Hylocereus undatus (Dragon Fruit)
Hylocereus undatus (Haw.) Britton & Rose
Belle of the Night, Conderella Plant, Dragon Fruit, Honolulu Queen, Moonlight Cactus, Night-blooming Cereus, Pitaya, Queen of the Night, Red Pitaya, Strawberry Pear, White-fleshed Pitahaya
Cereus tricostatus, Cereus trigonus var. guatemalensis, Cereus undatus (basionym), Hylocereus tricostatus, Hylocereus guatemalensis
Hylocereus undatus is a lithophytic or hemiepiphytic cactus with creeping, sprawling, or clambering stems. It branches profusely. The stems are green, with generally three ribs and up to 4 feet (1.2 m) long joints. They grow up to 33 feet (10 m) long and climb by aerial roots. Margins are horny and undulate with wings that are up to 2 inches (5 cm) wide. This cactus has 1 to 3 conical spines per areole. They are grayish-brown to black and up to 0.4 inches (1 cm) long. The scented, nocturnal flowers are white with green outer tepals and bracts, up to 14 inches (35 cm) long and up to 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. They appear in late spring to early summer. Fruits are oblong to oval, up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) long, and up to 3.6 inches (9 cm) in diameter.
Photo via etsy.com
USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Like most cacti, Cereus are fairly low-maintenance and hardy. Ensure they receive enough water without becoming waterlogged, especially during the summer, and fertilize them for the best results. If the roots have become black or overly soft, the cactus could be experiencing root rot. Cutaway the affected parts and replant. Most gardeners interested in cacti should be able to cultivate these without much problem.
It may become necessary to repot your Cereus if it outgrows its container. If so, make sure the soil is dry and then remove the pot. Knock away old soil and prune away any rotted or dead roots, then replace it in a new pot and backfill with fresh soil. Make sure not to overwater cacti planted in new pots, as this can lead to root rot. It should be left dry for about a week and then watered lightly.
These cacti propagate quite easily from cuttings. Simply sever a branch and replant in moist, well-drained soil.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Cereus.
The precise origin of Hylocereus undatus is uncertain, and it may be a hybrid.
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How to Care for Dragon Fruit
The dragon fruit plant (Hylocereus undatus), also known as the pitaya, strawberry pear or night-blooming cereus, is a tropical fruiting vine native to southern Mexico and South America. The dragon fruit plant is a fast-growing, perennial, vine-like cactus with stems that can reach 20 feet long. This plant produces large white, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers that bloom at night and can grow as large as 14 inches long and 9 inches across. The fruits are oblong, 4 ½-inch-wide berries with red or yellow peels and many small black seeds in the pulp. The dragon fruit plant can grow only in tropical climates that don’t experience frosts or freezing temperatures.
Water your dragon fruit plant deeply and thoroughly once every other day during the summer, and then water the plant once or twice each week during the fall and winter in the absence of rainfall. Don’t water the dragon fruit plant during spring to provide a dry period that will induce flowering.
- The dragon fruit plant (Hylocereus undatus), also known as the pitaya, strawberry pear or night-blooming cereus, is a tropical fruiting vine native to southern Mexico and South America.
- The dragon fruit plant is a fast-growing, perennial, vine-like cactus with stems that can reach 20 feet long.
Feed your dragon fruit plant during the first year after planting it once every two months with ¼ lb. of 6-6-6 NPK palm tree fertilizer containing 2 to 3 percent magnesium. Spread 4 lbs. of well-rotted manure or organic compost on the ground around the base of the dragon fruit plant, keeping it about 1 inch away from the stem. Apply up to six foliar sprays of minor elements from late March through September.
Spread a 2- to 6-inch layer of bark or wood chip mulch on the ground around the base of your dragon fruit plant. Keep the mulch 8 to 12 inches away from the plant stem.
- Feed your dragon fruit plant during the first year after planting it once every two months with ¼ lb.
- of well-rotted manure or organic compost on the ground around the base of the dragon fruit plant, keeping it about 1 inch away from the stem.
Erect a sturdy climbing support, such as a strong trellis, beside the dragon fruit plant. Train the dragon fruit plant on the trellis by pruning away the lateral stems that grow on the main upright stem until the plant reaches the trellis. Tie the main stem to the trellis post, and then begin to cut back the stem tips to encourage branching after the plant grows up to the top of the trellis.
Train the lateral stems by tying them to the trellis. Prune the dragon fruit plant immediately after harvest by removing the weaker, crowded or tangled stems, and then tie the healthy, strongest stems to the trellis.
Increase the fertilizer amount gradually during the second and third years to 1/3 or 2/5 lb. of fertilizer applied once every two months, and then increase the amount to ½ to ¾ lb. of fertilizer in the fourth and subsequent years. Apply 6 lbs. of compost or manure once each year, and then increase the amount to 5 lbs. of manure applied twice per year in the fourth and subsequent years.
- Erect a sturdy climbing support, such as a strong trellis, beside the dragon fruit plant.
- Prune the dragon fruit plant immediately after harvest by removing the weaker, crowded or tangled stems, and then tie the healthy, strongest stems to the trellis.
Harvest the ripe, fully mature dragon fruits by cutting the fruit stems using pruning shears or hand clippers. If you have the thorny type of dragon fruit plants, wear leather gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when harvesting the fruits.
If you have high-pH (alkaline) soil, drench the soil around the dragon fruit plant with ¼ to ½ oz. of chelated iron during the first year after planting it. In the second and subsequent years, apply up to ¾ to 1 oz. of chelated iron. Perform the soil drench once each year during a warm, rainy period.
