How To Grow Mango Trees
(All the images on this page
are by Paul Gauguin. Please do not proceed if you are offended by art with
1. Read the classic
reference (big book, not recommended for beginners):
Fruits Of Warm Climates by Julia F. Morton
To read, download or print this costly book for
free , which is used as a textbook in many college level courses, just say out
loud, "Thanks Perdue U." and....
2. Here's a short briefing
Mango trees have been cultivated and grafted for hundreds of years. Grafting was
a 'secret' in many cultures and tasty mangoes were status symbols for the
royalty only. Ancient kings would steal limbs off each others' mango trees and
bribe and kidnap the other kings' gardeners. Peasants were punished for
possession of mango fruit or unauthorized cultivation of mango fruit trees.
Royalty would try to surpass each other with lavish mango parties and huge gifts
of perfect, ripe, delicious mango fruits. Some of today's Indochinese
awesome varieties existed many, many years ago exactly as we have them now.
Mango trees are evergreens.
The civilized grafted mango
trees we have now are nothing like the ancient, wild trees whose small fruit
tasted like turpentine and had the texture of nylon yarn. The old test of a
mango fruit was it's stringiness, it's fiber content. You used to judge a mango
by how much dental floss it had. The advent of the free exchange of scientific
and agricultural data changed
all that. Grafting began to be widely practiced.
Mango fruit from seeds is
never the same as the mother tree's fruit. So the seed out of a great tasting
fruit will likely produce a tree yielding horrible tasting fibrous fruit. The
only certain way to be sure you'll have tasty fruit is to propagate (by
grafting, and in some cases cloning) an existing particular, individual tree
(DNA-wise) whose quality is proven.
The odds of a seed producing
worthwhile fruit are very, very small. Like one in a hundred million.
All mango trees grown from any
seed are properly called "Wild Mango Trees". These trees, at 2
foot tall no more, are suitable to graft to but are only worth about $.25 each.
Don't sprout a mango seed unless you are able to finish the job by grafting onto
All good tasting mango
varieties are grafted. It's easy with younger trees to see the graft...just
look near the base of the trunk and you can see a scar that circles all the way
around the trunk. Older trees have the scar too if they are grafted, it's just
harder to see. Use a whisk broom to clean off the old bark and dirt from
the bottom one foot or so. If necessary use a metal tool to scrape from the
root joint up to the first limb. If that doesn't find it, kill it.
Watch out for grafted trees
that have been frozen back to the stump and all the top (good) part of the graft
(scion) has died of the freeze and only the rootstock has survived and
branched...such trees, if they do live and re-grow, produce very inferior fruit.
It is a good citizen's duty to kill these "fruiting wounded" so that
people sampling mangoes for the first time will not taste their unpleasant
"free" fruits and form an aversion to all mangoes. A chainsaw to
the trunk at the ground line followed by a quart of roundup spread over the
stump surface and surrounding area should do it.
Grafting Is When You
Artificially Attach a Tiny Proto-Limb (Bud) of a Desirable Tree to the Lower
Trunk of a Similar Tree, Usually a Sapling, Thereby Prolonging the Life and
Fruiting Ability of the Desirable Tree. THIS CAN RESULT IN A SINGLE DESIRABLE
TREE'S DNA BEING USED FOR AN INDEFINITELY LONG TIME! Like possibly
thousands of years!
Sometimes young trees sprout
limbs from BELOW the graft's scar, always kill these limbs because they will
produce bad tasting fruits and weaken the good scion above the graft.
Grafting occurs in
nature, for example, when two trees growing too close together constantly rub
limbs in the wind scraping them both bare at one spot and they both 'bleed' sap
and when the windy season ends they are still pressed together and grow 'joined'
together over months into one tree. Grafted. There is this type of 'joining' in
root systems too. Many huge groves are really one tree.
Most of the mango varieties
you find in the supermarket are not ancient. The best mangoes never make it to
a grocery store, that's why people grow their own mangos. the best mangos have
really short "shelf life" and they bruise really easy. So shipping
them and selling them in stores is impossible! These modern varieties taste great and are resistant to some
problems. The newest varieties are often 'designed' to taste like other fruits
such as coconuts, lemons, vanilla, ice cream etc. Generally, modern mango tree
varieties are superior in every way to the ancient ones.
