Dragon fruit cactus is not only an exotic houseplant that looks nice and grows quickly, but it is also a plant that you can eat. It grows colorful fruits that look amazing and taste great.
With a little patience and the right help, it’s not hard at all to learn how to grow dragon fruit. Dragon fruit, also known as the pitaya or pitahaya plant, is a type of vine cactus that grows best in warm places. But if you give it a sunny porch or greenhouse, you can enjoy its beautiful flowers and tasty fruits for years to come at home. Today, we’ll look at how to grow dragonfruit from seeds, how to grow dragon fruit in pots, and how to take care of pitahaya in your garden at home.
Outside or under cover?
Dragon fruit, also called pitaya / pitahaya, grows best in warm areas where it can grow quickly and produce a good crop. If you want to try growing them where it’s cooler, you’ll have to do it inside, where it’s warmer.
If you are planning a greenhouse in USDA zones 8 or 9, it is possible that they would grow well under glass, but it is very unlikely that they would bear fruit without extra heat. You can grow them inside if you can find a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day and is very sunny.
They are epiphytic, which means that they grow on other plants. To grow them at home, you will need a support.
Make sure the pole or support is very strong, since the plants will get big and heavy as they grow. Make sure the root system has a lot of room to grow.
Pitaya grows best in the ground. If you want to grow them in a pot or under glass, choose a very large pot.
Cut off any side growth until the plant reaches the top of the support, and then let it start to hang down and branch. Make sure the stem is securely attached to the upright support in a way that won’t hurt the plant. At the top, a wooden frame works well so that the plants can lean against it without being squished.
Can dragon fruit cactus grow indoors?
The dragon fruit plant (Hylocereus undatus) can be grown inside if it has a place with lots of sunlight, like a sunroom or a large window that gets six to eight hours of sunlight a day.
For a pitahaya cactus to bear fruit inside, it might need to be hand-pollinated. This is a job that moths, bats, and bees do outside.
Pitahaya plant varieties
- The white pitaya (Hylocereus undatus) gets its name from the fact that its flesh is white and its skin is pinkish-red. This is the most likely kind that your grocery store will have.
- The skin of the red pitaya (Hylocereus costaricensis) is also pinkish red. The color of the skin can range from bright pink to deep red. And, surprise, the flesh on the inside is also pinkish-red.
- The bright yellow skin of the yellow pitaya (Hylocereus megalanthus) is how it got its name. But the inside of it is white.
The color of the outside of the dragon fruit is important because it can tell you a lot about how it tastes. The taste is milder the lighter the color. And the sweeter and more juicy the taste, the redder the color. Most of the time, though, people say that dragon fruit tastes like a cross between a pear and a kiwi: mild but sweet.
Even though pitahaya look scary, they are incredibly tasty. Dragon fruits are great for your health because they have a lot of antioxidants, healthy carbs, and omega-3 fatty acids.
You might think it would be hard to enjoy the sweet taste of fruit from a dragon fruit tree. But try not to be scared by how things look on the outside. Pitaya is a softie, just like kiwi.
Dragonfruit is more than just a fun fruit. It is also a good source of fiber, iron, and magnesium. Because it has vitamins C and E, it is also a good source of antioxidants, which everyone needs to stop free radicals from causing chronic diseases.
Just cut the fruit in half lengthwise and pull the inside flesh away from the non-edible skin. Again, it’s a surprise, but it’s not worth it to try to remove the tiny black seeds from the flesh. They are edible and many people like them. The seeds give the smooth flesh a satisfying crunch.
Once the fruit is cut open, you can eat it with a spoon or take out big pieces and cut them into smaller pieces for your favorite smoothie, tropical salad, or salsa recipe.
How to take care of a dragon fruit cactus inside
As a climber with roots that grow out of its branches and grab onto things, the plant needs support, like a trellis, to grow straight. Make sure it is sturdy and strong enough to hold up the heavy branches with fruit.
For flowers and fruits to grow on a dragon fruit cactus, it needs six to eight hours of full sunlight per day. It’s best to get morning sun from a window facing east and evening sun from a window facing west. If your window faces south, the sun may be too strong and burn the plant, especially during the summer. One way to fix this is to turn the plant 180 degrees at regular intervals so that all sides get the same amount of sun.
You can use grow lights instead of having six to eight hours of natural light every day of the year. They should be full-spectrum LED lights so that they look like strong sunlight.
Slowly get the plant used to the light, especially if it has been in the shade for a while, like during shipping. Start by putting the light about 30 inches away from the plant. Over the next few days, move it closer.
When it comes to growing pitahaya, climate is very important. Since they are tropical cacti, they do best in warm, humid climates. People in colder climates will be able to grow the plants, but they may never get any fruit.
The best temperature range for a room is between 65 and 85 F. The plant can’t handle temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so it shouldn’t be kept in rooms that get too hot in the summer.
The dragon fruit cactus can’t handle cold weather. Keep it away from cold windows in the winter.
Most of the time, 30 to 50 percent humidity in the room is enough for the dragon fruit cactus. Place a humidity tray with pebbles, use a room humidifier, or mist the plant from above during the heating period in the winter.
