Pruning a mango tree

Fairchild’s Tropical Garden Column: Mango trees and South Florida are a nice fit | Miami Herald

Growing, blooming and fruiting in the heat of summer, enduring the cold of winter and the fury of hurricanes, mangoes have made this land their home — the warm, southern extreme of South Florida between the ocean and the great expanse of the Everglades.

But the mango’s adopted home in South Florida is far from ideal, providing a spartan soil and rough conditions. We can, however, make South Florida a place for growing mangoes in maximum plenitude.

Every back yard in South Florida presents an opportunity to grow mangoes. There is always a place for one or two trees. Today we have small, manageable landscape trees that yield an ample harvest of beautiful and delicious fruit and disease-tolerant cultivars that provide unprecedented opportunities for organic production.

Trees that set fruit early in the season will avoid the summer rains, and those with superior genetics through selective cultivation will ward off disease. Some early-fruiting varieties to look for include Rosigold, Angie and Manilita. These are your best bet for an early season, and should be ready by April. Fairchild, Mallika and Coghall will fruit during summer. Neelum will fruit a bit later, by the end of September.

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There are simple steps you must take to make the home landscape friendly to mango trees: Get your tree in the ground in June or July, during summer rainy season. No special soil is needed. Choose a small but healthy tree. A tree in a two-gallon container is a good size. One benefit of starting with a small tree is that it will establish itself quicker and grow better roots in our rocky soils, thus resisting hurricanes.  

Fruit trees need good sunlight exposure. Select an area where the tree gets sufficient sunlight to ensure good fruit production. A well-maintained mango tree will develop a healthy root system. If the tree is kept to a proper size, its roots will not damage nearby pavement or building foundations. On the other hand, an unhealthy tree with a weak root system will be toppled easily by hurricane winds.

Surprisingly, mango trees like moderately dry conditions. They require irrigation just until the tree becomes established — from one to three months. Do not irrigate after it’s established. Excess irrigation will increase the tree’s vulnerability to disease and decrease the quality of its fruit. Overwatering can kill a mango tree.

When the trees are grown in harmony with their environment, their care is built on a foundation of sustainable horticulture and they don’t need the heavy hand of modern chemicals and fertilizers. It is only in this manner that mangoes can achieve greatness of character.

When planting, there is no need to add any fertilizer. A month after planting, fertilize lightly with a low analysis fertilizer (containing low levels of nutrients). We recommend that no nitrogen fertilizers be applied. A light layer of mulch will protect the root system and as it decomposes, will provide enough nitrogen. After that, fertilize only when your tree is active, from April to September. Do not fertilize at all during the winter. Use a 0-0-50 formulation fertilizer, sprinkled lightly below the drip-line of the canopy three times per year. Foliar micronutrients that include magnesium, zinc, and manganese will help balance out the nutritional needs of your tree, especially during fruit production.

Pruning should be your main horticultural practice, shaping your tree from a young age. Proper early pruning will provide balance for the rest of your tree’s life. The first pruning should be done to remove the terminal bud. Tipping begins in the first year and continues for the life of the tree. Trees should be tipped every 20 inches.

When pruning mango trees, you are trying to maintain height while improving flowering and fruiting. A well-managed mango tree is generally below fifteen feet tall, has a complex structure of branches and has all portions of the tree open to sunlight. It is crucial to maintain the height of your mango tree to allow for ease of fruit harvest and overall management of the tree. Prune trees for size control after harvest each year. Remember to prune by hand. The branches, twigs and leaves can be mulched in place or ground up or composted for use in other locations.

When you see insects, identify them before taking any action. Remember, insects are presumed innocent until proven guilty of damage. Most are not damaging. Pesticides should be the final option.

Allow some nearby weeds to grow to provide a nectar source for bees, flies and wasps, particularly during the spring flowering season. You can keep weeds under control through mulching and the shade provided by the trees themselves. 

South Florida has become the mango’s second home, and it is our privilege and responsibility to care for the tree and fruit. Enjoy the advantage of living in South Florida: the great flavors, aromas and horticultural innovations. The mango is a fruit of great distinction, cultivated with specific objectives to improve our quality of life.

Discover everything you need to know about mangoes at Fairchild’s 22nd Annual International Mango Festival, July 12-13.

Noris Ledesma is curator of Tropical Fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

The Mango: How to Grow, Care For and Enjoy “The King of Fruit”

South Florida has the largest population of mango trees per capita in the United States and the numbers continue to grow. Mango trees are an indispensable part of South Florida’s landscape, giving homes, commercial sites and parks a sense of beauty and tranquility and, of course, delicious fruit to enjoy during the mango’s long fruiting season.

There are several things to consider when growing mango trees. Dr. Richard J. Campbell, Senior Curator of Tropical Fruit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and world expert on mangos suggests, “keep it simple.” This philosophy has proven very successful at Fairchild, which has the world’s largest mango collection. “Mango trees grow well in South Florida, so all you have to do is figure out what mango fruit you want to enjoy, have ground space of about 6 feet, good water and mulch.” These tips round up Campbell’s keep it simple approach.

