How to Grow Dragon Fruit

Written by Richard Barrow   
Saturday, 04 July 2009 23:16

Last year, I wrote a short blog with pictures about How to Eat Dragon Fruit. It proved to be quite popular with people searching on Google. The bright pink fruit is not native to Thailand and can be found in other regions of the world. I enjoy eating this fruit though in the supermarkets of Bangkok it can be expensive at about 40 to 60 baht a kilo depending on the time of year. The main season is May to October when you will find it at a cheaper price.

One of the main growing regions for dragon fruit in Thailand is Chanthaburi where I am now. We were driving down the road yesterday when I spotted this dragon fruit orachard. The fruit doesn't grow on a tree but on a cactus that likes to grow up a wall or a pillar as in this picture.

The cactus has a bright yellow flower that I am told only fully flowers at night-time. By morning it starts to wilt as you can see here. This then develops into the green fruit which you can see in the picture below. Finally it turns red when it is nearly ready to harvest. In town I saw them selling this fruit for 10-15 baht a kilo.

I haven't made an effort to grow one yet though I will try when I get back. There are apparently two options. One is to grow from a cutting of the cactus. The second way is to use the black seeds inside the fruit. It should be fairly easy to find this plant in town but I will also try growing from seed. Check out our Thai Food Forums for updates and also the latest pictures of my effort to grow pineapple and lemon grass.

Dragon Fruit
Hylocereus undatus
a.k.a. Pitahaya, Strawberry Pear  

see more pictures of the Dragon Fruit

Round, often red colored fruit with prominent scales. The thin rind encloses the large mass of sweetly flavored white or red pulp and small black seeds. Some varieties are pinkish or yellow.

Description: A vining, terrestrial or epiphytic cactus, with fleshy stems reaching from a few inches up to 20ft long (in mature plants). The plant may grow out of, and over the ground or climb onto trees using aerial roots. Flowers are ornate and beautiful, and many related species are propagated as ornamentals. They bloom only at night, and usually last just one night where pollination is necessary to set fruit. In full production, pitahaya plants can have up to 4-6 fruiting cycles per year.

Hardiness: Will tolerate temperatures to 104F, and short periods of frost, but prolonged cold will damage or kill the plant.

Growing Environment: Dragon Fruit grows best in dry, tropical or subtropical climates where annual rainfall ranges from 20-50" per year. In wet, tropical zones, plants may grow well but sometimes have problems setting fruit reliably. The plants aren't usually too picky as to soil type, but because of their epiphytic nature, it is recommended to grow them in soil that is supplemented with high amounts of organic material. The plant has been grown successfully in sandy soils. Shade is sometimes provided in hot climates.

Propagation: By seed, or by stem cuttings.

Uses: The fruit is popular eaten chilled, out of hand. It is also used to flavor drinks and pastries. Unopened flowerbuds are cooked and eaten as vegetables.

Native Range: The exact origin is unknown, but is likely from Southern Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. It is cultivated around the world in tropical regions.

More pictures of the Dragon Fruit (click to enlarge)

Dragon Fruit climbing a wall
Dragon Fruit flower

Flower blooming

Growing on trellis
Flower blooming
Flower closed, with baby fruit
Leaves and fruits
Flower blooming


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