Dragon fruit cactus needs to be watered carefully because the plant dies if it gets too much water. However, it can handle some dry conditions because its leaf-like branches hold water. In the summer, when plants are actively growing, water when the top of the soil feels dry.
Pitaya cactus grows quickly and needs to be trimmed back and thinned out at least once a year to make sure there is enough air flow. Because if it doesn’t get enough air, it is more likely to grow fungi.
Even though dragon fruit cactus is a tropical plant, it only grows in the summer. About once a month, use a fertilizer with low nitrogen to feed it. Too much nitrogen makes plants grow too much, so it should be avoided.
Pruning and maintenance
When you prune the plant, you want to get it down to a single stem or a few thicker stems that will grow into the main vines. Also, cut back the smaller branches on the side where the flowers and fruit will grow. This not only makes the air flow better, but also makes the fruit better and bigger.
If the variety isn’t self-fertile, it needs to be crossed-pollinated by hand with pollen from the flower of another dragon fruit cactus. Collect the pollen from the stamen and put it on the stigma of the plant you want to pollinate. Make sure to use a new cotton swab for each plant. The dragon fruit cactus blooms at night, so it needs to be pollinated between dusk and dawn.
Cross-pollination is the best way to make sure dragon fruit grows, so you need two pitaya plants. Some kinds are more likely to pollinate each other than others.
Strangely, these cacti only bloom at night, and they can do this up to six times a year. Most varieties need to be pollinated because they don’t make their own seeds. Bees and most butterflies don’t fly at night, so they can’t do the job.
In the wild, bats and moths are responsible for pollinating them.
Got bats and moths in your house?
No, I didn’t think so. If you keep them inside and want fruit, you’ll have to pollinate them by hand. Cross-breeding has led to several types of pitahaya that are said to be self-fertile, but adding a second plant to the mix increases fruit yield and quality.
Size of the container
Use a 5 gallon container that is at least 10 to 12 inches deep and has enough holes for water to drain out. The plant is very tall. A heavy container, like one made of ceramic or terracotta, is better than one made of plastic because it is less likely to fall over.
Soil and drainage for pots
Dragon fruit cactus is only a cactus in name when it comes to soil. It needs to be planted in soil that is neutral to acidic and full of nutrients, not in cactus soil, which doesn’t have enough nutrients. Add some sand to the potting soil and put pebbles, stones, or bark at the bottom of the pot to help it drain better.
Pests and diseases
If there is too much water, like from heavy rain or overwatering, the fruit can rot and the flowers can fall off. Sometimes, ripe fruit will burst and split. Stem rot, brown spots on the fruit, and some fungal problems can happen, but not very often.
Putting in a pot and repotting it
When the plant looks like it has too many roots, it needs to be repotted. Depending on the size of the first container, that could happen as soon as a year. The roots of a pitahaya cactus are very small and hairy, so they need to be handled with extra care when repotting the plant.
Moving pitaya outdoors for the summer
You can move the plant to a patio, porch, or balcony when there is no longer any chance of frost and the daytime temperature stays above 70 F. When the daytime temperature drops below 65 F and there is a chance of the first frost, bring the plant back inside.
Dragon fruits need temperatures that stay above 40°F (4°C) all the time, but they do best at 70°F (21°C) or higher. When it’s over 100 degrees F in the summer, the heat will hurt the plant, and too much sun will cause sunburn.
If you move it outside for the summer, it will need to be watered more often, like all container plants that live outside.
Who can grow?
The dragon fruit plant grows best in warm, humid places and doesn’t need much water. In the southern U.S., you can grow pitaya in pots or on your patio as long as you protect it from very hot or cold weather.
If you live in hardiness zones 10-11 in the United States, you’re in luck because you can grow dragon fruit in your garden all year long. Check with the U.S.D.A. to see what plant hardiness zone you live in. Depending on the weather in your area, you might have to grow pitahaya in a pot and bring it inside for the winter.
Is dragon fruit easy to grow?
Dragon fruit is easy to grow, but many problems with growing dragon fruit come from putting them in pots that are too small.
Dragon fruit is looking for a big pot. I would suggest at least a 20-gallon pot. I like to grow my pitaya in terracotta pots because they drain better, but you can use plastic pots if you want. Just be careful not to over-water them.
Another big problem with growing dragon fruit is giving it too much water. Since they are tropical, they need more water than desert cacti, but too much water can cause the stem to rot.
Dig your finger a few inches into the soil to make sure you are not giving your plant too much water. If it feels damp, don’t water. If it feels dry, water it about an inch deep and let it dry out before you water it again.
It can be hard to get pitahaya to bloom. To cut off the top inch of the plant’s growth if it is big and has a lot of leaves but no flowers. Cutting it back tells the plant that if it has the ability, it should make some fruit to make sure it lives for another generation.
How to grow dragon fruit from seed
If you want to know how to grow dragon fruit, it’s time to talk about how to grow dragon fruit from seeds. First, choose a healthy organic pitaya, carefully cut it in half, and take out a few seeds. If you have good fine motor skills, you can do this with a dull knife or even a needle. Carefully cut away any pulp from the seeds and put them on a paper towel.
