How to Grow Dragon Fruit in Your Backyard

How to Grow Dragon Fruit in Your Backyard

How to Grow Dragon Fruit in Your Backyard

Growing dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is an exciting way to add a unique, tropical fruit to your backyard. Though dragon fruitoriginated in Mexico and Central and South America, these vining cacti can thrive in warm climates worldwide. With proper care, anyone can cultivate a flourishing dragon fruit plant.

Selecting a Dragon Fruit Variety

There are a few different dragon fruit species and varieties to choose from:

  • Hylocereus undatus – This is the most common red-skinned variety with white flesh spotted with black seeds. It’s mild and sweet.
  • Hylocereus costaricensis – This is a red-skinned variety with red flesh. It’s less sweet than H. undatus.
  • Hylocereus megalanthus – This is a yellow-skinned variety with white flesh. It has a mild, slightly sour flavor.
  • Selenicereus megalanthus – This is a yellow-skinned variety with white flesh. It is extremely sweet.

For beginners, I recommend growing H. undatus, as it is the most widely available and easy to grow. H. costaricensis and the yellow varieties also make good choices.

Choosing a Location

Dragon fruit cacti need:

  • Full sun – At least 6-8 hours of direct sun per day. Morning sun is ideal.
  • Well-draining soil – Sandy or loamy soil is best to prevent rot.
  • Temperatures between 65-85°F – Dragon fruit won’t tolerate frost or cold temperatures.

Provide a trellis, arbor, or sturdy support for the vining cacti to climb. Position this where it will receive maximum sunlight.

Planting Dragon Fruit Cuttings

Dragon fruit is propagated from cuttings rather than seeds. Here’s how to plant dragon fruit cuttings:

  1. Obtain a 1-2 foot cutting from a mature, healthy dragon fruit plant. Make sure it has 2-4 nodes or joints.
  2. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone to stimulate root growth. Allow to dry.
  3. Fill a pot with well-draining cactus/succulent soil. Make a hole and insert the cutting at an angle, burying 1-2 nodes underground.
  4. Water lightly and place the pot somewhere warm and sunny.
  5. Once new growth appears, transplant the dragon fruit cutting into the ground or permanent container.

Caring for Your Dragon Fruit Plant

To maximize fruit production, dragon fruit plants need:

  • A sturdy trellis/support structure. Use wood posts and wire fencing to create a trellis. The plants use their aerial roots to climb.
  • Consistent watering. Water young plants every 2-3 days and mature plants 2-3 times per week. Let the soil partially dry out between waterings.
  • Fertilization. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.
  • Pollination. Dragon fruit flowers only open at night. Use a small paintbrush to hand-pollinate flowers.

Other tips:

  • Prune back overgrown stems in the fall or winter.
  • Protect plants from frost and cold temperatures.
  • Harvest fruit when the “wings” on the outer skin start to wither and turn brown.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Here are solutions to some potential issues with dragon fruit plants:

  • Poor fruit set – Lack of pollination is the most common cause. Hand-pollinate flowers using a paintbrush.
  • Rotting fruit – overhead watering causes rot. Use drip irrigation and avoid wetting fruits and flowers.
  • Discolored/weak stems – This can be a sign of too much/too little water, disease, or cold damage. Adjust care accordingly.
  • Not flowering/fruiting – Dragon fruit needs to reach maturity before flowering/fruiting. Be patient with young plants.

With proper site selection, support, care, and time, I’ve found dragon fruit can be a fun, rewarding, and delicious backyard crop. Don’t be afraid to give growing these tropical vines a try for yourself!