Mango trees grow vigorously and must be calmed through timely pruning. It is important to be aware of the type of seed to use and when to graft the mango rootstock. Proper mango tree care must be taken in order to ensure that the tree keeps bearing healthy flowers and fruits for the coming years.
Mango wood and leaves must never be burned or used for fuel, because it can cause severe irritation to the eyes and lungs. Whereas, the presence of the allergen urushiol in the leaves, stems, and sap from an unripe mango, can cause contact dermatitis.
Commonly known as the mango tree, Mangifera indica L. is native to Burma and Indian shores. This tropical and evergreen tree belongs to the genus Mangifera and family Anacardiaceae. Mango trees cannot tolerate frost and are likely to die or sustain irreparable damage, if the temperature falls below 30° Fahrenheit.
The mango tree can attain a height of 30-45 feet and has a dense and rounded canopy of 30-40 feet, which makes it an excellent shade tree. This sturdy tree can develop a taproot of 20 feet, which branches into two or four major anchoring roots.
A mango tree can live for hundreds of years if it is provided adequate space, nutrition, and care. Following are some important things to remember while taking care of a mango tree.
Types of Seeds
Mangoes can be propagated through seeding and grafting. Monoembryonic and polyembryonic, are the two types of seeds available in the mango family, each having distinct growth aspects.
The monoembryonic cultivars require cross-pollination in order to produce single-embryo seeds. These seeds contain both the male and female parents. Although monoembryonic seeds germinate vigorously, it has been recorded that its seedlings bear fruits which do not resemble its parent and differ in quality, size, and yield.
The polyembryonic seeds contain multiple embryos, out of which one may or may not be gametic and the others develop from the nucellus (nuclear) cells. These type of seeds are able to yield fruits with the help of nuclear embryos, despite the absence of gamete. Since, the fruits produced from polyembryonic seeds are clones of the parent tree, these seeds are preferred for cultivation. The tree from such a seed will replicate the traits of its parent.
The purpose of grafting is to blend the properties of a mature fruit-bearing tree with a rootstock of a sapling grown from seed. This process helps in cloning the traits of the scion and perpetuate future horticulture, thereby yielding a more disease resistant, productive, and commercial mango crop.
Most cultivators prefer grafting their mango plants, which can be done either through veneer or cleft grafting. A mango sapling must always be grafted during summer, when the temperature is above 75° Fahrenheit. Grafting also aids the tree is bearing fruits within 2 years as compared to 7-9 years taken by a tree grown from seed.
The scion to be successfully grafted, must not contain leaves while being conjoined with the rootstock. The rootstock of a polyembryonic plant should be used for grafting, so that the rootstock retains the desired traits of the mother plant as well as the scion. Veneer grafting incorporates the two-part tree, which is maintained throughout the tree’s life. Whereas, cleft grafting incorporates an upright tree that must be pruned in order to prevent the tree from becoming leggy.
In veneer grafting, an incision is made on the side of the rootstock stem. Thereafter, a wedge of the desired scion is placed inside the flap of the freshly made incision and exposed stem. The scion must be peeled from either sides so as to make contact with the cells of the rootstock. A grafting tape must be wound around the stem, once the wedge of the scion is placed in the mouth of the incision.
In cleft grafting, the incision for the scion is made on the head of the rootstock after the terminal bud is clipped. A vertical incision is made into the exposed head of the rootstock, wherein the wedge of the scion is placed. The scion usually sprouts leaves within 2 weeks but may take a few months in exceptionally slow cases. It is important to not fertilize the plant after grafting and wait until the second flush or new batch of leaves appear.
Flowers are borne from inflorescence, consisting of self-pollinating hermaphrodite and male (monoecious) flowers that bloom simultaneously. Of these hundreds, only a few flowers develop into fruits. Mango flowers are also pollinated by various insects and birds, such as bees, hummingbirds, fruit bats, and butterflies.
The flowers bloom in December or January and remain until early April. The flowers crowd the branches and are terminally panicled and 4.0-15 inch long inflorescence. The flowers are whitish-cream, small, and five-petaled. Trees that have produced excessively during the previous season must be provided extra care. Such trees must be pruned and provided more feed, in order to ensure that the trees bear flowers and fruits for the coming season as well. Sometimes, the panicles may need to be pruned as well, so as to prevent the fruits from appearing sooner than required. In areas where the temperature become nippy during dawn and dusk, the flowers may be clipped until the weather stabilizes and becomes conducive for the fruits to form.
Unlike other fruiting tree, the mango tree provides succulent fruits for 4-5 months. The fruits take anywhere between 3-6 months to mature and ripen. When grown under optimal conditions, the mango trees begin to bear fruits between May and September, thereby making it an excellent fruiting tree.
The quality, size, color, seed, and flavor of the fruits depends a lot on its cultivar, clone, pH level of the soil, and the amount of care it is given. Out of the many fruits produced, many will be aborted by the tree for lack of space and dislodged by wind and birds. The peel of the fruit can be golden-yellow, reddish-orange, pink, or green. While most mango cultivars produce only once a year, some varieties yield two crops in a year.