Mango experts, like Campbell and his father Dr. Carl L. Campbell, Ph.D., also recommend selecting trees that produce fruit that aren’t readily available in supermarkets. “Mango cultivars like Tommy Atkins or Kent are widely available at most supermarkets. Mangos, like the Nam Doc Mai, Julie, or Edward are higher quality mangos and can be grown easily in your backyard yet can’t always be found in the produce section” adds the senior Campbell.

Here are some more planting tips to consider:

  • Location — the mango tree grows to a good size and casts a dense shade, but the roots are not destructive.
  • Planting — any time of the year is good, provided the weather is warm and the trees are not in active growth.
  • Soil — Mangos will grow in almost any well-drained soil whether sandy, loam or clay but avoid heavy wet soils.
  • Planting — Cut the container that the tree is in for easy removal and make the hole two to three times as wide as the container. Make the hole no deeper than the height of the root ball. Gently place the tree straight in the hole and fill around the ball with soil, gently firming it. Water thoroughly while planting to remove any air pockets. Mulch with a 2 – 3 inch layer of organic material to buffer soil temperature, conserve moisture and reduce weed competition.
  • Watering — If rainfall is less than 25 mm (1 inch) per week following planting, then the tree should be watered every 3 to 4 days for the first 4 months of initial establishment.

Mango fertilizer: a fertilization program for mango trees

Haifa’s fertilizers provide an effective source of potassium and nitrogen for the mango tree. Furthermore, Multi-K fertilizer has a positive effect on the fruit retention, fruit size and yield

I. Young, non-bearing trees.

Recommendations for Fertigation

Suggested by Chatpracha Sonklien, Agronomist of Haifa-Thailand

Soil type: Medium – Heavy.
Plant Density: 125 – 156 tree / Ha.
Non-Bearing trees: (1-3 years).
Based on 150 irrigation days/year.

Application rates should be adjusted according to soil and leaf analysis, wherever available.

II. Mature, bearing trees.

Nutrients removal in 1 MT/Ha of yield.







Nutrient levels (%) in leaves of high yielding mango trees





Kent, Smith



Desirable Levels

A general guideline for splitting K application in fertigation programs for mango

Growth stage

Share of K2O at stage (%)

Recommended rate (kg/ha of K2O)

Leaf emergence
Fruit growth
Fruit maturation

Recommendations for foliar sprays in mango, prevailing in the Philippines (source: Kital)


  1. First Spray: When leaves are in mature-dormant stage.
  2. Second Spray: Oftentimes, if flowering is poor or does not occur, a second spray using low concentration of KNO3 should be applied 10-14 days after the first spray. This procedure can increase flowering in mango.


Foliar feeding:

Any fertilizer applied to the tree via the soil cannot be utilized by the developing flowers; hence, foliar spray is needed. When Haifa Potassium Nitrate is sprayed on the tree it becomes a fast and effective source of potassium and nitrogen.

It is recommended to spray twice:

First spray: Apply 1 to 2 percent KNO3 solution at about 42 days after flower induction. The first application is done to encourage fruit setting and minimize fruit drop.

Second Spray: For the second spray, apply 1 to 2 percent KNO3 solution
at about 65 days after induction. This is done to increase fruit size.

Fruit retention & Yield increase:

First spray: When panicles in shoot are 3-15 cm.

Second spray: When 50% to 100% of panicles are in anthesis.

Effect of Multi-K sprayed on mango trees during flowering on fruit retention, fruit size and yield

S.A Oosthuyse, 1996, South Africa


Fruit retention and size are typical problems in mango cultivars “Tommy Atkins”, “Kent” and “Haden”, which are grown in the dry subtropical regions of South Africa.
In these cultivars, the fruit often becomes overly large, and does not obtain prime prices in the export markets of Europe.
The solution to these problems is a treatment that increases fruit retention and, at the same time, reduces fruit size.

Materials and Methods

Multi-K foliar spraying at 2% or 4% was applied either once during the flowering period, when the inflorescence were in full-bloom, or twice during this period, first when the inflorescence were developing and subsequently when they were in full-bloom.

After the main period of fruit drop, the number of fruits on each tree was counted. At harvest, the fruits on each tree were individually weighed.


In “Tommy Atkins”, one or two applications at 4% Multi-K were most effective in increasing fruit retention. Increased retention was not accompanied by a reduction in fruit size.

In “Haden”, one application with 4% Multi-K was the most effective treatment for increasing fruit retention. This increase was also accompanied with a reduction on fruit size and an increase on tree yield.

Table 1: The influence of one application of 4% Multi-K on “Haden” yield and quality


Number of fruits harvested

Average fruit weight (g)

Yield (Kg/Tree)

2% Multi-K
4% Multi-K

The fruit size was successfully reduced on “Heidi” and “Kent” such that the fruit generally fell into the desirable size class of “8” (450 to 550 g).

Multi-K application to “Tommy Atkins”, “Haden” and “Kent” trees during the flowering period is now a routine commercial practice in South Africa.

