How to Plant Dragon Fruit

Fruits and Berries
Dragon Fruit Plant

Dragon fruit (Pitahaya) is a wonderful plant that is known for its gorgeous flowers and tasty fruit with fire-like appearance. The cactus, Hylocereus is a great plant you can grow in your garden and enjoy this tasty fruit every summer. While they require some care, Dragon fruit plants can be grown in a garden or in a home, as a potted plant. If you give them some care to thrive, you can cultivate them in your garden without many issues.

It is important to know that you can grow your Dragon fruit either from cuttings or directly from seeds. Both methods give great results, and the main difference is time. In case you choose to grow your Dragon fruit from seeds, you will have to wait about 2 years to get fruit. On the other hand, if you choose to grow your cactus from cuttings, it will take much shorter time. However, keep in mind that this time depends on how large your cutting is. But this doesn't matter that growing Dragon fruit from seed is more difficult. It simply takes more time. Finally, keep in mind that there are professional growers who sell Dragon Fruit plants that are ready to be transplanted into your garden. This might be the quickest option, but you need to be careful when taking the plant out of the pot, so you don't damage the seedlings.

Here are the steps for planting Dragon fruit so you can enjoy these healthy fruits:

Decide Where to Plant Dragon Fruit

The first thing you need to decide is where you wish to grow your Dragon fruit. While it is often grown in gardens, keep in mind that it can thrive as a potted plant. In case you opt for a container, make sure that the pot is about 15 to 24 inches in diameter and at least 10 inches deep. It also needs to be fitted with a climbing pole: Dragon fruit is a climbing plant and it needs support. Also, keep in mind that it will probably grow too big for this initial pot and you will need to transplant it to a new container at some point.

In case you wish to grow your Dragon fruit outdoors, make sure that your area is warm enough. Temperatures should not go beyond 40 degrees F, and this plant needs 65 to 80 degrees F to thrive. Dragon fruit can tolerate a bit of light frost, but that's all. In case you live in an area with cold weather, make sure to grow it as a potted plant and bring it inside when it gets cold.

If you decide to grow your Dragon fruit outdoors, make sure to choose a spot that has sun. This is also true if you wish to keep your potted plant outdoors. Dragon fruit doesn't like shade. The base of the plant can be in the shade, but make sure that the tips of the plant are in the sun. This is important, because your Dragon fruit won't bloom otherwise, and you can't enjoy the fruit unless there are blooms first.

Preparing Soil

It is best to use sandy cactus soil for your Dragon fruit. Keep in mind that this plant is a cactus. It needs well-drained soil. Mucky, wet soil is the worst option. Make sure to plant your Dragon fruit in an area of your garden where water doesn't pool. If your area gets plenty of rainfall, plant your Dragon fruit on a mound or a hill, so the rain can drain easily. Dragon fruit is a light feeder and it doesn't need too many nutrients, son you can make them thrive with just a bit of care.

If you wish to plant your Dragon fruit in a container, make sure that it has big enough drainage holes on the bottom. It is best to use cactus soil to fill the container, but if it's not available, you can make your own. To create a good cactus soil mix, combine sand, potting soil and compost. Make sure to fill it up a few inches away from the brim of the container.

Planting Dragon Fruit

If you wish to plant from cuttings, make sure to let them dry before you plant. If you took a fresh cutting, let it dry in a cool, shady spot for about a week. This is important for letting the wound heal. This will help prevent infections once the cutting is planted.

Once a cutting is ready, plant it into the soil. Make sure to plant in full sun. The leaves should always be exposed to bright sun to ensure best results. As it grows, monitor it to ensure it gets adequate amounts of sunshine. If you wish to use cuttings you ordered from a farm, make sure to take cuttings carefully out of the box. Replant the cutting flush with the new soil line.

In case you choose to start from seeds, simply sprinkle a few into each of the planting containers. Cover lightly with soil. You will have to wait and see which ones will take. You should be able to see sprouts in a few weeks. This is when you can transplant them into your garden. Make sure they are not planted too close to each other.

Before planting, it is best to sprinkle a bit of a slow time fertilizer into the lower level of the soil. This is true for both cuttings and when transplanting new plants you started from seed. Fertilizer can help them grow faster.

Taking Care of Dragon Fruit

Keep in mind that Dragon fruit needs a bit of care, but you don't have to dedicate a lot of time to it. For example, you should fertilize only occasionally, about once per two months. Even if you fertilize, remember that even a big cutting will take about 4 months to establish strong root system. Also, keep in mind that too much fertilizer can be dangerous for the plant and it can even kill it. To achieve the best results, give your plant a bit of low-nitrogen, slow-time release cactus fertilizer. You may think fertilizing more will speed up the growth, but it will not help and it may even cause harm to your plant.

You should water your Dragon fruit plant like any other tropical cactus. They don't need much water, so make sure to do the watering only when the soil is dry. In case the plant is large enough to climb the pole, keep the pole moist. The best way to go is to use a dripper. However, make sure not to over-water your Dragon fruit plant. This is the most common problem with these plants. Overwatering can easily kill a plant, by making its roots sit in water and rot. If you grow your Dragon fruit as a potted plant, be mindful of the drainage holes. If the pot doesn't have them, the plant will require even less of water.

Some plants hit a growing spurt in a few years, and during this time, they can grow a foot in a week. When the plant starts developing, use a climbing pole to stabilize the plant. This will help it reach its full height without breaking or weighting itself down.

Make sure to prune your plant from time to time. Keep in mind that Dragon fruit plants can get very big. Some can even grow as high as 20 feet. Once they reach this height, start pruning by cutting some of the branches off. This can be beneficial for the plant, because less weight can make it stronger. The plant will be able to concentrate the nutrients, which will encourage blooming and the production of fruit. Keep in mind that you can repot the cut branches and get a new plant, or you can give these cuttings away as a gift.

Harvesting Dragon Fruit Plant

You should monitor your plant growing. Keep in mind that it may take a few years for it to start producing fruit. You will notice a bloom growing over the course of several weeks. Keep in mind that it will bloom for only one night in a year, so you might miss when it happens. Many Dragon fruits are self-pollinating, but in case it's not, you can try hand-pollination. Once fruit starts to develop you will notice the flower withering. The base of the bloom will begin to swell as it starts developing into a fruit.

The best time to pick the fruit is in the latter half of the year. You can expect your plant to give fruit in the summer, and it will be ripe in late summer or fall. However, keep in mind that Dragon fruit can give fruit almost any time of the year, as long as it receives enough warmth and water. You can tell that the fruit is ripe once it loses its green color and becomes red or yellow, which depend son variety. Another way to tell is that the skin becomes a bit soft when touched, although it should not be mushy.

Enjoy the Fruit

After waiting for so much, you can finally enjoy the fruit of your plant. There are many different ways ton get Dragon fruit flesh. For example, you can cut the fruit into quarters and tear of the rind to eat the flesh with a spoon. Dragon fruit is sweet and its texture is like a bit crunchier kiwi fruit.

Once your Dragon fruit is in full production, you can expect 4 to 6 fruit-bearing cycles in the year. The first year will not be so plentiful, but they do get to full production in a few years. A well-established Dragon fruit plant can give fruit for about 20 to 30 years.

Photo credit: PINKE

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