Mangoes contain kidney-shaped seeds, while the fruit itself can be oblong, round, small, or large. Known as the ‘king of fruits’, the mango is closely related to the cashew and is rich in vitamin C, A, E, B6, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, copper, potassium, and sodium. Apart from humans, squirrels, crows, and other birds feed on this fruit as well.
Mango Tree Care Requirements
Mango trees grow well in USDA hardiness zones of 10-12. Being tropical, mango trees need full sun to thrive and bear quality fruits. It would be wiser to not plant this tree under a canopy tree. In other hardiness zones, dwarf cultivars can be grown. However, these trees must be brought indoors when temperatures drop.
A mango tree does not like to be moved often, so choose its spot wisely by keeping in mind its eventual size and spread. In case of a tree grown from seed, the sapling must be transferred from its container as soon as it is 3 feet tall and before the second batch of leaves appear.
While replanting a mango plant, remember to never pull the plant by the stem because the sudden jerk will shock the roots, thereby killing it within a few days of planting. The container must be cut from the sides and bottom in order to extract the root ball. The root ball must be placed into a four inch hole along with a fresh layer of fertilizer. The optimum soil range should be between pH 5.5-7.5. Backfill the soil with part organic compost and some peat moss. Make sure the root ball is a couple of inches above the soil and a slightly hollow berm is made around the tree for retaining moisture.
Watering and Feeding
Even though this tree is drought tolerant, it appreciates moisture but cannot tolerate wet feet. It will not grow in stagnant water and requires well-drained soil. The root ball should be kept moist but never waterlogged. After planting the sapling, the plant must be watered every other day for the coming 2 weeks. Once the second flush or set of leaves appear, the watering must be reduced to twice a week. You must decrease the frequency of watering the tree during the winter season and water the mango plant every two weeks.
During the first two years, only organic fertilizer must be used. Thereafter, fertilizers containing nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus must be used for promoting foliage and flower production. The upright branches that are removed during pruning must be converted and reused as mulch. It is important to feed the mango tree before flowering season commences, so that it has sufficient energy to produce health fruits. Fish emulsion and bone meal is also a popular fertilizer for an established mango tree.
The changing colors of the mango leaf makes for an interesting watch. New leaves sprout in a group of 10-20 leaves. Very glossy and bright green in appearance, these leaves change color from brown to reddish-purple and return to dark green. These varying shades give away the variety of the mango fruit to an experienced plantsman. The leaves are evergreen, simple, alternately placed, and 10-35 cm long. Pruning is done to increase yield, improve air circulation, and control pests and diseases. A young sapling must be pruned as soon as it reaches 2.5-3.5 feet, so that the plant can be induced to grow faster. The only way to prune a new plant or sapling is to clip the terminal bud and reduce the height of the plant by half or one foot.
A young tree of 2-3 years must be pruned in order give it a bushy spread instead of an upright rise. Since it is a vigorous tree, its growth must be calmed so as to induce a state which will produce more flowers and fruits. Tipping the outer foliage will allow for more growing points which will yield faster blooms and fruits.
For established trees, shearing the sides of the canopy is essential for maintaining optimal width. Pruning must be done while the fruits are ready for harvest, so that both the tasks can be accomplished simultaneously. A mango tree must never be pruned beyond 30-33% of its foliage. Exceeding this limit will force the tree into producing more leaves and will thus fail to yield fruits for the next season. As the mango tree is very dense, pruning must be done to open up the canopy, so as to facilitate circulation of air and sunlight. A more open and bushy tree will not only enhance the color and quality of the fruit, but also keep pests and diseases in control.
The top of the tree grows more vigorously than the lower layer, and therefore the upright branches must be cut from the tree. These upright branches absorb most of the nutrients from the soil and store excess nitrogen, thereby depriving the rest of the tree from growing evenly or bearing healthy flowers and fruits. The upright branches must be removed while keeping a bit of its neck intact. Keeping the branch-neck intact will prevent the tree from undergoing shock. The lower branches need not be pruned because these may bear fruits in the future. However, in case the tree is becoming too bushy, the lower part of the tree canopy may be pruned.
Pests and Diseases
Humans are not the only ones who have a liking for this fruit. A wide range of insect, pests, and diseases affect and infest the mango tree. Since this fruit tree is susceptible to many diseases, several cultivars have been developed that are disease resistant, dwarf, durable, and more productive. Most of these pest and diseases can be controlled with pest management and judicious use of fungicides, germicides, and bactericides. Most diseases begin from the top of the canopy and spread down to the other parts of the tree. Therefore, it is a must to shear the upper foliage and remove the diseased leaves and branches.
Frost and Wind
Mango trees can’t tolerate frost and heavy winds. Mulching around tree and covering it with a protective blanket will save it from frost. Young trees must be supported with stakes until the roots are well-established. Stakes must also be used during windy seasons such as monsoon and spring.
It is not impossible to grow mango trees in slightly colder areas. Dwarf mango tree varieties grow well in zones 9b-10, but need to be moved indoors when the frost sets in. These dwarf cultivars are known as ‘condo mangoes’ and include, Lancetilla, nam doc mai, mallika, and pickering to name a few.