Native to Mexico, Central, and South America, dragon fruits are several fruits grown from cacti. These fleshy pink fruits belong to the Selenicereus genus and are known by several names, including pitahaya, strawberry pear, Belle of the night, and so on.
Dragon fruit plants are indigenous to warm and tropical climates and are popularly grown indoors and outdoors. This plant’s dense, juicy, and sweet fruit is fantastic for eating raw, slicing up for salads, or blending smoothies or ice cream.
In addition to it, these plants produce the “night-blooming cereus,” one of the world’s most giant flowers, which bloom for one night only and fill the air with a distinctive tropical aroma.
So, you can plant dragon fruit plants to get nutritious fruits and enhance the ornamental score of your garden or backyard.
Facts about Dragon Fruit Plant
Dragon fruit plant is low- maintenance, and even a novice can plant and grow them in the garden or indoors in a pot. But before we jump into the growing and caring guidelines, let us explore some basic facts about this plant.
|Botanical/ Scientific name||Hylocereus undatus|
|Common name||Dragon fruit, pitahaya, strawberry pear, Honolulu queen, moonlight cactus|
|Native to||Mexico, Central, and South America|
|Soil type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Sun exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom time||July to October|
|Hardiness zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Common pests||Mealybugs and aphids|
Varieties of Fruits
Dragon fruit, or pitayas, are incredibly distinctive plants that come in three different varieties.
That being said, we know that when ripe, dragon fruits look pink from the outside. But they will be green until they are ready, regardless of the type you are cultivating. Then, after they ripen, the fruits will be either bright yellow or bright red at that moment.
#1. Hylocereus Undatus
This is the most common type found in gardens with red or pink fruits with white flesh.
#2. Hylocereus Megalanthus
This variation has fruits with a yellow exterior and white interior. However, the specialty lies in its being a bit thornier than the rest of the variations.
#3. Hylocereus Costaricensis
This variation is both red or purple on the shell and in the flesh. Sometimes the flesh can be deep red that looks almost blood-like.
This variation is both red or purple on the shell and in the flesh. Sometimes the flesh can be deep red that looks almost blood-like.
Pretty similar to other tropical fruits, dragon fruits can be eaten raw in the form of salads or made into smoothies, etc. These fruits not only look and taste great but also have some fantastic nutritional values.
Here we have listed some health benefits you can get by consuming dragon fruits. We are sure that this list will encourage you even more to plant dragon fruit cactus in our backyard soon.
- This fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and anti-oxidant like flavonoids, phenolic acid, and betacyanin.
- You can also get a substantial amount of dietary fiber from dragon fruits.
- Dragon fruits help replace the damaged cells in the pancreas that make insulin, helping reduce the level of blood sugar in the body.
- t contains prebiotics that is good for gut health.
- This fruit can boost your iron level as well.
How to grow Dragon Fruits?
We are pretty sure that by now, you have made up your mind to grow this fantastic cactus in your home. So, without any further ado, let’s delve deep into the steps of growing dragon fruit cactus.
It is said that dragon fruit plants are so fertile that you would need only one plant to produce fruit. And if successful, you may have a series of these plants standing in your backyard in no time.
However, before you start planting your plant, make sure to keep the provision of some kind of support, as these are climbing cacti.
Here is a breakdown of the steps you would need to follow to grow your dragon fruit cactus at home.
The foremost thing to remember is that dragon fruits are sub-tropical. It means these plants would need ample sunlight and a warm and humid climate to grow. So, make sure you plant your tree when it is sunny outside and receives a temperature between 20- 30 degrees Centrigrates. However, if it is not favorable outdoors, you can grow it indoors by placing your pot a warm and sunny spot.
We have mentioned before that this cactus needs a sunny and warm spot to grow. So, the location of your plant should be somewhere that receives unbounded sunshine and warmth. In addition to this, since dragon fruit cactus would need support to grow, place it near a pole or high fence.
