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How to get Your Dragon Fruit Cactus to Fruit

Dragon Fruit Cactus

Aka: Pitaya or Pitahaya

(Hylocereus spp)



Dragon Fruit Cactus Growing Overview:

  • Dragon Fruit look amazing and taste wonderful.
  • Unfortunately, like many others, I have had difficulty finding useful information on how to get these plants to produce fruit.
  • Therefore, I did some deep research and some experimentation to figure out what makes these plants tick.  After a few years of effort, I am now happy to report that my plants are producing lots of fruit.  This article covers the method (and madness) of what works for me.


Dragon Fruit Appearance:

  • The fruit just looks amazing.
  • An individual fruit weighs between ½ pound to over 3 pounds.
  • From the outside, the fruit resembles a very large egg laid by some kind of mythical creature.  Hum, I wonder if that is how the plant got its name?
  • Anyhow, depending on the plant, the flesh of the fruit can be a variety of colors ranging from white, pink, red or dark purple.  The red and purple variety is really more of a psychedelic bright red/deep purple.  This deep color is rather unbelievable and may indicate the presence of strong antioxidants… or so people say.
  • The fruit flesh is also dotted with black specks which are the small seeds.
Varieties of Dragon Fruit

Red and white-pinkish varieties of dragon fruit from the backyard. My daughters hand is doing a photobomb to the right and there is a ruler on the bottom of the image for more objective measurement.

Scientific name and the color of the fruit flesh:

  • I have seen many references call the white fleshed variety by the scientific name (Hylocereus undatus) and the red fleshed variety (Hylocereus costaricensis).
  • After years of growing the white, pink, red and purple varieties of dragon fruit, I have not been able to appreciate significant difference in the external appearance of the plants.  Therefore, this makes me wonder if the provided nomenclature/taxonomy might be a bit artificial for these plants.  I have not heard anyone else mention this before… but I strongly suspect that these different colored fruits are just variations in color of the same plant species.  Which would actually make them different varieties of plants/fruits and not different species.
  • This then brings me to the next point, what about the pink fleshed variety?  What scientific name do you give that one? Regardless, it is very possible that the pink variety is a hybrid between the red and the white varieties.


Red Dragon Fruit

One of my purplish Dragon Fruit varieties cut in half


When is the Dragon Fruit Ripe?

  • The fruit is ripe when its wings start to wither (The wings are those leafy things that extend off from the fruit) and the fruit is red like the picture below (note: All of the Hylocereus spp fruit look this way when ripe even if their flesh is white, pink, red or purple).
  • At this point in ripeness the fruit will detach from the vine with a twist or two.  Note, if you wait for the fruit to fall off the plant, it will be over ripe and a waste.
Ripe Dragon Fruit. ready to pick.

Ripe Dragon Fruit, ready to pick.


Dragon Fruit Taste:

  • The skin is inedible… at least no one that I know of eats it.  The skin peels off very easily.
  • The texture of the edible flesh seems to defy physics; the flesh is firm and dense but melting and very juicy.
  • The fruit is sweet-and not tart.  There are subtle mild layers of tropical flavors-and an almost melon like overtone.
  • There is definitely a difference in the taste between the different colored varieties of dragon fruit.
  • The small pleasantly crunchy black seeds are similar to Kiwi seeds but not as hard.
  • Allowing the fruit to ripen properly on the vine gives you a much better flavor than any store bought Dragon Fruit that I have ever tried.  I think this is b/c the fruit is picked too early for the commercially grown stuff so that it can survive the transport time to the stores.
Cut up red Dragon Fruit

Tasty Dragon Fruit


Video tasting below was setup to be as if you were eating it yourself (8/16/15):


Video Taste with friend:

A great friend of mine (Stasi Seay) is a wine education expert and as a result she has an excellent palate for all kinds of food.   I recently had her try a Dragon Fruit for the first time and videotaped her perspectives on the unique flavors.  This YouTube video captures that moment.


More tasting references: 

Here is a link to an article I wrote about the taste of Dragon Fruit compared to Peruvian Apple Cactus. There is a cool taste testing video in that article too.


Dragon Fruit Season:

  • In Southern California, the main fruit harvest season is summer to fall.


Dragon Fruit Cactus Food use:

  • Just eat them fresh and enjoy.
  • Also used in fruit salads, ice cream and as blended fruit drinks.
  • I have heard that unopened flower buds are sometimes cooked and eaten as vegetables.  What a shame.


Dragon Fruit Flowers:

  • Its a shame the Dragon Fruit Flowers only bloom at night and only last for one day.  They are really large and beautiful.  The flowers also have a wonderful tropical aroma. For more info about Dragon Fruit flowers, click on this link.


Time lapse video of dragon fruit flowers opening (August 20, 2014): 

  • Here’s a video I put together of beautiful dragon fruit flowers opening (see below).
  • The following 20 second video was created by taking a picture every 15 min for 2 days.
  • But I didnt stay up all night taking pictures with a stopwatch; I just set things up to happen automatically and walked away.
        • FYI: If you want to make a cool time-lapse video like this yourself, you just need to get a simple plug-in device for your SLR.
        • The tool is called a “Release Timer Remote Control” and it is what allows you to set the time and interval for when the pictures will be taken automatically.
        • The prices for this category of product is all over the map.  The one I got has great reviews and is very reasonable compared to the others.  It was only about $30 on Amazon. Here’s the link if you are interested; Release Timer Remote Control
        • This particular Release Timer also has a ton of other-additional features that I am only starting to explore.
        • Its actually pretty darn cool.
        • The only major drawback about this product that I have read about on the reviews is that it doesn’t have an on/off button.  Therefore, you need to take the two AAA batteries out between uses… Which is probability a good idea anyways.


Natural Dragon Fruit Pollinators:

Native pollinators:

  • In their native South/Central American jungle environment, there are nocturnal bats that have a fondness for the large Dragon Fruit flowers. Specifically, in their natural habitat, the nectar-feeding bats Leptonycteris curasoae and Choeronycteris mexicana pollinate the large white flowers.  This is rather interesting because Dragon Fruit flowers seem to have lost their ability to produce nectar. So one could then surmise that these bats are after the huge amount of flower pollen as a food source.  Or perhaps they did not get the memo that these flowers (are just a tease and) have no nectar to share.
  • There are also big nocturnal moths in the jungle that pollinate these flowers as well.

California pollinators:

  • In California, things are a bit different.  Sure, we have nocturnal bats, but most of our bats are the ones that hunt flying bugs and don’t really care about flowers.  Interestingly, some of those Choeronycteris mexicana bats mentioned above have also been known to also be found in Southern California and Southern Arizona. However, from a pollination perspective, I would not count on them being around when you need them for your dragon fruit needs.
  • We also have some big moths such as the sphinx moth/hawkmoth that are quite common in our area. I have witnessed a lot of these big moths getting buried into the dragon fruit flowers at night.
  • Although the dragon fruit cactus produces a one night nocturnal flower, it does tend to stay open for a while in the morning before is shrivels up.  I often see honey bees going nuts inside and around these huge flowers during this early morning window. Those ecstatic bees seem dwarfed by the flower size and look almost intoxicated by their surroundings.
Excellent camouflage of a hawk moth sphinx moth with glowing eyes. This is one of the nighttime Dragon Fruit flower visitors/pollinators.

The pic shows the excellent camouflage of a hawk moth (aka sphinx moth) with glowing eyes. This is one of the nighttime Dragon Fruit flower visitors/pollinators.


Close up of a bee covered in pollen sitting on the stigma of the dragon fruitflower

Close up of a honey bee covered in pollen and stumbling on the stigma of the dragon fruit flower


Close up of bees pollinating the dragon fruit flower

Close up of 2 honey bees pollinating the dragon fruit flower


Hand Pollination of Dragon Fruit Flowers:

  • A few years ago, I tried multiple different ways of hand pollination.  However, none of it seemed to do anything significant to improve the amount of fruit that set.  My results were all over the map.  Some of the flowers that I pollinated fell off quickly and some of the flowers that I didn’t pollinate bore fruit.  Go figure.
  • Then I read that Dragon Fruit are notoriously difficult to pollinate. With that new info, I then thought for sure that I just needed to find the right pollination technique.  However, even though I tried every pollination method that I have heard of, I still had not made a large difference in the amount of fruit that set.
  • By the way, once the early fruit turns yellowish you can also expect that it will feel boggy.  This is an indication that the fruit will fall off soon (see pic below).
What dragon fruit looks like that will fall off

The Dragon Fruit bud turning yellow (on the right side of the image) will be aborted. You might as well take it off now because it will not turn into fruit.  The other developing fruit (on the left sife of the image) is firm and green. This one will turn into a nice big juicy Dragon Fruit in about a month. The brown stuff is the old flower petals and you can just leave them on if you like.


  • In protest, last year I didn’t hand pollinate any of the flowers.  The surprising result was that I suddenly had a ton of fruit growing.
  • So what’s the difference?  Well, there is more to the story and I made some additional changes that seemed to have a greater impact on my success than my pollination technique.
  • In general, fruiting success seems depend more on the happiness of the plant than just the mechanical process of putting the male and female parts together.  Ahem… Yes, it is a lot like sex.  You have to be happy and healthy to have a successful union.  More specific info about keeping your dragon happy for this type of success is discussed in the sections further down in this article.
  • All of that being said, once you have your plants in a happy place… may start to see the benefits of cross pollination.  For example, even among the self pollinating varieties of dragon fruit, cross-pollination, (either within a species or by crossing pollen between species), has been reported to result in more/ larger fruit than those obtained by just self-pollination in a controlled greenhouse environment.  However, I have not noticed this myself, likely because I have a lot of natural pollinators around and that type of controlled comparison is not possible for me unless I get a greenhouse which would allow me to isolate some plants for comparison.


Night time Dragon fruit flowers

Dragon Fruit Flowers


Pollination Update:


Pollination Update #2:   (July 27, 2014):

  • Today I noticed that my dragon fruit cacti are at different stages of flowering & fruiting.
  • Therefore, I thought it might be cool to do a video that will take you through the process of dragon fruit formation.
  • In this video, I also touched on some pollination concepts as well as important flower anatomy.
  • However, the follow up video done on July 29th is even better (its the next video down on the page).  Therefore, if you only watch one video, I would check out the follow up video from July 29th titled “How dragon fruit are formed”.


Pollination Update #3 (July 29, 2014):

  • If you are only going to watch one video, I would pick this one (below).
  • This is basically a 2 day follow up video to the one done above…  This time at night.
  • In this video you get to see how quickly things change in a relatively short amount of time.
  • But as an added bonus, you get to inspect a dragon fruit flower in full bloom.  
  • As a result, you get a better look at some of the important flower anatomy for pollination.
  • We also get to virtually eat some delicious dragon fruit at the end of the video. Yum!


Pollination side note:

  • It is also important to note that there are some varieties of Dragon Fruit that definitely do need to be pollinated to make fruit.  However, there are also many varieties of Dragon Fruit that do not need to be pollinated (they are self-fruitful).   This is an important consideration to keep in mind when getting your plants.
  • From what I understand, most of the cacti that produce the purple/red fleshed fruit are self fruitful.  This is the type I have the most of and it is likely the reason why my hand pollination didn’t seem to make a big difference for me.  Therefore, the success of the fruit was all about the happiness of the plant.
  • That being said,  I suspect that pollination will likely boost overall fruit size-because this has been documented in many other types of fruit as well.
    • For those who are interested, Dragon Fruit flower pollen may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and can be kept in the freezer for up to 30 days.
    • It takes about 45 days to go from flower to ripe fruit.


Dragon Fruit Cactus Cultivation:

  • The big picture here is that this plant should not be treated like a cactus.
  • This cactus evolved in (and is best adapted to) a hot/warm and wet tropical environment.  Treat this unique cactus like a tropical/subtropical plant and it will be very happy.
  • My cultivation method is to duplicate the plants native habitat as much as possible and it has been very fruitful (so to speak). See the following sections below for more detailed info.
Awesome Dragon Fruit harvest

Dragon Fruit: one days harvest from a few cacti



  • I planted my plants in full sun.
  • Side note: Full sun may not be the best option if you are living in the inland desert environment because the sun may be too strong without the moisture in the air to deflect some of the strong Southern California sun’s rays.  Again, this is not your typical cactus and it does not belong in the desert.  However, if you have some ocean/marine influence to your climate, full sun or perhaps partial shade would be the way to go.  Full sun works for me and I am 10 miles inland from the ocean.



  • It’s a tropical jungle plant so it doesn’t like the cold.
  • However, it will tolerate the occasional cold spell/light frost that we sometimes get during the Southern California winter.
  • I have read academic publications stating that it will survive temps down to 28 F.
  • To be safe, you could plant your Dragon Fruit Cactus in a warm part of your yard such as near a south facing wall.  In that position, you would also have to be concerned about over heating in the summer.
  • I planted the ones that I have on the top of a hill, far away from any other structures, and that has been fine.
  • Don’t plant this cactus in a low part of your property where cold air can collect in the winter months.


