Dragon Fruit Plant Care: The Complete Growing Guide

Dragon fruit are king of exotic tropical fruits. They glow like jeweled eggs, glorious in shades of pink, red, and yellow. Crack them open to find sweet pulp, bright pink or pale white flesh rippling with tiny black seeds, much like a kiwi fruit. Their taste is second to none, light and fragrant. Can you tell I’m a fan?

Ready to harvest dragon fruit growing
Ready to harvest dragon fruit growing

What is a Dragon Fruit Cactus?

“Dragon fruit plants are fast-growing perennials that will live about twenty years. There are many different types with pink or white flowers, and fruits with white, red, or magenta flesh. Spineless varieties are available.” Jessica Sullivan, Agriculture Faculty, University of Florida. 

Dragon fruit trees are usually one of a group of different plants and grown under many names. They have foot long, leathery green leaves, speckled with little clusters of spikes. Dragon fruit are enthusiastic climbers capable of spreading rapidly, sinking aerial roots into trees, fences, rock faces, trellises or pergolas. 

Once ready to bloom, they bud at the tips of their leaves and produce huge, fragrant blossoms. They only open at night, and wilt before morning. If you’re lucky, a visiting bat or moth will pollinate it, and the flower will swell into an egg-like fruit. 

Botanical Name: Multiple species; Genus Selenicereus (S. undatus, S. triangularis, S. contaricenes, S. monacanthus, S. ocamponis, S. megalanthus e. ) Formerly classed in Genus Hylocereus. Other species Cereus triangularis, Cereus ocamponis, Acanthocereus pitajaya
Growth Rate: Fast
Blooming period:Blooms frequently during summer
Hardiness Zones:Thrives in  USDA 10-11, will grow as far north as 9a.
Light:Minimum 6 hours of sunlight a day
Soil Needs: Sandy soil with organic mater
Temperature:21 and 29 degrees Celcius (70-85 degrees Fahrenheit). Frost intolerant
Ease of Care:Easy care, pest and disease resistant, drought resistant. 
Diseases :Disease Resistant.
Propagation:Seeds, cutting
Fertilizer:Low requirement.
Pests:Pest Resistant.
Humidity :Moderate.
Pruning:As needed to control growth.
Water needs:Low. Too much water causes fruit and flower drop.
Dragon Fruit Growing Guide Chart

How to  Grow Dragon Fruit Tree

If you’re in a warm area, it’s almost criminally easy to grow dragon fruit plants. They thrive in temperatures of between 21 and 29 degrees Celsius (70-85 degrees Fahrenheit). They go absolutely wild in USDA Hardiness Regions 10 to 11, but grow in 9a and 9b, too. 

If you’re growing in cold climates, you’ll have a harder time. They’re a tropical plant and although a Dragon Fruit will plod along, cool temperatures will stunt its growth and you’re just one cold winter off frosts killing it entirely. You’ll need to get it inside or the Dragon Fruit will not grow at all. 

Dragon Fruit growing on plant
Dragon Fruit On The Plant

Light Requirements For Dragon Fruit 

Dragon fruit like a minimum of six hours bright direct light a day. Full sun in the morning is best, as they can scorch if the plant is getting too much during the hottest part of the day. 

How Often To Water Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit thrives on little water. When planted outdoors they need between 600mm to 1300mm of rain annually (24 to 510 inches). I water the plant once or twice a week during the growing season or when flowering. Too much and the plant may drop fruit and flowers prematurely.

If you’re growing indoors, allow the growing medium to dry between watering. Like most cacti, it’ll let you know it’s thirsty by showing wrinkles or puckering on the leathery surface of the leaves. Water heavily and they will vanish.

Soil Requirements for Dragon fruit 

Dragon Fruit don’t need carefully tailored growing conditions. They thrive in just about any type of soil, so long as it drains well. If left to sit in water, their roots and stems soon rot. The plant is a cactus, after all, and needs dry conditions. For optimal growth, amend the soil with a mulch or compost that’s rich in organic matter. 

When grown in containers, Dragon Fruit require loose, well-draining soil with lots of sand and organic material. Drainage is far more critical in containers, so adding a good measure of sand or perlite to the mix will help them grow properly.

How to Prune a Dragon Fruit Plant

Dragon fruit has a climbing prowess that takes them upwards and outwards. With clever pruning you can encourage fruit to grow at eye level, ready for easy harvest.

As your Dragon starts to head for the skies, you’ll need to train it. Attach the entire plant to a trellis, wall or other structure and position each subsequent leaf so it reaches up. Once at a comfortable height, pinch the tip to encourage lateral growth, and arrange any new growth across the top of your support structure.

Fertilizer Needs for Growing Dragon Fruit 

Dragons are light feeders. At most you can offer a light sprinkling of granular 8-4-12 fertilizer, every other month through spring and summer while the plant is actively growing.  A mild dose will ensure the cactus gets the right amount of nutrients to produce fruit.  Once grown, top dress with mild low nitrogen fertilizer during the active growing season, like aged cow manure.