Preparing the soil plays a crucial role in the growth and nourishment of this plant. Potting soil that is well-draining and rich in organic matters would be most suitable. Since it is a cactus, it won’t tolerate consistent wet roots. So, make sure that the soil is never soggy and water is not clogging. However, this should not allow you to use cactus soil because this plant needs water often and a soul condition that can retain the moisture better.
So by what time can you expect your dragon fruit plant to produce fruits?
Well, you would be happy to learn that this plant does not take infinity to bear fruits, and you can expect fruits in as little as one year. However, this time can vary depending on the mode of planting.
Planing through seeds takes around 3- 5 years to produce a healthy harvest, while trees from cutting take 1- 3 years.
There is another good news- once the plant matures, you can expect four to six fruiting cycles a year.
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Growing Dragon Fruits from Seeds
We have already mentioned that dragon fruits are very fertile, and you can grow them from seeds and cuttings.
Here we will explore the steps involved in growing this cactus from seeds. This process can begin with the store-bought dragon fruit, and you will need very little equipment to start with.
Cut the dragon fruit into halves and scoop out some seeds with the help of a spoon. Next, wash the seeds and let them dry overnight. Don’t worry if you see some flesh clinging with the seeds.
Put some moist soil in a seed-starting tray and plant them in it. Wait for at least two weeks to get the germinated seeds. In the meantime, sparingly water the soil to keep it moist. But never overdo the watering, and check if the soil has dried up before rewatering.
Take the germinated seeds and plant them in the desired location. This is a pretty easy process to plant this cactus. But there is a catch in it- do not expect a healthy harvest of dragon fruit right away. We say so because it takes around five to seven years for a plant grown from seed to mature and produce fruit.
Growing Dragon Fruits from Cuttings
This is a more preferred way of planting dragon fruits because you can get fruits within one to three years of planting. Also, this is a more straightforward process, and you will just need garden shears and a person with a mature dragon fruit tree.
Prepare the soil as we have mentioned in the above section. Next, a friend or a neighbor with a mature tree and to whom you can go, and cut at least a twelve-inch branch using garden shears. Make sure that you do not take too much from the mature tree.
Leave the cut branch to dry out for 5-6 days or until the cut end turns white. Once the end turns white, dig a small portion of soil and plant the stem with the dried part facing downwards. Water the soil consistently to keep the soil sufficiently moist.
Within a month, you can see your stem has sent out roots and started to grow. Pretty easy, right?
Wait for 1- 3 years to get a healthy harvest of delicious dragon fruits.
Growing Dragon Fruits in a Container
Dragon fruits can be planted indoors as well. They look great and enhance the aesthetics of the room where they are placed.
We have broken down the steps to make the indoor potting of this plant easier for you. Just follow them, and voila! You will get your very own in-house dragon fruits cactus.
- Decide the type of pot you want to use for potting. We recommend using a pot that is 15-24 inches in diameter and 10-12 inches in depth. Also, make sure that it has 2 to 3 holes for water drainage.
- Prepare the potting soil by mixing red soil, cocopeat, compost, and sand.
- Next, prepare the pot by placing some rocks at the bottom and covering them with the soil mixture.
- If you are using seeds, follow the steps above mentioned in the “growing dragon fruits from seeds.” Follow it till the germination of the seeds and then transfer the seeds to the pot.
- And if you have stem cutting, allow it to dry completely. Then plant the dried part in the soil.
- Make sure that you water the plant regularly without flooding or clogging the soil.
- Also, place the pot in an area that receives at least 6 hours of daily sunlight and its warmth.
- This cactus is a slow feeder, so make sure to fertilize them once every two months with slow-release nitrogen fertilizers.
- Prune the plant timely for better flowering.
- In-house dragon fruit plants will take around two years to establish themselves and bear fruits.
Planting a dragon fruit cactus may seem like a cakewalk, even for novice gardeners. But you may have to make some extra efforts to care for these plants.
