Transient

The mango, Mangifera indica, is the king of all tropical fruit. No tree has touched as many lives throughout the tropical world as the mango. When one speaks of the mango, thoughts of childhood, delicacy and happy times are evoked. South Florida makes a tremendous place to grow the mango because our climate is very similar to the monsoon climate of India, the mango’s native land. Our summer, marked by heavy rains and ample sunlight, and our winter which brings multiple cold fronts and dry weather is the perfect combination to grow the mango. The warm, wet summers allow the mango tree to grow steadily and the cold temperatures and dry conditions of our winter initiate the bloom of the mango tree which in turn brings the world’s most delicious fruit. Little care is needed to successfully grow and produce mango fruit because the mango tree is beautifully adapted to our soils, climate and rainfall patterns. In order to have a small, healthy, productive tree one should place the mango tree on a minimal fertilizer schedule combined with low water input and judicious selective pruning.

Planting and Plant Selection

It is best to plant a mango that is grafted, young and healthy. A young and healthy tree will quickly establish and should bear fruit in two to three years. The tree should be grafted and not from seed for several reasons. A tree from seed is the product of the mother tree which is one type of mango (variety) and the pollinating tree which is another variety. Because of this combination, you never know what type of fruit your seedling will produce. A tree that has been grafted is essentially a clone of the parent tree and is therefore sure to be the type of mango you desire. A grafted tree will also produce fruit several years before a tree from seed because a mango planted from seed needs to go through the seedling and juvenile stage before it can bear fruit. When planting your mango, a planting hole should be dug slightly larger than the container of the mango tree. A good size to purchase is a two to three gallon container. If the soil is very rocky, try to break up the surrounding soil so the roots have somewhere to grow. The main thing to remember when planting a mango is to plant the tree at the proper level, with the trunk above the soil level and the crown roots level with the soil. Placing the trunk below the level of the soil can cause in severe nutrient deficiencies and general poor growth. Usually planting the tree at the same depth it was in the container will suffice, but always check to make sure it wasn’t planted too low or too high in the container. It is not necessary to amend South Florida soil. 

Watering

Correct watering of a new mango is crucial. The tree should be watered immediately after it is planted. This watering should be thorough, filling all the air pockets in the soil. The soil should be tamped down gently at this time to further insure the removal of air pockets. Be careful not to water your mango too often. Over-watering a tree can be just as deadly as not watering a tree at all. The best way to judge if a new mango needs water is to check the soil to see if it is dry. After the first few days of watering, the watering schedule should begin to decrease at steady increments. Switch to watering every other day, then every three days and finally once a week until the tree is no longer dependent on your watering (usually 3 months or two flushes of new growth). Planting during the beginning of the rainy season (late May to early June) is by far the best way to easily establish new plantings. Most mangos are established within three to six months from time of planting. Once your mango is established, no supplemental irrigation is needed. 

Mulching

After a mango has been planted and watered, mulch should be added to complete the planting. Mulch is highly beneficial. As mulch decomposes, it is your tree’s main source of nitrogen. Mulch can also beautify your planting, suppress weeds, add organic matter to the soil, slightly lower pH, protect new plantings and retain water. One of the greatest benefits of using mulch is its ability to protect your new mango from damage. Public enemy number one of newly planted trees is the string trimmer. If you have a newly planted tree that is not growing well, check for nicks and cuts around the base of the tree caused by accidental strikes from the string trimmer. When a tree’s bark is damaged, the tree’s transportation system and food supply are damaged. The roots cannot get energy from the leaves and the tree may stop growing or sicken and die. A ring of mulch around a newly planted mango will protect the tree from being mechanically damaged. 

Fertilizing

Mangos benefit from a regular fertilizer schedule but do not need to be fed in great amounts. A standard fertilizer tag lists the macro elements nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium or N-P-K as a number sequence. So a 6-6-6 fertilizer would have equal parts of all three elements. Nitrogen is responsible for the vigor of the tree and leaf production while potassium works to enhance flowering and fruiting. Mangos need little in the way of nitrogen and require much more potassium; therefore, nitrogen is supplied to mangos through applications of mulch and not through granular fertilizer. Potassium should be given to your trees, without nitrogen, twice a year in February (when the trees begin to bloom) and in April (when the fruit have set). Potassium should be delivered as a 0-0-51 granular formulation. This should be evenly spread around the drip line at a rate of one handful of fertilizer for every inch of diameter of the tree’s trunk (measured 12” off the ground). Much needed minor elements such as zinc and manganese cannot be delivered in granular form because they will bind to the highly alkaline soil found in South Florida. These elements should be applied in a foliar spray along with other minors and should applied twice a year in June and August when the mangos are growing and the soil is moist. The minor element spray should be mixed according to the directions on the package and sprayed on the leaves to the point of runoff. Liquid Green or Fer-a-gro are recommended minor element mixes. Iron is another essential minor element that mangos benefit from receiving. Iron should be applied as a liquid drench in the form of Sequestrene 138 FE. This is a chelated iron that is specially formulated for South Florida soils. The application rate is three tablespoons per five gallons of water. The mix should be poured evenly over the drip line at a rate of about three gallons per inch of tree diameter. This application can be done at the same time as the foliar feedings. 

Harvesting

Mangos in South Florida generally ripen from May to September depending on the cultivar. For optimum taste, mangos should be picked when mature and before they ripen on the tree. A mango is ready to pick when it has reached full size, has full shoulders and exhibits a color break. A color break takes place when the mango begins to ripen and a portion of the mango turns a bright color such as yellow, orange or red. This color break coupled with the mango reaching full size, lets you know it is time to pick your mango. Once the mango has been removed from the tree, it should be placed at room temperature inside the home and left to ripen. This may take from three to seven days. When the mango becomes slightly soft to the touch, it is ready to be eaten. Temperature in the home plays a role in ripening with low temperatures slowing the process and higher temperatures speeding it up. 

Pruning

When pruning mango trees, you are trying to maintain height and improve flowering and fruiting. A well managed mango tree is generally below 15 feet in height, has a complex structure of branches and has all portions of the tree open to sunlight. It is crucial to maintain the height of your mango tree to allow for ease of fruit harvest and overall management of the tree. Height can be maintained through annual pruning as well as cultivar choice. Many small stature varieties of mango have become available to homeowners. They have a tendency towards profuse branching and smaller internodes (the distance between leaves) which facilitate maintaining a smaller tree and heavy fruiting. Pruning to maintain height begins when the fruit tree is newly planted. A heading cut should be made at approximately 3’. This cut will encourage the tree to develop three to four branches which will eventually become the scaffolding of the tree. Heading cuts should be applied to the resulting branches when they reach approximately 20 inches. This will again cause branching and should be repeated each time a branch reaches 20 inches. Strong vertical branches should always be removed in favor of horizontal branches. The horizontal branches will help the tree to maintain its height. This type of pruning continues until the tree is about 2 – 4 years old. Once the tree has reached the desired height, one to two thinning cuts a year should be made to help control the height. Major woody branches are not helping the tree to fruit and can be removed one by one over a period of several years. This will result in the rejuvenation of the overall canopy of the fruit tree as well as help to control the height.