Dragon Fruit variety “Sugar Dragon” (Paul Thomson’s 8-S) Has exceptionally sweet fruit with an average brix rating or sugar content of 19-22 BRIX which is very high compared to most types. Exterior is red and fruit flesh is a purplish-red. The average weight of fruits is 0.75 pounds and they have a delicious flavor. This cultivar is self-pollinating.
Sugar Dragon is a cross between Hylocereus guatemalensis and another unidentified species. This pitahaya variety is an 8-S (or S8) clone generated by Paul Thomson through a cross between the Houghton and Rixford varieties.
|Category:||Edible fruits, vines and climbers, cactus and succulents, epiphytes|
|USDA Zone:||10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F) |
10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
|Sun exposure:||Full Sun / sun to partial shade|
|Water requirements:||Average water needs. Water regularly, do not overwater. Drought-tolerant, suitable for xeriscaping|
|Propagation methods:||From woody stem cuttings / from semi-hardwood cuttings / allow cut surface to callous over before planting / from seed, sow indoors before last frost or direct sow after last frost|
|Soil pH requirements:||6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic); |
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral);
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
|Bloom time:||Late spring / early summer / mid-summer / late summer / early fall|
|Bloom color:||White/Near White|
|Outside color:||Red / Pink|
|Flavor:||5 out of 5|
|Appearance:||5 out of 5|
|Production:||5 out of 5|
|Home planting:||5 out of 5|
|Commercial planting:||5 out of 5|
The S-8 seedlings were subsequently called Voodoo Child by a Florida nursery. A few years later, a California grower changed the name of 8-S to Sugar Dragon. Voodoo Child and Sugar Dragon are remarkably similar to one another and to their parent, Houghton.
This variety was renamed by Linda Nickerson of Elk Creek Farms for two reasons:
- ‘8-S’ is not a very commercial name;
- “Sugar dragon” sounds very appetizing and delicious, just like this fruit.
I will tell you a little more about the history of its breeding next.
History of the variety
The variety was developed in the 1990s by Paul Thomson, who called it 8-S. Thomson was one of the co-founders of the California Rare Fruit Growers Association; he resided in San Diego County; he pioneered the cultivation and breeding of numerous formerly rare fruits in the region, including mango and cherimoya; and he passed away in 2008. One of the last fruits he attempted to cultivate was dragon fruit. Thomson referred to dragon fruit as “pitahaya,” and he authored the book “Pitahaya — A Promising New Fruit Crop for Southern California”.
Others refer this dragon fruit as pitaya. Practically speaking, pitahaya, pitaya, and dragon fruit are same.
Thomson performed a series of hybridizations between dragon fruit cultivars and developed several exceptional new kinds. He designated these new types as 1-S, 2-S, etc., up to 9-S. The letter “S” represents seedling.
Others ultimately affixed their own names to the “S” types developed by Thomson. For instance, 8-S adopted the moniker Sugar Dragon.
This has caused considerable uncertainty among dragon fruit cultivators. Many kinds are known by multiple names, and there is some debate as to whether variants sold under different names are identical. (Is, for instance, Bien Hoa Red equivalent to American Beauty?
This type has vigorous growth and olive-colored, meaty stems. Along the rib line of each branch are thick, tiny spines that can extend over five feet. The size and form of the stems are comparable to those of Hylocereus setaceus. Sugar dragon can produce six to ten fruits per branch when grown properly. This cultivar is relatively cold tolerant.
It is essential to give Purple 8 with a trellis for support, despite its low maintenance needs. This will aid in the creation of flowers and fruit.
The flowers of this cultivar are over 15 inches in diameter. It opens a few hours after dusk and shuts before morning. The Sugar Dragon cultivar is often the first and last to bloom, resulting in more fruit-bearing cycles. Additionally, this variety’s pollen can be utilized to produce fruit on nearly every other Pitaya Fruit plant.
This type yields little, oval-shaped fruit weighing a quarter to three-quarters of a pound. The exterior of the fruit is crimson with small, dark green, nearly brown fins. The inside flesh has a vivid red-purple hue and a semi-firm, delicious consistency.
The fruit has an average brix rating or sugar content of 19-22 BRIX, which is significantly higher than other cultivars.
This Dragon Fruit is delicious when consumed fresh, in jams, as a garnish, or as a beverage ingredient.
How to grow and care
Dragon fruit is a cactus that grows in subtropical environments that are hot and humid. They cannot develop in extremely cold temperatures. It has some of the world’s largest flowers. And, what truly sets them distinct is the fact that they only blossom for one night and have an amazing aroma.
As we say it is a self-pollinating variety with medium-sized fruits that contain more sugar than other types. Care is same to that of regular Dragon Fruit. Please note that seedlings will not necessarily develop plants that are identical to their parents. The offspring may be indistinguishable or quite similar to the parent, but they will not be the same variety.