You can kill your plant by excessively watering it. These plants belong to the cactus family but need moist soil like any other sub-tropical fruit plant. So, water your plants only when the soil is partially dry. Make sure that the soil is never sopping wet, or else the roots may rot and die.
We have mentioned above that these plants are slow feeders. So, to give them an extra boost, you can use slow-release nitrogen-based fertilizers occasionally. Fertilizers should be used during the summer growing season and stopped in the winter months.
Pruning can help your dragon fruit cactus to remain in shape. It is recommended to prune only the excessively long, damaged, tangled, or dead stems once or twice a year. Pruning can also save your plant from rotting, fungal disease, and pest infestation.
- Dragon spots
Dragon fruits are highly prone to bacterial infection, which can even rot the stem. So, if you notice any spot on the stem or leaves of your plant, you can clip the part. However, in most cases, your plant will fight the infection off itself.
Since dragon fruit flowers are nocturnal, you may need to hand pollinate. Hand pollination of the plant can be done conveniently. To hand pollinate, look for the female flowers- the one that has opened or bloomed the most. Pick the pollens from the female flowers and sprinkle them on the male flowers- the one which blooms less or is more petite.
Another way to pollinate or propagate this plant is the cut stem. You would need to cut a 10-inch portion from a healthy stem. Using a fungicide, treat the cut-end and plant it in a pot filled with a combination of potting soil and a bit of sand.
Water it and set the pot in a shaded area for at least a week. Your plant will start to grow faster, and in many cases, it may even bear fruits in under a year.
Pest and Diseases
Dragon fruits are not only appealing to humans but also wild animals, insects, and fungi.
A dragon fruit’s main enemies are mealybugs and aphids. They are sap-sucking pests that live off of the plant’s delicious sap. In addition, aphids can attract ants, who then can also feed on the plant.
You may also need to protect your cactus from caterpillars by removing them manually. To prevent wild animals’ attacks, you can fence your garden with high walls or wires.
We have already mentioned the dragon spots above. Apart from that, fruit and stem canker and rot may affect your plant if it does not receive sufficient sunlight, moisture, free air circulation, and warmth.
If you notice any of these issues, it is better to clip that part to prevent further spread.
Once fruits appear on your plant, it will take around four weeks for them to ripen. You will know that your fruit has ripened if you notice a withered appearance of the flaps on the pink outer skin.
Another way to ensure the fruits are ready to harvest is by twisting them. You can easily tear a fruit by twisting it. However, if you find it hard to twist and pull your dragon fruit, it may be a sign that it is not yet ready.
Here, it is also essential to note that an over-ripen fruit will fall from the stem on its own. Hence, timing your harvest is critical.
As far as the storage is concerned, you can refrigerate your dragon fruit for as long as two weeks. The skin of the dragon fruit is not edible, but you can eat the white flesh and seeds inside.
Ans. This cactus is long-lasting and perennial. Also, it can produce fruits until the age of 20- 30 years.
Ans. A matured plant is expected to grow high- up to 40 feet- before the end of its life span.
Ans. If you are planning to grow your cactus from seeds, you will need to germinate them first. If you obtain the seeds from the fruit, you should wash and dry them first before planting them in the tray covered with soil. It will take 10- 15 days for the seeds to germinate.
Ans. If not refrigerated, dragon fruit can last 3-4 days. But if you want to keep it alive beyond this time, you should refrigerate it.
Ans. Dragon fruit plants need moist and well-drained soil. So, on average, your cactus would need 1 inch of water weekly to prevent the soil from drying completely.
So, it was all about growing and caring for your dragon fruit cactus.
It is an ornamental plant that will surely enhance the look of your garden, and you can get delicious fruits from it as well. This cactus does not demand much, and you can just plant it, give it the necessary attention, and relax.
So, find a friend, keep your garden shears ready, and start your dragon fruit planting journey. And if you face any issue, you can keep returning to our blog any time.
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