The dragon fruit plant is a member of the cactus family. It is a unique type of cactus which bears exotic-looking, delicious fruits. The dragon fruit plant, also known as pitaya or pitahaya, is native to Mexico, South America and Central America.
Since it bears colourful and vibrant-looking fruits, it can be a great addition to any yard or indoor gardening space.
You might have heard that all good things come at a cost. The answer to the question of how to care for the dragon fruit plant revolves around this saying.
From choosing their suitable variety to using the correct methods to make sure that your dragon fruit plant flourishes well, you have to take care of a lot of factors. What are these factors, and how do they affect the overall growth of the plant? Let us find out!
1. The Dragon Fruit Plant: Introduction And Characteristics
Hylocereus undatus, commonly known as the dragon fruit plant, is a climbing cactus having vine-like stems. Endemic to tropical and subtropical climates, this plant has a stunning structure, which can be used to complement tropical or Asian-inspired gardens.
The fruit and the flowers are two parts that make this plant super attractive.
While it has white flowers that bloom at night and release a lovely scent, its fruit, commonly known as strawberry pear, is the main highlight. Having bright colours both on the inside as well as outside with black seeds, strawberry pear or pitaya not only looks great but also contains a burst of flavours.
2. Health Benefits of a Dragon Fruit
Not only does a dragon fruit have a pretty appearance, but it also has several health benefits.
Its pulp is packed with various vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, several antioxidants and fibre. All these are required for one’s healthy immune system and overall well-being.
If we cut the fruit and look inside, we’ll find its flesh, which is packed with tiny black seeds like in kiwi. These give a crunchy and grainy texture while eating.
Therefore, the dragon fruit fits well into a wide variety of delicacies, including:
- Smoothie Bowls
- Frozen Snacks
3. Different Types of Dragon Fruit Plants
The right steps to care for a dragon fruit plant will depend on the type that you choose to plant in your garden or lawn.
Some good options you can choose from include:
- Hylocereus Megalanthus (Yellow Dragon Fruit): It has a bright yellow top skin with white flesh.
- Hylocereus Undatus (White-Fleshed Dragon fruit): It features white fruit and a red shell.
- Hylocereus Costaricensis (Red Pitaya): It showcases both red skin and pulp.
Irrespective of the type, Dragon fruit bears a resemblance to kiwi fruit because both of them have tiny black seeds packed in their fruit flesh.
4. What Are the Ideal Conditions to Grow Dragon Fruit?
To grow a dragon fruit plant healthily, it is crucial to mimic the condition of warm, tropical temperatures of Central America since they thrive in these types of environments.
If the potting location is in a colder climate, the dragon fruit plants may still grow in pots. However, make sure you bring them inside during months when there is a chance of frost.
To ensure that the plant grows vertically and reaches its full potential, provide support to the climbing vines before planting. This support can be in the form of a trellis, support sticks, or garden stakes.
Below, we have discussed 8 essential parameters that you must take care of while cultivating a dragon fruit plant.
4.1. Soil and Potting
The importance of soil for a plant is the same as that of having a home for humans. You can either sow Dragon fruit cacti directly onto the soil of your garden or yard or simply cultivate it in a pot. With the right type of soil, it can bear delicious fruit during the harvest season.
Always use soil that does not retain moisture. Sandy soil is a good example.
Avoid using heavy clayey soil as it has the ability to hold a lot of moisture because this can lead to root rot, a plant condition that negatively affects the proper growth of plants.
If you are planting directly on the ground, ensure that you mix the soil with organic compost to promote drainage and fertility.
Another crucial parameter to check is the soil pH. It should be somewhat acidic and lie between the range of 5.5-6.5.
Soil drainage can be improved by mulching. Use things like straws or wood scraps to prepare a mulch and put it near the base of the plant to use it effectively.
Once you have selected the ideal soil mix, it will only be beneficial when you fertilize it in a timely and proper manner. For a dragon fruit plant, the best time to fertilize the soil is during the plant’s active growing phase, typically in autumn and spring.
Fertilizing during fall or during winter must be avoided because the plant is inactive throughout cold weather.
Selecting the best fertilizer should be the top priority if you want to see healthy growth and ample fruit production.
The method of applying fertilizer should be followed from the back of the packet of fertilizer you bought. But to get a general idea, start by sprinkling the recommended amount near the base of the plant and then water it profusely to activate the fertilizer.
During the plant’s active growing season, chemical fertilizer should be applied after 2-3 months of plantation. Over-fertilizing should be avoided as it can be more harmful than helpful for the plant.
