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How to Grow Dragon Fruit

By Malia Marin ; Updated September 21, 2017

The mysterious and colorful dragon fruit, also called pitaya, tastes like a cross between strawberry and pear. It is actually the fruit of a vine-like jungle cactus with spectacular night-blooming flowers from Southern Mexico and Central America. Easily propagated from cuttings or seeds, the cactus adapts well to a wide range of soils, and will even tolerate light frost. In colder areas, dragon fruit can be successfully grown in greenhouses, or even in pots. You will need to devote a fair amount of room to this cactus because it has spines and will grow to be quite large.

Propagation from Cuttings

Fold several pieces of newspaper to make a long, flat, 2- to 3-inch-wide collar. Wear gloves and wrap the collar around a healthy branch so that you can grasp the cactus without getting stuck by the spines.

Make a diagonal cut with the sharp knife to remove an entire stem segment, or cut off 6 to 12 inches from an end tip.

Allow the cutting to dry in shady, covered place for five to seven days.

Bury the bottom third of the cutting in a sturdy 3-gallon pot filled three-quarters full with potting mix. Use a wooden stake to secure larger cuttings. Place in filtered sun.

Water well at planting, and then keep soil barely moist until new growth appears.

Care

Plant your rooted dragon fruit in the ground, in rich, well-drained soil in light shade. You can also continue to grow the cactus in a pot. In optimal conditions, your cutting grown plants will begin to bear in as little as two years.

Water well twice a week to keep soil evenly moist.

Allow the cactus to ramble over a low wall, or build a sturdy trellis for support because the plant must weigh about 10 pounds before it will bear fruit. Secure new growth onto the trellis with strong cotton twine.

Improve fruit set by hand-pollinating the flowers. Use a soft watercolor paintbrush to collect pollen from the anthers, deep in the inner flower. Then, transfer the pollen to the pronounced, star-shaped stigma, which protrudes beyond the petals.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Work gloves
  • Newspaper
  • 3-gallon pot
  • Potting mix
  • Sharp knife
  • Wooden stake
  • Trellis
  • Strong cotton twine
  • Watercolor paintbrush

Tips

  • Feed mature plants in early summer with low nitrogen fertilizer for optimal harvest.
  • You can harvest fruit as early as 30 days after fruit set, but if you leave it on the plant for 50 days it will be much sweeter.
  • Use care when moving plants from shade into brighter sun because they will sunburn easily.
  • You can also start plants from the tiny black seeds of fresh or dried dragon fruit.

About the Author

 

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.