Does Dragon Fruit Come From a Cactus?

The Dragon Fruit, also known as Pitahaya is native to South America, Central America, and Mexico and is one of the most popular fruits that comes from cacti. It is pink on the outside but contains a sweet white pulp with black leaves on the inside.

Besides tasting great, these perennial cacti fruit add ornamental value to your landscape. This cactus can grow up to 20 feet in height and the vibrant purple/pink fruit it grows looks stunning in any garden setting.

If you’re looking to grow a dragon fruit cactus in the USA, here’s what you need to know.

How to Care for a Dragon Fruit Cactus

Sunlight

The dragon fruit cactus prefers warmth to grow, but too much direct sunlight can weaken the stem. For example, if you live in an area where the temperature hovers around 100 degrees, you should keep your dragon fruit cactus where there is partial shade.

Similarly, if your area experiences very little sunlight, the fruit growth won’t be too abundant on the dragon fruit cactus plant. You need to find a balance between too much sun and too little sun for your dragon fruit cactus.

Soil

Luckily, the Pitahaya cactus isn’t too picky regarding soil type and PH level. Growing and surviving requires sufficient organic matter, drainage, and moisture.

This plant also needs mulching around its base, especially in drier areas. Mulching helps the soil retain moisture, resulting in steady growth.

Water

Pitahaya might be a type of cactus, but that doesn’t mean you can just forget to water it. The dragon fruit plant has good tolerance against drought but needs water, especially when it starts producing flowers to the point where the fruit is harvested.

However, don’t overwater the plant either, as this can result in root rot, which leads to fungal infections. That said, it is important to give your dragon fruit a dry spell during winter as the soil retains its moisture more.

Humidity and Temperature

Dragon fruit cacti aren’t suited for all weather conditions. The plant is native to tropical areas and won’t do well in extremely cold areas.

Its growth can be seriously affected in freezing temperatures, especially if the frost prolongs. The best temperature range for the dragon fruit cactus is 65 to 80 degrees.

Fertilizer

The dragon fruit cactus is a hungry plant. Therefore, you need to fertilize it every few months, especially during the first year. A 20-20-20 fertilizer will do just fine.

However, once the plant has matured, you can slow the fertilizing cycles and limit the number of fertilizations to a few times annually.

Moreover, you must also alter the soil with organic matter or compost a few times during the year.

Types of Cactus Fruit Plants

There are around 15 species of the dragon fruit plant, some of which are mentioned below.

Hylocereus Costaricensis

The shell and the fruit are both deep pink or red.

Hylocereus Megalanthus

The flesh on this fruit is yellow and thorny, while the inside pulp is white.

Hylocereus Stenopterus

This fruit comes in three colors, i.e., yellow, red, and orange.

Hylocereus Polyrhizus

The shell on this fruit is dark green, and the inside pulp is dark blood red.

Hylocereus Guatemalensis

The inside flesh of this fruit is bright purple. However, the outer shell is deep pink, and it also has green fins on it.

Pruning a Dragon Fruit Cactus

If you skimp on your routine pruning sessions, the fungal disease will take hold of the plant, followed by a pest infestation.

Lack of pruning can also cause poor light penetration, resulting in tangled stems that affect fruit production.

Regular pruning keeps the plant in top shape and prevents it from becoming too heavy for the growing trellis.

As a responsible owner, you must cut the elongated, damaged, or tangled central stems twice or thrice a year.

If the plant is still young, you’re in luck. You can prune the plant once a year after harvesting the fruit.

Harvesting a Dragon Fruit Plant

For some people, harvesting can be a confusing process. However, it should be done when the outer flaps of the plant develop a rather withered appearance.

If it’s ripe, twisting it from the stem shouldn’t be a problem. A fruit that’s fallen off the stem is already overripe. Therefore, you need to time your harvest. Dragon fruit can last for two weeks in the refrigerator.

Dragon fruit is exotic, and only a few people will like its taste. On the bright side, it has ample vitamin C and various antioxidants and minerals.

Propagating a Dragon Fruit Cactus

Some cultivars of the dragon fruit cactus are incompatible. Therefore, you must try a few to ensure they produce fruit.

Once they bloom, place them outside to be pollinated by bats, bees, and moths. Seeing fruit growing on your plant will still take a few years.

  • Take a cutting that is 10-12 inches in length.
  • Treat it with a fungicide.
  • The cut side should go into the pot containing a mix of potting soil and sand when potting it.
  • Water it slightly, and keep the pot in a shady location for a week.

Pests and Diseases

Depending on where you live, animals and bugs can find your dragon fruit cactus mouth-watering. As such, you need to protect it against rats, raccoons, and birds.

Similarly, pests like scales, mealybugs, thrips, and mites can also damage your plant. Moreover, canker and rot can also be issues for your dragon fruit plant.

Your dragon fruit cactus should get the right moisture, sun, and air circulation to avoid fungal and bacterial infections.

Common Issues With Dragon Fruit Cactus

Slow Or No Fruit Production

It isn’t uncommon for dragon fruit cacti to experience slow or no fruit production. This alludes to insufficient exposure to the sun.

Therefore, ensure your plant receives ample indirect sunlight and warmth throughout the day, especially if you live in a colder area. You can also use an LED light to make up for the shortage of sunlight.

Compromised Flower Production

To produce fruit, the dragon fruit should grow flowers from summer till mid-fall. Like the previous point, lack of sunlight is the culprit if you don’t see any flowers or the flowers aren’t blooming. It also means the plant is just too cold to grow flowers.

To troubleshoot this problem, put the plant in a bright warm area like a greenhouse. Furthermore, the lack of flower growth also stems from insufficient pruning. If the flower is holding onto dead weight, it won’t have energy left for flower growth.

Therefore, make sure to prune the plant the moment you see dead areas.

Lesions on Blades and Stems

Do you notice white, red, or brown spots on the blades and stems? These things allude to canker or rot in the stem.

Canker and rot are difficult to contain in the dragon fruit cactus. Therefore, make sure to remove the dead parts of the plant. Afterward, disinfect the plant with a fungicide or with isopropyl alcohol. You can also use neem oil because of its disinfectant properties.

Dragon Fruit Plant Live Pitaya Pitahaya Vietnamese Outdoors 1 Plant Rooted

Final Word

Dragon fruit cactus is a beautiful-looking cactus. It smells amazing, and it is packed with several nutrients. However, taking care of it can be challenging. As a responsible plant owner, water it adequately, but allow the soil to dry before watering.

Similarly, provide enough sunlight, but remember that too much sunlight can lead to a burned plant. Keeping it in a greenhouse is the way to go. Lastly, take care of the potting mix. It should have the right balance of compost and organic matter. Also, keep the pests at bay with a high-quality fungicide.

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