How to Grow Mangoes in California

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Mangoes (Mangifera indica), native to tropical Asia, will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 11. Although they prefer subtropical climates, they will grow in the drier climate in the warmest parts of California.

Tip

  • Mango trees are self-fertile. Only one tree is necessary to yield mangoes.

Climate and Site Preferences

Mangoes cannot tolerate frost and require warm, dry weather to bear mangoes. Temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit can severely damage young trees and temperatures reaching 40 degrees F kill flowers and developing fruit. They’re best grown in the foothills of Southern California away from the ocean. They like summer heat and do not grow well in cool summer fog. Only the most cold-hardy cultivars will thrive north of Santa Barbara. Mangoes may survive if grown in a Central Valley cove that's protected from cold winter weather.

Mangoes need full sun and like a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.5 in any well-drained soil. They typically top out at about 32 feet high in California, sending tap roots down to 20 feet deep with wide-spreading feeder roots that grow anchor roots. Plant them 12 to 15 feet apart.

Tip

  • The first two years after planting a nursery seedling, mango trees need protection if frost threatens. Putting a tarp or cloth cover over a seedling will help trap reflected heat. When the tree gets over 3 or 4 feet high, you can wrap the trunk with straw or foam tree wraps, use orchard heaters or place lights under the canopy. Watering the soil thoroughly before the frost helps insulate and protect the mangoes root system.

Water Needs

As a general rule, begin irrigating trees in the Southern California deserts in February and those at the coast in April. Water once every one to two weeks to keep the soil moist, discontinuing if you have enough rain to maintain moisture. Light sandy soil will require more water, and you may have to water continuously in the desert until the mangoes are ready to pick.

Fertilizing a Mango

Give your tree an annual total of 1 to 2 cups of ammonium sulfate, 21-0-0, for each inch of trunk diameter, stopping the increases when the tree reaches full size. Split the total amount into three parts, scattering it on the ground under the canopy in February, May and August and watering well. Adding a 4- to 8-inch-thick layer of organic mulch twice a year will improve the number and quality of the mango yield; ensure you pull mulch away from the base of the trunk.

Pruning a Mango

Mango trees require little pruning. You can prune in late winter or early spring without having fewer mangoes that year. Your tree may only yield mangoes every other year. To encourage annual growth, prune branches when the tree is dormant to encourage new growth. You can also promote annual bearing by pruning some flower clusters in years when they are blooming heavily. Prune with disinfected tools only; dip tools in isopropyl alcohol and allow to air dry.

Warning

  • Mango sap from wound cuts and pruning debris can cause severe dermatitis. This is similar to the rash caused by poison oak. If you experience rash symptoms, wash the affected area and call a physician or the 24/7 hotline of the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.

Recommended Varieties

While all mangoes will grow in USDA zones 10b through 11, individual cultivars may grow best in specific geographic areas within California. Here is a sample of mangoes suitable for California foothills, coastal or inland areas from the many varieties recommended by the California Rare Fruit Growers Association.

For the Foothills

  • Cooper (Mangifera indica ‘Cooper’), developed in Hollywood, is a dense, spreading tree that yields
    16- to 20-ounce green, long mangoes with high quality flesh.
  • Edgehill (Mangifera indica ‘Edgehill’),
    developed in Vista, California in the 1920s, is a hardy, vigorous tree that
    produces 8- to 12-ounce green mangoes with red blush in November and December.
  • Piña (Mangifera indica ‘Piña’),
    also called Pineapple, yields oval, orange-yellow mangoes up to 12 ounces with
    a hint of pineapple flavor in November and December.

For the Coast or Foothills

  • Costa Rica (Mangifera indica ‘Costa Rica’), developed in East Los Angles in 1980, yields long, flat,
    pale green mangoes that are juicy and weigh up to 10 ounces.
  • Manila (Mangifera indica ‘Manila’) originally from Mexico, is
    a dense dwarf tree that yields small, long, flat yellow mangoes with sharp
    flavor. It ripens from October through December.
  • Reliable (Mangifera indica ‘Reliable’) a mango developed in San Diego, grows 10- to 20-ounce oblong,
    yellow mangoes blushed with red from October to February. 

For Interior Areas

  • Edward (Mangifera indica ‘Edward’),
    developed in Miami, is a dense, compact tree that yields medium to large yellow-green,
    very flavorful mangoes with red blush.
  • Kent (Mangifera indica ‘Kent’),
    originating in Coconut Grove, California, is an upright tree. It yields oval,
    greenish-yellow 20- to 26-ounce mangoes touched with red.
  • Tommy Atkins (Mangifera indica ‘Tommy Atkins’) yields
    16-ounce oval, orange-yellow mangoes covered with purple bloom. They’re
    fair to good quality, juicy with medium fiber.

Growing Mangoes Indoors

You can grow a mango tree indoors from seed. A seed-grown mango will likely take at least six years to flower and yield mangoes, though it may never yield mangoes. A nursery-grown mango seedling in a 3-gallon pot may take only two to three years to yield mangoes. Fill the container with a well draining potting mix. It's good to take them outside in warm summer weather, but a potted mango tree can be heavy. A 15-gallon pot weighing between 70 and 125 pounds will hold a 5-foot-tall nursery seedling. A “Versailles” planter weighing between 150 and 400 pounds will handle a 10-foot-tall mango tree. The pot must have drainage holes.

Water a potted mango enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy. When your tree is actively growing from early spring until early autumn, give it 1 teaspoon of 10-10-10 or 10-8-7 fertilizer once a month in 1 quart of water.

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