Dragon Fruit Cactus Soil:

  • Unfortunately, there is conflicting information about how to grow the Dragon.
  • I was initially naïve and treated this plant like a typical cactus.  However, the plant barely grew in sandy soil and it looked really sad.  I knew something was wrong but I wasn’t sure what.
  • Therefore, I decided to go to the source; I researched the plants native habitat.
  • Hylocereus spp cacti live in the jungle.  Yea, its a bit odd.  In its native central/South America, the dragon fruit cacti tends to grow in and on other trees (the scientific name for a plant that grows upon another plant is epiphyte).
  • If you happen to be in the jungle down South of the border, you might see these guys growing out of the organic leaf litter that has piled up in the branch crevices of large trees.  These cacti will climb their way to the top of the supporting trees and drop their roots wherever they can find soil or a place to grab on.
  • In this elevated tree canopy, the plant also seems to do better than elsewhere which is likely a result of the improved sun exposure and perhaps the lack of competition for soil nutrients. The highest points of the trees not only offer the best sunlight, the elevated location also offers lots of organic fertilizer from the droppings of roosting birds.
  • Therefore, the Dragon Fruit Cactus is built to grow in rich, well draining, organic soil.
  • I planted the cacti that I have with a soil mix containing lots of organic material.  For the most part, this is the method that I use for most of the fruit trees in my yard.  The only difference from my normal mix is that I added in about 10% peat moss for the Dragon.  My thinking here is that the peat moss would be a good way to keep the soil airy and moist with the added benefit of mild acidification.


Dragon Fruit Cactus Fertilization:

  • I am sure there are many different opinions about how to best fertilize this plant.  However, in my method I have tried to mimic the plants native conditions and it has been working very well.
  • Specifically, I cover the ground (root zone) around the cacti with lots of compost and grow mulch that I pour straight out of the bag.  I look for the type of grow mulch that has chicken manure in it because bird poo is likely the major form of fertilizer for these cacti in their native habitat.
  • I also frequently add doses of chicken manure to the top of the soil just before and during the growing season.
  • I then water in the compost/mulch regularly throughout the year to let the nutrients soak down in.
Water in the organic fertilizer

Water in the organic fertilizer


Dragon Fruit Cactus Water:

  • This jungle cactus likes to have moist soil that doesn’t dry out.
  • The soil also needs to be loose and well draining.  This plant does not like standing water.
  • I also spray the branches with water on particularly hot-dry days for a jungle effect.  However, I think this spraying is more for me than actually doing anything useful for the plants.


Dragon Fruit Propagation:

  • Dragon Fruit Cactus vines are easily started from cuttings.  I just put some recently cut branches in soil and they rooted without anything other than regular water (and the above noted soil mixture).  One year old cuttings about 1 foot long seem to work well.  Cuttings may fruit in as little as one years time.
  • You can also start Dragon Fruit Cactus from seed but it takes a lot longer for them to grow and reach fruiting maturity (It can take up to 6 years to fruit).
    • 8/27/15: I am growing dragon fruit cacti from seed now and will update on the progress when I get some more info.


Landscape Use:

Dragon Fruit Cactus Growing Support:

  • Since this cactus-vine is an epiphyte, it prefers to have something to grow on… But it will also meander along the ground.
  • People have successfully used support methods ranging from fences and arbors to palm trees.
  • In South East Asia, (where this fruit is very popular) many commercial growers use a “top branching pole” structure.  In Vietnam they use cement poles so they don’t rot in the naturally wet tropical climate of SE Asia.  However, cement poles in my yard did not seem that appealing so I went with wood (see next section for details).
  • Regardless of the supporting method, most commercial structures are 5-8 feet high with about 8 feet spacing between plants.
  • Initially, the cactus-vine will need some help staying on whatever support structure you go with.  I have used both rope and velcro plant ties to secure the branches close to the main pole.  Don’t use thin wire or string that will cut into the flesh of the cacti.  Eventually, fibrous arial roots from the Dragon Fruit cacti branches will reach out and grab on to the structure and the ties will no longer be needed.  Note: the arial roots wont attach to metal or pressure treated wood.

My dragon fruit cactus support structure: 

  • I used redwood because it has a great natural resistance to water damage/rot.
  • I did not use pressure treated wood because (in my opinion) there are way too many odd chemicals in there to preserve that wood and I didnt want those toxins leaching into the soil and then into my food.
  • Specifically, the structure I like to use is a 4×4 post with smaller cut lengths of wood secured to the top.  These smaller cut pieces of wood at the top give the vine support to drape off of (see picture).
  • When fully grown, the plant and pole resembles an exotic palm tree.


Dragon fruit rootlets grabbing onto a redwood post

Dragon fruit rootlets grabbing onto a redwood post

Top of support structure surrounded by fruit

The top of the support structure showing the design.

Growing branch fallen because supporting rope broke before roots could take hold.

Growing branch fallen because supporting rope broke before roots could take hold.

Dragon Fruit Cactus Pruning:

  • Stems may grow more than 20 feet and will eventually need pruning.
  • I try to prune at the natural joints formed on the stems.
  • Some have reported that pruning 1 month before fruiting will increase number of flowers and fruit size.  I have not really noticed that to be true or false, but I have not been measuring this possible effect either.
  • By the way, I have used and abused countless pruning instruments.  After a long trail of broken cutting tools, I have finally found my favorite pruners of all time which is the Corona brand Bypass Pruner.  There are knockoffs that look similar, but the others are not even in the same league in regards to durability and quality.

Also: sterilize your pruners!

  • It is really important to sterilize your trimmers/pruners between plants.  There are several infectious plant diseases that are unknowingly spread from plant to plant by cutting/trimming instruments.   This is true for any plant, but particularly so for Dragon Fruit cacti… many of which have been infected with systemic diseases because of sub-optimal sanitizing techniques (see my resent article on Dragon Fruit Diseases for more info).
  • There are a many sanitizing options for your pruners including household cleaning solutions, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide. These only need to be applied to the cutting blade. Many of these liquids require some application time that you have to wait for them to be sterilized.
  • Another faster option is heat sterilization of your cutting blade with a hand held torch.  The torch technique, is convenient and fast, but obviously results in the tips of your trimmers being hot… Which are then obviously a potential burn hazard to you and to your plants.. as well as being a general fire hazard.   Definitely don’t try burning things in your garden/yard if you are in a fire danger area.. which is most of California.  And my favorite disclaimer of all,  “don’t try this at home.”
  • Interestingly, I just found this other tool that actually spritzes your hand pruners with sterilizing fluid with each cut. I have no idea how well this product works, but it is an interesting take on addressing the problem. For reference, here is a link to that product Hand Pruners with Spray Applicator.
  • While I was getting my hair cut today another thought came to mind.  I wonder if that chemical they put hair cutting scissors in would also kill any plant microbes.  Seems like it should and apparently it is fully biodegradable.  As a disclaimer, I have never heard of anyone using a barbers/hair salon disinfectant such as Barbicide for this purpose.


Dragon Fruit Diseases:

  • There are several important Dragon Fruit diseases to be aware of.  Since I have had a lot of difficulty finding a complete source of information on the subject, I decided to create one myself.  For more information, please check out that article titled Dragon Fruit Diseases.
Brown spots on dragon fruit stems

Dragon Fruit symptoms of stem spots caused by Botryospaheria dothidea on Hylocereus undatus. Rev. Fac. Cienc. Agrar., Univ. Nac. Cuyo vol.45 no.1 Mendoza ene. jun. 2013


Dragon Fruit Pests:

  • Overall there are not a lot of buggy-pests on the plant that I have noticed with the exception of the occasional snail which doesn’t seem to do significant damage.
  • However, the fruit itself attracts aphids and their courier-accomplice ants.  However, these sap suckers are easy to remove with a strong spray of water from the garden hose.
  • Gophers will eat the roots.   Caging the roots is relatively easy at planting.
  • I would also expect squirrels to be a problem once they figure out that this fruit is tasty.  I have only seen a few rodent bite marks on ripening Dragon Fruit. Not sure if this would represent squirrels or mice or something else.   Might be best to pluck the fruit on the ground early so the rodents don’t learn that this is something worth jumping up for.
Rodent damage on Dragon Fruit that was sitting on the ground. This location is just too easy for the rodents to take a curious bite of something they have never seen before.

Rodent damage on Dragon Fruit that was sitting on the soil. This ground location is just too easy for the rodents to take a curious bite of something they have never seen before.



  • There is cultural evidence and biologic evidence that dragon fruits have been cultivated by native Central and South America people since ancient (pre-columbian) times.
  • There are >25 species of Hylocereus spp identified with numerous different cultivars and hybrids.
    • There are reported to be more than 100 varieties in California alone.
    • The major species that are grown commercially are H. polyrhizus and  H. undatus.
    • The genus name undatus is derived from the Latin word unda meaning ‘wavy or waved’ like water.  This name is in reference to the wavy appearance of the cactus branches/stems.
    • There is ongoing academic research being done to figure out which varieties are the best and the details of their optimal growing characteristics.
    • See the section above labeled “Scientific name and the color of the fruit flesh” for my take on the scientific naming convention.
  • Some varieties are self-pollinating and many others require cross-pollination from another species,variety or cultivar.  Ask when you buy and (if it was me) get the self-pollinating varieties.
  • Red fleshed and pink fleshed fruit contain high levels of antioxidants.
  • Hylocereus undatus is native to tropical deciduous forests of Mexico, the West Indies, Central America and northern South America ( Bravo-Hollis, 1978;Nobel and de la Barrera, 2002).
  • Interesting, scientific papers have mentioned that Dragon fruit cactus flowers don’t produce nectar… and that trait may have been lost in the plant domestication process.


Stefanie from Southern California has sent in some lovely pictures of her dragon fruit cacti in bloom (see below). Thanks Stefanie!

Dragon Fruit Flower: Photo credit: fellow reader Stefanie from Southern California

Dragon Fruit Flower: Photo credit: fellow reader Stefanie from Southern California


Stefanie adds that, "Some flowers take on an almost luminous quality when photographed." Photo credit from Stefanie living in Southern California

Stefanie adds that, “Some flowers take on an almost luminous quality when photographed.” Photo credit from Stefanie living in Southern California


Stefanie has a cool picture here that shows how her dragon fruit cactus rootlets have found her fountain which is connected to her aquaponics system. I am sure there is a lot of good nutrients in that water. Photo credit: Stefanie from Southern California

Stefanie has a cool picture here that shows how her dragon fruit cactus rootlets have found her fountain which is connected to her aquaponics system. I am sure there is a lot of great nutrients in that water. Photo credit: Stefanie from Southern California


Dragon Fruit Flowers opening. Photo credit Fellow reader Stefanie from Southern California

Dragon Fruit Flowers opening. Photo credit from fellow reader Stefanie living in Southern California


About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.


  1. Ron Kranz........Australia

    Can get heaps of blooms but no fruit

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Ron
      Bummer about the lack of fruit for you.

      The 3 most common reasons that I have seen for this are:
      -Plant is too young.
      -No or wrong pollinizers
      -Wrong soil moisture.

      And yea, could be something else, such as air temp, or light, or fertilization, or the boogieman.

      I might try to pollinate some flowers yourself, just to see what will happen.

      Good luck!

  2. Are they possibly apomictic like citrus? (requiring no action whatsoever) or are they inbreeders like tomatoes that can be pollinated by vibration such as wind or fan?

    We’ve been growing them for several years — rather haphazardly — after reading all your wonderful information — I’m going to make some changes to how we grow them. We, here in Southern Middle Tennessee, of course, have to grow them in a greenhouse — we keep them in our semi-tropical greenhouse and they grow fine=== no flowers yet == so no fruit — I’ll make some changes to our growing strategies and see what happens this year. thanks for sharing all the good info and the videos.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Great question Sue.

      I dont think this plant follows apomixis as defined as “replacement of the normal sexual reproduction by asexual reproduction.
      I believe that fertilization does need to occur, even if it is self fertilization.

      As far as fertilization, it depends on what you got.

      Some varieties of dragon fruit cactus are self fertile and others require a different plant for pollination.
      From what I understand, the self fertile dragon fruit cactus have been breed and selected for growers and are very uncommon in the wild.

      If you are in a greenhouse, I can imagine you would be wondering if you need to hand pollinate.
      As you likely know, many self fertile plants will still need something to get the pollen from the anther to the stigma.
      I suspect that the Dragon fruit cactus needs at least some pollen-transfer to get fruit.

      Some pollen will likely fall to the stigma on its own. However, because my plants are outdoors I don’t know if this is also aided by the wind, insects, etc.
      Overall, my cactus fruiting success seems to have more to do with the growing conditions than my hand pollination attempts.
      For example, I got fruit regardless of what I tried to hand pollinate… likely because of other pollinators were at work out there.

      However, I suspect that the combination of pollination (of some sort) and tropical growing conditions are necessary for fruit to form.

      Please keep us updated on how things go for you!

  3. Im trying to grow dragon fruit of all 3 variaties but i havent bought the seeds yet i would like some advice on how to grow them in a place like Maryland near the beach because i want to grow them but im worried i might acidently kill them if i plant them here and i dont know how to hand pollinate you advice would really help me out.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey kkfire12
      Great questions.

