How to Grow Your Own Dragon Fruit
Certainly, there are tastier fruits, but none more gorgeous. Some preliminary research told me that dragon fruit grows on cacti, sort of a cactus tree. Need to know more? Looking at your fruit bowl askance? Me too, let’s go.
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Growing your own dragon fruit
In December 2007, I had the bright idea to grow my own dragon fruit. The plants don’t bear fruit for seven years.
“It’s ok,” I told Mother Nature.
Fast-forward way too many years, and here’s what I’ve learned.
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Growing dragon fruit in hot and cold climates
1. In a hot, humid, sunny climate (like Thailand)…
Here’s some not-at-all-surprising news: the dragon fruit seeds I planted on Koh Samui have grown about 1,000 times faster than those I tried to grow in “cold country with actual winter”. As a cactus of sorts, they’ll thrive on neglect as well. If you have warmth, humidity and sunshine outside (or anything approximating it inside), you’ll have great success.
2. Growing dragon fruit in a cold climate…
I also planted some seeds in a pot at home, too (about a million – you get a lot in a dragon fruit). My results, all these years later? It turns out I don’t live in a perpetually sunny, humid, tropical oasis.
While most of the seeds germinated right away, I ruthlessly culled the weak and, today, have three or four 10-inch long “cactus sticks”. They seem happy enough with my total neglect, though it seems unlikely they’ll ever fruit. In this environment, they’re just a curious-looking houseplant but it’s definitely been worth the experiment.
Sound good? Want to try growing your own dragon fruit? If I can do it, it’s definitely a novice gardening activity. Here’s how to grow your very own (or, get everything from this post in a free 12-page mini-guide).
How to grow your own dragon fruit?
1. Get a major head-start
To get a major head-start, begin with a dragon fruit plant. After twelve-plus years with my dragon fruit experiment (growing from seed with minimal sunlight), I basically have an extended dragon fruit cutting – do yourself a favour and skip the early stuff. (If you want to exactly replicate my methods, you would steal a piece of dragon fruit from a fruit plate at a hotel brunch and use those seeds. It’s free, but excruciatingly slow).
Otherwise, I recommend that you skip ahead and start with a cutting or a small plant. If you’re in “not tropical” conditions like me, this might save you a few years of wishful thinking.
2. Set it up for success
More than anything – your dragon fruit plant wants the sunshine its cactus-y heart deserves. If you can’t provide that at home, supplement with some fake sunshine to increase your success. I never provided this and, as such, we do not have a warm and loving relationship. It’s prickly =)
As a cactus, your dragon fruit wants really good drainage. It prefers mildly acidic soil, into which I chuck some earthworm castings (ph neutral) when I’m feeling generous.
More tips for success: In a warm-ish climate, with decent sunshine (real or fake) and regular doses of worm castings or other nutrients, you should have good success with growing dragon fruit in a container – give it good drainage as well. My results (poor) involved none of the above. Do as I say, not as I did!
3. Water sparingly!
I like to play God with my dragon fruit babies – days/weeks/months of neglect and total drought and then, one day, a tropical storm from a vengeful watering can. If you’ve set your dragon fruit up in a cactus pot with good drainage, it won’t suffer from an occasional watering – but don’t water too often.
(How do I know this? When your dragon fruit babies turn into rotten brown squoosh … you’ve Helicopter Parented them to death).
1 – Dragon Fruit Cuttings – Get a massive headstart and purchase a dragonfruit cutting, rather than starting from seeds. Cactus sellers on Amazon offer a huge variety of both sizes and species – choose from white, purple, red and yellow dragonfruit including rare varieties.
2 – LED Grow Light – Supplement your sunshine and bring the tropics home (especially in winter months).
3 – Dragon Fruit Art – Remind yourself where you’re headed with this venture; add some dragon fruit art.
4 – Worm Factory – Add another science project to your dragon fruit attempts. Dragon fruit plants are heavy feeders and will appreciate all the worm castings they can get.