It’s not hard to grow dragon fruit from seeds, but it does take more time and patience. Here’s what you need to grow pitahaya from seeds!
Pot / Container
When you want to grow dragon fruit at home, choosing the right container is one of the most important steps. It should be between 15 and 24 inches across and deeper than 10 inches. As we’ve already said, dragon fruit is a climbing cactus, so let’s say you need a pot that’s 10 gallons or more and comes with a strong climbing pole. If you don’t give it a big pot, the pitaya will grow too big and spread out over the edges until it finds something to climb.
Put a few seeds in the container and cover them with a thin layer of soil. In a few weeks, some of the seeds will start to grow. Check to see which ones grow, and separate the seedlings when they look strong enough. Without space between them, your dragon fruit plants might not grow as well as they could.
Make sure you are ready to move it to a bigger pot as it grows. You can start growing pitahaya from seeds in large succulent pots, but at some point you will need a bigger pot. Make sure the bottom of your pot has holes so the soil can drain well.
You can buy Dragon Fruit Seeds or find them on your own. If you picked the seeds yourself, you should clean them well and store them until they are dry. It is best to save seeds from the best Dragon Fruits, which are free of spots and not too ripe.
If the conditions are right, seeds will sprout in about a week, give or take a few days either way.
The soil is another important part of your plan to grow dragon fruit. Your pitaya will do well if you plant it in potting soil made for cacti that is sandy and drains well. If you don’t have the right product, you can mix regular soil, sand, and compost to make your own. Fill the container until it’s just a few inches from the top.
Before planting, you might also want to put a small amount of slow-release fertilizer at the bottom of the pot. It might speed up the growth of your dragon fruit.
You can kill pitahaya seeds, seedlings, and full-grown plants by giving them too much water, so you should start off on the right foot here. After the seed is planted drip will only work if the soil is dry. You can also use cactus planters that water themselves.
Now that the dragon fruit seeds are in a pot, put the pot in a sunny place in your home. For your dragon fruit plant to grow well, it needs to be in full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours. It can handle some shade, and in hot climates, it even needs it, but you should always keep an eye on how hot it gets. Temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit are best for the pitaya plant. Your plant will die if the temperature goes above 100 F.
Your dragon fruit cactus will be much more likely to grow well and make fruit if you put it in a room that faces south. The right light is especially important because it usually takes a plant a few growing seasons to produce fruit, though some lucky gardeners can harvest after only one year.
So far, we’ve learned how to grow dragon fruit from seeds. Now it’s time to learn how to grow cuttings of dragon fruit in pots. Since the needs for growing pitahaya from cuttings indoors are similar to those for growing dragon fruit from seeds, we will focus a bit on how to grow dragon fruit from cuttings.
How to grow dragon fruit from cuttings
Experts say that cuttings are better than seeds for growing dragon fruit because it takes less time for the plant to grow and bear fruit. We suggest that you get a large cutting from a professional nursery or a friend who grows pitaya well.
If you get a fresh cutting, you should let it dry in a cool, shady place for about a week. The process lets the cut heal, which keeps the plant from having problems with growth or even getting an infection as the cut grows roots. All of the other rules stay the same. Get a big pot with a sturdy pole and holes in the bottom. Then, choose the best potting soil for cacti, set up a drip to water the plant, and put it somewhere where it can get full sunlight.
We also suggest that you think about a rooting hormone if you want your dragon fruit cuttings to have a chance of growing.
Do not put the cutting in water like you would with other plants. This is a cactus, after all. Put the cutting in a dry place that isn’t in direct sunlight but isn’t totally dark either. About a week later, you should see new roots coming up where you cut the stem.
It can take up to four months for a good pitahaya cutting to grow strong roots. If you want to fertilize the plant in the meantime, you should do so every two months with a slow-release, low-nitrogen fertilizer for cacti. Make sure you only give your dragon fruit cutting a little water when the soil is dry. Remember that the plant will die if the temperature is below 32F or above 100F.
Here’s how to plant cuttings of dragon fruit:
- Take a piece of branch about 4 to 5 inches long from a mature plant. This can be the stem’s tip or a piece from the middle, so you can get more than one cutting from a single branch.
- Leave your cutting somewhere warm and dry for 4–7 days to let the end(s) dry. This will keep them from getting infected by fungus.
- Put your cutting in a pot with potting soil that drains well. If you need to, add some sand or grit to help the soil drain better.
- Every 2 to 4 weeks, water the soil to keep it moist but not soaked.
Your cutting should start to grow roots, and you can keep growing it in the same pot and medium. How long it takes to grow roots will depend on how warm it is. If you can keep it somewhere warm, the roots will grow faster, but you will have to water it more often to make sure it stays moist.
Don’t move the plant until it’s been alive for 6 to 8 weeks and is growing well. If you want to move them outside, you should wait 5 to 6 months until they are strong enough and their roots have grown enough.
In conclusion, learning how to grow and care for dragon fruit is not difficult, and the benefits are worth it. By following the guidelines provided in this article, you can ensure your pitaya plants thrive and provide you with delicious fruit.