      I suspect that Maryland might be a bit cold in the winter for these guys. They are really subtropical plants and dont seem to tolerate more than a light frost.
      That being said, they do rather well in pots. Therefore, you could have them outside for most of the year and then bring them in for the colder months.
      Or.. You could keep them inside all year long by a sunny window.
      Regardless of where you have them, you will need to give them some support to grow on because they are climbers. They grow more like vines than your typical cactus.

      As far as pollination.. yea, hand pollination would be the way to go. They only bloom at night.. and for one night, so you have a small window to do it. The standard way is to take a brush and transfer the pollen from the anther to the stigma. However, in my own experience, the overall soil health (right moisture, temp, etc) has more to do with fruiting success than anything.

      As far as growing from seed… good for you for trying. However, it is much easier to grow from cuttings. Just put the dragon fruit branch cutting in the right soil and they grow. I have them fruiting in one year from planting. Seedlings on the other hand take many years (some say 7 years) to reach fruiting maturity.

  4. Hello Doc

    Have just self pollenated my first crop of dragon fruit last night and again tonight, have noted the flowers last longer into the next morning after being pollenated,
    Do not know if white or red flesh fruit.


    Brisbane Queensland Australia

  5. Best report I’ve read so far Thomas – thank you!
    Still wanting to know: if the fruiting stems (the ones with the blunt ends) need to be 2 years old before they fruit. Seems like it from the time my plants have been in the soil. With pruning, I don’t want to prune off next season’s fruit!
    And if the stem fruited this season, will it do so again next season? (I know I’ll find this out if I live long enough, but would love to know for sure one way or the other!).
    Oh indeed the plants love organic fertiliser, mulched soil and lots of water! And they do sunburn in coastal Brisbane.
    I do pollinate: snip some stamens off and shake the pollen over the pistil of the same flower. So far, so good.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Elaine!
      That is a really great observation about the fruiting age of the Dragon fruit vines.
      I have noticed the same thing; but I haven’t quantified the exact details.

      Although I have not specifically marked the vines with dates, this is my general sense:
      -Old vines that have turned kindof woody do not flower at all.
      -I don’t think that 1 year old growth has flowered either (but I am not totally sure about that).
      -2 year old vines do flower and fruit… And I suspect that 3 year old vines do too.

      Ill have to keep a closer watch on this and get back to you.


      • Thank you for your observations, Tom. Now by ‘vines’ do you mean the individual stem?
        I’m assuming from the photos I’ve seen that the plants themselves live for many years.
        So can I take it that the flat-ended stem which produced flowers then fruit this year, might produce more next year? But not necessarily after that?
        When I prune, I should mark some stems so I can follow the results. This is where keeping a detailed garden diary would bear fruit 😉
        I’ve looked into some information put out by various Agricultural Departments both here in Australia (Northern Territory especially) and overseas. There is little detailed information of the kinds I want answers to … I would love to know what commercial growers really do. My 5 plants aren’t any threat to any commercial growers.
        Looks like we amateurs are re-inventing our Cactus wheel. Fun though! Such tasty fun.
        Thinking about the fruit trees which have come and gone over the years, the Dragon Fruits for the amount of space they take up and the small amount of care required, are the most productive of all.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Elaine

          Thanks for asking; so yea… when I was saying vines I meant the branches or stems of the cactus.
          I sometimes use the terms vines and branches interchangeably when talking about the dragon fruit cactus, but I see now this is confusing.
          Although this cactus acts like a vine, thanks to your clarifying question, I think I am going to change my lexicon and delete vine in this contex.

          Yea, they do live many years… Exactly how many years I am not sure, but I have no reason to suspect they are short lived. Over 10 years at least.

          Shape of stems:
          There is a variable number of ribs to each stem/branch.
          Most branches have 3 ribs, sometimes 2 ribs (flat branch) and sometimes 4 or more.
          Why the variation.. I have no idea.
          However, at least for my plants, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation to the number of ribs and the fruiting ability of that branch.

          Commercial Growers:
          Agree, I would love to talk to some commercial growers and see how they do it.
          Let me know if you hear anything.

          Awesome plant:
          Agree Agree… They are great producers or the space they take up.
          They also seem to prefer to grow where other fruit trees would rather not (in the shade/filtered sunlight of big trees).

          • Right, Thomas just a little more clarification … the shape to which I referred is the ends of the stems.
            It seems the mature stems have blunt or flat ends where the stems which are still growing have pointed ends. The stems with the flat ends (or call them another name which is more descriptive) are the fruiting stems. The pointed stems are still growing and will be flat one day when they are ready to fruit.
            Cheers – Elaine

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Awesome observation Elaine
            I have noticed that the pointed ends are growing but I had not made the connection with flowering.
            I will have to keep an eye out this season to see what they do.

        • i have a dragon fruit cactus that i inherit from my grandma, that said the plant its over 35 years old, it flowers all year long but the fruit never comes out of the flower it is the red variety because last october one flower did became a fruit but it rot before i could eat it (it was about 4 inches long), maybe it is caracas weather that have to much difference in degrees between day and night (from 30-27 day time to 16-18 Celsius at night), but right now im living in panama and the weather here its perfect for this pant and the sprout from my seeds are growing really fast im hopping that the 6 year breach between plant and fruit becomes 2 😀

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Thanks for the note Yorel
            There can be a lot of factors causing the flowers to drop before fruit.
            Most common ones are soil conditions (moisture and amount of organic material, etc).
            Other things like air temp and humidity also play a part bit harder to do anything about that.

            Finally, some of the older varieties may only fruit if there is a different type of dragon fruit flower pollen applied (by you, moths or bats).
            Since the flowering time is so short, cross pollination of these cactus can be tricky.

            Good luck.

  6. Hi Tom,

    I live in Columbus, OH. I have 2 dragon fruit plants of unknown variety in my guest room/greenhouse at the moment. After a summer full of blooms, but no fruit, I am convinced this is a variety that requires cross pollination…ugh! As we are FINALLY starting to get to spring, I am thinking about purchasing a dragon fruit cutting from Pine Island Nursery in Miami, Florida. Do you have any recommendations on varieties that are self fruiting? I have 4 varieties in mind, but I’m not sure if you have any experience with any of them (Dark Star, Delight, Purple Haze, and the yellow dragon fruit). Thanks!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Brian
      Great questions.

      I believe all of your choices are all self Self-fertile varieties (Dark Star, Delight, Purple Haze, and the yellow dragon fruit).

      I know there are going to be dragon fruit connoisseurs that will say this is blasphemy… but to me, the biggest between most of them is the difference in the color of the flesh. The taste is very similar between most of them.

      Dark Star = Red skin with green fins-Pinkish-red flesh

      Delight = Red skin with green fins- Pinkish flesh

      Purple Haze = Red skin with green fins- yea, the flesh is kindof purple

      Yellow = Yellow skin white flesh. (I haven’t personally tried this one myself) This one looks very different from the rest; the skin is also thorny and people say that it is the sweetest. The significant difference is not surprising considering it is a totally different genus (Hylocereus megalanthus aka Selenicereus megalanthus)

      As far as the nursery you mentioned, I don’t have any experience with them.

      • Hi Tom,

        Thank you for your detailed description of the varieties. Unfortunately Pine Island is out of most of the varieties I’m interested in trying out. Where did you originally purchase the plants you have currently? Do you grow other tropical fruits other than dragon fruit?

        Thanks again!


        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Brian
          Your very welcome.
          I bought all of my plants locally in California.

          I see them at some rather random and unexpected places around San Diego.
          Sometimes they are put out in prominent locations of popular nurseries.
          Sometimes I see them in lonely corners of wholesale nurseries.
          Quite often they are not labeled as being a specific variety.
          At a particular location, their availability is flux for reasons I have not been able to correlate to a particular season.

          Very rarely, I have seen them in the big box home improvement stores… But the plant selection for these stores tends to be regionally specific and the dragon fruit cactus may not be available at stores located in cooler climates like Ohio.

          Overall, at lest in San Diego, if you ask a manager or owner of a local nursery they often tell you where to go, or could order it for you.
          I would expect the same for other warmer parts of the country as well…
          Perhaps an option for you would be to ask an owner or manager of a local nursery if they had a contact or could order some for you.

          Some additional thoughts for the adventurous traveling plant collector. Some states are very strict about bringing plants in from another state. California is one of the most strict. Therefore, I would look into the particular states agricultural rules before resorting to a domestic vacation-reconnaissance mission. However, I know for a fact that if you tried to bring some plants in from another country that those cute little dogs at the airport would go nuts on your baggage… so not a great option.

          Good luck and let us know how it goes.

          • Hi Tom,

            Just to give you an update on our previous conversation…The first Florida shipment arrived at my local nursery this week. I felt like a kid in a candy shop! Guava, papaya, mango, dragon fruit, to name a few! I ended up leaving with a barbados cherry tree and a Natural Mystic dragon fruit (which looks VERY different than my mystery variety that I got last summer). Both are from Pine Island Nursery in Miami, FL. Looking forward to see what the Spring and summer brings for the barbados cherry and the new dragon fruit!

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Ooh Ahh.. I totally know what you mean about being a kid in the candy shop.
            I feel that way every time I see a new fruiting plant.
            It is great to hear I am not alone in my passion, b/c many of my family/friends just dont get it.

            Interesting about your mystic dragon… It sounds like we might be on the same page about this; If they look VERY different, I would be wondering if at least one of them was different variety and mislabeled.

            Barbados cherry is on my list, I am looking forward to hear how that goes for you.

            Thanks for the update!


          • Hi Tom,

            I’d like to repot my new dragon fruit plant I got last weekend. Would you recommend using an organic fertilizer designed for tropical plants (Espoma Palmtone 4-1-5) or a general purpose organic fertilizer (Espoma Plantone 5-3-3) to amend the potting soil. I was also planning on using a bit of sand (just as an addition, not as a primary ingredient) and perlite to lighten up the soil as well. Should this work!

            As a side note, the Barbados cherry seems to be pretty resilient. I repotted it a day after I got it and while it was droopy for about a day, the next day it perked right back up! I’m still shopping around for a replacement Nam Doc Mai mango tree!

            Thanks as always!

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Brian.

            Thanks for the very important questions.

            Fertilize and transplant:

            As a general rule, when I repot plants I tend not to fertilize them at the same time.
            I try to keep the changes to a minimum.
            I wait to fertilize for at least a week (often more) to give the plant a chance to settle in first.

            Type of fertilizer:
            But yea, when I do fertilize, I give them the organic stuff.
            Dragon fruit cactus are epiphyte plants from the jungle (like orchids). So orchid type food should be great for them.
            However, I personally tend to give them stronger (and cheaper) stuff, like chicken manure, mushroom compost, and grow mulch in the root zone.
            I like to mix it up for them.
            But for odorous reasons, this method will not be a nasal friendly solution if the plants are going to be inside at any time.

            Considering Dragon Fruit Cactus are often found at the tops of jungle trees where birds perch, I would expect they get a lot of bird poo on their stems. Therefore, I would think that a foliar fertilizer spray would also work well…. Although I haven’t tried that yet.

            Yea, well-draining rich-soil is a must.
            Stay away from heavy clay soils
            Personally, I like to add in peat moss to help with soil moisture control and to lightly acidify the soil as well.
            Most people that I know of will also recommended that perlite be used for dragon fruit soil.
            However, lately I have been using a soil mix made mostly of peat moss and grow mulch (no pearlite); and the plants are very happy. But these plants are planted on a bit of a slope and drainage is ideal.
            To your specific question, a bit of sand should be just fine.

            Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your green minions.


  7. hi thomas was wondering if you did tours of your dragon fruits, btw just read all the info on your site and have to say you have alot of good info, cant wait to share with you my experiences, i live in riverside and have lots of plants and varieties , with plants that are 3-2-1 year old plants,

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Dave

      Thanks for the great feedback.
      I have tons more articles lined up… just need the time to put them together.

      I have given lots of informal tours for family and friends. But no plans to open things up to the public. Perhaps some day… But at this point, I have a lot of other things that I would like to do before I am at that stage.

      In Riverside you should be able to grow the same types of things as I do here. I am looking forward to hear about your experience.


      • hi tom i live in guam am having trouble getting my dragon fruit to keep its fruit after it flowers , the fruit part after the flower will stay green for 4 days then starts to turn yellow , please help?

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hi Marian
          Thanks for the question.
          Unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer for you.
          Basically, you have to have all of the important environmental factors lined up just right for this plant to produce fruit.
          My best advice is to follow the outline in the Dragon Fruit articles.

    • Hello Doc am a newbie in this kind of planting and I live here in South California. I got the right soil, watering the plant as appropriate. And now my dragon plant starts to produce fruit. But the thing is that the fruit starts to be so green then suddenly starts to turn yellow then falls off…. Am wondering what happens do I nedd to do something else? Thanks you in advance.

      • Thomas Osborne, MD

        Hey Guil
        Thanks for the question.

