How To Grow and Care for Cerbera Manghas: A Complete Guide

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Cerbera manghas, also known as the sea apple or pong-pong tree, is a tropical plant prized for its striking foliage, aromatic flowers, and versatility in landscaping.

The genus name Cerbera is derived from the hell dog in Greek mythology named Cerberus. This references the toxicity of the entire tree and fruits.

Cerbera Manghas CarePin

It is native to coastal areas in Southeast Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Pacific islands.

Moreover, this evergreen tree can also be found near coastal and mangrove forests, marshy areas, and sandy beaches in tropical, sub-tropical, and monsoonal climate zones.

This plant is also known for its common name, including:

  • Beach Milkwood
  • Buta Buta
  • Grey Milkwood
  • Dogbane
  • Sea mango
  • Pink-eyed Pong Pong Tree
  • Pokok Pong Pong
  • Sea Pong Pong
  • Tanghin Poison
  • Odollam tree
  • Odollamia manghas

Whether grown in a container or planted directly in the ground, Cerbera manghas can add interest and beauty to any garden or outdoor space.

In this article, we will explore the different aspects of growing and caring for Cerbera manghas properly.

Cerbera Manghas Care

Size and Growth Rate

Cerbera manghas is a slow-growing tree, often reaching up to 30′ feet tall, with a plumeria-like growth habit.

Its crown is oval or round in shape. In addition, the plant’s bark is gray and deeply fissured.

However, the small evergreen coastal tree is more commonly grown as a shrub and can be pruned to maintain a desired size and shape.

When cut, all parts of the pong-pong tree exude white, milky latex.

Flowering and Fragrance

The pong-pong tree produces large, white flowers with a pinkish-red center that blooms throughout the year.

The flowers are highly fragrant, often described as sweet and intoxicating, with a hint of vanilla.

Cerbera manghas fragrant flowers attract various pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

This plant also features attractive egg-shaped fruits often used in garden flower displays. At maturity, these fruits turn bright red.

However, the sea mango tree fruits are extremely poisonous, especially if ingested.

Light and Temperature

The Sea mango tree prefers full sun to partial shade but can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from 60° to 100° degrees Fahrenheit.

However, it is important to protect the plant from frost and cold winds, which can damage its foliage and flowers.

Moreover, the Cerbera manghas is best grown outdoors in zone 10a to 11.

Watering and Fertilizer

Cerbera manghas tree requires moderate but regular watering, especially during drought or extreme heat. It is important to avoid overwatering, as the plant is susceptible to root rot.

In terms of fertilizer, a bloom boom fertilizer or balanced, slow-release fertilizer will do the trick, applied every three months during the growing season.

Soil and Transplanting

Cerbera manghas prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. However, this coastal tree can tolerate sandy soil with good drainage and is rich in humus content.

It can also grow well in various soil types, from sandy loam to clay, even in poor soil conditions.

The Sea mango tree can be planted in containers or directly in the ground. However, ensure there is additional leaf mould.

However, it requires occasional transplanting to promote healthy growth. When transplanting, it is important to ensure the plant’s root ball is not damaged.

Growing in the Landscape

Cerbera manghas is a versatile plant that can be grown in a variety of landscaping settings.

It is often used as a specimen plant, accent plant, hedge, or screen. It also pairs well with other tropical plants, such as palms, hibiscus, and the bird of paradise.

Grooming and Maintenance

Aside from occasional pruning, the pong-pong tree requires minimal grooming to promote healthy growth and maintain its shape. Using sharp, clean pruning shears is important to avoid damaging the plant.


Cerbera manghas is tolerant to various environmental stresses, including drought, heat, and salt spray. However, it is important to protect the plant from frost and cold winds, which can damage its foliage and flowers.

How To Propagate Sea Mango Tree

Cerbera manghas can be propagated through stem cuttings or seeds.

Stem cuttings should be taken during the growing season, preferably before or after flowering.

Moreover, seeds should be harvested from mature fruits and planted in well-drained soil.

