Dragon Fruit Plant: How to Grow Dragon Fruit
As someone who is health-conscious, it’s part of my daily diet to drink fresh fruit juice. One of the fruits that I really love because of its powerful health benefits is dragon fruit.
So I’ve thought of growing my own dragon fruit plant in order to enjoy fresh produce that I can blend anytime. If you’re also looking to grow your own food at home as a beginner in gardening, this guide is for you.
Dragon fruit plant is a climbing cactus that bears spectacular flowers that soon become bright yellow or pink fruits. It has an edible pulp that is known for providing many health benefits.
Since it’s a type of cactus, dragon fruit plants require full sun, fast-draining soil, and warmth in order to grow and produce fruits. This exotic, tropical fruit is also called pitaya with almost the same taste as kiwi.
It has many different names, depending on the location. In Asia, it’s popularly known as Indonesia buah naga, Thai kaeo mangkon, Khmer sror kaa neak, and Thanh long. Other English names include Jesus in the Cradle, Belle of the Night, Night Blooming Cereus, Cactus Fruit, and Strawberry Pear.
Facts About Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruits are native to tropical regions such as Central America and Mexico. However, it’s also widely grown in other countries with sub-tropical climates.
Dragon fruit plants need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day and warm environment in order to thrive. I’m living in an area within USDA Zone 10. The climate is ideal for my dragon fruits in our backyard.
On the other hand, you can still grow dragon fruits in an area with cold climate using containers. During winter, you can simply move your plants inside to make sure they won’t be affected by the colder season.
The best option for cold areas is to create greenhouse or sun room so that the plants will get sufficient sunlight and warmth. Remember, these are cactus plants and they need enough warmth to survive.
Depending on the type of support given, dragon fruit plants can reach a mature height that ranges between 5 to 10 feet. The mature width is up to 10 feet if given enough sunlight and warmth.
The dragon fruits planted in containers are almost 8 feet high, which is also the height of the climbing pole that supports their growth. However, I also have dragon fruit plants that grow on our fence to give them more freedom for better growth.
The leaves of a dragon fruit plant are long and flat, with potential health benefits that are interesting. The leaf extract contains phytochemicals such as flavonoids, alkaloids, glycosides, and saponins.
With its diverse content of phytochemicals, dragon fruit leaves may also contain antibacterial properties. You can use them to naturally heal minor wounds and other affected areas.
In early summer, dragon fruit plants begin to bloom with divine white flowers. They are said to be one of the world’s largest flowers with unique style. It’s a fascinating spectacle that gardeners should experience.
The flower buds are unopened flowers growing at a certain time interval along the vine-like stem of the cactus plant. My dragon fruit plants usually blooms in June, and they are really spectacular.
Fruit Shape & Color
Dragon fruits are rounded fruits with soft spikes. These brightly coloured fruits are either yellow or pink. After developing from flowers to fruits, it takes up to 30 days before they ripen.
Once the skin of the fruit is fully yellow or pink, it’s time to be harvested. Every year, dragon fruit plants may undergo up to 6 cycles of bearing flowers and fruits. That means you can enjoy more dragon fruits in your table all year round.
If you have already tried eating a dragon fruit, you can compare the flavor to a melon or kiwi fruit. There are lots of tiny seeds when you cut the fruit in half, but the pulp is edible.
Many people love the fruity taste of dragon fruits, that’s why they are mainly used in making healthy drinks. My first harvest was not that much, but the fruits are really sweet and delicious.
Dragon Fruit Varieties
Also known as white fleshed pitaya, this cultivar of dragon fruit has bright pink skin and white flesh. Among the varieties of this plant, the hylocereus undatus is the most widely grown in both tropical and sub-tropical countries.
I have this variety in my garden and believe me, the fruit is sweet and not mushy. White fleshed pitayas are perfect for my smoothie recipes, especially during summer when my kids love to indulge in refreshing delights.
Also known as red fleshed pitaya, this cultivar of dragon fruit is deep pink or magenta in color including the skin and flesh. This is not common, but you can still find hylocereus costaricensis dragon fruits in some popular markets.
I’m lucky to have this in my garden as my friend gave me a cutting to grow and multiply. Now, I get a lot of red fleshed pitaya during harvest season. Some of them are kept as stock in my kitchen, while the others are made into smoothies for my neighbors.
Also known as yellow pitaya, this cultivar of dragon fruit plant is brightly yellow coloured with white flesh. Hylocereus megalanthus is considered a rare kind as only a few people grow this in their orchards.
I haven’t enjoyed picking my own yellow pitayas because they are newly planted in some containers. Hopefully, I can harvest them next year so my kids can try this variety. My friend says this one is also sweet and delicious even when eaten fresh.
How to Grow Dragon Fruit
Originally, dragon fruit plants grow in fast-draining, sandy soil. You can buy commercial cactus mix in order to cultivate your plant in the best condition.
