Let him, who has learned how to grow a dragon fruit cast the first stone. Anyone? Well, in PlantIn, we have covered almost all the cultivation principles and techniques of most garden crops, but not dragon fruits! They are exotic fruits originating from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America but found their way to other tropical and subtropical continents. Packed with antioxidants, pitaya is a low-calorie and nutrient-rich fruit and is perfect for consuming raw or as a refreshing drink.
To find out more about this exotic cactus fruit, we invite you to continue reading our simplified guide on how to grow dragonfruit at home! At the end of the article, you should be able to answer the questions "What does a dragon fruit plant look like" and "How to grow dragon fruit from seeds"!
Is Dragon Fruit Hard to Grow?
We've been asked numerous times how the dragon fruit grows and if it is hard to cultivate. The truth is it is simpler than it seems. Understanding its growth pattern from seedling to ripening will help you become a more versatile and smart grower, capable of dealing with dragon fruit growing problems along the way! Of course, this will not happen overnight. So take time and walk at your own pace, guided by our simplified yet informative article!
Can We Grow Dragon Fruit at Home?
You can absolutely grow dragon fruit in the four corners of your backyard! Most home growers rely on the garden fence or wall to let their plant cling on to, saving resources and time for trellising and making the fruit picking quite an easy job.
Dragon Fruit Plant Growth Stages
Different plant growth stages of dragon fruit are principally divided into various milestones, further split into a standardized category, but for a simplified version, we are going to tackle the basics:
- Vegetative growth: takes the longest, from seedling to the physiological maturation of stems, just before it sets buds for flowering.
- Reproductive development: can be further split into major phenological events, but is mainly the flowering to pollination.
- Fruit maturation: when the fruit sets in and begins to increase in size, ready for harvesting.
How Does Dragon Fruit Grow?
As pitaya is a cactus species, it grows like one but has different growing requirements and techniques, such as the following:
This technique will test your patience from the seed extraction to the sowing and waiting time until it bears its first fruit. Usually, if you grow dragon fruit from seed, it will take about 5 years before it can reach its reproductive stage, ready for flower differentiation and fruiting.
Growing dragon fruit from cutting is a more rapid way to pick your first harvest. This is also a practical method for hobbyists to grow in their garden if they already have the mother plant, as it is a relatively uncomplicated task. How do you grow dragon fruit from cuttings? Glad you've asked, as we have elaborated its process in a separate heading below!
Considered as the ready-to-plant versions of dragon fruits, potted stem cuttings are often sold in nurseries that are ready to be planted in your backyard! With transplants, your dragon fruits are likely going to establish rather than painfully watching your cuttings die in poor rooting.
From Tissue Culture
This is a more modern approach if you are getting more serious about growing dragonfruit as a business. A meristematic tissue capable of developing into an entire stem is harvested from the main plant and propagated in a test tube. The result: thousands of true-to-type plantlets that can be grown on your plantation!
Types of Placements
Planting dragon fruit in pots is a viable method if space is a constraint. Simply pick a perforated container and a medium designed for cactus and succulents–and you are ready to grow your very first dragon fruit!
In the Ground
If you live in the tropics of arid and semi-arid regions where the soil is typically well-draining, then it absolutely meets the growing requirements for pitaya! Like its close desert cousins, it also likes dry soils. The overly wet ground can lead to rotting, which we don't want to happen.
What Is the Best Way to Grow Dragon Fruit Plants? Why?
The best method to grow dragon fruit depends on your purpose. For example, if you are a beginner and aim to harvest your first fruits in a short period, then plant your first fruiting cactus using cutting or potted transplants. This way, it can begin to flush its first blooms in less than 2 years with proper care. Meanwhile, if you find joy and excitement in experiencing the extraction, sowing, and growing dragon fruit from seed, then it might be more suitable for you.
