Learn how to grow dragon fruit, one of the most peculiar looking fruits in the world! Can be grown in USDA zones 9 through 11, and with a soil pH of 6 to 7.
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya is an exotic, tropical fruit you’ve most likely seen before in stores. The taste is similar to that of a kiwi, but a lot less subtle. The dragon fruit actually belongs to the cactus family and they have some of the biggest, most impressive flowers in the world. Dragon fruit is native to Central America and most often grown in tropical and sub tropical climates.
If you’ve never heard of dragon fruit, no worries – it actually has a slew of other names in goes by: 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.
How to Grow Dragon Fruit in Your Garden
Because dragon fruit is part of the cactus family, it will love heat and sun. Choose a spot that’s as dry and as sunny as can be. In hot climates, such as tropical or subtropical climates, place your dragon fruit plant in a semi-shaded area.
Because it’s a climbing cactus, it will need lots of support such as a fence, trellis, or climbing pole.
Choose well draining soil that is sandy and loamy. You can also make your own soil by mixing in half perlite and half peat, or just add a little bit of sand into your potting soil. The good news is that dragon fruit is very tolerant of poor soil, and even cactus oil will work well.
Water your dragon fruit as you would a cactus or succulent. This means moderate watering – it’s always best to give your dragon fruit less water than more water. Learn more about watering succulents.
If possible, try not to expose your dragon fruit plant to temperatures below 32F (0C), or temperatures above 100F (38C) – both of these extremes can be fatal to your plant.
Dragon fruit is a climbing cactus and will need support to climb. Therefore, it order to grow dragon fruit, you’ll need to plant it near a fence, build a trellis, or a climbing pole. In either case, it’s extremely important for your dragon fruit plant to be able to support itself.
Because it’s a sub tropical plant, dragon fruit loves warm weather and partial sun. If you live in a colder climate, you can still grow dragon fruit, but make sure you do so in pots, and never put it outside, especially if below 28F.
The flowers of the dragon fruit are some of the most unique and strange looking flowers in the world, not to mention some of the biggest! They can reach a diameter of up to 25cm and are about 30cm in length. The flowers themselves only open up for one night and give off a beautiful exotic and fruity scent.
Growing Dragon Fruit From Seed:
- Purchase a dragon fruit and cut it in half. Scoop out the black seeds and wash them off.
- Place the seeds on a moist paper towel and leave them overnight to dry.
- Fill a small germination tray or a small pot with well draining soil. You can also make your own dragon fruit soil by mixing one part peat with one part perlite. Alternatively, you can also use cactus soil.
- Sprinkle the seeds onto the surface of the soil and cover with a thin layer of the growing medium, barely covering the seeds.
- Moisten the soil with a spray bottle and cover with plastic wrap to keep moisture.
- The seed should germinate within 15-30 days. During this time, keep the soil moist.
- After they’ve germinated, remove the plastic wrap, and transplant to a bigger pot.
Growing & Managing Dragon Fruit in Pots:
- Dragon fruit grows well in pots, especially if you live in a cooler climate or don’t have a lot of growing space.
- Fruit growing in pots is fairly easy to care for, and dragon fruit plants are no exception.
- Growing dragon fruit in pots is easy because you can move the pot indoors once the weather cools and you can also control the amount of sun it receives.
- Remember that the dragon fruit plant or pitaya plant can only survive temperatures that are above 28F (-2C).
- Choose a pot that’s about once or two times bigger than the root ball of the dragon fruit. This will usually be a 5 gallon pot that’s 10-12 inches in depth. You will need to repot the plant every year as it grows.
- A mature dragon fruit tree will fit in a 25-30 gallon size pot.
How to Care for Dragon Fruit
How to Fertilize Dragon Fruit Plants:
During its growing season, fertilize once a month with a balanced fertilizer. If growing in a cooler climate, stop fertilizing in the winter. Side dress with aged manure or compost to keep moisture in.
How to Prune Dragon Fruit Plants:
You should prune dragon fruit plants on a regular basis to control size and improve air circulation. This will also help prevent fungal infections and diseases. If left to its own devices, the tree can grow up to 20 feet in height. Prune the tree annually by removing any dead stems as well as overgrowing stems.
Dragon Fruit Diseases and Pests:
Normally, there are no real pests or diseases that can seriously affect the dragon fruit, but do watch out for aphids. Aphids will usually be found feeding on young buds and shoots. Also, be careful when watering the dragon fruit plant, as over-watering can cause root rot as well as fruit rot.
How to Pollinate Dragon Fruit:
Most dragon fruit varieties are self pollinating, but there are a few varieties which do require cross-pollination. If that is the case, you’ll need to grow two or more plants close to one another so they can cross-pollinate. Cross-pollination will usually occur at night since pollination depends on moths and bats. Make sure the soil is well draining, and always moist.
Harvesting Dragon Fruit:
- You can harvest dragon fruit once its skin color changes from bright green to red or pink.
- The fruit should be oval in shape and about 10-15 cm long.
- Fruits should be ready to harvest 30-50 days after flowering.
- In a regular growing climate, dragon fruit will grow from summer to late autumn, and even into winter.
- In temperate regions, you’ll be able to harvest dragon fruit between summer and early to mid autumn.
- The dragon fruit plant will start flowering in its first or second year after planting.
Please note that growing dragon fruit can take several years to bear fruit, but in the meantime, you’ll have a stunning flowering cactus!
So now that you know how to grow dragon fruit, let’s get the planting!