What did I do *right*? (a mango tree in Iceland)

karenreiMay 5, 2012

So, I used to live in the US, in Iowa, and am in love with growing tropicals indoors (24/7). One tropical that I've had a love/hate relationship with is a Carrie Mango tree. I got my first Carrie maybe three years ago. I planted it according to the instructions I was given. It basically did nothing but just sit there in my grow room until it died. The post-mortem revealed root rot. So when I tried again last year, with another Carrie, I potted it in a less organic mix and watered less often. The tree didn't die, but well.. for all effective purposes, it might has well have just been a fake tree. While, say, the banana tree sitting right next to it was growing like crazy, it just sat there, never either dropping nor growing a single leaf.

I moved all of my plants and myself to Iceland at the end of February. NOT EASY. Just ignoring the crazy permitting process, they all had to be crammed into suitcases and boxes that could go on the plane, bareroot, heat packs and insulation to keep them freezing to death, etc. Something like 40 different plants, ranging from little sprouts to whole trees (the largest ones being the 5' mango and a 6' cherimoya). To repot, my usual choice of inorganic growing materials was sadly unavailable; it was unfortunate to learn that most of the stuff that's available here is rather peaty. But I had to repot, so I used what was available, and was really worried that the roots were going to rot again. I cared for them for a couple weeks, then left them in the hands of a plantsitter while I had to return to the US for a month.

I came back to Iceland, and... wow, I can't believe it. It's putting on this massive flush of beautiful new growth. When all is said and done, it'll probably have twice as many leaves as it had before. What on earth did I do *right*?

* It's the same light fixtures -- not even all of them that I had before, although I don't have as many plants as before. They're running through a voltage converter, but that shouldn't change anything.

* There's more sunlight through the windows, but the light fixtures should still easily be the dominant source of energy, as they're right next to the plants and are on 24-7.

* It's drier here, and they're next to a radiator (although it's been somewhere between low and off).

* I don't think I'm fertilizing any different than I used to, but who knows.

Thoughts as to what was the key that triggered the growth? There are so many possible factors, but if any of you think you know what was the key, that'd be great info!

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puglvr1(9b central FL)

I have NO idea...but I think its pretty 'freakin' amazing that you're growing a Mango tree in Iceland,lol...Congrats!

Maybe and its just a theory, most potted mango trees are pretty slow to acclimate and get growing. Maybe while you were in Iowa the tree was concentrating on growing roots and when you moved...it kicked the foliage growth into gear? There's also No substitute for 'real' sunshine, so I'm sure that helped as well.

Just know that I've killed a mango tree or two myself with root rot and I live in FL,lol...

Lots of luck and please keep us updated on its progress.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Here she is, with all that new growth:

(I partially closed the blinds to reduce glare for the pics... probably should have shut off that LED light too, lol)

Here's some of my other tropicals I brought up here:


Jaboticaba and Rollinia:

Banana (forget which variety)



Moro blood orange:

Plus a ton of others, including more coffee plants than you can shake a stick at ;) (I've been giving them away a year and still have about a dozen, lol)

Anyway, good to know that I wasn't the only one who had root rot problems on the mango. ;) I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and hope that she continues to thrive! Maybe it's something about the water up here, who knows... the cold water is super-fresh (glacial melt) and the hot water is volcanic (smells of sulfur ;) ). And I mixed a little lava rock into the soil to try to make it less "peaty", so maybe that helped too. But who knows!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 12:34PM
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I think the main thing with Mangoes in pots is to not let them get too wet, letting the soil dry out before waterings.

I have not tried the "Gritty Mix" folks on the forum seem to have had good results with it with mango trees , you may want to try and make your own.

And by the way, I think its soo cool your growing all these tropicals in Iceland, the locals be amazed when you show them your home grown fruits. I can just imagine their faces when you whip out a Rollinia, probably something they have never seen or heard of.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 1:09AM
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mangodog(palm springs 9B)

Agree with everyone - AMAZING what you are doing Karen...But you poor soul, do you HAVE to live in the land of ice and snow?????

Next move you make, head south!

but wonderful what you are accomplishing now...and I have NO explanation for why they are all doing so well......flabbergasted acually.......


    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 7:27PM
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puglvr1(9b central FL)

Great job with all your plants!! You Carrie looks SO pretty with all her new growths! Best of luck to you!

How long do you plan on living in Iceland?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 3:27PM
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@TropicDude: Thanks for the tip! Huh, I think I may accidentally have made something that's almost a gritty mix due to all of that "hekla" volcanic gravel I added to the soil to try try to make it less organic (you can't see it that well because I added a thin layer of plain soil over the top of the pot to make it look prettier). Woohoo for accidents! :) Gotta keep that in mind for whenever I need to pot up (I think I'll have to do that one more time before she's big enough to fruit). What other plants besides mango is it recommended for?

