DRAGON FRUIT AKA Pitahaya or Hylocereus and Selenicereus crosses GROWING INFO.
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DRAGON FRUIT- Also called PITAYAHA or by there botanical names/crosses HYLOCEREUS and SELENICEREUS are very easy to grow and have huge blooms and tasty fruit.The dragon fruit flesh can be white, pink, Red, magenta or several shades in between depending upon the variety.The outside skin is pinkish to reddish except for Selenicereus Megalanthus its yellow. Dragon fruits are high in vitamin C, and the magenta flesh varieties contain lycopene, which is a natural antioxidant believed to fight cancer, heart disease and lower blood pressure.
Despite the health benefits and its spectacular appearance. During the riegn of the Aztec empire of Mexico it was exstensively cultivated, but the fruit has gone virtually unnoticed for centuries since, today it is the leading fruit export of Vietnam and has caught the attention of Snapple, Tropicana, Hansen and Sobe, just a few of the major bottling labels that incorporate dragon fruit juice into their bottled drinks.
Dragon fruit is easy to grow in your own backyard. They can use similar soil mixes as Epis do. Like Epis they will grow well and have very deep green stems in part shade but unlike Epis they will never bloom well in these lower light conditions, they need full sun for at least part of the day to bloom/fruit well.Other than that there requirements are almost identical except whats noted below or if ground planting.
Below shows bud development of Dragon Fruit blooms and the bud-growth stages up until fruiting.The blooms can be very large most average over 15" in diameter.Once the bloom opens and is pollinated its about another month for fruit to swell to full size and be ready to harvest. This can be longer or shorter than a month depending if its warm weather during that time. The warmer it is, the faster DRAGON FRUIT developes.
(The picture above shows H. CV 'VOODOO CHILD' bloom/bud developement prior bloom opening, July 25th-about 1 to 2 weeks until it opens, depending on how warm the weather is during that time.)
(Above shows Dragon Fruit CV 'Physical Graffiti' bud development from July 12th 2010 thru July 28th the night of the bloom opening and open early morning next day July 29th,2010).
DRAGON FRUIT, Pitahaya and Hylocereus GROWING REQUIREMENTS
1)LIGHT REQUIREMENTS-The base of the stems can be in shade but the tips need full sun to bloom/fruit well. To root cuttings shade is best but once there established or well rooted move to a brighter spot.
2)ROOTING-Since there much thicker stems than Epis a one gallon or even a 5 gallon pot is a good start for rooting cuttings not 4" pots these will work but you will have to upsize them fairly quikly. They need to have the bottom of the stem where they were cut well calloused over as there very thick and have plenty of water in the stem to last for possibly months without being planted, so no hurry with these to root them. 7 days to 2 weeks is fine during active growing summer months, maybe up to a month in winter season. As long as the cuttings are kept in a cool dry spot no hurry to plant.To root simply place the cutting in a soil mix consisting of mostly potting soil.We use our Epiphyllum recipe #1 to root DRAGON FRUIT in 1 gallon and 2 gallon containers. For more information on soil mixes visit our Soil Mix Page!
Place 2" or more into the mix or until the cutting stands up on its own. Mist the stem with water every other day until growth appears. Growth will appear in 2-4 weeks, once growth appears then begin watering the soil but less frequently than you were misting-about 2 times a week depending if its hot or warm weather. In summer perhaps 3 times a week maybe needed. In winter maybe only once a week or if it rains nothing at all.
3)TEMPERATURE/CLIMATE-They will get damage if below 40 degrees for extended periods of time and severe damage if below 32 degrees for any length of time. Eventually they may be big enough after one growing season to be planted in the ground. In that case be sure you live in a frost free zone 9A and up. If you decide to plant in the ground they will need something to climb-a fence, wall, shade structure or a 4Ēx 4Ē post. If planted in the ground forget about the soil mix you used to root them, soil mix is still ok if you decide to leave them in a larger container, like a 15, 20 gallon or larger. For some growers who are located in cold regions this is the only way you can grow them since they have to be moved into a greenhouse or other protection during winter. If it only freezes slightly in your area in evenings a teepee made of 3 poles and plastic over the top might be enough protection outside.