        This is a common issue that happens to a lot of people.
        In my experience, the 3 most common issues to consider are;
        The age of the plant, environmental conditions and potentially poor pollination.

        A young plant, (of any kind) may abort fruit before it is ready.
        From a cost perspective, producing fruit can be rather taxing.
        At some point a young plant says to itself, “What have I gotten myself into? I can’t support the expense of this thing”
        And then that young plant flips a switch and lets that fruit go before it is ready.
        Young plants may also produce smaller fruit compared to an older plant.

        Both of the above issues may also be related to the plants root system.
        A young plant is going to have a less developed root system than an older plant. Therefore, that younger plant is more likely to be stressed out by dry conditions than an older plant with a more developed root system.

        Environmental conditions:
        These dragon fruit cactus have evolved in the relatively stable environment of the jungle.
        The temperature, moisture, sunlight, etc doesn’t vary a whole lot from day to day or month to month in their homeland.
        Therefore, they never needed the resiliency biology that many other plants have.
        With all of that in mind, as you know the environmental conditions in Southern California have been rather extreme lately.
        Record heat and dry air is not optimal for these fickle creatures.

        Therefore, do what you can to soften these environmental extremes when you can.
        If you see a heat wave coming, water heavy the night before.
        Spraying the branches with some water in the middle of a really hot day may potentially help, but I dont think this has been proven.
        Some people will use shade cloth on really hot days, which makes sense, but I have not tried that.

        Ck out my article on Gardening success in a heat wave 3 key tips for more info on the subject.

        Poor pollination:
        Most of the dragon fruit cactus that you can buy around here are the self pollinating type.
        Therefore, poor pollination should not be a major issue for most people.
        However, in theory, even the self pollinating types will do better if they are also properly pollinated.

        Not enough fertilizer may be a natural concern you might have.
        However, if the plant looks otherwise green (not yellow) then fertilization should not be the reason for fruit drop.
        On the other hand, over fertilization with a non-organic fertilizer can definitely be a cause for fruit drop.

  8. Very informative and detailed article! What cultivar is that magenta one you cut in half? Where did you buy it? I’m in San Diego as well.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Ed

      I believe the magenta variety in the picture is “Dark Star” However, I am not positive.

      I got these many years ago, and the labels are long gone. This is before I found a lasting way to label my plants.

      I have gotten plants and cuttings from many different places in California; local nurseries, some un-named road side stands, cuttings from random places.
      They are around but for some reason they are not usually front and center.
      The offerings also seem to come and go- and are not related to any seasonal trend that I have noticed.
      I find if I ask at a local nursery, they will often take me to a back-quiet corner of the grounds and show me their selection.
      They are so tasty, easy to grow and easy to propigate I am surprised that they are not easier to find for sale.


  9. Hello Tom,
    Great information, I brought the purple/red kind and I think it is old enough, but it grows the flowers but then the flowers will just die and fall off of the cactus, it won’t produce any fruit. I have it in a huge planter pot because I wanted to be able to move it once I move into my yard once I move in. I planted it with an organic soil and breathable soil for it. I don’t water it to often and don’t think I have used any kind of fertilizer. I am curious how to pollen the flowers, do you just shake the flowers and the yellow flakes ( power like) not sure how to describe it come out because I have done that to my flowers before but still no fruit so maybe you could tell me how you hand pollinate? Also I looked at Home Depot and they have cow manure would that work? Also where do you find the mushroom compost, grow mulch etc.? I am interested in changing up to see if maybe my dragonfruit will actually grow fruit.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      HI Brittany
      Thanks for the questions and your positive feedback.
      Your travel website looks very interesting.

      Regarding getting a dragon fruit cactus to fruit:
      This is a common question and an issue that many people struggle with.

      I think I should do a post on this soon with detailed pictures.
      In the mean time, here is the process in written form.

      You basically want to get the pollen from the male part of the flower to the female-part of the flower.
      -The female part of the flower is the octopus looking thing in the middle of the flower. This is called the stigma and is where the pollen goes.
      -The yellow powdery stuff is the pollen which comes from the male part of the flower. The pollen is found on the anthers, and the anthers are the numerous yellow things that surround the stigma.
      -Many people use a soft paint brush to transfer the pollen from the anthers to the stigma… but anything like that will work.

      Cactus variety:
      Important note, a lot of this depends on if you have a self fertile variety or if you have a cactus that needs cross pollinating with a flower from a different plant.
      -For the self fertile type you can transfer the pollen to the anther of the same flower.
      -For the ones that need cross pollinating, you need to take the pollen from a flower of a different plant and usually a different variety of dragon fruit.

      Growing environment is key:
      If the growing environment is not optimal, the dragon fruit cactus tends to drop its flowers and drop its fruit prematurely.
      Even if your pollinating was done perfectly, if the soil is not right, the flowers will drop.
      From what you have written, it looks like you have done a great job with the soil.

      Growing in pots:
      However, growing in pots can be challenging. Specifically, the temperature of the soil and roots tends to flux more when growing in containers. This can sometimes stress out a plant.
      In addition, the soil in pots will dry out faster than the soil in the ground. Since these cactus are really jungle plants, they like constant moisture (but not waterlogged damp conditions). Getting the right soil moisture is about as important as the right soil type.

      I have not tried cow manure so I have no idea if it would work. However, cow manure tends to have a lot of salts in it, and salts do not always agree with tropical plants. Therefore, if it was me, I would avoid this option, or use a small amount… Or, you could also try it as an experiment on one isolated cactus.

      Where to get mushroom compost?:
      I happened to get my mushroom compost at a nearby mushroom farm. They give it away. Yea, crazy… and smelly. For more info on this option check out an old post I did on free mushroom compost.

  10. I’m growing all the different varieties in north San Diego county. I got one from Home Depot., and the rest (cuttings) from ebay. I just put them in a pot and off they go, didn’t worry about soil type, whatever I had around. When the dogs run by and break off a piece I just put it in a pot of whatever is around and they usually grow. I’ve had a few fruitings, I do the small paint brush routine to pollinate. I’ll have to pay more attention to what I’m doing I guess, if I want more fruit. There’s one about to flower in a few days. I like them, not much flavor, but the rest of the family won’t even try them. Their loss. I’ll have to get some of that mushroom compost from Escondido.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Jim
      Thanks for the note.
      The compost in Escondido is a great deal (free), but any kind of good organic compost should work for your Dragon Fruit cactus.

  11. Have a question…I have had a dragonfruit plant for about a year. My problem isn’t the growing, but how do I get it to flower and grow fruit? Do I need to pollinate it?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Marla.
      Thanks for the post.

      This is a popular question.
      The answer depends on a few factors… most importantly, the variety of dragon fruit cactus that you have.
      Some varieties are self pollinating and therefore may be able to produce fruit without hand pollination.
      I have several of these types of dragon fruit and I get lots of fruit with out any flower manipulation.

      There are a few other factors that you need to consider if you want your dragon to flower and fruit.
      These important growing points are outlined in my articles on the subject; found above and via the associated links.


  12. Your mysterious night-time pollinator has eyeshine. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapetum_lucidum#Eyeshine) That rules out insects.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Interesting, thanks David

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey David, that is an interesting link you sent.

      However, from what I am reading, eyeshine does not rule out insects.
      Eyeshine is an adaptation related to night vision of many different creatures.
      Specifically, I have recently discovered that the Sphinx Moth has eyeshine.
      I have found multiple references out there, but this one has a nice photo (below)

      This mysterious pollinator in the video is looking more and more like a Sphinx Moth.

      • Hi Tom! I believe your mystery visitor is a hummingbird! They do fly at night, and you can see in your video that it flew backwards out of the flower, a feat only a hummie could perform!

        Thanks for the GREAT info about Dragon Fruit. My first plant just bloomed for the first time yesterday evening and I had no idea it was going to flower like that! I’m so in love with the plant!!!

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Thanks Donna! I didnt think hummingbirds flew around at night.
          And your very welcome about the Dragon fruit info… Congrats on your first bloom! They are amazing flowers.

          • I agree with Donna. It looks like a hummingbird to me and you’ll notice the night eyes reflecting your camera light, which would suggest it’s not a moth. Love reading these posts and your tips. We just got three cuttings from a friend and have planted them with the help of your tips. We’re in Redondo beach, so we’re hoping for good results. Wish us luck!

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Awesome, and good luck.
            I am sure you will do great!

      • RE the video, my first thought was also sphinx moth. Here are a couple of images of the sphinx moth pollinator: http://cactiguide.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=26966

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Awesome, Thanks Greg!

          • Your night time visitor is a humming bird, I am not familiar with the variety but i have seen many and would bet my dragonfruit on it! I am in Florida and we have many variety although few that large.

  13. Nice post, Doc. Thanks.

  14. Hi Thomas,

    Fantastic resource you have here @ tasty landscape.com! About 5 years ago I was @ a Lowes ogling a Dragonfruit plant as they have fantastic variety there. A kind Vietnamese woman noticed me ogling and said “you want one?” I said I was thinking about it. She said I have tons I give you free. The universe had fullfilled my hearts desire. I gave her my address. The next day I get a cardboard box filled with like 20 pieces whichever I plant 2-3 to a pot with supports. Later we are given some huge cement pots, I transplant then with a mix of potting soil, palm tree soul and succulent soul. They are put on a drip system and bookend a fountain that gets full sun and plays host to aquaponic goldfish. They often get some “dirty” goldfish water for fertilizer. Last year 1 year after transplant into the large pots we got 1 fruit per pot. This year we have 4 flowers per pot. No idea the cultivar name but the fruits are large Mango sized and have white flesh inside. Tonight there were 2 flowers, last night 1, 5 yet to open. My husband and u have been speculating about the pollinators for a while now. I guessed fruit bat and we live in Simi Valley, CA near a wash where there are bats nearby, but tonight I spotted a H U G E moth on the wall near our flowering Dragonfruit and wondered. I took photos and it struck me that this moth looked like it was built like a hummingbird. I have photos of this moth and googled Dragonfruit pollinators, came across your website and put 2 and 2 together after I manually pollinated the flowers tonight. This moth may have done it before me already! Or afterward! I took photos of the flowers too and after I did, the moth was gone! I also have chickens and have been putting their droppings into the Dragonfruit pots sparingly as the droppings are fresh. Anyway, I’d be happy to share the Moth and flower photos with you. I didn’t catch him in the act, but the fact that it was here when our Dragonfruit flowers were open speaks to some very serendipitous circumstances. We have 5 more flowers to go, hope he comes back tomorrow and the next few nights. Our Dragonfruit peacefully cohabitates with out passionfruits which are also flowering and fruiting at the moment. Thank you for this wonderful resource and you are so lucky to be in San Diego, there is an excellent resource for tropical fruit trees there, which I am certain you are a frequent patron.

    Kindest Regards,

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Stefanie
      I am glad you found us here at tastylandscape.com.
      Thanks for the fun story.
      And your big humming bird moth…. yes, very serendipitous indeed.
      Keep us posted.

  15. Hi Thomas, i have planted my dragon fruit with PT wood supports is this safe to eat the fruit i have been reading these stories of the chemicals transferring to the fruit. Should i rip out all my dragon fruits and start over???


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Andrew

      Thank you for bringing up this important issue.

      Pressure treated wood:
      Pressure treated wood is basically saturated with all kinds of toxic chemicals… and this is by design.
      Pressure treated wood is intended to be toxic so bugs, bacteria and mold cant live in it.
      Unfortunately, what is really bad for bugs is often really bad for us too.

      Start over:
      Therefore, if it was me, I would start over with your dragon fruit cactus.

      However, another issue is that the toxic chemicals in the wood will also leach into the surrounding soil.
      Exactly how much leaching is difficult to say. It depends on how the long the pressure treated wood has been there and the conditions (moisture, sunlight, etc).
      The point here is that (if it was me) I would also remove a lot of the soil in the area where the pressure treated wood was.. because that soil is considered contaminated.

      New location:
      You might also consider starting over in a totally different area because it is difficult to know how far the bad stuff has infiltrated the soil.

      Adjacent contamination:
      Also: the plants nearby (esp down hill) are also at risk for contamination.
      Water will take some of this bad stuff with it down hill.
      Therefore, I would also assume the neighboring plants to be contaminated as well.

      Heres a nice link to a more detailed take on the subject from Washington State University:

      Bummer, I know.
      But better to be safe and healthy.


  16. My 2 year old dragonfruit had several blooms…hope to become fruit. However,noticed a 2-3” brown section on some of the branches. When I squeezed the brown mushy section water would come out. I took a stick and scraped the mushy stuff off down to the bone [for lack of any other discription] of the branch. Did I over water or is this some type fungis?


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Georgie
      Thanks for the great question.

      Well, you are not alone.
      This has happened to me… and many others too.
      My experience is that is happens randomly to the ends of branches.
      Usually one out of 50 branches or so.

      At first I felt this was a major danger because I have seen this type of thing move like cancer in other cacti.
      Therefore, I would quickly cut off the dead branch and make sure I had clean margins.
      However, One day I just decided to see what would happen on a branch if I didn’t do anything.. and well… it didn’t spread.