Macro elements removed by 1 ton marketable product







————————————– Kg/ton ——————————————

Source: Kinoch: VOLHOUBARE LANDBOU, RSA. Processed by Frans Lourens, Haifa Chemicals, RSA May, 1999.

Plant analysis guide

Nutrient sufficiency ranges (source: A & L, Agronomy Handbook, Ankerman & Large Eds.)

Fruit and nut trees

Ask an Expert

05 May 2019, 01:41PM

Dear Tania,
If you need to contain your tree, experts suggest that you cut the main trunk at 1 m, allow five to seven main limbs to grow and cut these back to 0.5m in the next year. Thereafter, leave the tree alone unless it becomes too dense or too tall, in which case cut out whole limbs rather than shorten branches. It is suggested that pruning takes place after harvest. Don’t prune during the cold winter months. Mangoes have definite climatic preferences and produce most reliably in areas with a dry winter, dry spring, rainfall during summer and then a dry spell as fruit matures. A dry winter spell initiates spring flowering, while dry conditions in spring promote polination and reduces fungal disease. Young fruit trees should be fertilised in early spring and again in autumn. Yates Thrive Natural Citrus & Fruit Pelletised Plant Food would be an excellent product to use on your mango tree as it is producing new growth, flowering and setting fruit. Mango trees can suffer with a disease called anthracnose so additional fertilising with Sulphate of Potash at the end of winter through spring will hopefully prevent this disease from occurring. Enjoy growing your tree and I hope it give you lots of delicious fruit.

Bob asks: My mango tree is getting large and I think I should prune it. When and how should I proceed?


Bob asks: My mango tree is getting large and I think I should prune it. When and how should I proceed?

Tropical Gardener answer: Unlike many fruit trees, mango trees do not need annual pruning to produce flowers or increase fruit yield. Pruning is usually limited to eliminating dead or diseased branches, reducing the size of the tree or overall shaping to maintain good tree structure.

Since most mango trees flower in late winter and early spring, pruning now might remove branches that have fruiting potential. Mango flowers and fruit are usually produced on mature wood that is at the end of the branch. Pruning during or after fruiting, usually in late summer or fall is a better time.

Start by removing old fruit spikes that might spread diseases. Of course, if the tree has dead or broken branches or obviously diseased or insect-infested areas, you may want to remove those. Thinning out crossing branches or ones that are growing into the center and shading the fruit could be removed to help the fruit ripen quicker. Be sure, when you prune, that you don’t remove more than one third of the leaf canopy at a time, however. If you want to do a major pruning, do so in stages with several months between sessions to give the tree a chance to recover adequate leaves to supply the food it needs. Pruning heavily can negatively affect fruit production for two or three years.

To get some further instructions, you might want to look at two of the videos on mango pruning produced at Fairchild Garden in Florida. The one at shows how to prune a young tree:

A second video demonstrates ways to reduce the size and vigor of a 5 year old tree. It is at: – 5 year old tree

Author’s note: Since writing the helpline column last week about the availability of organic Beauveria bassiana against the CBB, I have learned that the Hawaii Department of Agriculture will be sponsoring a cost-share program to reimburse farmers for a percentage of their B. bassiana purchases. In a few weeks they should have a clerk to handle the reimbursements. Meanwhile, Rob Curtiss from HDOA is asking farmers to save their receipts.

Some questions that appear here were originally directed to Kona’s Certified Master Gardeners. You may contact them with questions at [email protected]

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living on an organic farm in Captain Cook.

Gardening Events

Today: “Slow Food Hawaii Annual Meeting” from noon to 3 p.m. at Sunshower Farms at 76-5819E Mamalahoa Highway in Holualoa, 1 mile south of UCC coffee, north of Holualoa town. 1.5 miles up Waiono Ranch Road to wooden sign on left. Free event. Potluck. Bring plate and utensils. Pizzas for sale. Info:

Monday: “Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Monthly Meeting ” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the new meeting house at 81-6393 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua. It is the white wooden building on the makai side across from the from the Department of Transportation yard. Park in front or on the north side. Topic to be announced.

Farmer Direct Markets

Wednesday: Hooulu Farmers Market 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sheraton Kona Resort &Spa at Keauhou Bay

Wednesday: Sunset Farmers Market 2 p.m. – sunset at the north makai corner of the Kmart parking lot.

Saturday: Keauhou Farmers Market 8 a.m. – noon at Keauhou Shopping Center

Kamuela Farmer’s Market from 7 a.m. to noon at Pukalani Stables

Sunday: South Kona Green Market 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Amy Greenwell Garden in Captain Cook

Monday–Saturday: U-Pick greens and produce 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tropical Edibles Nursery, Captain Cook.

Plant Advice Lines

Anytime: [email protected]


Thursday: 9 a.m. to noon at UH-CES in Kainaliu – 322-4892

Monday, Tuesday and Friday: 9 a.m. to noon at UH CES at Komohana in Hilo 981-5199 or [email protected]

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