Except the Nam Doc Mai, a
treasured survivor from ancient Siam (Thailand), which politely delivers indescribably
Here are some APPROXIMATE
dates of recognition:
Temperature is very important with mango trees. Cold weather is a major health
factor. They die or suffer great damage
at 32 F. They go temporarily dormant at about 40 F. So you must learn the normal
yearly temperature pattern for where the tree will be.
The idea that there is a
"cold hardy" rootstock or cultivars is ludicrous, absolutely absurd. All mango trees behave
exactly the same way as regards 32 F. They die or suffer great damage.
Here are some cold
weather ideas. In some places the
threat of frost or freeze is normal only at night for a few nights each year.
You can either keep the tree in a container and drag it inside during the hours
of frost or freeze or plant it in the ground where you will have to cover
it up for only the duration of the frost or freeze. If you cover it be sure to
fasten the 'skirt' to the ground all around with sod staples or weights so as to trap the
ground warmth radiating upward, you can add a light bulb for added warmth or
even in extreme cases a little electric space heater...just watch out for rain. Also where the
covering tarp/plastic touches the tree the freeze will 'burn' it, no big deal
usually, but you can get elaborate and build a skeleton frame to stretch
the cover over, just remember the wind. Remember to open a vent hole or uncover
the mango tree in the morning after temperatures get back above 40 F. You will 'cook' it if you forget.
In Northern Florida they used
to plant mango trees right up against the South side of the house where the hot
water heater was, so the tree kept warm at night. During cold weather, even if there was a killer
freeze and some limbs died, the trunk above the graft was still warm and would
sprout new limbs and yield delicious fruit in the Spring.
In an emergency, you can heat just the trunk,
(it will save the graft and the tree), you will be sacrificing all but one of the
scion's branches. But it will save the life of a grafted tree.
There are several ways to heat
it: put hot wet towels, electric heating pads, an electric blanket, or
hot water bottles, etc. wrapped around the trunk clear up to a few inches ABOVE the first branch. And put some warm water on the ground near the base of the
trunk. Remember you must save at least one limb (small is OK) ABOVE the graft or
else the tree is worthless.
It is possible to use
sprinklers to spray water onto a tree to save it. BUT you must not stop spraying
until the temperature is up to 36 F. Don't just stop the water at dawn. You can
try to divert the flowing water away from the base of the tree and the roots with plastic sheeting, (mango trees
like dry winters).
In places where it freezes all
night and all day you must keep the tree inside the house near a big South facing
window (for light) until the frost threat is over. Lots of light is the main
concern. You can phone your local NOAA
weather station and they will read you the historically earliest and latest
freeze dates in your area so you know about what date to drag it inside. Of course a
sunny, heated greenhouse or pool house is nice!
Mango trees like a dry spell
for a couple months in the winter.
Water the tree every 3 days
for the first month if you plant it in the earth. Then every week for the next 2
months. Then don't water it any more except for dry spells. When it's mature, don't water
very much or fertilize at all during the time when fruit are forming or
ripening, you'll burst the fruit or dilute the flavor.
As for pruning, you can
really mess up the life of a tree fast with just a few uneducated cuts.
Any needed cuts to the tree
should be made with sharp clean tools. Some growers use a hand held
one quart propane torch (hardware store) to quickly sterilize the knife or
scissors after each cut so as to not spread virus disease.
Mango Leaves Are DEADLY POISONOUS.
Don't burn mango leaves or
cuttings, the smoke is toxic. Also don't allow humans or other animals to eat the leaves.
Be extremely careful if you use the leaves in any religious ceremonies.
For the first 3 years apply
about one level tablespoon of 12-5-9 (scattered) per foot of tree height in fall
after all the fruit have been picked. After the tree is three years old start
using 4-4-8 with trace elements, apply about 1/4 cup once yearly after all fruit
are picked. Fertilizer is mixed with a gallon of warm water and applied to the
DAMP soil, not dry, not wet. Apply about a quart daily for four days. Mango
trees need less fertilizer than the same area of lawn grass!
