Dragon fruit is a strange-looking, exotic fruit easily identified by its striking pink skin and green spines. This, combined with the odd tree on which it grows makes it look almost alien. The tasty fruit trees are native to Asia, South America, and Mexico, but can also grow in the southern and desert states and southern California by attentive gardeners. Most people choose to grow dragon fruit in pots so they can be temporarily stored indoors during harsher weather.
There are three types of dragon fruit: Hylocereus megalanthus, Hylocereus undatus, and Hylocereus costaricensis. Regardless of which you choose, all will grow green fruit up until they ripen and turn either pink or red. As a member of the cacti family, dragon fruit does better in desert-like climates. Note that most gardeners avoid megalanthus because of the large thorns that make it harder to maintain.
How deep you plant your dragon fruit depends on if you are growing it from a seed or a seedling. A seed only needs to be covered lightly by soil and should be germinated in a plastic tray in a warm environment. If you are planting a seedling or a cutting, then the roots should be firmly placed in the ground and the stalk should be kept above the soil line. Commercial growers also sell dragon plants that simply need to be transplanted from pots into the ground. In this case, you should plant the dragon fruit at the same depth as the pot.
When tending to dragon fruit it is important to remember that it is a cactus. Dragon fruit plants do not require much water, even in warmer climates. Keep an eye on the soil around your plant and only water it when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Dragon fruit plants should never sit in water. It is always better to err on the side of less water if you are unsure.
As a cactus that is native to deserts and warm environments, dragon fruit plants require sunny and hot locations. While it is okay if the base of the dragon fruit receives a little shade, the tips of the plant need full sun to bloom and produce fruit. If you plant a dragon fruit plant in a shaded area, it may grow, but it is not likely to produce any harvestable fruit. It should also be noted that dragon fruit will not grow in areas that experience temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Optimally, temperatures should stay between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit for the best results.
If you want to grow dragon fruit in a region with significant seasonal changes, pot planting can work if you keep an eye on temperatures and move the plant indoors as soon as the weather dips. Dragon fruit plants need large pots that are at least 15 gallons. The pot also needs to be self-draining; water sitting on the cactus roots can result in rot. The most important thing you can do for dragon fruit in a pot is water it sparsely, as too much water is the number one way to destroy any cactus.
Dragon fruit plants can grow in any soil that drains well, but you will get the most fruit if you choose soil that is slightly acidic. Sandy soil with a pH between six and seven is a great match for the dragon fruit. If sand isn't an option, just look for a soil that drains well and avoid clay types that will trap too much moisture by the roots.
Aphids and mealybugs are the largest threat to dragon fruit because they feed on the sap produced by the plant. The presence of aphids leads to ants, who eat the fruit. Too many pests at once will drain the dragon fruit and eventually kill it. Mites and thrips are also commonly found on dragon fruit plants. While their presence will not kill the plant, it will damage them, making them more susceptible to bacteria and diseases.
Dragon fruit has a very interesting growing and blooming season. Typically, they grow rapidly between July and October. During this time, they will also bloom, but only for a single night. Afterward, fruit immediately starts to form. Properly planted and cared-for dragon fruit plants will continue to provide fruit for two to three decades.
If the ground is fertile, the temperatures are warm, and you water it properly, a dragon fruit tree should grow without much additional attention. However, fertilizing dragon fruit on a regular basis will help it produce healthier and bountiful fruit. Most experts recommend fertilizing once a month during the fruit-producing season. Once the weather cools down, it is best to avoid feeding your plant any special nutrients.
Growers can propagate their dragon fruit plant through cuttings and seeds within the fruit. If you choose to use seeds, slice the fruit in half, and remove them. They should be washed and then thoroughly dried and planted in shallow soil. Keep the soil moist and cover it in plastic wrap to allow the seeds to germinate. Once they do, you can transplant the seedlings into separate pots.
To grow a new plant from a cutting, be sure to take just a small cut so you don’t stunt the parent plant. It is best to cut from a stalk of at least one foot, during the summer months. Slice the stalk into three to six-inch cuttings and place fungicide on the ends to prevent rot. Let the cuttings dry until the tips start to turn white and then place them two inches into the soil.