Don’t ask me why dragon fruit is called dragon fruit. When I think about a Dragon fruit, I imagine a tiny dragon hanging by the tail on a large tree. Though if dragon fruit really was like that, ASPCA wouldn’t let people eat it. Dragon fruit is, in reality, a member of the cactus, or Cactaceae family. It makes a delicious fruit, and is totally worth growing.
I recently went to a demonstration by a local Chinese agricultural research station on pollinating and growing dragon fruit. It was very informative and useful, so I took notes and put together this article.
Propagating Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit can be started either by cuttings or by seed. Starting by cuttings is the best, because they grow and fruit faster than seedlings do. To take dragon fruit cuttings, cut a newer piece of growth off of a dragon fruit plant. It should be about six to eight inches long. Then, at the bottom inch, cut all three ridges to expose the fibrous middle.
Leave the cutting to air-dry for seven days. Do not put it in water or water it at all during that time. When seven days is over, plant your dragon fruit cutting into a pot or directly into the ground. In about half a month it roots into the soil. If you started it in a pot first, you can transplant it into the soil after half a month. From a cutting, dragon fruit takes fourteen months to fruit in tropical climates from cuttings.
Dragon fruit thrives in hot, dry places. It is suitable for ridges, but can also be grown lower down. It loves full sun and cannot take freezing weather.
Support Methods for Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit needs support to climb up. It can also climb up a tree, but it is harder to harvest. The Chinese near us are using a style of welded support column with a ring at the top that allows dragon fruit to scramble up through the middle then tumble over.There is also a method of running two parallel bars along a row of dragon fruit. The Chinese call this style a bow support.
The idea is simply to keep the dragon fruit plants accessible for care, pollination and harvesting. Carl at Three Acre Paradise made a nice-looking dragon fruit support pole from pressure-treated lumber. He shares how to make it here.
You could also weld one or you could hire a welder to make you a basic support. We are having a local welder make some supports for our dragon fruit.
Pollinating Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit flower all year around in the tropics. Their flowers are very large, beautiful and fragrant. The blooms only open up at night from 9:00 P.M to 6:00 A.M. They fruit better and make larger fruit if they are hand pollinated. All you need to do this is a paint brush or a q-tip.
Any time after 9:00 P.M, go out to your dragon fruit plant. Hold the bloom carefully, and take the pollen off of the flower’s anthers with a q-tip or a paintbrush. Then put the pollen onto the stigma. Hand pollinating dragon fruit is very simple and worthwhile, as it takes the risk out of the process and ensures good fruit set. It takes a little more than a month for the fruit to be ready after pollination.
Harvesting Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is ready when it is bright red and shiny. To eat, simply pick it, cut it in half, and eat the inside with a spoon.
After the presentation on dragon fruit at our local Chinese Research Station, we were given some young dragon fruit plants to grow ourselves. Will you be growing dragon fruit too?
Note: You can learn more about how to propagate almost everything in Free Plants for Everyone: The Good Guide to Plant Propagation.