A 'citrus' type all purpose
spray (lots of different brands, but we recommend Exxon 435 soluble oil) is good to spray
once yearly in June. And get yourself a decent
sprayer that makes a fine mist.
And get some 'Kocide'
(brand name for copper sulfate) from a garden shop and spray the trees thoroughly in humid/warm
conditions once or twice a week! Follow the directions on the bag. Add a teaspoonful of dish detergent in each sprayer load to make
it stick. Anthracnose is the condition
that spoils the fruit. Look for black dots on the fruit and leaves and the
growing tips die curling black. Spray Kocide. Spray twice a week. In
Florida or other humid places spray twice a week all year. Don't let the copper
sulfate drip on to the roots, use plastic and rags or paper towels to keep it
off the soil over the roots. It is good for the above ground parts only.
Death to all squirrels! And
rats! ...Get some dogs.
Mango trees come from
poor, sandy soil with alternating monsoons and droughts. Lots of hot sun. Few
nutrients. Since it survives under very harsh conditions you need only keep it
from freezing. It's close cousin is the cashew nut tree.
If your mango tree's in a pot,
check the moisture every week. Stick your finger into the soil, is it damp?
Stick your finger into one of the holes around the bottom of the pot, is there
moisture at all? Water thoroughly only if dry. The soil should go from very wet
to very dry, then back to very wet. And so forth.
DO NOT TRY TO KEEP THE SOIL IN
ANY POTTED PLANT OR TREE SLIGHTLY DAMP ALL THE TIME.
Go back and forth from real wet to real dry.
REASON: BECAUSE THE VARIOUS PATHOGENS CANNOT ADAPT TO THE EXTREME CHANGES
IN MOISTURE AND IT KILLS LOTS OF THEM. And with no chemicals and no labor!
Roots need air just like they
need water. It's always good to
"spin" a potted plant halfway around every month so as to give it
sunlight equally all around and help it grow straight.
FOR PLANTS, SUNLIGHT IS FOOD.
Not enough means less growth, less flowering and less fruiting. The
more hours of daily direct sunlight...the more tree growth, flowering and
fruiting. Also if you reposition the potted tree suddenly, sunburn and leaf
dropping can occur because of any change in the amount of light. Sometimes
a little leaf dropping isn't too bad. Acclimation to lighting changes takes
weeks and months.
If you want to keep a
non-dwarf mango tree small, don't up-pot it. Make it pot bound. Just like Bonsai?
Yes, Mango trees are
perfect for Bonsai. They were some of the first subjects for the art form.
Imagine a six inch tall mango tree that's 30 years old and has a ripe 3 lb.
fruit on it!
("Julie" is the true
dwarf and will get only 8 ft. high. "Cogshall" is the semi-dwarf mango
tree and can reach 12 ft. Also there is a new "Hawaiian Dwarf Mango"
If you are serious about
mangoes, then you'll want to know about proper spacing in a grove. Plant
"Keitt" variety, space them about 35 ft. apart in long rows running
North and South. Space the rows about 45 ft. apart so as to leave space to drive
a tractor pulling a big grove sprayer. "Keitt" fruits get to 5 lbs.,
ship well, taste terrific, have no fiber at all, are resistant to anthracnose,
it's a huge tall tree, rave, rave.
Go to the library and look up
"Mangifera Indica L.". Join the local Garden Club. Visit plantations in India,
China, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria, Brazil, Philippines,
Haiti and South Africa. Even the Bahamas Islands are now exporting!
Mango fruits cost $2.00 or
more each in the supermarkets.
Excuse us, but it needs to be
said: there is no such thing as a "mango poop"; they are not a
laxative. In many places the mango fruit
is prepared and cooked while green and eaten as a carbohydrate.
More mangos are sold on Earth
than any other fruit. Any other fruit. Think about it.
Do you know of any properties
or smallholdings, anywhere, with
groves of mango trees for sale? If so e-mail. And there's an old slogan,
"Wherever man goes...mangoes." I wonder how many cultivars will fruit well in micro gravity?
Colorfield Farms, Inc.