Ideal Conditions for Dragon Fruit Growing
Typing "dragon fruit how to grow" in your Google search engine will yield lengthy recommendations. Fortunately, to successfully grow this tropical plant, you simply need to consider the following rules:
- Light: Solar energy catalyzes the chemical reaction within plant cells to produce sugars. For this reason, it is crucial to situate your dragon fruit cuttings in a sunny location or a partly shaded spot to efficiently manufacture the carbohydrates needed to kick start its development.
- Temperature: Because dragon fruit hails from the tropical Central American forests, it prefers to be in a warm area between 65-80°F (18-30°C). If you live in a temperate climate, where can you grow dragon fruit then? The best place is in a greenhouse or solarium.
- Water: Dragon fruits, despite being tropical plants, are not that water-demanding greenies. This makes them a potential fruit crop in arid and semi-arid climates where water is a huge constraint. With little or no rain, it can be watered twice a week at most. Overwatering can lead to rotting and splitting of its scaled berries.
- Soil: If you are unsure where to grow your dragon fruit seedling, a succulent or cactus medium mixed with compost is the safest option, for it provides the ideal drainage and soil pH or acidity needed for its full potential growth. If you plan to cultivate it outdoors, consider digging small trenches in the perimeter to drain excess moisture in the soil.
How to Grow Dragon Fruits from Seed Step-by-step
In this section, you will learn the tricks and the ways how to germinate dragon fruits seeds from fruit to your table:
Seed Extraction and Preparation
Choose the big ripe fruits to have more chances of a higher germination rate. Next, scoop the flesh and smash them over a sieve to separate the seeds from the pulp. The juicy fruit contents will pass through while the seeds and some fibers remain. Wash them with running water until clean enough for the next step.
If you struggle on how to grow dragon fruit from seeds, you are not alone! Several natural and foreign elements may influence seed germination, but overall, it is a pretty straightforward job. After washing, let them dry on paper towels for 12 hours or so. This will activate its embryo to sprout.
After drying, sprinkle them over a moist, organic-rich medium. Please also use a planter with drainage holes. It does not matter whether it is covered with soil or not as long as it has good contact with the dirt. Cover it with plastic with a few holes to increase humidity, and check it daily. Mosten the young cactus seedlings using a hand spray.
Maintenance and Staking
As seeds germinate, thin the sickly and weak ones. You can transfer them to individual pots or outdoors near a wall or a tree. One frequent question we get is does dragon fruit grow on trees. Absolutely! In this manner, you can save time installing training poles. But be sure to prune the trees so that they won't get shaded that much.
Pruning and Training
For the first 1-2 years, pruning might be unnecessary. We want young plants to build solid vertical stems and thrive. As it reaches about 3-6 ft (1-2 m) in length, allow its branches to sag sideways and discourage any upright growth. You can support the drooping branches by securing a hoop or old tire in the main pillar or trunk. This way, the bent branches will not snap due to their weight.
Because it is a fruiting crop, it demands lots of nutrients. The first year of growth may be optional but beneficial for the plant. Your first choice of fertilizer should be organic such as cow manure, about 9 pounds (4 kg) per plant, applied on 3-4 occasions. If you notice it begins to flower, switch to a higher potassium and phosphorus ratio, such as 8-3-9, although other complete fertilizers (13-13-13) will also work the same wonders. Apply 1-2 pounds (0.5-1kg) per plant.
This is an optional step, but it helps improve soil drainage, and disease incidence, conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the soil network healthy and strong. Line chip wood bark over the root zone but leave a few inches (5 cm) of uncovered surface near the base.
Pests and Diseases
Learning how to plant dragon fruit seeds also means dealing with post-planting operations. The pests and diseases may vary depending on the local fauna. The most common are bugs, aphids, and thrips, but they can be easily managed with organic pesticides such as neem oil, manual picking, or by blasting them with pressurized water. To control rots, maintain moderate irrigation and avoid overhead sprinklers.