5 – Elephant Watering Can – Water sparingly, but do so with style.
6 – Dragon Fruit Powder – Pretend it’s the future, and start using dragonfruit in your smoothies today.
7 – Moisture Meter – Over-watering is perhaps the quickest way to kill your dragonfruit. I use this moisture meter to keep all my houseplants happy; highly recommended.
8 – Dragon Fruit Watercolour Pillow – Add to the obsession, with a dragon fruit pillow, available with indoor or outdoor materials in a variety of sizes.
9 – Red Dragon Fruit Super Snacks – Fuel your gardening efforts with dragon fruit chips. Add them to granola, baking or eat them straight from the bag.
10 – Cactus Soil Mix – Make sure your dragon fruit babies have superb drainage or they’ll turn into rotten mush. A cactus and succulent soil mix is ideal.
11 – Easy-Draining Plastic Planters – I struggled to find indoor planters that were (A) attractive and (B) had good drainage. These pots pass both tests.
12 – Growing Tasty Tropical Plants – Start with growing dragon fruit, then use this book to add an entire farm: passion fruit, guava, vanilla beans and more.
13 – Dragon Fruit Face Mask – What’s a garden centre in 2020 without a fruity face mask?
14 – Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics – Does your heart live in the tropics but your body (and plants) definitely don’t? This book will teach you how to push the limits of your growing zone.
15 – Dragon Fruit Print – Available as a coffee mug, a beach towel and more!
16 – Earth Worm Castings – While your worm factory gets going, it’s easy to start with a bag of worm castings. Totally organic.
Then what happens?
Or, depending on your environment, you might one day end up with a fruiting dragon fruit – or certainly a flowering one. With such runaway success, you’ll quickly outgrow the houseplant phase and will move into larger containers and a dragon fruit that requires trellises or structural support. Otherwise – you might find yourself staring at a 6″ cactus-runt in twelve years’ time, slightly bemused at your personal science projects.
Best of luck in growing dragon fruit; patience not included, but if you like bizarre side projects, growing dragon fruit is a good one (as is making dragon fruit kombucha and growing your own mangoes). Enjoy!
How to grow your own dragon fruit? Learn how to grow dragon fruit from seed in a hot, humid climate – or – a cold climate. Plus get tips for cactus success!
How to grow dragon fruit at home
While dragon fruit may look a little strange, it tastes great in tropical fruit salads, is brimming with wonderful nutrients and is easy to grow in most regions of Australia – provided you plant it in a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Dragon fruit plants – also known by the names pitaya, strawberry pear, cactus fruit, Kaktus madu, Night-blooming cereus and Belle of the night – are a type of cactus indigenous to South America. Here’s everything you need to know about growing dragon fruit at home.
What is dragon fruit?
Once you get past the unusual appearance of dragon fruit, you’ll find that it’s actually pretty similar to other tropical fruits. In fact, if you know how to eat a kiwi fruit, you know how to eat dragon fruit.
Dragon fruit is a white-fleshed fruit with tiny black seeds and vibrant pink skin. Each fruit weighs between 150-600g and is commonly used in fruit salads, smoothies and salads. It has little flavour and its texture closely resembles that of kiwi fruit. To prepare all you to do is to cut the fruit in half and then scoop out the flesh.
There are a couple of different types of dragon fruit the most common varieties are:
- Hylocereus undatus: white flesh with pink/red skin (most popular in Australia)
- Hylocereus Megalanthus: white flesh with yellow skin
- Hylocereus costaricensis: purple/red flesh and pink/red skin
Climate & Aspect
As mentioned above, dragon fruit is native to South America, but you’ll also found it grown in parts of Indonesia, Taiwan, Southern California and most recently Australia. Dragon fruit grows on cactus plants which love warm, humid climates and needs very little water. They are subtropical plants which need at least six hours of sunlight per day. They will also grow well in a warm and sunny spot indoors.
How to grow dragon fruit from seed
To grow dragon fruit from seeds you need very little equipment but a lot of time. Grab an organic dragon fruit from your local supermarket and scoop out the seeds.