In my home garden, I created a raised bed using soil amendments such as vermiculite, coarse builder’s sand, and perlite. It provided my dragon fruit plants with proper growing conditions.
However, you can also use containers to conveniently replant your dragon fruit when needed. Just make sure to use the right soil mix in order to ensure healthy growth.
Since dragon fruit is a species of climbing cactus, the ideal lighting condition is full sun. Every day, this plant requires up to 8 hours of sunlight in order to grow well.
We are living in an area with warm climate most of the time, so I’ve decided to grow my own dragon fruits in the backyard. Until now, they continue to expand and provide me with lots of produce every harvest season.
One of the biggest challenges in gardening is how often you should water your plants, especially cactus species like dragon fruit. Over-watering is a big no-no as it can kill your plants.
Soggy soil and excess water can cause root rot and if it’s ignored, you can say goodbye to your dragon fruit. Make sure to water the plant when it’s completely dry, but not when it’s starting to wilt.
In order to avoid over-watering, you can use a method called drip irrigation to ensure your dragon fruit plants have adequate moisture. This is particularly important when the weather is too hot.
I have a mist system in my garden to keep my dragon fruits moisturized during summer and warmer months. The ones in the containers are moved to a shaded area during hot months in order to avoid scorching.
Dragon fruits love warmth and a consistent sunny weather. The ideal growing temperature for them to thrive well ranges from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 to 29 degrees Celsius.
However, extreme heat can cause wilting and leave damage on the overall structure of the plant. If the temperature in your area reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit and above, you need to move your plant under a shade or provide a mist system.
On the other hand, temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degree Celsius can quickly kill your dragon fruit as this plant is quite sensitive to frost. It’s important to consider the temperatures in your location to ensure the success of growing dragon fruit plants.
When it comes to fertilizing, you can use balanced fertilizer. Apply it once a month throughout the growing season when your dragon fruit is actively developing.
During winter, do not fertilize if you’re growing your plant in a colder climate. You can only fertilize your dragon fruit occasionally with organic compost or aged manure.
My dragon fruits at home are fertilized with organic compost to ensure healthy growth. I buy natural fertilizers in our local market since they are more affordable than other commercial fertilizers.
One of the best ways to train your dragon fruit to climb on fence or trellis is through pruning. In addition, regular pruning improves air circulation, maintains plant height, and prevents fungal infection.
If you don’t trim your plant, it will grow taller due to optimum growing condition. Some dragon fruits that are not properly trimmed can grow as high as 20 feet. Pruning your plant every year will help you control its height and even width.
To properly prune your dragon fruit, remove the dead stems as well as the overcrowding, decaying, and overgrowing stems. Keep the productive and healthy ones while making sure they are not damaged.
When I see my dragon fruit plants hanging from their climbing pole, I trim the excess and regrow them in another container. Cuttings grow faster than seedlings, so I make sure regular pruning is done to remove excess stems and replant them.
Use a knife to cut the dragon fruit. Take out the seeds and wash them off. Place the black seeds on a damp paper towel, then leave it overnight.
Fill a small pot or germinating tray with fast-draining starting mix. If you have time, you can mix perlite and peat to create an ideal soil. Sprinkle the seeds on the surface, then cover it with a thinly layered growing medium.
You can grow dragon fruit at home through seedlings, but it’s better to propagate from cuttings because this method grows easier and bears fruits faster than seedlings.
It’s important to consider the different varieties of dragon fruit plants you can propagate, depending on colours, flavours, and ways of production. Some varieties require pollination while others take time to bear fruits even when hand pollinated.
Be extra careful when cutting the dragon fruit, especially the roots. Loosen the small roots gently on the rootball’s surface in order to make sure you don’t damage it.
Some of my dragon fruit plants were grown from cuttings that my friend gave me. He has his own nursery with almost all the varieties of dragon fruit, so I was inspired to grow them in my backyard.
Dragon Fruit Health Benefits
One of the benefits of dragon fruits is that they are high in essential nutrients that the human body needs. It’s packed with minerals and vitamins, but low in calories. More importantly, it contains more dietary fiber than other fruits.
Some of the essential nutrients a serving of dragon fruit (227 grams) contains include 136 calories, 3 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 8% of the RDI iron, 18% of the RDI magnesium, 9% of the RDI vitamin C, and 4% of the RDI vitamin E.
There are healthy plant compounds that a dragon fruit contains aside from the essential nutrients such as betacyanins, carotenoids, and polyphenols. Experts say that it can help fight chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease.
Moreover, dragon fruits are loaded with dietary fiber, which helps in healthy digestion. These nondigestible carbohydrates provide beneficial effects such as maintaining a healthy weight.
Dragon fruits also promote healthy gut and help prevent the development of heart disease, asthma, and other gut-related conditions. It contains prebiotics that increase good bacteria in your gut while maintaining its balance.
