The mango, or Mangifera indica, is often called the ‘kings of fruits’ and it’s a summertime staple in household around the world. Australia produces around 46 000 tonnes of the fruit each year. Want to add to that number in your own backyard? Here’s how to grow a mango tree.
There are over 500 different cultivars of mango varying in colour shape and flavour, with Kensington Pride (or Bowen) being the most common amongst Australian growers. Check with your local nursery to find out which ones grow best in your area. Trees are mostly sold as grafted saplings but some varieties can be grown from the seed. Mango seeds usually take around eight years to produce fruit while grafted saplings take three to five.
Mangoes prefer tropical and subtropical climates with humid, hot summers and cool, dry, frost-free winters.
Choose an open, sunny position, sheltered from strong winds. If you’re growing a mango tree in cooler climate, plant your tree need a north-facing brick wall to utilise the heat radiating off it.
Mango trees will grow in almost any soil whether sandy, loam or clay, but they require good depth and drainage.
You can plant mango trees year-round, but the best time time to plant a mango tree is in autumn. Start by digging a hole and incorporating added organic matter such as compost or rotted cow manure. After planting the sapling to the same depth as its original container, form a mound around it to improve drainage and encourage establishment. Water it well and mulch with hay.
“Many mango trees grow quite large (10 metres tall or more) so it is important to consider their sheer size when deciding where to plant it within your backyard,” Yates Horticulture Consultant Angie Thomas says.
While your mango tree is young it will require regular watering, depending on its growth and your climate. Start by watering it every other day before gradually increasing the time between irrigation to once or twice a week for the first year.
It’s important to keep mango trees well-watered from spring to autumn but water sparingly in late winter, before the onset of flowering. Established trees don’t require much watering.
“Give them a good feed with a potassium enriched complete fertiliser during the warmer months to encourage healthy stem and leaf growth, as well as promote flowering and fruiting,” Angie says.
Sandy soils require more fertiliser than loam or clay but keep in mind that young trees are sensitive to over-fertilising. Mulch the base of the tree with pea straw each spring.
Mango trees often attract fruit flies so cover each fruit with a fruit fly bag after they form.
They're also susceptible to Anthracnose – a fungal disease causing black spots on leaves and fruit. Plant where there is good air circulation and avoid wetting the foliage. Prune off affected parts, bag them and put them in the garbage bin to prevent the spread of the fungal spores.
Garden Clinic says that a common complaint is a lack of fruit.
“Mango fruit set depends on several factors," Greg Daley from Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery says. "Temperatures below 10 deg when flowering (October) in the spring will reduce fruit set. Also wet weather during flowering can result in anthracnose infection which will cause fruit not to set.”
No pruning is usually needed. Train the tree to have a single main stem, with side branching within its first years of growth. Remove dead, damaged or diseased wood as seen.
Mangoes are ready to be harvested when the colour of the skin turns from green to yellow, orange or red. Fruit are usually ripe around 100 to 150 days after flowering.
Propagation by seed is only recommended for poly-embryonic mango varieties such as Kensington Pride. To do so, carefully slit the husk of the mango, remove the seed and plant it in a large pot with seed starter mix with the seed slightly protruding from above the soil surface. It's important that it remains at a consistent temperature of at least 21 degrees. Sprouting will usually occur within three weeks.
Mango trees can also be propagated by grafting, in which part of the parent tree (scion) is joined with a rooted plant (rootstock).
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