What Size Pot is Best to Grow Dragon Fruit

Even a potted dragon has a growth habit geared for climbing. It doesn’t need a large container at all, and I’ve had success with ones only a foot or two across. What you do need to provide is something for it to climb. If you’re in a colder area, place the container against a south facing wall or fence. It’ll shimmy right on up, and take advantage of the way the sun’s rays warm the structure as well as the plant. You can also grow through a rose hoop or trellis.

How to Grow Dragon Fruit from Seeds

Dragon fruit seeds germinate readily with little effort. You can obtain them commercially, or just strain them from a slice of dragon fruit! 

To do so, you will need:

  • Dragon Fruit seeds
  • Seed raising medium like coco coir
  • Clean water
  • Mister
  • Propagation tray or clear container with transparent lid.
  • Small pot of soil appropriate for cacti
Dragon Fruit Plant
Dragon Fruit Plant

Step 1: Prepare your Medium

Place a shallow layer of seed raising mix in your propagation tray.  Ensure the medium is moist enough to be damp to the touch but not waterlogged.

Step 2: Add Seeds

Plant your seeds evenly no more than 2 or 3mm (1/10 of an inch). Spray them with a light misting of water and close the lid.

Step 3: Wait

Place your tray in a warm, well lit area out of direct sunlight. Cool temperatures inhibit germination, so a heat pad placed under the tray speeds everything up . Keep the medium damp by misting gently. Tiny seedlings will appear one week and thirty days after planting. Fresh seeds germinate significantly faster than purchased ones. Once their first adult leaves appear you can transfer from the seed raising mix to a small pot of cactus soil.

A cactus grown this way takes several years to flower and it can be up to seven years before it’s mature enough to bear fruit. If you want to cut the wait, do just that – grow the cactus from a cutting!

Dragon Fruit Flower
Dragon Fruit Flower

How to Propagate Dragon Fruit from a Cutting

Cuttings are the fastest way to get fruit production underway. It’s easy to learn how to grow dragon fruit this way and can result in fruit within as little as six months. You will need:

  • Mature dragon fruit plant
  • Sterile garden shears
  • Tough garden gloves
  • Pot of sandy, well draining soil

Step 1: Select your Cutting

First of all, put on gardening gloves – it pays to take measures to protect against these prickly plants! Locate a mature leaf at the top of the plant. Using sterile shears, cut the leaf below the join to the parent plant. Make a note of which end is ‘down’ if cutting multiple leaves from the same length.

Step 2:  Cure your Cutting

Place your cutting in a cool, dry area to callus, as you would any other cactus cutting. Let it rest for at least five days. 

Step 3: Pot your Cutting

Fill your pot with soil well suited to cacti. I like to blend my own with one part perlite, one part good quality potting mix, and one part sand. If you’re pressed for time a commercial cactus blend is fine.

To plant the cutting, insert the ‘down’ end of your cutting into the mix about 5cm(2 inches) into the soil and water deeply.

Harvested Dragon Fruit
Harvested Dragon Fruit

Step 4: Transplant

If you’re planning on growing your cactus in a container, you’re essentially done. Container plants need a fair bit of room to start off, around a foot or so across the top of the pot.  If you want to grow outdoors in a bed, you’ll need to transplant the cactus five months after cultivation, to give it time for its roots to start growing in. 

Complete Dragon Fruit Plant Care Guide Summary

FAQ

How Long Does a Dragon Fruit Take to Grow?

The delicious Dragon Fruit itself takes 30 to 50 days from pollination to harvest. Fruit grown on the vine for longer is larger, though the flavor of fruit flesh itself doesn’t change much.

You’ll know its your fruit is ripe when the cactus fruit is bright in color, with a firm but not hard texture. They often smell deeply tempting and sometimes attract ants that feed on oozing sap near the tip. 

Can you grow a dragon fruit plant indoors?

If you’re in a cold climate, the only way to grow Dragon Fruit cactus is indoors. Provide it with a lot of light, and choose a plant that suits your space.

Indoor ornamental Dragons are best started as seeds. Once mature, this plant takes up a lot of space, so starting with a seed will buy you a lot of time. 

If you want a fruit bearing plant, it’s you’ll need to set aside a significant amount of space. Even just one plant will take up an easy six feet square. They’re terrifically spiky to so give them lots of clearance. They need a lot of light to grow that delicious fruit too. Indoors that’s best achieved with a LED grow light. 

How Long until You can Harvest from an Indoor Dragon Fruit ?

Dragon fruit grown indoors are much the same as outdoor ones. A cutting will take six months or more to start flowering, with a year or more being more typical. You’ll have to wait five to seven years for your first dragon fruit crop starting from a seed. In addition, you’ll need to pollinate them by hand. 

This is also contingent on good dragon fruit plant care. That can be hard to manage, so don’t be too disheartened if plants growing inside never flower. It’s a common state of affairs with indoor plants.

Final thoughts 

I’m yet to find a variety of Dragon Fruit I don’t like. The white fruit is sweet and mild, the pink; fruity and scrumptious. Although Dragon Fruit aren’t suitable for every garden, if the temperature is right they basically grow themselves. Who knew a cactus could produce such good fruit?

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