the canopy right up so that even with another years growth there will still be plenty of sunlight and air penetrating the canopy.
Tipping is the process of removing the end sections of branches to stimulate new growth.
The video below goes into quite a bit of detail about corrective pruning for mature trees, but also covers maintenance of younger trees – you might like to skip ahead if that part is more relevant.
How to Grow Mango Trees: Bonus Tips
Mango Anthracnose is a fungal disease endemic to mango trees worldwide. An organic suppressant like neem oil might help, but ultimately I think the best defense is:
- Generally maintain your mango tree in a healthy state
- Thin the canopy with annual pruning, and leave the canopy open in the center to allow penetration of air and sunlight
- Regularly inspect your tree and remove dead branches, old fruit spurs, dried flowers and diseased leaves from the tree.
The following video goes into more detail about the reasons for maintaining a smaller tree with an open canopy:
If I could only choose one tree species to grow, it would be a mango tree. The reasons are simple. Mango tastes great, and you get a lot of fruit from a single tree. It is a beautiful tree. The size and shape are easily controlled, and the flowers bring the hum of bees to your garden.
For a complete list of mango cultivars, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mango_cultivars