Wash the seeds and dry them overnight before planting them in a seed-starting tray with moist soil. T he seeds should germinate within two weeks.
Water seedlings sparingly and check that the soil has completely dried out before watering again.
Don’t expect to have a healthy harvest of dragon fruit right away – it can take anywhere from five to seven years for a plant grown from seed to mature and produce fruit. This is why many dragon fruit growers like to grow dragon fruit from a cutting (which will take just one to three years to fruit).
How to plant dragon fruit cuttings
Propagating a dragon fruit tree from a cutting is relatively easy, all you need to do is find a friend with a tree and you’re good to go. Snip off a 30cm section of a dragon fruit tree and leave it to dry out for 5-6 days or until the cut end turns white.
Once it has dried out simply place cut side down into sandy cacti soil and water monthly. Your plant will send out roots and make itself at home within a month and then continue to grow. Easy peasy!
You’ll need to wait between one and three years for fruit using this method.
Growing dragon fruit in pots
Growing dragon fruit in pots is a great idea, especially for those who live in cooler parts of Australia, as you can move your plant to a warmer position whenever necessary. In the right conditions, dragon fruit plants grow can grow quite tall and will put down aerial roots. When choosing a pot, look for one that is about 250mm deep and 600mm wide. Fill it with good quality cacti potting soil that is a bit sandy and slightly acidic.
Dragon fruit plants are climbers so support them with a stake, trellis or something else to climb on.
Growing dragon fruit outdoors
Growing dragon fruit outdoors in your garden is a great way to add colour and personality to your garden. To prepare, remove weeds in the area as well as any rocks and make sure that the soil is slightly sandy and acidic. You can always add a bit of extra potting mix to the bed to help make it cacti-proof.
As your dragon fruit plant grows invest in a trellis or plant it near a fence something that it can climb on, just be wary they are heavy plants so it needs to be able to support the dragon fruit plants weight when it is bearing fruit too.
How to harvest dragon fruit
You’ll know that fruit is on its way when the plant begins to flower. Once fruit starts to appear, it will take around four weeks to ripen. You’ll know the fruit is ripe when the skin turns a vibrant shade of pink. Use a pair of sharp secateurs to cut the fruit off and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
If you’re growing an uncommon variety like H. megalanthus , the fruit’s skin will turn yellow when ripe.
Like strawberries, Pitaya doesn’t continue to ripen after harvest so make sure that it has fully ripened before picking. The fruit can last for around two weeks as long as you keep it inside a cold container with a temperature between 7 – 10 °C.
Caring for dragon fruit plants
Generally speaking, dragon fruit plants are not prone to pests, but when their prized fruit starts to appear, you will need to protect the plant from hungry bats and birds. Use bird netting to keep your fruit safe.
If you notice spots on the stems and leaves of the plant this could be a sign of infection. Dragon fruit is prone to a bacterial infection which causes the stem to rot. If you notice spots don’t worry in most cases the dragon fruit plant will fight it off themselves.
If your dragon fruit plant is getting a bit out of control, cut it back in the summer months. Watch for signs of rot on your dragon fruit plant caused by extreme weather conditions. Rotting parts of the plant can be clipped away safely using sharp clippers.
One of the easiest ways to kill dragon fruit plants is by over-watering it. Make sure that the soil is never sopping wet and, if in doubt, hold off on watering for a day or two. If you water the plant too often, you could cause the roots to rot.
The plant’s natural habitat is full of nutrients, so it needs the extra boost from the fertiliser to thrive in your garden.
Supporting dragon fruit plants
As a climbing plant, you’ll also need to provide it with some kind of support. A trellis is ideal, but you can also use a wall or a wooden post if you’re short on time or resources. Just make sure the wood you’re using isn’t treated timber.
Dragon fruit is both delicious and highly nutritious. Find out how to grow dragon fruit trees at home in pots, in the garden, from seed and from cuttings.