Watering your dragon fruit plant is the key part to ensure proper growth and amazing fruit production. It is also considered the most tricky part because one should have keen eyes and must know how to balance water levels.
Since the dragonfruit plant is a type of cactus, that is why it is tolerant towards drought-like conditions; therefore, the best practice you can adopt for watering it correctly is to water the soil as soon as it gets completely dry. However, you should always avoid over-watering as it can lead to certain diseases like root rots.
To avoid attracting damage to the plant, ensure that the soil has an excellent drainage system. Also, make sure the pot has several drainage holes and that it never sits in a container filled with water.
Only water the plant when the topsoil feels dry to the touch, and keep watering until the water starts seeping from the pot.
Water the plant frequently during its active growing stage. Also, try to water the plants early in the morning so that extra moisture can evaporate during the day.
Refrain from using water that has chlorine. Therefore, it is recommended to use rainwater as it is the best natural source of water without any chemical treatment.
4.4. Light and Temperature
Dragon fruit thrives in sunlight. To make them grow properly, make sure they receive adequate bright, indirect sunlight.
If it is a very hot summer day, you can put the plant in partial shade to avoid exposure to full sun and harmful rays and prevent sunburn.
Since they belong to tropical climates, Dragon fruit cacti are delicate, and they are not frost tolerant. So, the temperature range beneficial for them is around 18 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius.
If the plant is growing indoors, keep the plant near a big, bright south-facing window to let it receive its portion of light. Avoid providing too much shade to the plants.
Dragon fruit plants can withstand colder temperatures, but extremely cold temperatures may lead to frost, which can damage or kill them. Therefore, protection from cold must be done at all costs.
Dragon fruit plant is a climbing cactus that requires support to keep itself erect. Since it bears heavy fruit, it can also cling to nearby plants in the absence of good support.
Therefore, any sturdy support like wall columns, trellises, climbing poles, or wooden posts is a must.
Make sure that you create the support system prior to planting the dragon fruit plant. Regardless of the type of support system that you choose, it should have a length of at least 50 centimetres to support the vines of the plant appropriately.
4.6. Flowering and Fruiting
You must have heard the famous proverb, “The sprouting of patience is sweet”. But to taste the sweet fruit, we need to have patience and take good care of the plant in its growing phase.
However, before fruiting, they produce enormous and lovely flowers. They are one of the largest flowers in the world, have a pleasant fragrance and are usually white to cream in colour.
After flowering comes pollination; while some varieties of dragon fruit cactus do not have the capacity to perform self-pollination, there are others that are self-compatible. Hence, usually, it performs cross-pollination.
You can also attempt hand pollination to increase the chances of success.
Pollen grains can be transferred from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower by using a soft brush.
After pollination, the flower petals will fall, and it begins bearing fruit. Initially, the colour of the fruit will be green, but as it ripens, the colour may change.
Depending on the variety you choose to grow, the colours of the ripened dragon fruit can be in the following shade range:
- For Skin: Red Or Yellow
- For Flesh: Red, White Or Pink
4.7. Pest and Disease Control
Even though a dragon fruit cacti may be highly durable, it can be prone to many common pest invasions like ants, mealybugs, scale insects, etc.
Look out for infections, especially in young plants, by checking the plant regularly for sticky residue, distorted growth or visible pests.
If, by chance, you find any kind of pests attacking the dragon fruit plant, then you can wave them off by spraying organic insecticides or by using neem oil like other fruit-bearing plants.
Here are a few steps that you can take to prevent pest invasion on the dragon fruit plant:
- Always avoid waterlogging
- If you notice any signs, such as discoloration or wilting of the leaf, immediately remove the affected part of the plant and treat the plant with fungicide.
Dragon fruit plants can also experience skinny growth, which is a condition due to the lack of sunlight and other nutrients that it needs.
You can avoid this situation by providing the plants with enough sunlight and nutrients. You can also prune extra growth to avoid overcrowding of branches.
Dragon fruit plants have the tendency to experience excessive growth. Therefore, it is crucial to perform regular pruning to stop them from overspreading.
While it is essential to employ equipment such as garden shears to trim the branches that are overspreading in order to maintain the shape and size of the plant, it is equally important not to overdo it as it might distress the plant.
Also, regularly inspect the plant for any dead or weak branches, and make sure to cut them off so that it does not spread to other areas.
In the End
To summarise, while it might look a bit complicated, cultivating a dragon fruit plant can be a very fruitful experience (literally!) From planting to watering and clearing it from any disease, there is a lot that you need to take care of to achieve a satisfying end. We hope that the above guide gave you enough tips to get started.