Bats and moths are the natural pollinators when your dragon fruit is in bloom. Because of this constraint, you must hand-pollinate female flowers 2 hours after dusk. Using a soft-bristled paintbrush, rub the pollen on the stigma, and voila, you have just fertilized your dragon fruit! If you have a self-sterile variety, you will need to have a donor from another cultivar. Contrastingly, self-compatible plants can be pollinated by their own pollen.
Wait until the fruits ripen. The calendar method is one of the most reliable methods–just count 30-50 days from the fruit bud setting. Alternatively, you can harvest it with the plant's visual cues. Pick it when the fruit turns pink or yellow, and its scale-like appendages are still green.
After mastering how to grow dragon fruit, you are all set for propagation! You can opt for the seed or cutting method. As mentioned, if you want a quicker method, choose the stem cuttings because they are already vegetatively mature, making the flowering burst in just a few years' time. To learn more about stem propagation, continue scrolling to the next heading.
How to Grow Dragon Fruit from Cuttings?
If you want to reap your first harvest as soon as possible, learn how to plant dragon fruit from cuttings with the following steps:
Choose the Healthy Stems
Select the mature pitaya stems, which appear dark green and rigid. Cut about 10-18 inches (25-45 cm) long segments, but if you happen to have a longer stem, it would be better.
Allow the Wound to Heal
Let the cut form callus or scar-like tissue in about 7-14 days, preferably in a cool, dry place, before planting. Some gardeners sprinkle sulfur powder or ground cinnamon to speed up the process.
Plant in a Well-draining Mix
As previously described, use coarse-textured soil to facilitate excess water to flow out with gravity. Of course, good soil is also paired with a planter with drainage holes!
Place in an Ideal Spot
Your newly planted cuttings will root rapidly when placed under indirect sunlight, such as under a porch or a tree. This is because direct sun may cause heat stress that can delay the process.
Once new buds appear, you can start transplanting them to a bigger pot or to the ground so that they can further develop and reach their full potential.
Observe maintenance routines - Whether you grow dragon fruit from a seed or cuttings, fertilization, watering, pruning, and other management routines do not differ.
How Long Does It Take to Grow Dragon Fruit?
Seeds usually take about 5 years to reach their vegetative maturity, ready to bear fruits. On the other hand, if you plant cuttings, you may save 3-4 years as it can already flower and produce fruits after 1-2 years!
Harvesting - How to Get Dragon Plants to Fruit?
To stimulate flowering and fruit set in your 5-year-old dragon fruit, usually, a few plant stems are incised typically during the late winter season, about 3 in (7 cm) from the tips. Also called "tipping," it is primarily done to induce light stress which will elicit blooming. Once it blooms, hand-pollinate the flowers at night, especially if you live outside Central and South America, where animal pollinators are absent. To harvest, you can use secateurs or simply twist the fruit.
Where Does Dragon Fruit Grow Well?
Dragon fruit performs well in a sunny, unshaded backyard or balcony. Since it is a tropical plant, it prefers temperature ranges between 65-80°F (18-30°C). Interestingly, this plant can still tolerate above-freezing (32°F/°2C) if grown in subtropical zones.
How to Germinate Dragon Fruit Seeds?
After collecting the seeds from the flesh, place them in a moist paper towel for twelve hours. Plant in fresh soil, barely covering it with dirt, cover it with perforated plastic, and keep it moist by daily misting.
Does Dragon Fruit Grow on Trees?
As dragon fruits are innately epiphytic like orchids, they grow clinging to trees. In fact, in the wild, they have this habit. However, regularly and its triangular stems and the tree's branches so that it can reach its potential productivity.
What Does a Dragon Fruit Plant Look Like?
Dragon fruits share almost the same physical characteristics as the typical cactus. Its pink or yellow fruits have unusually elongated flaps, resembling the mythical dragon's scales. Inside, you will see its juicy pink or white flesh with tiny black seeds.