You may not find a mango tree (Mangifera indica) in your average orchard but this fruit tree is a fascinating option for warmer climates. Mangos are far from the easiest fruit to grow at home. If you have the space and a bit of patience, though, I think it’s an adventure worth pursuing!
A mango tree can take at least 5 years to bear fruit for the first time. During that time, you’ll see various mango tree growth stages come and go. Let’s dive into the basic life cycle of this tropical fruit below.
Conditions for Growing Mango Trees
First and foremost, mango trees are only hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11 and have comparable climates, similar to avocado and lemon trees, which I’ve covered in other articles. Outside of these regions, your best hope is to grow mangos within a greenhouse environment. Smaller specimens can be kept as potted indoor trees but may not ever bear fruit.
Full sunlight is required for healthy flower and fruit production. Select a planting location that receives at least 8 hours of bright, direct light per day.
Whether grown indoors or in the landscape, mango trees need elevated temperatures and humidity to thrive. Mangos perform best in temperatures above 70°F. According to Texas A&M University, temperatures below 30°F will damage or kill mango trees. Aim for a humidity level above 50% when possible.
Mango trees can adapt to many soil compositions and tolerate pH levels from 5.5 to 7.5. As with most tropical fruit trees, however, you’ll see the best results with a loamy, well-draining mixture. Soils with high concentrations of organic matter work particularly well.
It might come as a surprise that mango trees are relatively drought-tolerant. Watering needs are greatest for trees in their first year of growth or that are actively fruiting. Ideally, you shouldn’t need to irrigate mature trees unless they are planted in containers or the area is experiencing a serious dry spell.
Growth Stages Of Mango Tree
When grown from seed, the average mango tree takes at least 5 to 8 years to bear fruit. Most gardeners opt to start mango trees from nursery saplings, which can bear fruit in 3 to 4 years.
Mature mango trees typically flower sometime between December and April and then bear ripe fruit in early summer. The exact timing can vary with the environment and between different tree cultivars.
Keep in mind that container-grown mango trees may never reach maturity. It’s very common for such trees to stop growing during the vegetative growth stage. As a result, indoor mango trees are more often grown for their ornamental appeal rather than fruit production.
1. Seed Germination
Each mango fruit contains a single seed. This seed is long and flat and usually measures 1.5 to 3 inches long.
Mango seeds may be either mono- or polyembryonic. The type of seed contained within a mango fruit is determined by the variety or cultivar it came from.
Monoembryonic seeds produce a single shoot when germinating. The resulting tree is a genetic blend of the pollen (‘male’) and flower ovary (‘female’) that went into making the seed. In other words, mangos grown from mono-embryonic seeds will have different genetic traits than the mother tree.
Polyembryonic seeds produce a number of shoots when germinating. Only one of these shoots is the result of fertilization, meaning that it contains genetics from both a ‘male’ and ‘female’ source. The rest of the shoots are direct clones of the tree that produced the seed.
When growing mangos from polyembryonic seeds, the fertilized shoot is often removed early on while one or more ‘clones’ are allowed to grow. This is desirable because you end up with a perfect copy of the original tree, including the quality of its fruit.
The ideal temperature for mango seed germination is around 85°F. Moisture is also necessary, with seeds quickly dying if allowed to dry out. In the right environment, mango germination takes 14 to 28 days.
After germination, it’s common for the first leaves (cotyledons) to remain underground for a period while the embryonic stem (epicotyl) grows upward. Eventually, the cotyledons will emerge from the soil as well.
Cotyledons are primitive leaves that develop within the seed embryo. They are the mango tree’s very first leaves and help provide energy while the seed sprouts. It can take 4 to 6 weeks for a mango seedling to grow to several inches tall and produce its first ‘true’ leaves.
A mango tree is generally considered a seedling or sapling for 2 years following seed germination.
3. Vegetative Growth
The first 5 to 8 years of a mango tree’s life are focused on vegetative growth. During this time, the tree will grow taller and wider, put out new branches, and develop a woody texture.
According to the University of Hawai’i, mango trees will grow up to 5 feet per year in ideal conditions. The average cultivated tree reaches up to 33 feet tall at maturity.
Mango leaves are oblong, dark green, and semi-glossy. Mature leaves can be up to 20 inches long. Leaves growing on flowering branches typically max out at 12 inches long.
Mango trees are tropical evergreens, so they do not lose their leaves in the fall and winter. Individual leaves will survive on the plant for about a year before naturally ageing out and dropping.
Mango trees reach sexual maturity and begin flowering about 5 to 8 years after planting. The panicle-type flowers are white, cream, or yellow, growing in clusters that resemble mini Christmas trees.
For mangos, the flowering season typically occurs from winter through spring. Your tree may flower at the beginning, middle, or end of this season, depending on the cultivar. Individual panicles usually bloom for 14 to 21 days.
Mango flowers are categorized as ‘perfect’ flowers. This means that each flower contains both male and female parts and can self-fertilize itself.
Pollen may be transferred within a single flower, between two flowers on one tree, or between two separate trees and their flowers. Insects and the wind are responsible for most self- and cross-pollination in mango trees.
6. Fruit Development and Ripening
I’ve heard a couple of times that less than 1% of mango flowers end up turning into ripe fruit. But it’s important to remember that each panicle contains many individual flowers, so don’t let that statistic deter you!
Mango fruits develop on the ends of long, thin stems. These stems are the remains of the panicles. It’s normal for only 1 or 2 (if any) flowers from a panicle to develop into a fruit.
Mangos are a vibrant green throughout the fruit development stage. They only change colour to yellow, pink, or red when ripe.
When To Harvest Mangos
After flowering, mango trees take about 100 to 150 days to produce ripe fruit.
Mangos are usually harvested when the fruit is still firm to the touch. The shoulders (sides of the fruit) and beak (end of the fruit opposite of the stem) will noticeably fill out as the mango ripens.
Most ripe mangos are yellow or pink in colour. When cut open, a ripe mango will have white flesh.
FAQ Mango Tree Growth Stages
- Texas A&M University Temperature needs of the mango tree
- University of Hawai’i Growth rate of the mango tree
Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.