Dragon fruit flower, also called Pitaya [pit-EYE-ah], is an exotic fruit cactus with colorful leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Pitaya typically refers to the fruit of a genus columnar – Stenocereus, which has a prominent exterior with scaly spikes.
The fruiting cactus is a member of the cactus family and a native to various regions of Central America and South America. It’s also widely cultivated in Colombia, Florida, Australia, Mexico, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Thailand, and tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
Dragon fruit flowers have a few common names as follows:
- Red Pitahaya
- Strawberry Pear
- Cactus Fruit
- Hylocereus undatus
- Night Blooming Cereus
- Belle of the Night
- Conderella Plant
Dragon Fruit Flower Care
Size and Growth
Dragon fruit flowers are a medium to fast-growing plant, an astonishing feature of a cactus. They grow an inch per day and produce fruits in an upright position.
To maintain its balance, the plant needs additional care and support from the beginning.
The climbing cactus is one of the largest cacti in the world, heightening up to 20’ feet tall.
The new dragon fruit plant blooms at night, showcasing its lovely fruits and flowers.
Flowering and Fragrance
As stated above, dragon fruit cacti bloom during the night and are called the night’s queen.
The fragrant flowers open up at dusk and stay abloom till midnight. Before flowering, the flower buds can grow up to 10″ inches long.
Flowering begins in summer, usually at the beginning of June, soon followed by the formation of fruits. It takes at least 13 days for the flowers to form and 50 days for the fruits to become mature.
Under ideal conditions, the flower exudes a sweet, pleasant aroma of citrus zest and musty wood in late spring.
When it comes to pollination, some varieties are self-fertile, but cross-pollinating with other plants will produce better fruits.
Another option is to hand pollinate from each stamen.
The fruits depending on variety will have white flesh or red flesh, and the red variety fruit has the sweetest taste. If you want to grow yellow fruit, opt for the yellow dragon cultivar.
Varieties of Dragon Fruit
- Hylocereus costaricensis – purple and red fresh
- Hylocereus megalanthus – yellow skin or fruit with white flesh
Light and Temperature
These pitaya plants enjoy full sun or partial shade for proper growth. So your tropical plant must get at least a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Too much shade often leads to the death of the fruits as pests like fungi, bacteria, and insects consume them.
Red Dragon fruits also don’t do well in cold weather conditions. So make sure the temperature is above 40° degrees Fahrenheit at a minimum.
The temperature should be between 65° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit for the best result. Mature plants can handle higher temperatures.
The USDA hardiness zone of the plant is 9 to 11.
Watering and Feeding
Since the dragon fruit vine is a succulent, its water requirements are moderate to low.
Water the cactus when needed. However, do not allow the soil to dry out.
Keep in mind – the soil should be moist, not soggy, as too much water can lead to root rot. Don’t allow the water to sit for long.
To grow dragon fruit healthy and happy, apply some balanced fertilizer once a month. This should be done during the growing season of the plant.
In winter, avoid feeding the plant until the end of the season.
Soil type and Transplanting
The dragon fruit flower grows well in all types of soil. However, the soil must be moist and well-drained and contain a lot of organic matter.
Ideally, the cactus plant prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6 to 7. This plant also thrives in sandy soil but ensure it has adequate drainage.
If either of the soil is not available, ensure the soil is well-draining.
When transplanting, water the soil a day before to prepare the ground for a smooth transfer.
Dig a new hole 3 to 4 times as wide as a root ball.
Water the new hole to reduce transplant shock.
Dig deep and cut the root ball gently, making sure to cut all the remaining roots.
Transfer the plant to the new hole. When transplanting, make sure to keep the joints from bending.
If they get damaged in the process, they won’t survive for long. Moreover, if pot-grown, ensure the container is at least 24″ inches wide and 10″ inches deep.
Grooming and Maintenance
Even though the dragon fruit cactus enjoys being in the sun, its overexposure may damage the fruit.
Therefore, place the plant in a slightly sheltered spot in the scorching summer heat.
Regularly trim dead leaves to ensure the healthy development of the plant.
In addition, dragon fruit cacti are climbing plants that need support, so their aerial roots can properly climb and cling to structures like a climbing pole or trellis.
How to Propagate Pitaya Plants
Propagation of dragon fruit flowers is done from the black seeds and stem cuttings.
Growing dragon fruit from seed can take 7 years for fruit production. Stem cutting can produce fruit in 2 years.
However, cuttings are a more popular method to propagate this cactus species.
Here’s what you need to propagate Dragon fruit cactus:
- Take a small cutting from the parent plant, ensuring it is at least a foot long.
- Avoid cutting too much, as it will stunt the growth of the actively-growing plant.
- Apply fungicide to the ends of the cutting and let it sit for away from direct sunlight for several days to dry. This helps promote the growth of the plant.
- After the cutting turns white, place it into 2” inches of moist soil. Soon, fresh growth will come into sight.
- Provide a trellis for your new plant.
Pitaya Main Pests and Diseases
Dragon fruit trees are susceptible to sap-sucking insects like aphids and succulent mealybugs.
Thrips and mites are also infamous for hindering the plant’s growth.
Dragon fruit plants also suffer from stem rooting, sunburn bark, and anthracnose (a fungal disease).
Dragon Fruit Flower Uses
The exotic yet delicious fruit of the dragon cactus has several health benefits.
The fruit helps boost the immune system, treat heart diseases, and improve the digestive system.
The fruit is packed with vitamin C, which helps keep the body system healthy.
Apart from these health benefits, the splendid plant is also known for its ornamental uses.
The plant looks strikingly beautiful in a yard with its silvery-green cactus and red or pink skin fruit.
Moreover, dragon fruits can also be used in fruit juice, jams, wine, and ice cream.