There’s nothing quite like a juicy, tangy mango fresh off the tree. With a flavor so distinctive, yet so versatile, you can mix it into salsas, toss it into salads, or blend it into cocktails for a fresh, tropical treat. Your options are limitless! We’re lucky here in Fort Lauderdale, because our hot and humid weather is perfect to grow these exotic trees in our own backyards. Here’s our guide on how to grow mangoes in South Florida.
There are quite a few different mango tree varieties that can grow in Fort Lauderdale, so you’ve got plenty to choose from. Some trees are small and compact, especially with regular pruning, while others can grow to be 100-feet tall. Some varieties grow much faster than others, and while it can be hard to stay patient with more slow-growing varieties, generally the less vigorous growers are easier to manage and produce more fruit once mature.
The evergreen leaves of mango trees form a symmetrical, dome-shaped canopy, and new growth is often tinted pink, caramel, or light green. Their tiny pastel pink flowers form large panicles that can contain more than 4000 single flowers at a time. Flowers appear during winter and early spring, and with the help of our pollinator friends, after flowering, you’ll see single mangoes developing on the end of the shoots where the panicles once hung. Depending on the cultivar, they can weigh anywhere from 3 ounces to 5 pounds.
Where to Plant a Mango Tree in Fort Lauderdale
Before you choose a spot to plant your tree, consider the size of the variety. If you don’t plan on pruning it and you want to let it grow quite big, you’ll want to make sure there’s at least 30 feet of space all around, so it won’t bump into buildings, vehicles, or power lines. Dwarf varieties that will be pruned to stay compact will only need about 15 feet of space. Taproots of mango trees grow very deep, so consider any sewer lines as well before planting.
For the best growth and fruit production, choosing a spot with lots of sunshine is a must. Mango trees grow best in fertile, well-draining soil, so if you find your property tends to flood after heavy rains, it might be best to plant your mango tree on top of a mound. If your soil is sandy, dig a hole for the root ball, mix in a bit of organic material into the soil you just dug out, and then fill the hole back up, packing it down with your shovel as you go along to get out any air bubbles.
How to Grow Mangoes: Water and Fertilizer
For those first few weeks after planting a new mango tree, it’s important to water regularly to help it establish a strong root system. Water once every two days for the first month, and then once a week for the next 4 months. Once a mango tree is mature, it only needs watering after an extended period of drought. If you overdo it, this can interfere with fruit production and proper growth. The same goes for fertilization—do it more frequently when the tree is young, but scale back as it matures.
For the first year, fertilize your tree every 3 months with a formula containing:
- 2-6% Nitrogen
- 6-10% phosphoric acid
- 6-12% potash
- 4-6% magnesium
After the first year, fertilizing twice a year should suffice. Once your tree is mature and begins to bear fruit, you’ll need to switch up the formula you fertilize with. Choose a fertilizer that contains:
- Zero nitrogen
- 2-4% phosphoric acid
- 10-15% potash
- 4-6% magnesium
If your soil is more acidic, or if you live in an area with rocky, calcareous soil, applying a foliar spray once a year that contains copper, zinc, manganese and boron will keep your mango tree happy and healthy. Applying a layer of mulch around the base of the tree will also help to deliver a steady stream of nutrients into the soil, as well as retain moisture and prevent weed growth.
How to Grow Mangoes: Harvesting
Your mature tree will produce mangoes usually between May and September, but June and July is definitely when you’ll be seeing the bulk of the bounty. It can be tricky to know exactly when to harvest your mangoes, as different varieties take on different colors and shapes. That being said, a general rule of thumb is to pick them when the “shoulders and nose” (AKA the tapered end of the fruit that points away from the tree) begins to thicken and fill out.
While they will ripen on the tree and sometimes fall off, you can pick them while they’re still firm, and they will continue to ripen if you leave them on the counter, ideally at a temperature between 70-75°F. Don’t refrigerate your mangoes before they ripen, or else they could fall victim to chilling injury. However, once they’re ripe, you can refrigerate them. Mangoes generally don’t take more than 8 days to ripen after being picked. Once the mango feels soft when you squeeze it, and the inner flesh surrounding the seed is fully yellow with no hints of white, it’s ready to eat.
It isn’t hard to grow mangoes here in Fort Lauderdale— in fact, conditions are pretty much perfect here. As long as you’ve got satisfactory soil conditions, lots of sun, and the occasional application of fertilizer, your mango tree should grow beautifully. If you’d like to start growing these irresistible tropical fruits at home, visit us at Living Color Garden Center, and we’ll help you find the perfect variety to add to your landscape.