Eating dragon fruit can reduce digestive tract infection as well as diarrhea. Consuming prebiotics also eases symptoms of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
One of the main reasons why I wanted to grow my own dragon fruit at home is that it is excellent in strengthening the immune system. My kids love munching on this yummy fruit as a snack and as immune booster.
Ultimately, dragon fruits can help increase your iron level in order to ensure healthy transportation of oxygen throughout the body. This iron-rich food is as healthy as nuts, legumes, fish, and meats.
Uses of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruits can be eaten fresh, chilled, blended, or added to salads. They are usually made into sherbets, puree, juice, and jams, depending on how you want to enjoy it.
Some people don’t like dragon fruit because of its thick skin. However, this fruit is actually easy to eat. The secret is choosing the one that’s perfectly ripe in order to enjoy a delightful snack.
Unripe dragon fruits are usually green and hard to touch. Look for something that’s bright yellow or red and soft to touch. It’s normal to see some spots, but splotches may indicate that the fruit is overripe.
Ripe dragon fruits are soft and sweet, making them an ideal ingredient for fruit shakes. I love blending this with some milk to create a creamy drink that is yummy and healthy at the same time.
You can eat fresh dragon fruit by simply cutting it in half using a kitchen knife. With a spoon, scoop the flesh out and then enjoy it as a snack. You can also cut the fruit into cubes without removing the peel by cutting horizontal and vertical lines on it.
Use your fingers or spoon to remove the cubes while pushing on the skin’s back. You can add them to your yogurt, smoothies, or salads for a more flavourful experience.
Some local grocery stores offer frozen dragon fruit, peeled and already cut into bite-sized pieces. I and my kids love this tasty snack because it’s nutrient-rich and delicious.
Bottom line is, you can easily add dragon fruit to your homemade desserts such as smoothie, yogurt, and fruit salad. It’s so easy to prepare, especially for beginners in culinary.
Dragon fruit is known to have anti-cancer potential benefits and can prevent memory loss. According to experts, this potent fruit also has many other medicinal uses.
For instance, it can help control blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, heal wounds, and provide antioxidant properties. In addition, dragon fruits can also improve appetite, reduce weight, improve eyesight, and promote healing of lesions.
The following are some proven medicinal benefits of eating dragon fruit:
- Stronger immunity due to dietary fibres and vitamin C contained by dragon fruits.
- Better digestion because of the prebiotics and fibres in the pulp. It helps balance the good bacteria in the gut to prevent diarrhea and other stomach issues.
- Lower blood sugar level for patients with type 2 diabetes. The glucose in dragon fruits can help control your blood sugar and reduce your symptoms.
- Prevent cancer by reducing free radicals in the body. Due to high fibres and minerals, dragon fruit can help eliminate toxins in your body while aiding in digestion to prevent the development of chronic diseases such as colon cancer.
- Control cholesterol levels due to flavonoids that are essential in fighting off cardio-related diseases.
The dragon fruit or pitaya plant is a must-have in every garden because of its strikingly beautiful appearance and health benefits. With its unique flowers and brightly coloured fruits, it’s also widely grown as a decorative plant.
In terms of flavour, it can be compared to melon and kiwi. However, it contains a lot of essential nutrients that provide powerful health benefits. Dragon fruits can help fight cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
Depending on the location, the dragon plant comes in various names: cierge-lezard in French, rod pitahaya in Swedish, pitahaya roja in Spanish, and pa-nani-o-ka in Hawaiian. Generally, it is more commonly known as pitaya particularly in Asian countries.
This epiphytic cacti is originally grown in Southern and Central America. Now, it’s also found in Southeast Asia including the Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
When it comes to dragon fruit plant care, it’s easy to grow and maintain. Beginners in gardening can even start growing their dragon fruit from cuttings and enjoy the first harvest after 1 to 2 years.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a dragon fruit to bear fruit?
Once the flower bud begins to bloom, fruit immediately develops. Normally, it would take at least 30 days for the fruits to mature and ripen. Once the skin is brightly coloured yellow or pink, it’s time to harvest.
Flowering and fruiting can take place up to 6 cycles in a year. My dragon fruit plants at home bear fruit 4 times a year. Harvest time is the most exciting part of growing my own food. It’s like hard work pays off.
Can eating dragon fruit help you lose weight?
The prebiotic benefits of dragon fruit include the potential to help overweight individuals lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. This is mostly beneficial to those who want to ensure diabetic prevention management.
However, there are more clinical studies needed to prove that eating dragon fruit can really help you lose weight. This is also used in making nutraceutical products and functional food.
Can I eat dragon fruit every day?
There’s no particular side effect that was ever reported in eating dragon fruit. In fact, this nutritious fruit is known to be an excellent source of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
You can safely eat dragon fruit every day without suffering from any side effects. It can even be eaten by breast-feeding and pregnant mothers. However, you can consult your doctor to make sure it won’t affect you in a negative way.