      That being said, its probably a good idea to cut these brown mushy branches off anyways.
      I would also clean/sterilize your cutting tools when your done so you dont spread any disease.

      So what causes this dragon fruit brown stem problem?
      My gut thought is that it is some kind of infection. Likely fungal, possibly bacterial.

      Unfortunately, bacteria and fungi are everywhere… so you cant avoid it.
      A healthy branch has a skin that will keep these bad guys out.
      However, if that skin is injured then there is an opening for problems.

      Therefore, infection usually penetrates weakened or injured branches.
      There are many potential causes of branch injury.
      Bugs may take a bite, resulting in a break in the skin where bacteria/fungi can get in.
      Too much fertilizer can cause rapid growth that will can make branches more susceptible to injury… and then infection.
      Sunburn can also cause injury that would allow bacteria/fungus to infect a branch.

      I dont think the cause is too much water, at least for what I am seeing.
      These cactus can handle a lot of watering as long as the soil has excellent drainage.
      Note, water/soil drainage problems usually cause the cactus to rot from the bottom up.
      What I am seeing happens at the ends of branches.

      Please let me know if you have any additional insight.


  17. Hi Thomas,

    I had planted different varieties in my front and back yard. I have a palm tree in the front house about five of them and I used and cut them about 5-6 ft. So eventually I planted cutting vines using the trunk of my palm tree guide them and tie every vines going up until the triiies to drop like umbrella .Is it a good idea?.
    I was in love this kind of fruit. Lucky I had read your info regarding cactus family (dragon fruit).I live in San Diego Ca.Thanks for your help for this matter.God bless.


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Pepito
      Thanks for the comment.

      Yes, that sounds like a wonderful idea.
      Your dragon fruit cactus vines should do wonderful growing on this type of natural support.

      If you like, Send me a pic and I will post it the article.


  18. One more question [for now] I am fairly new to dragonfruit growing. Is it necessary to remove the flower and pistol a few days after flowering to insure fruit. So glag I found your website.

    Thanks, Georgie

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Georgie

      Thanks for the question.
      No need to remove the pistol/flower form the growing dragon fruit.
      I just let it go o’natural.


  19. i want to do to fruit the dragon fruit off season.how will i do?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hy Nayyan
      interesting question.

      I have not tried this myself, but here are a few thoughts.
      I understand that the dragon fruit cactus fruits all year long in the tropics.
      Therefore, I would imagine that you would want to create the native tropical growing conditions for a longer time to extend the growing season.
      This likely means growing the plant in a green house in the winter and adding some artificial lighting to extend the amount of ‘daylight’ in the winter.


  20. I have my dragon fruit over 3 years, no fruit, except this year only 1 :(. I notice that my dragon leaves are turning yellow on the top. Bottom and middle still green. Do you have any ideas?

    Thank you.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Kim
      Thanks for your question.
      There are a few possibilities that come to mind.

      No Fruit:
      If your dragon fruit cactus is >3y old and is not fruiting, then I would start to think that there is something amiss with the growing conditions.
      Overall, these cactus are tropical-jungle plants and do best in that type of environment.
      Please see the article for more specific info on the optimal growing conditions.

      Yellow branches:
      There are several different possible causes of yellowing cactus branches.

      -A lack of nitrogen is a common cause of yellowing of any plant… and these guys are no different.
      In fact, the dragon fruit cactus seems to need more nitrogen than the average cactus.
      However, for these cactus, organic is the way to feed them.

      -Too much water/poorly draining soil can cause vascular damage that will look a lot like nitrogen deficiency.
      This in part is because the waterlogged roots cant take up the nitrogen in those conditions.

      -Too much sun, and/or rapid transition to a very sunny spot from a shady spot can cause yellowing of branches.
      This type of thing is often a problem if you are growing your cactus in a container-inside the house for part of the year and then being it suddenly into direct sunlight.
      Removing the shade of a nearby tree or other structure can cause similar problems if you are growing your cactus in the ground.

      -Not enough water/water stress is also a potential cause of yellowing.

      Hope this helps.

  21. Mr. Osborne,
    I have a white dragon fruit. I saw a video on how to pollenate the flowers by hand and tried it. The plant produced four fruits which was terrific since I have had this plant for years waiting for it to bare fruit. So I thought I finally figured it out and tried again with the next batch of flowers. There was around twenty-five blooms. We did exactly what we did the first time and did not get one fruit. Can you explain to me just what I am doing wrong? We love the fruit and would like to get this going.
    Thanks for your help,
    Fort Myers, Florida

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Cheryl
      There are a lot of reasons why you may not be getting fruit.
      Having more info about your growing situation would help to narrow down your list of possibilities.

      Overall, if you are pollinating the dragon fruit flowers correctly, then the next thing to consider it the growing conditions.
      Dragon fruit cactus will drop their flowers and fruit if the growing conditions are not optimal.

      The most common issue is not enough water or too much water-poorly draining soil.
      However, there are other many things to consider.
      It might be easier to try and duplicate the optimal conditions I described in the article.
      The closer you get to the native growing conditions (as outlined in the article) the better your chances at success.


  22. how do I shape my dragon plant.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks for the question Shane.

      Shaping a cactus vine is more of a series of suggestions than anything.
      Slowly move the branches in the direction you want them to grow, secure them in place, cut off branches at the joints that don’t/cant be manipulated to follow your vision.


  23. Is the Dragon Fruit a regular tree or is it a bush that hibernates (like a banana)

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Steven
      Thanks for the clarifying question.
      The dragon fruit is not really a tree or a bush. It is a vine.
      In its native jungle habitat it usually grows on large trees… using them for support.
      Plants that grow this way are called epiphytes (epiphyte = a plant that grows on another plant but is not parasitic).

  24. I originally bought the fruit while working in Guatemala in 1979 and I save some seeds, after some 20 or more year I found the seeds and with luck as I didn’t know what type of soil they needed, I planted them in a pot where a palm plant had died. Any way one plant came out of those old seeds and this year I had two blooms and I was very excited of what the future would be like, until today when I noticed that one of the flowers fell off. I inspected the base of the flower and I found little white worms. I suspect these are the result of the small brown bugs that were eating the flower petals. I am at a loss, could it have been due to too much rain? I want to grow more plants, but not if this is going to happen again.

    • Hi Roberto

      Thanks for sharing your story.
      I am actually amazed to hear that any of the seeds were still viable after 20 years.
      That’s actually amazing.

      So whats eating your flowers?
      I have no idea at this point; ‘little white worms’ could be a lot of things.
      As you said, it could have something to do with the weather making it more favorable for a particular bug.
      However, as you know, there are all kinds of bugs and they are everywhere regardless of the weather.

      I am not sure where you are located, but here in Southern California the dragon fruit cactus plants are fairly bug free.
      The only major issue I have seen is with aphids that are brought in by ants.
      However, these invaders only seem to get to the flowers and minimally to the fruit. They don’t seem to have the capacity to attack the rest of the plant.
      I just spray them off with the garden hose when I notice them. Sure they come back but they dont seem to do a lot of lasting harm that I have noticed.

      Pollination of dragon fruit:
      A bigger issue for you might be the type of dragon fruit that you have.
      Considering that it is an older unnamed variety, it would likely need a companion pollinator dragon fruit plant to get any fruit out of it.
      If I was you, I would also grow a self pollinating variety… that should be able to produce fruit itself and hopefully also cross pollinate the one you have brought up from seed.

      Hang in there:
      I just ate a big pink and purple dragon fruit earlier today… They were picked fresh from my garden.
      They are so good.
      I encourage you to hang in there, its well worth the effort.


  25. i would like to do to fruit dragon fruit off season
    is it possible ? if possible,how will i prepare ? can u help me?pls

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      If you are living in a temperate/subtropical area, the best option I can think of for getting your Dragon cactus to fruit off season would be a heated greenhouse and artificial lighting.
      I have not tried this myself, it would be rather expensive.
      Or, travel to the tropics…
      But basically you want to create the growing conditions that stimulate the plants to fruit.

  26. I recently bought two varieties of dragon fruit cuttings in May 2013 from Pine Island. I have been growing them in a giant container with trellis and have been doing great this last year. They are both well over four feet in the container and starting to look like a tree. I keep it pruned n have multiple new growths on it weekly, it looks very healthy for living in New Mexico haha. I make sure to keep the cactus soil mix moist and have been using an 8-3-9 fertilizer mix once a month as recomended by Pine Island. After this great year of growth i was positive i was going to get flowers this year, but no luck. My question is, should i be patient and continue what im doing in hope for flowers next year or change something in my routine? Id like to send you pictures and stay in contact thru email if i may.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Justin
      Congrats on the great growth rate of your cacti.
      I am not too surprised that they havent flowered yet; they are still likely trying to get their roots setup.
      Based on what you have described, I would expect you should have some flowers next year and perhaps even a few fruit.
      The next year will be more… They seem to hit their stride around 3 years in the ground.

  27. ***Updated report!!!***

    I left a post here at Tastylandscape last spring but I can’t find it so I’ll update what has happened since then. I live in Bermuda Dunes, CA which is in the Coachella Valley and is a fairly arid desert. I bought five dragon fruit cacti last April, planted them, and watched them grow. All was well until it started heating up here in the desert in late May with temperatures reaching 100 degrees by then. It was at that point that I began to notice what I can only describe as ‘Sunburn’ on the most sun prone parts of the five cacti. These ‘sunburnt’ areas were effectively destroyed, while the less sun exposed parts were less affected. I’ve seen similar effects on some other succulents, especially some kinds of aloe which I lost because I wasn’t paying attention(yeah, my bad…).

    Not wanting to lose the cacti and work that I had put into them I constructed a sunscreen, or canopy using wooden posts and lots of two feet wide sections of white muslin cloth. The nine wooden posts were set apart in the ground from each other 3 feet from each other in a square, grid pattern surrounding the plot of earth I had planted the five cacti. The white muslin cloth using two lengths of 2′ x 8′ lengths(each one above the other) was then attached on all four sides(essentially creating a 4’x8’s screen) using a staple gun to attach the lengths. I also took the lengths of muslin cloth and attached them above the cacti, all of which created a nice canopy for the cacti on the sides and on top. I left a 8 inch gap between the lengths of cloth on the top and the lengths on the sides to allow for some air circulation. The lengths of muslin on the sides were two feet above the soil and only stapled on the top to allow access to the cacti. The canopy and cloth allowed enough filtered light(not direct light) in but protected the dragon fruit cacti from really piercing aspects of the sunlight.

    So, what was the result of this canopy? It worked!!! As soon as I put the canopy up the dragonfruit stopped getting sunburnt. Nor did I have a problem for the rest of the summer. I double checked the condition of these cacti not quite daily, but about every other day. These cacti can handle 100+ degree heat, even 110+ degree heat, and the occasional, intense humidity we get here in the desert when the monsoonal weather comes up from Mexico(This year was especially intense with the disorganized remnants of a couple of hurricanes making it out this way). What Dragonfruit cacti can’t survive is the very intense sunlight we get in the desert. After all, they are tropical cacti not desert cacti. It really paid to keep an eye on the UV Index with these plants in mind. So, it’s the intense(high UV Index) sunlight which will kill them not heat. As far as I can tell the combination of 100+ degree heat & the intense sunlight effectively “broils” them.

    The muslin cloth canopy solved all of these problems and as I write this(Oct. ’14) all of the dragronfruit cacti I’ve planted last Spring have survived and thrived through the Summer here in the desert. So, yes, you can grow dragon fruit here in the desert, it just takes a little extra work to do it.

    What found really interesting is although I fed and watered all five the same and used the same mixture of soil for each cacti, each cacti grew at different rates. Here are the results for each one;

    Cacti A(white fruit variety): Lots and lots of growth, about 7′ tall, with many tendrils I’ve tied upward, but no flowers or fruit yet.
    Cacti B(white fruit variety): Moderate growth with several tendrils, about 3′ of growth, but no flowers or fruit.
    Cacti C(red variety): Lots and lots of growth, about 6′ tall, with many tendrils tied upwards, but no flowers or fruit, yet.
    Cacti D(red variety): Moderate growth with a few tendrils, about 3′ of growth, no flowers or fruit. To be fair, this one was really in bad shape when I picked it up from Home Despot(of all places!) for $6(they saw how damaged it was so they gave me a discount on it). All things considered, I’m happy with its growth as it was about 8″ tall, dessicated, and dying when I bought it.
    Cacti E(Pink variety): Lots of growth, was about 4′ tall with lots of tendrils. This was doing well until we had a really bad wind & dust storm(in July) which knocked over one of the posts onto this cactus and broke off six tendrils. I immediately planted each tendril in a shaded pot filled with Miracle Grow Cactus, Palm, and Citrus potting soil and each one has shown about 6-8″ of growth since then.

    I should also note that I placed the cacti in a plot between two established trees-a 12′ moro blood orange tree and a 12′ olive tree. Both provided considerable shade in the morning and afternoon and were aligned East-West. It also helps if you give them a strong structure, like a post for them to climb upwards.