4)GROUND PLANTING OR CONTAINER-
GROUND PLANTING- Use 30 percent sand and 30 percent compost with the remainder being your existing soil mixed in, plant on a slight mound at least 3-4 established plants or more around a post or other structure. The slight mound will keep the base of the stem from rotting if you get a lot of rainfall in winter. Remember they like rich soil as there jungle cactus just like Epis but they also need good drainage too.Never plant Dragon Fruit in a low spot of your yard, they may survive thru summer when water needs are high,but can then die in winter if given too much water. In winter they do not like to have wet feet and too much water in winter is about the only way to kill them. Otherwise they are very tough plants. They can survive much neglect and be very forgiving plants, but too much water in winter they can not survive. NOTE: If ground planting always root unrooted cuttings first in a small container 1 gal or larger before planting in the ground. Also if ground planting its best to plant on a slight mound to keep excess water away in winter when active growth is minimal and rains are heavy.
(Above shows several plants of the same variety trained up a 4" x 4" post with a rebar cross support on top to allow for an umbrella growth form.)
CONTAINER PLANTING- Use a large container at least 15 gal size or larger with good drain holes, the soil should be simular to Epiphyllum soil mix on the soil mix page. See recipe #1.For more information on soil mixes visit our Soil Mix Page!
In containers trellising may be required as the growth can be very long. Below shows an example of a plant in a 20 gal ceramic container thats trellised up a deck post.
(Above shows DRAGON FRUIT Variety 'PHYSICAL GRAFFITI' trellised up a patio deck, about 4 yrs old from cuttings in a 20 gallon ceramic container.)
5)HYLOCEREUS GROWING/BLOOM CYCLE- Unlike Epis which get lots of big spurts of growth right at spring, Hylocereus donít really get growing until its really hot like in summer. But they make up for the late start with huge growth. Some stems may grow a foot in a week or two. If there big enough to bloom-usually 2nd or 3rd year and up from a cutting, apply bloom fertilizer the same as for Epis on the bloom page, but in this time schedule- April to May higher nitrogen then switch in late May to bloom fertilizer formula expect blooms late July to October, in some areas even into November. The blooms last only one night and are nocturnal, youíll have plenty of advance warning when the blooms open since the huge buds develop over one month to 6 weeks and untwist to just a small opening on the tip the night before there planning to open. Hand pollination will increase your yield even for self pollinating types. Set your alarm clock as there fully open around 10pm or later. Once they bloom and if they were pollinated expect the bloom to wither and the base of the bloom or throat to begin swelling-thatís the fruit! Within 4 weeks to 8 weeks there ripe depending on the weather at your location.
Above is a short video of time lapse photography featured on the 'Flickr Dragon Fruit Group' click the link below to explore or join this group with its hunderds of facinating Dragon Fruit images.
6)FRUIT HARVEST- The fruit is ripe by July -August through all the way up to maybe December depending on how warm your daily weather was. You can tell there ripe when there reddish or pink on the outside of the skin or yellow in the case of (Selenicereus Magalanthus), and you can easily push in on the fruit with your finger and its soft like a ripe Avacado might be.
Above is Dragon fruit CV 'RED JIANA'.
Above are many examples of Dragon Fruit varieties.
(Above is a video on the August 2010 Pitahya Reseach Field in Irvine,California.)
Did you know Dragon Fruit is the new secret ingredient of master chefs worldwide.
COMING SOON- AVERAGE VITAMIN CONTENTS, HYLOCEREUS FRUIT ARE GOOD FOR YOU AND ARE HIGH IN VITAMIN C & ANTIOXIDENTS!. Next time your at the supermarket check out the ingredients labels on those trendy new health drinks.