Few fruits evoke the tropics like mango. Only gardeners in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 11 can grow the fragrant, juicy mango fruit outdoors, unless their particular cultivar extends beyond that range, but gardeners anywhere can grow mango fruit indoors. The key to growing mango trees (Mangifera indica) indoors is to choose the right variety and to provide the right environment and care.
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Standard-size mango trees can reach 30 to 45 feet in height, which makes them unsuitable for growing indoors. Small- to medium-size cultivars, however, perform well in containers and can thrive indoors if given enough sunlight. The plants will also do well if brought outdoors and then placed indoors if temperatures are too cold.
Mango trees that are suitable for container cultivation are often called condo mangoes.
From the roots to the tallest shoots, mango trees need certain conditions to survive indoors. A young mango tree can be started in a 3-gallon pot and will fruit in two to three years, once it reaches a height of 3 to 4 feet. Every few years, repot the tree into a container that is roughly double the size of its current container. For instance, move it from a 3-gallon pot to a 7-gallon pot, and then from a 7-gallon pot to a 15-gallon pot. Place only one tree in each pot. When changing pots:
- Choose a pot with at least two drainage holes in its base; preferably, it will have more than two drainage holes. Do not use a cachepot or other decorative container that does not allow water to drain out of it.
- Use fresh potting soil with a neutral pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Don’t add fertilizer when repotting; wait about six weeks to start fertilizing.
- Place the pot on a sturdy structure with casters so the container can be moved easily from one place to another location. Don't drag the pot to move it.
Humidity, light and warmth all play vital roles in growing mango trees indoors. For the best results, provide:
- Full sun. Place potted mango trees within a few feet of a non-shaded, south-facing window. Rotate each tree 90 degrees every few weeks to provide even sun exposure.
- Humidity. The trees do best in 50 percent or higher humidity, but they withstand a slightly lower level for short periods of time without damage. Mist them daily, or keep them in a naturally humid area of your home, such as the kitchen or bathroom.
- Warm temperatures. Mango trees need temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit to perform well. During very cold weather, move them away from their window, drape water-resistant string lights around their leaf canopies and turn on those lights to increase the location's ambient temperature.
Clay pots provide the best moisture balance for mango trees because they absorb excess water, helping to prevent root problems.
During the growing season, mango trees need moderate care, including routine watering and fertilizing. They need consistently moist but not soggy soil. Let the soil surface dry out completely between waterings during the growing season, and then add water to the pots until the excess liquid drains from the holes in the containers' bases. Mangoes need less water during winter. During that time period, let the top 2 inches of their soil dry out between waterings.
Mangoes are moderately heavy feeders during their active growth cycle. An application of a one-half-strength liquid fertilizer solution every two weeks, or a weekly application of a one-quarter-strength liquid fertilizer, works well.
Things You'll Need
- Measuring spoons not used for food
15-15-15 liquid fertilizer
- 1-gallon container
Dissolve 1/2 or 1/4 teaspoon of 15-15-15 liquid fertilizer in 1 gallon of water. Stir the mixture well to combine the ingredients. Mixing 1/2 teaspoon of the fertilizer with 1 gallon of water creates a one-half-strength fertilizer solution; mixing 1/4 teaspoon of the fertilizer with 1 gallon of water makes a one-quarter-strength solution.
Apply the one-half-strength fertilizer solution every two weeks, or apply the one-quarter-strength fertilizer every week. Pour the fertilizer solution onto the mango trees' wet soil, and avoid splashing it on the trees' trunks and leaves. Applying the fertilizer solution to wet soil, instead of dry soil, prevents it from causing root burn.
Withhold fertilizer during the winter months and when the mango trees show signs of stress. Symptoms of stress include yellow leaves and excessively leggy, or spindly, growth.
Remove all fruits that appear during the first year to redirect the trees' energy toward root development.