Julian W. Sauls
Mango is regarded as the queen of fruits in tropical areas of the world. Prior to the severe freezes of the 1980s, numerous mango trees were in production in yards across the lower Rio Grande Valley, including a small orchard near Mercedes. Grown for its large, colorful and delicious fruit, the medium to large evergreen mango tree is also attractive in the home landscape. Its rounded canopy may be low and dense to upright and open, with dark green foliage that is long and narrow.
Mango is adapted to lowland tropical and subtropical areas. Winter temperature is a major consideration, as leaves and twigs, especially on younger trees, can be damaged at temperatures below 30 degrees. Flowering and fruiting are seriously affected at temperatures below 40 degrees during bloom. There is no apparent difference in cold hardiness among varieties.
Soil and Site Selection
Mango requires soil having good internal drainage, but is not particular as to soil type. Trees can tolerate minor flooding, but have low tolerance for salts, boron and lawn herbicides. Because of its extreme sensitivity to cold, mango should be planted in the most protected site in the yard–within 8 to 12 feet of the south or east side of the house. The tree must receive full sun for optimum growth and fruiting.
There are two principal types of mangos: Indian and Indochinese. Varieties of the Indian type typically have monoembryonic (single embryo) seeds, highly colored fruit and are subject to anthracnose disease. Those of the Indochinese type have polyembryonic seeds (multiple embryos), and fruit usually lacking in coloration, but they may have some resistance to anthracnose. There are some varieties, however, that do not fit clearly into either group.
Varietal choices in Texas are limited. More common commercial varieties include ‘Haden’, a red and yellow fruit of about a pound and quarter that matures in June; ‘Irwin’, a red mango of just under a pound that matures in June; ‘Tommy Atkins’, a red and yellow fruit comparable to ‘Haden’ in size and maturity; ‘Kent’, a green, red and yellow mango of about a pound and a half in size that matures in July; and ‘Keitt’, a green and pink mango of a pound and half that matures in August.
Other varieties may be equally acceptable; for example, ‘Julie’ and ‘Manila’ are probably of better eating quality than the more brightly-colored commercial types.
Polyembryonic types generally come true from seed, which is the common method of propagation in the tropics. Monoembryonic types do not come true from seed, so they must be grafted onto seedling rootstocks, using almost any available mango seeds.
The fibrous stone or pit should be removed from the seed. The seed should be planted concave edge down and about 1 inch deep in any good potting soil. Germination may take two to three weeks; graftable seedlings of a quarter inch diameter take about six months.
Veneer or side veneer grafting and chip budding are the most successful methods of propagation. Most propagation occurs in winter, using rootstocks grown from the previous summer’s production. Cleft grafting is also practiced.
Because of frequent freezes, mango trees may not achieve maximum size, so they can be spaced 12 to 15 feet from each other or other trees.
Because trees are normally grown in containers of soilless media, much of the outer layer of media should be washed off the sides and top of the root ball immediately prior to setting the tree in the ground. This practice exposes the outer part of the root system to the actual soil in which the tree must grow, thereby enhancing tree establishment. Newly planted trees should be staked for support for the first year.
Build a water ring several inches high and thick atop the soil around the tree. The ring should be a little wider than the planting hole–take soil from elsewhere in the yard if there’s not enough left over from planting. Fill the basin with water–after it soaks in, a little soil may be needed to fill in holes made as the soil settles around the root system.
Young Tree Establishment
Newly planted trees should be watered two or three times the first week, then once or twice per week for several weeks. Simply fill the water basin and let the water soak in. The water ring will gradually erode away over four to six months, at which time the tree can be considered established.
Delay fertilization until new growth occurs after planting, then apply monthly into September. Scatter the fertilizer on the ground under the tree and promptly water thoroughly. Using ammonium sulfate (21-0-0), use one half cup monthly in the first year, one cup per month in the second and two cups monthly in the third year. For other fertilizer analyses, adjust the rate accordingly.
All lawn grass and weeds should be eliminated for several feet around the young mango, as the tree cannot compete for water and nutrients until it is much larger. As the tree grows, widen the grass-free area beyond the canopy. Organic mulches are excellent for mango trees.
No pruning or training should be necessary except to remove deadwood.
Winter frost protection is essential. Soil banks around the young tree trunk provide excellent protection–they should be put up in early December and removed in early March. Young trees can also be draped with a blanket or similar covering just prior to a predicted cold spell–pull the corners outward and anchor them to the ground. It is not necessary that the cover reach the ground. Any additional, practical heat source under the tented tree will probably save even the foliage. Incandescent lights, electric heaters, camp lanterns or stoves are good heat sources.
Mature Tree Care
Cultural practices are designed to maintain good growth and production. Irrigation, nutrition, and weed and grass control are the major practices in mature mango tree care.
Irrigation is the same as for other established fruit and nut trees–water slowly, deeply and thoroughly. Repeat as needed, based on soil type and prevailing weather. Weekly soakings during the summer are more than adequate.
Fertilization, using 21-0-0, should be at the rate of one to two cups per inch of trunk diameter per year, split into equal applications in February, May and August. Simply scatter the fertilizer on the soil surface under the tree, then water thoroughly.
Weed and grass control under the tree is desirable to reduce competition and can be easily maintained by use of organic mulch replenished as necessary.
The only pruning necessary is to remove dead or damaged branches, which will occur following major freezes unless excellent cold protection methods are practiced. Then, pruning should be delayed until the extent of freeze damage can be ascertained.
Production, Maturity and Use
Grafted trees will begin to produce in the third year after establishment, with mature trees capable of producing three to five bushels.
The mango fruit develops rapidly, as the time from flowering to maturity is only 100 to 150 days, depending upon variety. Mangoes will ripen to best quality on the tree. Mangoes can be harvested at color break and ripened in the kitchen. Color break is the change from pure green to yellow, usually on the blossom end of the fruit. Another indicator of maturity is a change in color of the flesh around the seed from white to yellow.
Fresh consumption is the most important use of mango, but the fruit can be frozen, dried or canned Mango can be used in jams, jellies, preserves, pies, chutney and ice cream. Green mangoes are sometimes eaten raw in the tropics.
The largest problem of mango is anthracnose because it attacks all parts of the tree and is probably most damaging to the flower panicles. On maturing fruit, the fungus causes irregular black spots that may be sunken slightly and show surface cracks. A grouping of spots forms a large, damaged area. Tear streaking is common, resulting from fungal spores that wash down the fruit from infected twigs or flower stalks. The disease can be controlled with fungicides.
Powdery mildew can be a serious problem under conditions of high humidity and rainfall during bloom because the disease would limit fruit set. Serious defoliation would not be expected under Texas conditions.
Mites and scale insects can attack mango trees, but they rarely limit growth or production unless populations build to high levels.
The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and that no endorsement by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is implied.
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