About Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit Plant
Dragon fruit is a tropical cactus with large, striking flowers and sweet, delicious fruit. The dragon fruit plant (also called pitaya) is a member of the cactus family and is popular in Southeast Asia and Central America. That’s why it’s sometimes called a night-blooming cereus.
Dragon fruit can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 9 and higher but is rarely grown outside as a perennial plant in most areas of the United States. The plant must be brought indoors or into a greenhouse during cold weather periods.
The beautiful dragon fruit plant bears stunning yellow to purple flowers that open at night, giving off an intoxicating fragrance that attracts nocturnal pollinators like moths and bats. The flower produces an edible fruit with red skin and white flesh dotted with tiny black seeds. Red dragon fruit has white flesh while yellow dragon fruit has red or purple flesh. Dragon fruit plants will produce 2-3 harvests per year in ideal conditions.
Three Types of Dragon Fruit and Its Characteristics
- Pitaya Blanca (Hylocereus undatus) with its white flesh and pink skin.
- Pitaya Roja (Hylocereus costaricensis) with its red flesh and pink skin.
- Pitahaya Amarilla (Selenicereus megalanthus) with its yellow flesh and yellow skin.
Dragon Fruit Health Benefits
Dragon fruit is a great addition to your diet because it is low in fat and calories. The dragon fruit contains many nutrients including vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), dietary fiber, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. The skin is rich in antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress. It has a Vitamin C content approximately equivalent to that of kiwi fruit.
The dragon fruit has many health benefits because of its nutrients including:
- Reducing oxidative damage from free radicals
- Reducing the risk of heart disease or stroke
- Improving symptoms of the gastrointestinal disease such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome
When harvesting your dragon fruits, you should select ones that are brightly colored. Dragon fruits are typically red or yellow on the outside and white inside; you may also find some that are purple on the outside with red insides, though these are less common than the other two varieties.
Growing Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit grows on a cactus plant, which can be grown in a pot. The pot should be at least 10 inches wide and deep. The dragon fruit doesn’t like too much water, so make sure that it drains well.
Fill the pot with regular potting soil mixed with some sand or perlite. This will help the soil drain more efficiently and give the roots room to spread out. Plant your dragon fruit 1 inch below the soil surface. Water it until the water drips out of the bottom of the pot and wait 7 days before watering again
Place the potted dragon fruit in a sunny spot. Dragon fruit plants like direct sunlight, but they don’t like extreme heat, so move them indoors when it’s very hot outside.
Caring Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit plants need care that is not too difficult, you only need to pay attention to the following things:
1. Dragon Fruit Soil
Dragon fruit plants usually grow well in sandy soil, but if it is not available then you can use other types of soil in general. If you want to use other types of soil, then you need to add sand into the soil or addition a special medium for cacti. In caring for this dragon fruit plant, make sure the soil used has good drainage.
Choose a place with lots of sunlight exposure for your dragon fruit plant, because this plant needs sunlight exposure for at least 5 hours per day. If your location does not get enough sunlight exposure, then you should use a special lamp for your dragon fruit plant.
3. Watering Dragon Fruit Plants
Dragon fruit plants have similar water needs as cacti plants in general, so watering twice a week is sufficient but if your location gets a lot of heat then you can adjust its watering frequency to thrice or four times a week.
f you do wish to fertilize your dragon fruit, you should use a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus and potassium but low in nitrogen. Higher levels of nitrogen encourage leaves to grow, but dragon fruits produce few leaves and they do not need much nitrogen to grow well.
Propagating Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is a fast-growing, hardy plant that can be propagated from stem cuttings. Propagation by stem cutting is the easiest and most common way to propagate dragonfruit.
To propagate by stem cutting:
1. Make sure your dragon fruit plant is big and healthy enough to grow new stems.
2. Cut off the top of the plant with a sharp knife—keep it at least 6 inches long.
3. Remove any excess leaves or growths from the bottom of the stem cutting. Leave only two nodes (the tiny bumps at the bottom of each leaf) and one or two leaves on each node.
4. Propagate in soil or water; if in soil, cover with a plastic bag to help retain moisture.
To propagate by seeds:
Collect the seeds from your dragon fruit. Make sure that they are ripe and red on the outside before attempting to plant them.
Fill several 2-inch pots with standard potting soil and place one seed in each pot. Allow adequate space between each pot for good air circulation.
Place the pots in an area with bright sunlight and keep them moist at all times until sprouts develop, which may take up to four months or more depending on the conditions. Once they begin to produce roots and leaves, they can be transplanted into larger pots or directly into the ground.
Pest and Disease Control
Dragon fruit is not often bothered by pests, but sometimes spider mites will feed on the leaves and cause them to dry out and die. Spider mites are so small that they can only be seen with a magnifying glass. They also leave webbing on the plant. In addition to the dried leaves, you may notice white spots on the stems where they have fed.
Mildew on dragon fruit plants isn’t a major issue, though it may cause minor damage to leaves and stems. Dragon fruit plants that are watered properly should not develop mildew. Too much watering encourages mildew growth, so reduce watering and do not water leaves during warm weather or when the plant is in direct sunlight. If mildew is present on your dragon fruit plant, use a fungicide containing boscalid or potassium bicarbonate to control it.
Anthracnose is another disease that affects dragon fruit plants. The same fungus that causes this disease in mangoes and other fruit trees can also cause it in Hylocereus. This fungus is called Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, and it can infect the dragon fruit plant through a wound or some sort of injury. The infection may show up on flowers, fruits, leaves, or stems, but the symptoms are similar. Small black spots appear on the affected area, and there may be yellowing around it as well. In severe cases, the plant may shed its leaves or stop growing altogether.
The first step to treating anthracnose is to remove all infected areas of the plant. Remove any decayed tissue from both living and dead parts of the plant, and dispose of them carefully to avoid spreading infection. Then treat with fungicide as soon as possible after removal. Chlorothalonil fungicides are one of the best options for treating anthracnose in dragon fruit plants.