    So far, I’m quite pleased that all of these dragon fruit cacti survived the desert summer. Now, it’s on to helping them grow and prepare for the occasional below freezing weather we get in the winter. Perhaps someday they’ll bear flowers and fruit. I will keep y’all informed.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Jim C!
      What an excellent update report!!!
      Thank you for the awesome info and insight.
      Your sunlight observations are in direct alignment with my knowledge of the UV dangers in the desert.
      However, I am pleased to learn that the lack of humidity in the desert does not seem to be a major growth inhibitor as long as there is shade.
      I am looking forward to hear about your next challenges: winter cold and flowering.
      Thanks Jim!

  28. I have a random question, I know you can eat the fruit, but can you eat the actual cactus too?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Interesting question.
      I know that many people actually eat the actual cactus of the prickly pear cactus.
      There are a lot of prickly pear cactus pads recipes available.

      However, I don’t personally know about people eating the actual cactus of the dragon fruit cactus.
      Seems like there might be better things to eat out there.
      Why do you ask?

  29. Fantastic read. I had dragonfruit for breakfast almost every day when I lived in Thailand. Heaven. If only I could easily have them in the USA…

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Gracefruit!
      They are awesome fruit.
      You can def grow them in parts of the US, I actually have 5 fruits on my plants now… A late crop in the cold of San Diego winter.

  30. I have a bunch of these guys growing up my fence, what triggers them to flower? I’ve heard when they reach the top of what they are climbing the will and mine have been hanging over the fence a few months now

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Great question Matt

      There are a lot of factors that play into when and why the dragon fruit cactus plant flowers.
      Basically; they need the right temp, soil, moisture, humidity and light.
      Thats all…lol.

      If everything is optimal in your environment, then the major trigger for flowering is likely the hours of optimal sunlight in the day.
      This could be why someone have noticed that the plants flower when they reach the top of the fence… In this situation, they are suddenly getting more sunlight up there at the top of the fence.

      However, the height of the plant… or being at the top of a fence (by itself) is not a factor for flowering.
      I have a lot of these cactus around the yard and they flower from every part of the plant if conditions are right.
      I have also had branches growing along the ground that flower and fruit.

      Hope this helps

      • Down in Australia we are in the middle of summer, so at the coolest of nights it is about 20C (68F) and hot days up to 35C (95F). It is in the garden with cactus soil, small parts sand and perlite. They have been in there for about a year and seem to love life (maybe I should fertilize them?) They get watered daily and half the time it rains too! They are located on my Southern fence and get almost 12 hours of sun at the moment. Maybe they aren’t ready this season, or maybe I need to do something to give them a little push?

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Thanks Matt
          So, based on the additional info, think it could be a combination of two reasons.

          The cactus could be too young still.

          Wrong soil.
          When I started with these guys, I tried growing them in cactus soil.
          On the plus side, cactus soil drains great which is very important for these plants.
          On the negative side, cactus soil is not what they have in their native habitat.
          These plants are from the central American jungle.
          The closer you can get to that environment the better they will do.

          The soil in their jungle floor… or the soil in the nooks of tree branches where they grow, is typically rich organic and well composted.
          Therefore, I would suggest that you plant them in the type of soil that you would provide to your other tropical plants.
          For me that is a mixture of things like mushroom compost, grow mulch, chicken manure, peat moss and some sandy native soil.

          These plants also like a good amount of natural fertilizer.
          Since these cactus often grow on trees, they are often getting pooped on by roosting birds.
          Thats the kind of nitrogen I would provide them.

          Hope this helps. Good luck and keep us posted.

  31. Dr. O

    First off I just want to say I really enjoy reading your blogs, a lot of helpful information. I am starting my little tropical fruit garden here in southern California with sugar Apple, sapodilla, cherimoya, guava and next thing on my list is dragon frui and I have applied lots of your helpful tips. Now my question is how do you build the support for the dragon fruit that can withstand the heavy weight of the fully grown dragon fruit tree? Do you just bury the post 2 feet deep into the ground or do you use concrete mix to stabilize the post as well? Please help. Thank you.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Tracy
      And great question.
      Dragon fruit will grow on just about anything organic and many nonorganic items.
      I would try to stay away using support materials such as metal because the temperature flux (very hot in day and cold at night) can be damaging to the plant.

      More specifically:
      There are many different support systems that people use.
      There are some basic things to consider (below).

      1. Materials:
      Choose nontoxic materials.
      Although, materials such as treated wood may last longer, those chemicals will leach into the soil and then get into your dragon fruit.
      Not something that anyone wants.
      On the other hand, you want something that will last longer without man made chemicals, untreated Cedar and Redwood are great at holding up without any extra wood treatment needed.

      2. Design
      The best support design will allow your dragons to get the light they need and still be stable enough to hold them.
      A wooden fence is nice, but you often run into the issue of the sun being blocked by the fence for a good part of the day (depending on the orientation of the fence).

      3. My design:
      I have tried a few different options and there is one I personally like the best.
      It is basically a post with wood extensions at the top.
      The post is redwood and I tie the branches to it as they grow and send out their supporting rootlets.
      The extensions at the top of the post basically make the whole thing look like an uppercase “T” but in 3D.
      The top of the T part goes front and back and side to side, so if you were looking from the top it would look like an X.

      4. Depth:
      The depth you put the posts in the ground depends on a few things.
      Most importantly, how hard your soil is and how high you want the post to be.
      Obviously, the deeper the post, the more stable it will be.
      I personally dont use cement because I dont like the idea of any extra chemicals and I feel that my 2 foot deep hole is good enough for a post that is 5 foot above the ground.

      Hope this helps.

  32. Hello Thomas, I started to read your blog and thought you might have an answer to my problem with red dragon fruit. I have a large plantation of yellow dragon fruit and have lots of fruit all the time. But my red dragon fruit plants (that were planted from the seeds bought in the US online) never gave me not even one fruit and no flowers whatsoever. At the moment these plants are almost 4 years old and look very big, green, and healthy.

  33. Hello Thomas, appreciate you sharing ur knowledge and insights. was wondering if u had any suggestions for my problems, not sure if uv already been asked this question but I have had a yellow one for about over 4 years now and it just never flowers so let alone fruit! not once, I trained it up a bamboo stake, prob only 3/4 feet high. I heard that they require growing up and then drooping over something at a certain height to induce flowers? have a red one too that iv had for prob only 1 year and training it up a wooden pole, bout 5 foot tall, and same no flowers. they both get good water, plenty of sun, look health green plants, grow really well… :/
    thanks for any help!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Andy
      Good question.
      I have heard the same about the branches needing to be drooping over something to induce flowering.
      However, in my experience that is just a myth.
      When conditions are optimal, flowers and fruit come off of every part of the plant… even if they are just trailing along the ground and not climbing on something.
      At least for me, the key is to treat them as the tropical plants they are and the instructions provided int he article.
      Best of luck.

  34. Hi Tom,

    I have a big matured plum tree and planted a dragon vine in the trunk of the tree. The dragon fruit vine roll and climb in the plum tree about 5 ft. already, now I cut the tip of the dragon vine cause it will reach and go farther the top of the plum tree. Am I doing right? Tell me if this cactus will bear fruit and advice me more regarding this experiment of mine? God bless.


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Pete

      Interesting situation you have.

      Growing on a small tree:
      I cannot speak from direct experience with that exact growing orientation… but here is my best shot.
      For big trees, it is not a problem to have dragon fruit cactus vines growing on them.
      However, for smaller trees it can be a problem…, because as you noticed you can run out of room.
      And under optimal growing conditions, dragon fruit cactus can grow fast…
      Dragon cactus vines can also be heavy and therefore they can break off smaller branches of the trees they grow on.

      As far as trimming, I have heard that trimming can stimulate flowering and I have heard that it can delay flowerewing. I myself have not nocited a difference either way and the flowers/fruit to come off of every part of the vine.

      Looking forward to hearing how your experiment goes.


  35. Good evening. I have wanted to try dragonfruit for years. I recently went to Hawaii and tried so many exotic fruits but the dragonfruit was out of season, to my immense disappointment. I live in Nebraska where you will never even see such fruits. Anyway, I was wondering if there is any way you would sell and ship some of these amazing looking fruits. I have searched the Internet trying to find some with no luck, which is how I eventually came to your site. With all of your knowledge on them I’m sure that yours are excellent. I would be really excited and appreciative if there is anyway you could make this happen. Great website and videos. Thanks.

  36. Hello Thomas, first of all thank you for all the great info you have helped us with.
    I’ve had a Dragon fruit plant for 2- 3 years, I can’t really remember, anyways, I used to treat it like a cactus plant watering it once a month or so, until I realized in mid spring (last year) that it would grow quite a bit every time I watered it. I had it in a 15 gal. black landscaping container. It was here in your website that I learned it was not a cactus, so I moved it to the sunnier area in my backyard and kept it in the pot (lots of gopher problems) last year in September it started to bloom, it produced 7 buds, I plucked 2 of them because they were too close to each other and thought they would benefit if they were thinned to 5. I hand pollinated them and they ripened to scrumptious Dragon fruits. I trimmed some parts of the plant to propagate them and this year I should have 3 plants that may produce by year end (I hope) I check on my plants daily and was surprised to see that the older plant has about 15 – 20 buds popping up already, I didn’t expect that this time of year (I live in Vista by the way), my concern now is… will the 15 gal. pot prove to be too small? I am afraid to re pot it and in the process break the whole plant in pieces. along with the buds it also has new growth and I fertilize it monthly with an organic fertilizer and a little organic soil as well… any recommendation is welcomed…

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Rafael
      Thank you for the follow up note.
      That is awesome news; so happy to hear that I could be part of your dragon fruit growing success.

      Early flower buds:
      Great to hear about your early flower buds!
      The combo of your care and the warm weather likely plays a major part in that early budding.
      It sounds like you must have gotten all of the growing requirements in optimal condition as well (soil type, moisture, etc).
      As a result, you might get multiple crops throughout this growing season-congrats!
      Therefore, you will want to keep up with the organic fertilization. Because as you know, fruiting will take a lot of nutrients out of your plant.

      Container or not?:
      Most all plants do better when grown in the ground.
      However, dragon fruit cactus are known to live quite well in the crevices made at the junction large tree branches of old jungle trees.
      So… in their natural environment, this is kindof like a big organic container.
      So I an not as concerned about dragon fruit cactus becoming root bound as much as other plants.

      The major additional benefit of growing your dragons in the ground is that the surrounding soil will stabilize the moisture and temperature conditions of the dragon cactus roots.
      In the jungle this temp-moisture flux is less of a concern do to the nature of the jungle environment.
      However, as you know in Sounthern California, it is not unusual for the temps to go from 40F at night to 80F in the day.
      A container is less able to buffer this change in conditions and this rapid flux could stress out the dragons that were not built for that kindof thing.

      Major options:
      1. Growing in a larger container will reduce the environmental change seen by the roots.
      2. Plant the dragons in the ground with gopher protection.

      I wrote an article about how to easily make a gopher cage that might help if you would like to try that option.
      This is what I do with all my dragon fruit cactus and it works great.
      (See link to article below)


      • Thank you for your quick reply and great advise Tom. I forgot to mention I have nothing but hard clay in my back yard, which is another reason for the pots. I will transplant my 4 young ones (18 – 24 inches tall) to 24 gal containers to give them a better chance. Thank you for the advise and keep up the great work, you help a lot of people. Good luck with your Dragons!!!


        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Rafael
          Thank you for the great feedback!

          Yea, we got that hard clay here too. Our soil seems to be either clay, DG (Decomposed granite) rock or sand.
          But mostly hard clay and DG that gets harder as it drys out.
          I have broken a lot of shovels out there in the yard.
          I have also resorted to using a jackhammer just to get a hole in the ground for a tree. Not an easy task.
          Starting with a small hole and filling it in with water over night helps soften things up for the digging.. if you are ever inclined to take on that challenge.


  37. Bob Klingenberg

    I first discovered dragon fruit while working in Guatemala in the 80s. Our unit was mainly around Lake Atitlan whose volcanic soils were perfect for it. They grew up fences and walls. I smuggled some cuttings back and planted them in a shady part of my garden in La Quinta. 120 degrees in the summer but the twice a day sprinkler setting worked. I first say them for sale in the US at an oriental market in San Diego. They were from Vietnam. Sold be the palate. Makes a great smoothie with the addition of mint and ginger. Due to their unique…almost unrealistic color I’m surprised they haven’t turned up on more restaurant menus. Super addition to a fruit salad.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Bob
      Thanks for the cool story.
      It sounds like you were way ahead of most of us in your wonderful discovery of the dragon fruit.
      I am also surprised that they have not showed up in restaurants.
      However, I am seeing some places selling them as fruit shakes.

  38. Dear Thomas,

    I would like to know if you had the information to grow mangosteens. I also live in SoCal so this information would be very helpful as I am interested in these fruits. I have a shop near me that should sell mangosteens so I’m pretty sure I could get my hands on a few seeds, if you can tell me information about growing mangosteens from seed that would be great!


