Help me grow mangos from seeds
October 18, 2004 9:46 AM   Subscribe

From the Black Thumb Dept.: I've been trying for the past few years to grow mango plants from seeds and failing. [more dead plant shenanigans inside]

The usual course of events goes something like this: After I eat a particularly ripe mango, I crack open the husk of the pit and remove the seed. I plant it in a "Seed Starter" mixture (I think it's mostly peat with a little vermiculite and some fertilizer.) The seed happily sprouts and grows into a shoot about six inches tall with three to five leaves. Then after a month or so, the leaves start to slowly turn brown & wither, starting at the tips and working their way inwards. This eventually happens to all the leaves (over the course of a few months), and the plant dies.

What am I doing wrong? Not enough light? (Probably not too much light, since it's not near a window.) Too much water? Not enough? Too much fertilizer? Not enough? Or are mangoes just hard to grow?
posted by Johnny Assay to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
I looked into doing this a couple years ago and read that virtually all mangos sold in the U.S. are irradiated, so that very few seeds retain viability.
posted by rushmc at 10:59 AM on October 18, 2004

Aside from the whole irradiating thing, how hot is the room where the plant is? Wouldn't a mango count as a "tropical" plant, requiring extra heat and light?

I know you can grow pineapple plants from the tops of supermarket pineapples but I don't think they do very well unless it's very warm.
posted by bcwinters at 11:49 AM on October 18, 2004

Johnny Assay, I've had a similar experience in the past (probably pre-irradiation). I've started them like avocado pits - suspended with toothpicks in a jar of water - then plant in potting mix when a root sprouts. A few leaves then nothing (although I've been able to get them to limp along without dying before I eventually give up and toss them). I'm guessing as well that they require high light so I've put them in South or East windows. The trees start out looking great with glossy foliage. When I've dug them up before disposing of them I've noticed one extremely long root wrapped around the bottom of the pot, which makes me think mango trees are tap-rooted and therefore poor choices for pot plants. You could try using an extra deep pot - nursery supply places sell them or you could improvise something.

As for a "black thumb", you're probably overwatering. That's the main reason for premature house plant mortality. Don't keep plants soggy. Never let them sit in water. Always use a pot with holes in the bottom. Most house plants prefer to dry out a bit. Succulents and cactus need to get completely dry. So when you think it's time to water, don't. Wait a couple days and then water.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:53 PM on October 18, 2004

I do not believe the seed could germinate if it had been damaged by irradiation, much less produce leaves.

My guess is inadequate light, inadequate humidity, and probably too cold. Mango trees grow like weeds in Hilo, Hawaii where it rains 600 inches a year, so I am skeptical that overwatering could be a serious problem. I'm not kidding about the weeds - they grow everywhere without any tending whatsoever. If you don't mind eating mangoes you can live a long time in Hawaii without paying any money for food at all - a vitamin supplement or two would be good.

If you take Hawaii as an optimum environment for mangoes, then, you need 12 hours a day of the strongest sunlight you can produce, an average temperature of 80-85 degrees, and a lot of water.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:13 PM on October 18, 2004

... I am skeptical that overwatering could be a serious problem ...

Nope. I stick by my original advice. The only indoor plants that you don't have to be concerned about overwatering are aquatic plants. The conditions a plant grows in in the wild don't necessarily have much to do with how they'll grow in a pot. Leaves browning starting at the tip, as Johnny Assay described, is a clear sign of overwatering. To reiterate, don't keep potted plants wet. Let the soil dry out somewhat before watering again. Don't let plants sit in water - either in a tray underneath the pot or at the bottom of a pot that lacks holes. Again, overwatering is the most likely reason that houseplants die.
posted by TimeFactor at 8:15 PM on October 18, 2004

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