Mangosteens are grown along the wet coastal strip from Cooktown (15°S) to Tully (18°S) in Queensland. While the northern Queensland environment is suitable for mangosteen production, the cooler temperatures during July–August will limit the areas where it can be grown.
Mangosteen has been grown around Darwin, however the difficulties of managing the crop during the cooler, drier temperatures during July–August mean it is no longer considered a commercial crop in the Northern Territory.
In order to provide the optimum conditions, mangosteen should not be grown at altitudes higher than 500 metres above sea level.
Mangosteen will grow on a wide range of soils provided it has good water holding capacity, but it will not tolerate waterlogged areas. It does best in deep, rich organic soil that is slightly acid (pH 5.0–6.0). The tree grows well on deep river loams and not so well on sandy soils with low organic matter levels.
Mangosteen prefers an equatorial climate—high even temperatures with high humidity. Its preferred temperature range is 20–33°C and it cannot tolerate temperatures below 5°C nor above 38°C. Seedlings are particularly sensitive to cold and will fail if the temperature drops below 8°C.
Mangosteen requires high atmospheric humidity and an annual rainfall of at least 1,200 millimetres with no long periods of drought. Supplementary irrigation may have to be applied in months with less than 150mm of rainfall. Although moisture-stressed trees may crop well initially, the size of the fruit will decrease and subsequent cropping will be reduced until the trees recover.
For many years only a single variety of mangosteen, within the Garcinia mangostana species, was thought to exist due to the parthenocarpic (fruit produces without fertilisation) nature of the fruit. However, growers have long recognised at least two basic fruit types, spherical and oblong, and there are a number of colours. With the advent of genetic finger-printing, several different types have been identified in Australia. The distinctions between type are based primarily on fruit shape, with acidity and flavour remaining similar.
There are other species of Garcinia grown in Australia. A commercial planting of Garcinia hombriana (seashore mangosteen) is grown commercially south of Townsville, while a number of other species are grown by rare fruit enthusiasts, such as the yellow mangosteen (G. dulcis), Cambogia (G. cambogia), and madrano (G. braziliansis).
Planting and crop management
Mangosteen is generally propagated from seed as the plants are genetically identical to the parent tree. Grafted trees are occasionally produced, but although they are reported to be earlier bearing, the trees are small and produce smaller fruit compared to seedling trees. Grafted trees are rarely used for commercial production due to their low vigour, but are ideal for backyard production. Seedlings are available from specialist nurseries (contact growers or industry organisations for further information) and should be propagated in pots for planting at one to two years.
Deep ripping of the soil is recommended, and if the area is prone to waterlogging or ponding, mounding will be required. Manure and compost may be incorporated into the planting sites 6–9 months prior to planting.
Mangosteen seedlings should be planted at the beginning of the wet season at a minimum distance of six metres between plants in the row and 6–8 metres between rows, resulting in an initial stocking rate of 280 trees/ha.
Because it is an understorey species in tropical rainforests (meaning it grows below taller trees), the mangosteen prefers shading during early growth and development, and shelter throughout its life. Replicating the rainforest understory conditions using other tree species is successful but leads to increased management due to the shade species and increases the risk of tree damage under cyclonic conditions.