  39. Hi Thomas,

    Last Spring, I bought a Natural Mystic variety of dragon fruit. It flourished in the summer months in Ohio and kept pretty well in the winter indoors. However, after taking it out for a week, it has gotten some pretty bad sunburn that appears to be spreading up and down the effected areas. I also thing an orangy type fungus is starting to set in as well… I have a few photos upon request, but I don’t think I can post any here.

    My question is when I prune back the plant back and remove the damaged parts, can I cut in the middle of the section or should I cut at the base of each section? I was told a copper fungicide spray should do the trick for the orangy fungus.

    Also, this makes for a good opportunity to make some cuttings! Will the cutting, once it roots, pick up as if it were the same age as the parent plant, thus making it just as ready to flower and fruit or does it kind of restart the “clock” all over again?

    Thank you!


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks for the great questions Brian

      Pruning dragon fruit cactus:
      I have not seen much written on the topic of dragon fruit pruning.
      Myself, I try to prune the cactus at the narrow joint parts of the branches (the pencil thin parts).
      I avoid cutting the branches in the thick middle part.
      For me this has worked very well and I have not had any problems.

      Orange marks on the branches:
      Humm… This could mean a few things.
      Do you have a way to post the pictures somewhere like pinterest?

      One orange colored possibility:
      I have seen small scattered orange spots on a bunch of my dragon fruit cactus branches.
      I have asked around about what these orange spots could represent and I have gotten mixed responses.
      Some say it is sunburn, which I dont believe (considering the distribution).
      Others say it is some sort of viral infection.
      Either way, I am not too concerned about those few orange spots because they dont seem to impact plant growth or fruiting.

      Orange colored and powdery:
      I have not seen this on my cactus but I have it on the leaves of some of my roses.
      On the roses it is clearly the fungal infection known as rust.
      The best way to address this on roses is prevention which involves keeping the leaves dry; not watering from above and not watering in the morning. (Watering at night allows fungus to grow more rapidly in the dark, damp cool conditions). On the same note, good aeration and sunlight are also a big help. Copper fungicide is great as a second line option for plants such as roses after/or with the above initial recommendations.

      Bonide 811 Copper 4E Fungicide 16oz (473ML)

      Fungus treatment:
      As mentioned, copper is a great topical fungicide spray to use topically on many different plants.
      However, I have never used it on my dragon fruit cactus.
      For me, I have found that dragon fruit cactus seem to do the best in organic environments and I have tried to avoid stronger chemicals on them.
      I cant say this is the best way, but it is what I have been doing.
      Therefore, if a problem like you mentioned is localized to a single branch I would consider following the first steps mentioned for roses. In addition, blasting off the fungus in the morning with a spray of water directed away from other parts of the plant can help. If that didnt work, and if it was only infecting one area, I would consider the option of just cutting off that diseased branch.

      Cuttings to fruit:
      Cuttings are much faster way to get fruit than starting from seed.
      However, I have found that cuttings need about a year or two get their footing before they are ready to fruit.
      In this first/second year in the ground, the cuttings are likely putting all their energy into their roots.
      Once the roots are developed the plant will be ready to support flowers/fruits.


      • Hi Tom,

        Thank you for your detailed response! Definitely not powdery orange…With regards to pruning, that was my though too about cutting them at the joints as opposed to in the middle of the section. Unfortunately, I do not have a pinterest or any real way to get you some photos unless you email me, not sure if you can see the email address I have to input when I leave a reply here. I have it shaded by my banana tree currently, but I don’t want to wait too long to let the dying parts spread to other branches. :(

        I haven’t had much luck with trying to start them from seeds. I tried once just as an experiment to see what would happen, and it wasn’t worth the time! haha

        Let me know what’s the best way to get you some photos!



        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Brian
          No problem.
          Ill have to look into how might be the best way to get a look at your photos.
          Will get back to you when I figure something out.

  40. Thank you for the wealth of dragonfruit info. We just received our mail order dragonfruit today. I was surprised to see they looked like cactus plants. We plan to keep them in pots and overwinter them in a greenhouse.

  41. Very informative. My two year old plant just started to drop flowers and the insight here is most useful.

  42. Hello Mr. Thomas Osborne, MD
    I am a farmer from amateur Algeria
    Can you provide me some seeds?

  43. Hi Thomas,

    I am glad I found your site on Dragonfruits. We just started planting last year given to us from my mother-in-law. We have one white flesh and one red flesh.

    Our problem was 9 buds but only 3 matured to fruit. The others prematurely turned yellow and fell off. It could be the weather because we saw them flowering at 9am in the morning and stayed all day until next day it closed up.

    I wish I could post a picture here. I will try to send you a picture from your site.

    Your site is very helpful. We will try your soil methods with our Chicken manure since we are currently raising backyard chickens.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Danny!

      So great to hear that I could help.
      Your natural sustainable source of fertilizer sounds awesome.
      Looking forward to seeing the pics.


  44. We have many Dragonfruit buds and flowers this year and are wondering if we should trim the vine segments distal to the buds and fruit so they don’t divert too many nutrients from the flowers.
    Thanks for your work on this site. Very nice.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Sandy

      That is an interesting thought.
      I have heard some say that this can be helpful.
      However, I have not seen any documented proof to this idea and I havent tried this method myself.
      Sorry, I do not have any direct experience with this method.


  45. I have several plants of dragon fruit and live in Carlsbad, Ca (close to the beach). When I should expect blooming or having fruits.

    Thank you,

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Susy
      Thanks for the question neighbor.
      Since you are close to the beach, I suspect you have more marine layer and cooler weather than I do.
      (I am about 10 miles inland on a hill)

      I suspect that the marine layer should be ok… perhaps even good for the dragons.
      Except if you are really close to the ocean and you have salty air… they may not like the salty air.
      Perhaps spray them with water and deep (flushing) watering will help with that.

      I am also in northern San Diego county, and my dragons started blooming a few months ago… I have been harvesting fruit for about a month now.
      But as I said, I am further inland and likely get more sun and warmer days.
      The cooler weather you have by the beach may set them back a bit on the blooming schedule.

      Other key factors; the soil, moisture and fertilizer.
      I would first control the things you can (like the items above and mentioned in the article).

      If you are living in a particularly chilly microclimate, perhaps having them by a south facing wall will warm them up a bit.
      Just dont want to overdo it and have them fry from the heat coming off the wall on a clear day.

      Hope this helps,

      • Thomas my Dragonfruit went hog wild and produced more blooms than ever before. I have them crowded in very large pots crawling over a cinder lock wall, they love the heat. Interesting to note one of them found the Aquaponics fountain with it’s aerial roots and that root bunch exploded into like a 100 rootlets sucking up nutrient rich water from our catfish Aquaponics fountain. Also we have chickens and for the past 2 years I’ve been picking up their droppings and tossing them into the Dragonfruit pots. This year we had over 20 blooms from 2 plants and the plant produced more than 20 blooms but the plant nixed a few by turning the brown and yellow and those fell off. But all in all this is the best year yet for our Dragonfruit. I have photos if you would like to see post and share. Just let me know where to send them.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Thant sounds awesome and consistent with my experience.
          They love natural fertilizer and seem to esp like chicken manure.
          As long as it is not dry desert heat they seem to really take off with the temperature.

          Cool story about your Aquaponics fountain and the dragons roots.
          Would love to see photos.
          With your permission, I will post them on the site.
          Ill send you an email.


  46. So I am new to dragon fruit plants, and want to make sure I would do a cutting correctly so it splits and grows a larger plant. Information is hard to find I think I have read to cut at the joints of the plant and a split will occur. Is this correct? And thanks

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Jamie
      Great question.
      I agree, it is hard to find information on Dragon Fruit, this is one of the core reasons why I created this site.

      Per your question:
      I should probably create a post to answer your question with pics.
      In the mean time ill try to describe without images.

      Before I cut a branch from the mother plant, I make sure I give the mother plant a good deep watering so the branches are full of moisture.
      Then wait a day or so for it to soak in.

      I generally cut the branches at what I call the joints… this is where the branch tapers to a pencil thin diameter.
      Then I let the branch “harden off” in the shade for a few days so the wound heals (I dont always do this, but it is probably a good idea).
      Then place the branch in about 6 inches of good rich soil and water regularly.

      Hope this helps,

      • And so I am correct in saying that when you cut this will cause a split in the plant. Allowing two to grow from one and thank you again for your help.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Jamie
          So yea, I think I know what your are saying.
          Just to be sure I will outline in some detail.

          Taking a branch of a cactus and replanting it is a form of vegetative propagation.
          The new branch you planted is a genetic clone of the parent plant.
          You can do this type of thing with a lot of different plants.
          For example, I wrote an article about how you can do this with rosemary and geraniums (see below).
          How to propagate rosemary: 2 key tricks

          The best way to propagate geraniums

          An important thing is that you want the mother plant to be big and strong enough before you take a branch.
          Basically you are pruning the plant and then replanting the branches you cut.

          In general, you dont want to over-prune a small plant because… well it is small and cant afford to loose a lot of branches.
          However a larger plant will have no problem loosing a few branches.
          Does this make sense?


  47. Great Work. Very happy to find someone with scientific background giving time and research to most important things in life.

    Great work for the community and coming generations.

    One suggestion might be to have a report type article converging towards How To/Insturctables scope, with full details from beginning to end.

    How To Grow (with pics)
    How To Care
    Do’s Don’ts
    Pest Care
    Incorporating answers from above posts within article if feasible.

    The intention of page being one stop page with full information for the newbies to pros. Maybe for other plants to.

    Thanks!!! & Keep It up!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Mick
      Thanks for the great suggestions.

      Its funny you mention some of this…

      How to grow:
      I am currently in the process of documenting my experience/experiments growing Dragon Fruit from seed and from cuttings.
      I am building a photographic library in the process of doing this and will publish my results when I am done.
      For now, the section, in the article titled, Dragon Fruit Propagation: also has a bit of info on the topic as well.

      How to care:
      I think I covered the “how to care” part in this article, but open to any suggestions.

      Do’s and Don’ts:
      This is a good one.
      I think I have covered a bit of this in the article already, but it might make sense to also have a dedicated section to this topic.

      Pest care:
      I do have a section in the article titled, Dragon Fruit Pests:.
      What kind of additional things do you think would be useful for this topic?


  48. Hi Thomas,

    We have a three year old dragon fruit (I’m not sure which variety) planted in pots. Lately, it had 7 buds, but now only 2 are left and one of them looks different than the other (instead of being green, it’s red). What might have caused the other buds to wither? Also, how many days will I wait for the buds to bear fruits? This is the first time in three years that the vine has bore buds the size of a baby’s closed palm. I live in the Philippines and it’s been hot here since last week.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Ren
      Thanks for the note.

      red bud
      Wow, a red bud… Thats interesting.
      I would have to see a picture of that.

      Why did your buds wither:
      Buds fall off for a variety or reasons; its mostly related to some sort of change that tips the plant off. Too much-too little of anything can do it (water, heat, cold, sun, wind, etc). It may also be related to a young age of a plant, disease or poor pollination.

      How long for fruit:
      From pollination to fruit is usually about 45 days.

      Best of luck!

      • Here’s the link to the pictures of the buds: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B04e4tG_3fuEM0FQQ05ySjVHMnc
        I took these pictures a while ago (it’s 9 in the evening here in the Philippines) and I had to add flash to it because it’s so dark. The first one looks red in person but it seems like it has yellow undertones in it (because of the flash, I think). The second bud looks greener in person.

        Some of the vines have “dust” on them. I haven’t tried adding fertilizer or watering the vines (but my mom did, I think that was last year. She poured water on the soil then a few days after, it withered.)

        Thanks for the tips!

  49. I live here in the Philippines and I planted a dragon fruit
    My question is : how many years to take before I see my dragon bear its fruit.?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Andi
      Thanks for the question

      For cuttings it can be as early as one year for them to flower.
      However, the flowers usually dont set the first year to make fruit.
      Fruit may set as early as 2 years, but really depends on growing conditions.


  50. Hello. You site is so helpful. Our little 2 to 4 in cuttings that arrived in May are now 3 ft high. We have the plants in pots. Do you have any suggestions as to what size pot would be best? Do you have any suggestions for a staking system for dragonfruit in pots? We love these plants. We can almost see them grow. Thank you.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Sue
      That is awesome amount of great growth on your little Dragon Fruit Cacti.

      As far as the container size.
      I dont know of a hard and fast rule for the size of a container.
      However, in general, bigger is better.
      As you know these guys can grow fast and a proportionally small container will eventually slow down the growth of your dragons.
      In addition, a larger container will also provide a more stable growing environment (specifically more stable soil temps and moisture levels)


  51. Dear Sir, in mid July this year 2015, my Dragon Fruit Cacti flowered ( grew from a cutting 4 years ago ) and I managed to harvest one single fruit on the 21st of August ( about 30days later ). Now I have succesfully germinated the seeds with small shoots ( about 20 days old ) I need to know a progress chart of growth in size and time ( days ) to help me to know if it is developing correctly. Thank You.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi David.

