Learn how to grow dragon fruit, the most strange looking subtropical fruits to grow in your garden. Growing dragon fruit is fairly easy, both outdoors or in the pot.
USDA Zones–9 to 11
Propagation Method — Seeds, vegetative propagation
Difficulty — Moderate
Soil pH — 6 to 7
Other names — Indonesia buah naga, Khmer sror kaa neak, Thai kaeo mangkon, nanettika fruit, Kaktus madu, Long guo, Cereus triangularis, Thanh long, Strawberry Pear, Cactus fruit, Night blooming Cereus, Belle of the Night, Jesus in the Cradle.
Dragon Fruit Information
Dragon fruit, also known as pitahaya or pitaya, belongs to the cactus family. It’s a climbing cactus and needs support for growing. The flowers are unique, and one among the largest in the world with a diameter of 25 cm and is about 30 cm long. One more feature of its bloom is: it only opens for one night and exudes an inviting fruity fragrance.
Learn about the most aromatic flowers in the world here
Dragon fruit is native to Central America and grown throughout the subtropical and tropical parts of China, Israel, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Nicaragua.
Dragon Fruit Propagation
Growing Dragon Fruit from Seeds
- With a knife, divide dragon fruit in half and scoop out the black seeds from the pulp. Wash the pulp off the seeds. Put these seeds on a moist paper towel and leave them overnight.
- Fill the germinating tray or small pot with well-draining but poor starting mix. You can make it yourself by mixing one part peat and one part perlite. Sprinkle the seed on the soil surface and cover that with a thin layer of growing medium that barely covers the seeds.
- Thoroughly moisten the soil using a sprayer and cover the pot with plastic wrap. Keep the soil moist until seeds germinate, which will take around 15 to 30 days.
- After the seeds germinate, uncover the plastic and transplant them to bigger pots when necessary.
Growing Dragon Fruit from Cuttings
To learn how to propagate dragon fruit from cuttings, read this guide.
Dragon fruit propagation from cuttings is easy, but if you’re not growing this plant on a large scale, it’s better to look out for grown-up plants in nurseries or online.
Growing Dragon Fruit in Pots
If you’re living in a cool climate or if you’re an urban gardener and don’t have much space, grow dragon fruit in a pot, it’s fairly easy to grow and adapts itself well in containers. In the pot, you can move and overwinter it to save from frost as pitaya plant can survive a very short duration of freezing temperature (below 28 F is detrimental) and frost.
Choosing a Pot
Select a pot according to the size of the root ball of your plant, one or two sizes bigger. Start the plant in a 5-gallon, 10-12 inches deep container and keep repotting yearly or when the plant seems root-bound. A large 25-30 gallon size pot that is around 20-24 is enough to accommodate a mature dragon fruit tree. Be extra careful while repotting if you’re a novice.
Requirements for Growing Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is a cactus, which means it loves heat and sun. It’s better to plant it in a spot that is dry and sunny. If you live in a hot climate, it’s best to choose a location that remains partially shaded.
Dragon fruit plant is actually a climbing cactus and needs support to climb on, usually, as the plant becomes mature, it forms aerial roots from the branches and finds something to climb. So, it’s best if you’re growing dragonfruit, find something to support your plant. Attach a sturdy trellis or make an arbor.
For growing dragonfruit, opt for well-draining soil that is sandy and loamy. A mixture of sand in garden soil would be appropriate. It is forgiving to poor soil.
Since the dragon fruit is a cactus, water it moderately with care like you do with other succulents. Water only when the soil dries out.
Dragon fruit can’t live in cool temperatures. Exposure to a temperature below 32 F (0 C) is fatal. Similarly, the temperature above 100 F (38 C) causes difficulty. In a cool climate, keep the plant in temperature above 50 F (10 C). In a hot climate, save the plant from the afternoon sun in summers and place it in a partially shaded spot.
Dragon Fruit Care
Fertilize dragon fruit with a balanced fertilizer every month when the plant is actively growing in its growing season. Stop fertilizing in winter if you’re growing it in a cool climate. Side dressing with aged manure or compost can also be done occasionally.
Dragon Fruit Pruning
Pruning is required to train this plant on the trellis, improve air circulation, and prevent fungal infection and maintain its height. Otherwise, it can grow up to 20 feet tall in the optimum growing conditions. Prune it annually by removing all the overgrowing, decaying, overcrowding, and dead stems saving only the healthier and productive ones. Check out this pruning guide to learn more!
Note: Must care to disinfect your pruning tool before the job.
Pests and Diseases
There are particularly no pests that nag the plant seriously. Although keep an eye on aphids, they feed on young shoots and flower buds. Fungal diseases and root and fruit rot are possible if the plant is overwatered or exposed to too much rain.
Dragon Fruit Pollination
Many dragon fruit varieties are self-pollinating, but some require cross-pollination. If your dragon fruit is unable to self-pollinate, you’ll need to grow two or more dragon fruit plants carefully for cross-pollination. As dragon fruit flowers are nocturnal, its pollination depends on moths and bats. For assurance, you can also do this at night.
Also Read: How to Grow Mango Tree
- In usual climates, dragon fruit bears fruit multiple times from summer to late fall and probably winter. It depends on the climate.
- If you’re growing it in a temperate region, it’ll fruit between summer to early and mid-fall.
- Your dragon fruit tree will start to produce flowers and fruits once it is established. This will happen in the first or second year after planting.
- Harvest dragon fruit when its skin color changes from bright green to red or pink. Its fruit is oval to ovate in shape and 10 to 15 cm long and forms 30 to 50 days after flowering.
- The pericarp of dragon fruit is rough and scaly and is usually pink in color. However, there are also red or yellow dragon fruits depending on the variety. The flesh is located in the interior is white and contains black seeds.