People commonly plant dragon fruit in the ground while still within a plastic container, with only the bottom of the pot removed. This is thought to give a bit of protection from gophers and rabbits. However, many individuals also plant directly in the ground. I’ve put my dragon fruit plants straight into unamended sandy loam dirt. I control gophers with traps, but rabbits have nibbled at the base of my plants. Fencing the foundation with chicken wire would have been a wise precaution.
Permanently growing dragon fruit plants in containers is also possible. I’ve observed that the final pot size for a mature plant must be at least 25 gallons. That is around the size of half a wine barrel. Perhaps you could get away with a smaller pot if you cut the plant to a little size.
Dragon fruit plants are likewise not fond of frost. They can tolerate a little cold, especially some types, but prefer temperatures of 30 degrees or higher. Mine have been exposed to temperatures in the upper 20s with no damage other than minor yellowing.
Planting in direct sunlight is optimal. If a dragon fruit plant is in a lot of shade, it will produce fewer flowers. However, there are some inland locations where the sun can be too harsh. I live in such a location (Ramona, San Diego County). I continue to cultivate dragon fruit in practically full sun, but select plants are sunburned.
Depending on the environment, this cactus can attain a height between 2 and 5 meters. Plant them at a minimum distance of 2 meters apart. The blossom can reach a diameter of 25 centimeters and a length of 30 centimeters.
Type of Soil
Dragon fruit plants thrive in any well-draining soil, as it prevents the roots from becoming waterlogged and facilitates their growth. If at all feasible, sandy soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 (slightly acidic) is optimal.
Mulch adds nutrients to the soil, discourages weeds, and retains moisture. Utilize 5 to 15 centimeters of organic mulch, but keep it 20 to 30 centimeters away from the plant itself to prevent rot. Hay, wood chips, old leaves, and grass clippings are all excellent organic mulch options.
Water your plant when the soil’s surface is dry to the touch. It should be watered until the soil is moist, but not saturated or inundated. If there is no rain, twice a week should be plenty.
How much water? This depends on a variety of conditions, such as the size of the plants and the amount of sunlight they receive, although dragon fruit require less water than the majority of garden plants.
How often should you water? This also depends on whether the plants are in the ground or in pots, the type of soil, etc. I use drip irrigation to water my dragon fruit everyday during the summer and less frequently during other seasons. In the summer, friends who water by hand or with sprinklers water their lawns roughly twice each week. And I’ve heard of other skilled gardeners who just water their plants once a week in the summer and still achieve excellent results.
As with water, dragon fruit plants can survive without much soil fertility, but they produce greater growth and fruit when given an abundance of nutrients. On my plants, I use compost with some chicken dung. Others are successful with a citrus and avocado tree fertilizer.
Ensure that only one stem grows; eliminate any others by making slanted cuts with a clean, sharp knife. The offcuts must be discarded appropriately, as they will quickly become weeds. These cuttings can also be used to propagate additional dragon fruit. Once established, the optimal time to prune is immediately after fruiting in the early morning.
If you do not prune, you will lose some fruit since they cannot form properly in the dense center of the mass. You should be able to see some negative space in the center of the plant’s crown after pruning. And don’t just cut off the ends of vines; instead, cut off complete vines from the plant’s core; the ends of the vines are where the majority of the flowers are created, and cutting the ends will just cause the vines to sprout from there, causing them to soon cascade to the ground.
The majority of effective designs share three characteristics: a center post for the vine to climb, cross supports approximately five or six feet off the ground for the vines to cascade over, and durability. The structure must be capable of supporting a substantial quantity of mature plant material. The primary mistake I’ve seen folks make is not building the support strong enough (in conjunction with not trimming the plant enough) (in conjunction with not pruning the plant enough).
Here are a few examples of effective dragon fruit support structures that I’ve observed:
- A metal post topped with a crossbar frame.
- Post made of concrete.
From February till May, dragon fruit vines yield fruit. About 30 to 40 days after the first hint of fruit, harvest uniformly-colored produce.
The tissue should yield slightly to modest pressure. They are overripe if they are mushy or have a dry, shriveled stem. They continue to ripen after being harvested off the plant. Therefore, if they are extremely firm when plucked, allow them to ripen for a few days.
Depending on the climate, fruiting can take two to three years. Each year, the fruit will increase in size and quantity.
Sugar Dragon is a hybrid between S. guatemalensis and an unidentified species. This cultivar has red skin with tiny, greenish-brown bracts enclosing reddish-purple flesh that is semi-firm.
Its pulp has an outstanding flavor with rosewater or berry undertones and a Brix score of 18 or above. The oval-shaped, eight to twelve ounce (or one-half to three-quarters of a pound) fruits are produced by heat-tolerant plants.
I advocate growing S-8 as a cross pollination because it produces abundant flowers and multiple crops. My vine has produced three rounds of fruit and still has a number of blossoms that will likely not produce fruit because it is too late in the season.