Cerbera Manghas Pest and Diseases

Pest and disease control is essential to growing and caring for Cerbera manghas. Although the coastal tree is relatively low-maintenance, it is susceptible to various pests and diseases that can damage its foliage and compromise its overall health.

Here are some common pests and diseases that affect the Sea mango tree and how to control them:

Scale Insects

These small, oval-shaped insects suck sap from the tree’s leaves, causing yellowing, wilting, and eventual death when infestations are severe.

The scale insects produce a sticky substance called honeydew when feeding on the plant. This substance typically attracts ants and promotes the growth of sooty mold.

To control scale insects, you can use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. First, spray the affected parts of the tree thoroughly, covering the leaves’ undersides. Repeat the treatment every two weeks until the infestation is under control.


Mealybugs are small, white, cottony insects with waxy filaments resembling a tail.

These insects also feed on the Sea mango tree’s sap, causing yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and reducing plant vigor.

They also excrete wax and sticky honeydew that promotes the growth of sooty mold and reduces plant and fruit quality.

You can use the same methods as scale insects to control mealybugs. You can also spray with isopropyl Alcohol.

Make sure to spray the tree thoroughly, focusing on the undersides of the leaves and the areas where the insects are most concentrated.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny, reddish-brown insects that spin webs on the tree’s leaves and suck sap.

They cause yellowing and wilting of the foliage, a stippled or mottled appearance. Moreover, severe infestations typically cause defoliation.

To control spider mites, you can use a miticide or insecticidal soap. First, spray the affected parts of the tree thoroughly, covering the leaves’ undersides.

Repeat the treatment every two weeks until the infestation is under control.

Fungal Diseases

Cerbera manghas is susceptible to various fungal diseases, including root rot, leaf spot, and powdery mildew.

These diseases can cause wilting, yellowing, and brown spots on the leaves, stunted growth, droopy flowers, and poor fruit production.

To control fungal diseases, you can use fungicides or cultural methods. In addition, ensure proper drainage to prevent root rot and remove and destroy infected plant material to prevent the spread of disease.

In addition to these specific treatments, it’s important to maintain good overall tree health to prevent pest and disease infestations.

This includes providing the ornamental tree with proper soil, watering, fertilization, and regular pruning and grooming to remove dead or diseased branches.

By following these tips and monitoring your tree regularly, you can keep your sea mango tree healthy and beautiful for years.

Pong-pong Tree Uses

Cerbera manghas is a popular choice for landscaping in tropical and subtropical regions.

It is often used to create a tropical garden as a specimen plant, accent plant, hedge, or screen. Its striking foliage and fragrant flowers make it a great addition to any outdoor space, from large gardens to small balconies.

The plant can also be grown in containers, which makes it a great option for those with limited outdoor space.

The wood of the pong-pong tree is also occasionally used for core veneer, moldings, plain furniture, clogs, fruit cases, and carving.

Moreover, its fibrous fruits are also often used in flower arrangements. 

When harvested for its oil, it can support the production of biodiesel as a raw material.

In addition to its ornamental value, the pong-pong tree is also used for medicinal purposes in some cultures.

The plant contains several bioactive compounds shown to potentially treat various health conditions, including breast cancer, human colon cancer, and lung cancer.

It can be a medicinal plant used for dealing with diabetes, fever, gastrointestinal problems, malaria, and other infectious diseases.

Moreover, the seeds are often used to treat heart problems as traditional medicine. The extract of the plant leaves can also be screened for their antioxidant activities.


In conclusion, C. manghas is a versatile and beautiful plant that can add interest and beauty to any garden or outdoor space.

Your pong-pong tree also makes an excellent edible landscaping plant for its exquisite ornamental appeal.

It’s also often used locally as a herbal medicine for diseases.

Remember, this plant excretes white latex in all parts, which can irritate the eyes and skin. So be careful when handling the pong-pong tree.

By following the tips outlined in this article, you can ensure that your Sea mango tree thrives and produces its signature fragrant flowers for years.

Whether used as a specimen plant, accent plant, hedge, or screen, This plant impresses with its striking foliage and intoxicating fragrance.

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