growing mangoes

Growing Mangoes

Tropical gardens are incomplete without a mango tree. It’s a pretty tree with large leaves and it rewards with large, tasty summer fruit.

growing mangoes

Growing mangoes (Mangifera indica) from seed is possible, but it is unlikely that it would bear fruit; it’s best to purchase a grafted tree from a nursery. If you live outside a tropical area, try growing mangoes in large pots and shelter them in winter.

Here’s what they need:

Plenty of warmth: Temperatures below 5°C will cause the plant to drop its fruit. Plenty of light: Although growing mangoes indoors where it is warmer is possible but it’s also difficult to give the plants the light they need. Outdoors, planted in full sun, they will perform better; they do grow best with 8 – 10 hours of sun a day.

Rich soil: Enrich the soil with plenty of compost before planting and make sure the drainage is good. Plenty of space: Mango trees require some space as they grow large (15 – 18m) and they have a deep tap-root system.

Plenty of water: Mangoes like lots of water but hate wet feet, so the drainage is very important. They grow better if allowed to dry out a bit between waterings, but they do like humidity and you may need to mist your trees in dry spells. Avoid this when the trees are flowering and fruiting as the moisture may lead to fungal diseases.

Food: Feed with a liquid fertiliser during the growing season. To make sure flowers set fruit, feed with a fertiliser low in leaf-producing nitrogen and high in fruit-producing potassium.

Mango trees will produce fruit after three years in the ground. They do not require pruning, except to remove diseased or damaged branches. However, there are benefits to regular pruning: you can keep the trees at a manageable size and get easy access to the fruit. Fruit is harvested from December to March.

Mango cultivars

There are several types of mangoes grown in South Africa, each chosen for various reasons including climate, time of ripening (early to late season), fruit size, yield, tree size and resistance to diseases such as black spot. These are some of the characteristics of some of the well-known cultivars:

Tommy Atkins – an early cultivar with large fruit with a good shelf life and a red colour. Suitable for all suitable growing areas and tolerant to black spot and anthracnose. It has a mild, sweet flavour.

Zill – an early to mid-season fruit with small to medium-sized fibreless fruit, with a greenish yellow skin and a sweet firm flesh.

Sabre – the mostly widely used rootstock in South Africa. A small to medium-sized mango, yellow in colour with a red blush.

Kent – a mid to late season cultivar, medium to large-sized with a green skin, even when ripe, and a smooth flesh and sweet taste.

Heidi – a mid to late season variety with heart-shaped yellow and red, medium to large fruit with a sweet flesh and unique mango flavour.

Sensation – a small to medium-sized mango in the late season group with a green skin with red tinges. A stringless, sweet flavour.

Keitt – a large late season, large yield mango with a small pip and a green to pale red colour. The skin remains mainly green when ripe and ready to eat. This variety is popular in Asian cultures where is it eaten unripe and often pickled.

Pests and diseases

Anthracnose is a common fungal disease that affects all mango cultivars and can be seen as brown-black spots on the leaves. Dispose of any diseased plant parts, including leaves and twigs on the ground, and keep plants healthy with proper light, feeding and watering to prevent the disease.

Black spot and powdery mildew can appear during long periods of rainfall and can be treated with copper-based sprays. Also look out for fruit fly, mango weevil and tip wilter, and deal with these pests as soon as detected.


Mangoes are usually harvested commercially when mature and green, and then ripened off the tree. For picking at home, you can wait until they are ripe on the tree; fruit is ripe if it pulls off easily when given a tug. The colour could be green to yellow to orange. Mangoes are best used fresh, but a surplus can be used for jam, chutney, juice, frozen as popsicles or mashed and frozen for pies and cakes.

NOTE: The pollen, tree sap and peel of mango can cause an allergic reaction in some people and could cause a rash. Never burn the wood as the toxic oil in the smoke could cause a severe reaction in some people.

The Gardener