Dragon fruit is easy to grow in the garden or in a large pot. It’s a climbing cactus, so it requires a frame or trellis for it to grow up and trail over, but once that is in place, it’s relatively easy-going. Plus, you can grow dragon fruit from seeds or cuttings, so if any of your friends or neighbours have a plant, pay them a visit and ask if you can have some fruit or cuttings.
Dragon fruit are native to parts of Central and South America, so will grow best in tropical, subtropical or warm temperate frost-free climates. Position in full sun and protect from strong winds.
Grow dragon fruit in well- to free-draining soil. As a cactus, dragon fruit will rot in poorly draining soils. If the soil does not drain well, consider growing in raised beds or large pots (at least 500 mm wide) filled with a free-draining mix. Before planting, enrich the soil with organic matter, like Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser and horticultural lime.
As a climbing cactus, dragon fruit need support to grow. You will need a sturdy frame, made up of a central vertical post, at least 200 mm in diameter and 1.5-1.8 m high, and a sturdy square frame or horizontal supports mounted on top.
To train the dragon fruit to climb, position 2-3 plants around the base of the frame and secure them to the post, using garden ties or similar. Remove any side shoots and this will encourage the stems to grow up. Once the desired height is reached, cut the ends of these stems to encourage branching shoots. These branches will eventually grow and hang over the horizontal supports.
Feed dragon fruit in spring and summer with Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser.
Water weekly during summer. During the cooler months, reduce watering to once every two-to-three weeks. Take care not to over water, as dragon fruit will not tolerate wet feet.
Fruit is usually ready one month from flowering or when the scales or wings on the fruit have slightly withered. To harvest, use a sharp knife to cut the fruit off the vine or simply twist the fruit away from the vine. Make a small incision in the skin and peel it back to reveal the edible flesh.
Pests and diseases
There are a few pests that may occasionally bother dragon fruit, but generally it’s tough and can handle small numbers of insect pests. If you need to control sap-sucking pests like aphids or mealy bugs, spray with Yates Nature’s Way Vegie & Herb Spray. Certain cacti can be sensitive to sprays, so always do a spot test on a small inconspicuous area and wait for a few days to see if there are any adverse reactions. If none are observed, go ahead with a more widespread spray.
It’s natural for the crown to become crowded and wild, but after a few years, it can become congested and unruly. This can also impact the fruit quality, so it’s a good idea to prune once every couple of years or as needed. To prune, wait until fruiting has finished, then use a sharp pair of secateurs or loppers to cut back the longer branches. Use the clippings to grow new plants (see How to grow dragon fruit from cuttings).
After pruning, spread compost and Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser around the base of the plant and water in well.
Images above: Dragon Fruit flower (left) and immature fruit (right)
(Images courtesy of Tammy Huynh)
Dragon fruit are well suited to growing in pots, provided they are least 500 mm wide.
Image above: developing but still immature fruit
(Image courtesy of Tammy Huynh)
It’s easy to grow dragon fruit from seed, but it can take between 5-7 years before it reaches fruiting maturity. Here’s a step-by-step guide to growing dragon fruit from seed.
Image above: Dragon Fruit growing over the top of a framework
(Image courtesy of Tammy Huynh)
Like all cacti and succulents, dragon fruit propagate readily from cuttings. Plants can easily be shared between family, friends and neighbours or bought online with little risk of the plant dying in transit. Cuttings reach fruiting maturity faster than seeds, taking between 2-3 years, instead of 5-7 years.
Follow our step-by-step guide to grow dragon fruit from cuttings: