How to Care for Mango Trees

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Mangoes (Mangifera indica) are large, sprawling tropical trees that will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 11. Mangoes yield fruit from 100 to 150 days after they flower, usually from the middle of spring through early autumn, with most fruit ripening in late spring and early summer.

Water

Young mangoes need more water than mature trees with extensive root systems that retrieve water from a greater area.

To keep the soil moist around the roots of a tree that you plant in spring, water it every other day for a week, then once or twice a week for two months. Feel the soil with your hand or dig down with a shovel. If the soil is dry, the tree needs water.

Water trees 3 years and younger about once a week during periods of five or more days of little to no rain. Ensure water reaches the bottom of the roots.

Water trees 4 years and older only in spring or summer after four to five days of dry weather. Watering a mango tree too much may cause it to decline. Mature mango trees need little or no irrigation during the autumn and winter.

Exactly how much water to give a mature tree after these dry spells depends on how fast the soil drains and the size of the tree. Keep the soil moist from 23 to 31 inches deep below at least 40 percent of the spread of a tree's branches. Many garden supply centers sell hand augers for measuring soil depth. If you don't have an auger, dig down with a shovel.

Fertilizer

Spread 1 to 2 pounds of slow-release 10-20-20 fertilizer beneath the outer spread of branches for its first year; divide that amount in three applications during the spring to autumn growing season. Increase that yearly application to 1 1/2 to 3 pounds for the second and third years. Water well after each application.

Fertilize mango trees large enough to bear mangoes with 1 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer each year for each inch of trunk width measured 4 to 5 feet above the ground. Apply half of the fertilizer just before the tree flowers and the remainder after the mangoes are harvested.

Pruning

Prune branches of recently planted mango trees that are less than 2 feet from the ground. Prune them where they meet the main trunk. A young tree should have three to four branches at different heights on the trunk.

Tip

    • To avoid spreading plant disease, soak the cutting blades of your pruning tools for five minutes in a solution of 1 part of household bleach to 3 parts of water and let air dry.
    • To speed up tree growth the first few years, remove mangoes as they develop.

Tree branches can die for numerous unexplained reasons. Prune dead branches of mature mango trees after they yield fruit but before they begin growing in spring. Do not prune branches killed by frost until all danger of frost has passed. When you prune a dead branch, remove all dead wood as close as possible to the live tissue at the collar, that spot where the branch meets the tree. Do not cut into live collar tissue.

A mature mango tree will grow from 30 to 100 feet tall. After a tree has yielded mangoes for several years, prune the top to limit its height to 12 to 15 feet tall. Do this in late winter or early spring Pruning of the leader or top of the tree won't hurt it. It's possible through judicious pruning to limit a mango tree to 6 feet tall.

Warning

  • Wear gloves when you prune, because mango sap can cause contact dermatitis.

Cold Protection

If frost threatens, cover trees up to 4 feet high with black plastic to protect them from nighttime drops in temperature; remove plastic in the morning. Both young and mature mango trees are susceptible to frost damage.

For trees larger than 4 feet tall, put a 100-watt incandescent light bulb under an overhead canopy constructed of laths and black plastic. In addition, wrap the trunk with straw or insulating foam.

These cold protection solutions are practical only for climates with a rare drop in nighttime temperature. Wrapping or building a canopy is impractical for out-sized mango trees. Being able to protect them from the cold is one of the benefits of pruning a mango tree to a small size.

Diseases

Mangoes are most often afflicted with fungal diseases including anthracnose, mango scab, verticillium wilt, powdery mildew and alga spot. These diseases appear as spots, moldy lesions or masses of grayish mold spores in rainy or humid weather.

While there are numerous anti-fungal treatments sold commercially, the Bordeaux mixture is a long-standing treatment for fungal disease that is approved for organic growing and that home gardeners can make with copper sulfate and lime sold at most garden supply centers.

Things You'll Need

  • Three plastic buckets
  • Hydrated lime
  • Copper sulfate
  • Water
  • Sprayer

Step 1

In a plastic bucket, combine 1 pound of hydrated lime in 1 gallon of water and let stand for two hours.

Step 2

Pour 1 gallon of warm water in a second plastic bucket and add 1 pound of copper sulfate.

Step 3

Pour 2 gallons of water into a third plastic bucket.

Step 4

Shake 1 quart of copper sulfate solution vigorously and add it to the plain water in the third plastic bucket.

Step 5

Shake 1 quart of the lime solution and add it to the third bucket containing the copper sulfate dilution and the plain water.

Step 6

Shake the solution well and add to your spray tank.

Step 7

Apply Bordeaux mix as a fine spray without drenching on foliage when you first see signs of fungal infection.

Tip

  • You can store this mixture indefinitely in a sealed glass container.

Insects

Mangoes may be infected by thrips, scales and mealy bugs. An organic solution is to spray infestations with pyrethrin, a natural pesticide extracted from the leaves of pyrethrum daisies (Tanacetum coccineum).

Apply when you see the insects. Although application rates will vary by brand, a typical pyrethrin formulation calls for mixing 3 to 5 tablespoons per gallon of water and spraying on both the tops and bottoms of infested leaves.

Warning

  • Wear gloves, protective eye-wear, a long-sleeved shirt, long trousers and shoes with socks when applying pyrethrin. Do not apply in the wind when you cannot control drift. If it gets on your skin, wash your skin with soap and water. If it gets in your eyes, flush them with water. Do not inhale or ingest pyrethrin; if you do, call a physician or the national 24/7 emergency national poison hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

References

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