Don’t mow or weed-eat close to the dragon fruit plant, because it’s extremely sensitive to any kind of trunk injury. Keep a 5-foot diameter circle around the dragon fruit plant clear of weeds and grasses. Also beware of applying lawn fertilizers near the dragon fruit plant’s root system, because this can harm fruit quantity and quality.
Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus undatus)
A rambling cactus that spreads easily by aerial roots. Big, fragrant white flowers bloom at night and last just one day. They are pollinated by nocturnal creatures such as moths and bats. If pollination succeeds then fruit will develop. Dragon Fruit is ripe when the skin is evenly bright red and slightly soft when pressed. Flavor is similar to melon and the small seeds are eaten with the flesh, similar to Kiwi fruit.
Wonderful for containers and xeriscaping. Terrific accent plants that add interesting shape to the garden. A good choice for planting along a building foundation, walls or fences. Fruit is best chilled, sliced and eaten fresh.
Apply liquid fertilizer 2 or 3 times during growing season.
Water every two weeks during dry weather.
Well-drained soil is essential.
Basic Care Summary
Drought tolerant and virtually carefree. During extremely dry periods water thoroughly once a week for best performance.
Plant in spring or early fall to give plants the best start.
Choose a location that will allow roots to spread and branches to grow freely. Space plants far enough from building foundations, walls, and decks so that the growing foliage won't crowd the structure. Consider whether tall trees or shrubs will block windows or interfere with the roof or power lines.
To prepare the planting area dig a hole as deep as the root ball and three times as wide. After removing the soil, mix it with some compost or peat moss. This enriches the soil and loosens the existing dirt so that new roots can spread easily.
To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot. The container can also be removed by carefully cutting it down the side.
Set the plant in the hole. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap fabric this must now be removed along with any string or wire securing the burlap. If roots are tightly packed gently rake them apart with your fingers.
Return the soil to the planting area packing it firmly around the root ball. Fill the hole until the soil line is just at the base of the plant, where the roots begin to flare out from the main stem.
Water the plant well then add a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch, such as shredded bark, around the planting area. Keep the mulch at least 4” (10cm) away from the trunk of the plant as this can keep the bark too moist and cause it to decay.
Depending on rainfall, new plants need to be watered weekly through the first growing season. A slow, one-hour trickle of water should do the job. During hot spells thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.
To check for soil moisture use your finger or a hand trowel to dig a small hole and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.
Monitor new plants through the first two years to make sure they are getting the moisture they need. After that they should be sturdy enough to survive on their own.
Established trees should be fertilized every 2-3 years. Feed in early spring when plants start growing.
Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product designed for trees and shrubs, or go with a nutritionally balanced, general-purpose formula such as 10-10-10.
Always follow the fertilizer package directions for application rates and scheduling. Over-fertilizing plants or applying at the wrong time during the growing season can result in plant injury.
Pruning may be needed to remove dead branches, encourage bushier growth, promote more flowers, or maintain a specific size or shape.
How to Grow Dragon Fruit from Seeds
If you want to know how to grow dragon fruit, it is time to discuss how to grow dragon fruit from seeds. The first step here is to choose a healthy organic dragon fruit, cut it in half with care, and remove a couple of seeds. You can do this with a dull knife or even a needle if you have some fine motor skills. Remove any pulp from the seeds with care and place them on a paper towel.
Growing dragon fruit from seeds is not hard, but it takes more time and patience. Here is what you need to grow dragon fruit from seeds!
When you decide to grow dragon fruit at home, one of the most crucial steps is to choose the right container. It should be 15 inches to 24 inches in diameter and more than 10 inches deep. Let’s say you need a 10+ gallons pot provided with a sturdy climbing pole, as dragon fruit is a climbing cactus, as we said. If you do not offer it a large container, the dragon fruit will overgrow and sprawl over the edges of your pot until it finds something to climb.
- Spread a couple of seeds in the container and cover them with a thin layer of soil
- Some of the seeds will sprout in a few weeks. See which ones take and make sure that you separate the seedlings once they look strong enough for it. In the absence of separation, your dragon fruit plants may not grow to their full potential.
As it grows, make sure you are ready to transplant it in a bigger pot. You can start with sizeable succulent pots to grow dragon fruit from seeds, but eventually, you will need a bigger container. Make sure your container has holes on the bottom to drain the soil thoroughly.
Another crucial aspect of your dragon fruit growing adventure is the soil. Your dragon fruit thrives if it grows in a sandy, well-draining potting soil designed for cacti. If you don’t have the right product for your needs, you can create your mix of regular soil, sand, and compost. Fill the container a few inches below its brim.
You may also consider adding a small amount of slow time-release fertilizer at the bottom of the container before planting. It may help your dragon fruit grow faster.
Overwatering can kill dragon fruit seeds, seedlings, and grown plants, so you should start on the right foot here. Once you planted the seed, a light mist or a drip will work well only when the soil is dry. You can also consider self-watering planters for cacti to ensure your success with the seed turning into a plant.
Now that you have the dragon fruit seeds in a pot place, the container in a sunny spot in your home. Your dragon fruit plant needs at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun to thrive. It tolerates some shade, and it even requires it in scorching climates, but you should always keep an eye on the temperature it receives. The dragon fruit plant fares the best at temperatures ranging between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperatures go above 100 F, your plant will die.
So far, we learned how to grow dragon fruit from seeds. Now, it is time to learn how to grow dragon fruit in pots from cuttings. The requirements for growing dragon fruit from cuttings indoors are similar so that we will focus a little on the growth from the cuttings process.