Hehe, not only am I sure that pretty much nobody here has ever seen a rollinia... I discovered that most people here have never had corn in the husk! I brought some from the US, just as an afterthought, and I even had a *chef* ask me how to cook it. That's really strange, btw, because in most regards Iceland is very modern, international, and rather Americanized.

I'm sure I'll also get some neat reactions to the jaboticaba, bacupari, dragonfruit, barbados cherry, cashew apples, and some of the other tropicals that you just don't find here. :) And Iceland has a huge coffee culture (world's 4th highest per-capita consumption), so I'm sure that'll be a big hit. My largest coffee plant that came with me, judging from experience, will probably flower in about six months.

@MangoDog: Lol, I chose to move up here - specifically went out to find a job in Iceland, found one, got my permits, and moved! I just love this country. The food (excepting fruits and vegetables) is sooo good. The hot water is ridiculously abundant (even my local neighborhood pool has a full-sized heated indoor pool, full-sized heated outdoor pool, large indoor spa, two outdoor spas, one of which has these awesome high power massage jets, a kiddy pool, a large water-park-style waterslide, and a steam room). The country is so heart-wrenchingly beautiful (go to Google Images and search for the words "Iceland" and "nature" - it really looks like that). There's an amazing creative culture here, especially when it comes to music (just the main heavy metal festival alone draws over 40 Icelandic heavy metal bands per year -- yet whole country has less people than the city of Santa Ana, California!). Concerts are usually cheap or free. The night life is crazy -- doesn't even usually start until after midnight and is still busy at 5 AM. It never gets dark during the summer and at winter the whole city is lit up brightly. It's never hot and humid, and the winters, while wet and very windy, don't get that cold (less than NYC). Workplaces here are so nice (everyone in the country gets about a month off per year, the mother and father of a child can get (between them) up to 9 months paid leave and 9 unpaid, your vacation time doesn't count as vacation if you get sick while on vacation... heck, at my job, we have two great chefs on staff and I've even gotten a massage while on paid work time!). And as for the plants, power's dirt cheap, it's easy to cool a grow room, and I've got ~10 foot ceilings. :)

@puglvr1: Permanently, which is why I went through all the effort to come with my precious plants! And my parrot too, lol :)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 3:53PM
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mangodog(palm springs 9B)

well then, Karen of the Cool Hinderlands....if hot water is so cheap, WHY not erect a greenhouse and heat it with that stuff circulating through it, so you can really see what will grow? That's what I would do...that is unless you don't have a house yet, and are only renting a flat/apartment....

And thanks for the Iceland update - I stand duly educated!!!!!!!


    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 1:17PM
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@mangodog: You hit the nail on the head; I'm renting right now. They call it an �b�� (apartment), but that gives the wrong impression. It's common here that houses have a design where part of it can be rented off easily if the owners want; I'm renting perhaps 1/3rd of a normal house.

Now, in the future I plan to buy or build a house, and an attached greenhouse is definitely in the list. In fact, I enter my current place *through* a two-story greenhouse that's part of the house - but it's the owner's greenhouse. Still, always nice to come home to the smell of flowers :)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 5:50PM
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Ae, looks like Gardenweb doesn't like Icelandic characters, because it kind of mangled my post. Oh well, that's not important. :)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 6:00PM
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boson(Delray Beach,Florida)

Wow! I am totally amazed. And your cacao plant looks better than mine!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:52PM
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I would guess that part of the success is due to the relative lack of insect pests and maybe microorganisms that would be more common further south. Sounds like your tropicals don't mind those super long summer days. Sure the light quality is purer and less hazy than further south. Soon you'll be sprouting coconuts up there. My hat's off to you, I can barely make it at 40 degrees North lat.! :)

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 8:21AM
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Peat is nutritionally wonderful. The drainage properties is where it fails.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 7:53AM
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msmorningsong(SW FL 10A)

Wow, beautiful photos and great learning experience about Iceland and her people Karen. Any updates? Did you get or build a house yet? How are those plants looking today?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 4:57AM
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Sounds like besides your usual good care,the warmer nights spurred the mango. In pots indoors..it takes warmer temps since their is no hours of UV sun raining down. You provided warmer,and the healthy plants took advantage.
Mangoes are great. 100' tall in Hawaii,and yet they can have the same sweet fruit in a pot at 3' tall. Cant get Avocado to do that!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 2:52PM
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