Dragon fruit is an exotic cactus that is found in Asia, Mexico, and parts of South America. It is not grown in North America, which is why the plant is not as common in this region. Dragon fruit can be planted as ornamental plants, but they do bare delicious fruit that is rather tasty. In fact, it is often used in jams, ice cream, fruit juice, and wine. Let’s start by becoming more familiar with the different types of dragon fruit, then we will jump right into how to grow the plant.
The blooms of this plant are unique; in fact, they are one of the largest flowers in the world. The reason that they are so unique is not their size; it is the fact that the blooms only open for one night, and the scents that you will experience on that night are surreal and exotically fruity.
The Different Types of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit or pitayas are extremely unique plants that come in three different types that you can enjoy. They are also called strawberry pears because of the bright red features of the fruit. These plants are also known by other names as well. Indonesia buah naga, Thanh long, Thai kaeo mangkon, nanettika fruit, Belle of the Night, Cactus fruit, Kaktus madu, and Night blooming Cereus are among a few of the most common names. Regardless of the type of dragon fruit that you are growing the fruit will be green until it is ripe. At that time, it will either be bright yellow in coloration or red. The inside pulp of each piece of fruit will be filled will small seeds that look similar to those that can be found in a kiwi fruit. The three types of dragon fruit are:
- Hylocereus Megalanthus – This type of dragon fruit has a white fruit flesh and a yellow shell. The shell of this variation is a bit thornier than the rest of the variations, so it is rarer to see in a garden.
- Hylocereus Undatus – This is a variation that has the same white flesh, but the exterior of this fruit is red in color.
- Hylocereus Costaricensis – This type of fruit is red in coloration on both the shell and in the flesh. The flesh is often a deep red coloration that looks almost unnatural or blood–like.
How to Grow Dragon Fruit
Unlike most cactus plants, this one is a climbing plant that needs a bit of support to grow properly. It is a sub tropical plant that needs a lot of heat and humidity, so here is a breakdown of the information that you will need to nurture and grow dragon fruit.
- Soil Requirements – This plant is able to grow in any soil that is well draining, but it prefers to grow in soil that is slightly acidic with a pH level that is between six and seven. Sandy soil is the best option for this plant; if it is not available, just ensure that it is well draining soil.
- Fertilizer – To ensure that the dragon fruit is growing properly, give it some fertilizer every month during the active growing season. During the cold winter months, you will want to stop feeding your plant for a few months.
- Water – Because this plant is a cactus plant, it is important to make sure that you are watering it properly. Only water the plant when the top of the soil is dry to the touch, and do not allow the plant to sit in water. The soil needs to be moist, not soaked.
- Light Requirements – The base of the plant can see a little shade, but the tips of the plant require full sun to ensure that the plant blooms properly. If too much shade is given to the plant, the fruit will not do well.
- Temperature Requirements – Dragon fruit will not grow in cold climates, so make sure that the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage from occurring to the plant. For optimal growth, the temperature needs to be between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Grow Dragon Fruit in Pots
Since dragon fruit does not like to grow in colder climates, having it planted in a pot can be a great idea. It allows you to easily move the plant indoors when the weather starts getting cold. Large pots are best; typically they should be at least 15 gallons. The pots also need to be well-draining so that the water does not sit in the base of the pot and cause root rot to occur.
Dragon Fruit Growing Season
The growing season of this plant takes place during the hot months of the summer. It will not grow the rest of the year, but when it does grow, it grows rapidly. Blooms will occur from July to October, but they will only bloom for one night each year. After the flowering occurs, fruit will begin to form. One plant can produce fruit for 20 to 30 years, so if you plant one, be ready for a lot of dragon fruit.
As we discussed previously, the plant is often grown in Asia, Mexico, and parts of South America. You can find them grown most often in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Thailand, Vietnam, Israel, Taiwan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
Growing Dragon Fruit from Seeds
Dragon fruit can be propagated directly from the seeds in the fruit. You will need to cut the fruit in half, and then scoop out the seeds. The seeds need to be separated from the flesh, so wash the seeds and dry them overnight. Using a germinating tray, plant the seeds in soil, but make sure that they are close to the top. Make sure that the soil is moist, and then cover it with plastic wrap until it germinates, which will take ten to 15 days. Once germination occurs, the young plants can be transplanted into a larger pot.
Growing Dragon Fruit from Cuttings
If you decide to grow a dragon fruit from a cutting, make sure not to take too much from the parent plant because it can stunt its growth and put its well being in danger. Also, make sure to start growing the cutting during the summer months for the best results. Start with a cactus segment that is approximately a foot long. This section can make three to four new plants.
Once you cut the cutting into three to six inch cuttings, apply fungicide to the ends and allow the cuttings to dry. This is not a necessary step, but it helps promote growth, so it is useful. Next, you dry or cure the cutting, which typically takes two to five days. You will know that it is ready when the tips of the cutting turn white.
At this point, you can place the cutting in soil. It needs to be about two inches into the soil, and the cutting needs to be oriented in the same direction that it was on the parent plant. Make sure to water the plant daily, unless the soil is still moist; then skip a day. Eventually, you will start to see roots appear. If the propagation was a success, you will soon see new growth. This typically takes about three to four weeks. Within a few years, this young cutting will be able to produce fruit of its own.
Dragon Fruit Pollination
Moths, bats, and bees pollinate dragon fruit, but there are some varieties that do not self pollinate at all. This is where hand pollination comes into play. You will need to collect the pollen from two different dragon fruit plants, and gently use a cotton swab to paint it onto the stigma of the opposite plant to cross pollinate. This does need to be done at night, so between the hours of eight at night and eight in the morning is best. If you are pollinating different plants, use a new cotton swab for each. It will take about a month for the fruit to grow.
Pests and Diseases
Mealybugs and aphids can be a common problem for a dragon fruit. They are sap sucking pests that basically feed on the sweet sap of the plant. Aphids also attract ants, who will then feed on the plant as well. Mites and thrips can also be a hindrance; they will not kill the plant, but they are not good for the overall health of the plant.
Dragon Spots, which occur on the stems and leaves of a plant, can be the sign that your plant has an infection. Bacteria can cause other issues as well like soft stem rot. This is a disease that affects the ends of the branches. These illnesses are typically transferred from plant to plant, so sterilize your clippers. Sunburn can occur during the hottest time of the year when the sun is sweltering hot, and if too much water is given to the plant, root rot can also occur.
Not many people are aware that eating the fruit from a dragon fruit plant is actually very beneficial to your health. Here are some of the benefits that you can experience when you have your own fruit bearing plant:
- There are high levels of Vitamin C in this fruit, so it will boost your immune system.
- These fruits contain no cholesterol, which means eating them is good for your heart and cardiovascular system.
- The vitamin level in dragon fruit is amazing, which can help you get the vitamins you need to maintain a healthy system.
- Carotene is present in dragon fruit, which means that it has anti-carcinogenic properties.
In addition to all of these health benefits, eating dragon fruit can improve your metabolism and your digestive system. With all of these health benefits, why not take the initiative and have your own dragon fruit plant in your garden. They do take a little bit of care because they are fruit bearing plants, but they are actually simple to maintain. Not to mention that they look exotic in your back yard; making them a point of conversation for your guests.