      Great question.
      I dont have anything totally put together at the moment…
      However, as it turns out, I am working on just this very thing.
      So I am growing 3 different clusters of seedlings in different areas and I am keeping track of the progress.
      I will publish results as soon as all the data is in.


    • David…I have seeded plants too. Started them last Nov. once they reached 5″, I put each plant in its own pot and placed in morning sun outside for an hour. Then increased the sunlight each week..not to burn the plant. A month later, I put them in pots with a post in full sun. They are now, in just 9 months..5ft tall and climbing to my top in a week or two where I will prune the top to canopy plant. I have many varieties..will be glad to send you a cutting of one you don’t have..just pay for shipping. I live in FL. I hear it takes years (5-6) for a seed to produce flowers. Yet, a cutting can take 1-2 years! I started all of mine from cutting last Nov. 2014 and I have 3 varieties that produces 6 fruits just within the last month! So happy!!
      Hope this helps!

      • Thomas Osborne, MD

        Hey Rosie
        Sounds like you have a great method.
        Your info is consistent with my experience as well.
        Thanks for sharing and congrats on your success.

  52. Hey, I have recently purchased some Dragon Fruit cuttings from Ebay that I am going to plant. I will keep them in a container in my window. However, when I look around at pictures of Dragon Fruit plants, they all seem to be extremely large before the set any fruit. I have read that the plant must weigh at least 20 lbs and it will only fruit when stems a either hanging down or laying sideways, do you have any idea about if those things are true.

    I imagine that my Dragon fruit should grow to about 1 meter and from there I would prune it to keep it fairly small, but will that ever be able to set any fruit at all….?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Joanas
      Thanks for the note.

      I have also read the same things you have mentioned…
      There are a lot of roomers and speculation about dragon fruit that I have found to be untrue (from personal experience).

      I currently have fruit growing on every part of my Dragon Fruit plants regardless of how the branches are oriented.
      Although there do seem to be more fruit at the ends of branches, there are also lots of fruit on branches oriented in every possible direction, as well as old and relatively new branches. So the legends that fruit only form on stems hanging down or lying sideways is absolutely not true in my garden.

      Interesting about the 20 pound rule. I have read the same thing too. I wonder how someone could come to that conclusion. I mean… How could you just weigh the plant and not the soil/water in the soil. Do really weigh just the plant you would have to uproot the whole thing and put it on a scale, which I doubt anyone would do… And if you did you def would not get fruit that year.

      So sure, any plant will be more likely to fruit if it is larger and more mature.
      However, I have seen 3 foot tall dragon fruit plants growing in optimal conditions in South East Asia with lots of fruit on them.
      So the whole fruiting thing likely has a lot to do with other things such as the overall age of the plant and the maturity-extent of its root system. Plants that are old with great roots are often large and that might be where the idea started… Other important factors are the right soil, water, sun, humidity, etc.

  53. I have many different Dragon Fruit that I purchased last year and have made a garden on the East side of my home. My question is ants! I live in FLorida and I have 6 flowers so far and all have turned to fruit..happy!! But, the ants are eating my buds that just flowered..they look bad! And fruit flies are all over the flower tips that are withering away. I have put mint at base. Cinnamon around plants. Nothing is working. Everyday I spray off ants..white flies and hrs later..their back!! Will they harm my fruit from the inside and just have ugly outsides? I don’t want to spray ant killer..what should I do?? I am very proud of my 16 plants (all different varieties). But, my first year is already causes me so many headaches! Help!
    Thank you!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Rose

      So those bugs are there b/c they are taking something from your plant… They are eating, though in different ways.
      As they take away energy from your dragon fruit, it will impact the size and possibly the quality of the fruit as well.
      In my experience, ants cannot easily get into the fruit itself unless there is a break in the outer skin.. which can sometimes happen with damaged, sickly or overripe fruit.

      Dam ants.
      I bet the ants are also bring other sap-sucking critters with them such as aphids or scale.
      (Ants in plants are almost always working with co-conspirators).

      So yea, as you mentioned, as a first step, I try to blast off the ants with a strong spray of water.
      However, if they are “farming” other sap sucking bugs such as aphids, you need to deal with them too… or the ants will just keep coming back.

      Ants are a big issue for all of us, but it sounds like you have a tenacious colony nearby.
      I should probably write an article about this soon… in the mean time, here are some things to think about.

      In nature, you have two competing players that control the aphid/scale population. On one hand you have the ants which farm the aphids for the sticky sweet goo they secrete. The ants tend to and defend their herd. On the other side, you have predatory insects (like lady bugs, lacewings, etc) that want to eat the aphids. So the ants are kindof like a shepherd tending their flock of sheep and defending them from wolves. Just a few days ago, I put a lady bug on a branch infected with aphids. In about 3 seconds the ants were swarming the ladybug and it had to fly away. This ant-aphid relationship is ancient dating back millions of years.

      So what can you do if you are infested with sap sucking aphids and ants?

      Take away the ants and the aphids have a hard time surviving on their own.

      Kill the ant colony:
      I havent tried to do this in the garden, but it might help in extreme situations such as yours.

      A simple straightforward method would be to use ant bait, (which is usually simple borax mixed with sugar water)
      You can buy this ant bait at most stores or make it yourself.
      I havent made this home remedy myself, but here is a link to an article from someone who has.
      http://thegardeningcook.com/testing-borax-ant-killer-remedies/ I havent met this author, but I admire her experimenting nature to validate things.. which is what I try to do as well.

      My organic method of controlling aphids/scale is a step-wise approach of increasing measures. I try to start simple and then escalate to more powerful methods as needed.

      First step:
      Like you did, my first step is to blast off the the ants and aphids with a spray of water. Try to get in to the little crevasse that they like to hide in. Careful not to spray the aphids onto another beloved plant in the process. This process will knock down the population but it is not expected to remove all of them. However, if you are growing outside, this may restore the balance and allow the plant to recover while the predators find their prey. But hey it is simple water – so it is an easy organic first step. Fortunately for me, I havent needed to go past this step for my dragon fruit cactus. However, I often have to do more for my other plants that get hit by aphids.

      I havent needed to use tanglefoot with dragon fruit yet, but it is a great organic method that I use with my other plants. So here are some thoughts about how I might approach using it with dragon fruit.

      With most of my other fruiting plants, I apply tanglefoot to the base of a plant (typically a trunk of a tree). However, I never apply the tanglefoot goo directly on the surface of the plant. You need a barrier. Not all people will do this for plants with thick bark, however, You definitely DO want to apply tanglefoot on something else first if you are using for dragon fruit. Direct contact with tanglefoot will damage the skin of the dragon fruit stems. I often apply tanglefoot on some masking tape (make it thick and 2 layers for safety) that I put on the trunk with the sticky side of the masking tape facing out… You can also use their suggested tanglefoot wrapping paper. For this to work, you need to close up all the gaps where ants could crawl under the tape… and for dragon fruit branches, there would be a lot of gaps. Filling those with something like pulled apart cotton balls might do the trick.

      So overall, this tangle foot barrier keeps the ants out of the plant and the combo of spray and tanglefoot is pretty darn good.

      Spraying simple horticulture soap will kill the little suckers.
      I have used this successfully on a lot of plants, but I have never tried it on Dragon fruit. Therefore, if you want to try this organic method, go forward with caution and test on a few small areas first, then wait a week or so to make sure it did not damage your plant.

      You can buy this insect soap, or just make it yourself by adding pure liquid soap to water. Some precautions when mixing your own soapy brew. Impurities in commercial hand soap such as detergents, whiteners, antibiotics and perfumes may damage a plant. Best to use simple pure soap. Popular options include pure “Ivory Soap” and “Shaklee’s basic H” Since any spray can damage a plant, start with a low concentration and test on a few small areas first… working up to a higher concentration after a week or tow to make sure there is no damage. 1 tablespoon of soap (to several tablespoons of soap) 1 gallon of water is the range you could start with most plants…. However, I have never used soap on dragon fruit cactus, I so really dont know how safe it would be. Some people will add vegetable-cooking oils to the mix that work in a different way for an added bug killing effect. Although some people would recommend using more oil, I would start with several tablespoons of oil per gallon of water to be safe and go from there. Never spray oil in the middle of a hot day, that can burn a plant. Spray in the evening.

      Neem oil spray is an awesome tool for any gardener. It is an extract from a seed and it is super safe. Same plant precautions as above.

      Hope this helps and keep us posted.


      • Tom,
        Thank you so much for your wisdom and great advice on my pesty ant problem. I will try a few of the methods you suggested, that I haven’t already tried. Tonight I noticed, while I was out pollinating a flower..yeah!, that the black ants go to sleep at night and the red ants were all over my buds! I ate ants!!! The American Beauty flower is on a cutting I received last Nov. I m so thrilled to have flowers and fruit on the other plants in less than one year!

        From the beginning, I read your blog on soil type and care. You are spot on and my plants grew like crazy! I watched them grow an inch a day! Thank you so much for all your help!!! You are wonderful to have this site for us and to answer all our questions..no matter what they are. I will wake up and follow those lil pest to their home and then I am going to destroy them!! I really am nice..lol

        Thanks again!

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Your very welcome

          Thank you for your kind words and congrats on your awesome growing success!


          • Hi Tom,
            Well..4 out of 6 have turned into nice fruit forming. Two turned yellow and fell off. We have had a lot of rain this past month here in Florida, and I bet that might have had something to do with it. Or just too young for fruit? All my plants are just 10 months old..so I was just thrilled to see buds and now some fruit!! I have very organic, well drained soil, as you have stated in other posts. So my plants just took off from the moment they got roots.
            My question is pruning. My plants grew up my cedar poles and then I topped them at 5 1/2 ft. From there, I allowed 3-4 shoots to form off the top..trimming everything under them that wanted to sprout. From those shoots, I allowed 2 more shoots on each. What do I trim in the Spring? I have looked for videos and only find some in foreign languages..can’t understand a word they say..LOL. Here in Florida, dragon fruit flower June-Nov. a very long season! Any help with my spring trimming will be most helpful!!
            Another question is my flower buds. When they bloomed, and 3-4 days later the flower ends are drying up, they seem to be soggy with all our morning/nightly dew. And I notice hundreds of fruit flies. Do you pull the ends off after a week or leave them on and the fruit flies won’t hurt the fruit? Sorry for all these questions!
            Again, thank you for all your wisdom and help!!!

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Rose
            Sorry took me a bit to get back to you, I just got back from a business trip.

            Dragon fruit falling off:
            Young plants of any kind may abort fruit just because they are too immature to support the extra.
            Since 10 months is a bit young, that is a big possibility here.
            But sometimes a change in the weather will throw things off and cause dragon fruit to fall off as well.
            These guys can be fickle.

            Time for dragon fruit pruning:
            Some sources have suggested that pruning around flowering time will increase the chances of fruiting.
            However, I have not noticed that to be the case for me.
            Some plants (such as stone fruit) are well known to have a particular time for optimal pruning (winter).
            None the less, I have not noticed that the timing of pruning my dragon fruit makes any difference. I just prune them when I want regardless of the calendar.
            I am interested to hear any other insights on this from anyone else though.

            Way to trim dragon fruit:
            I try to trim at the joints of the stems (there it gets pencil thin narrow).
            I try not to trim through the midsection of a stem because it leaves more open flesh up for possible infection.

            Old dragon fruit flower buds:
            I personally dont bother taking the old flowers off the developing fruit.
            However, it is rather dry here in Southern California, so we dont have the same moisture issues you might have in Florida.
            From my Mediterranean climate perspective, leaving the flowers on doesnt cause any harm.
            But we really dont have that kind of fruit fly problem either.
            Fruit flys can lay their eggs in some fruit (such as thin skinned guava) and cause the fruit to be inedible.
            I am not sure if the eggs/larva can penetrate the dragon fruit skin.
            I guess if you were concerned, you could pull off the dry dead flowers, but I would be careful not to tug too much on the fruit because that may cause the plant to abort the fruit too.


  54. Hi Doctor T!
    Your step by step instructions and detailed informations is really fascinating and helpful. And I just just want to let you know (i’ve not seen it in your videos/pictures) there’s a yellow type of dragon fruit as well. Thank you for all your hard work and keep it!


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Dannick
      I have not grown the yellow variety myself (yet) but it is on my list.
      My understanding that is it very sweet, a little more drought tolerant and the fruit has a few thorns.
      Are you growing this one… if so any suggestions from your experience?

      • No I don’t have it yet but it’s the next thing on my to do list. I’ll keep you updated on it for sure. And once the plant is big enough and mature, I can make a cutting for you if you’re interested! 👍

  55. Tom,

    Thanks for this info about Dragon Fruit. I like many of your readers was having a hard time to get the fruit to set. I read all the info on your site which helped me a lot. Last year, in fact, I had 10 luscious red-fleshed fruit (and very big). I bought plants from Lowe’s and Home Depot initially (7 years ago), and I believe that the ones from Lowes were generic Dragon Fruit that needed to be cross-pollinated. Over the past 3 years I have bought other types (American Beauty, Halley’s Comet, Thomson G2, Physical Graffiti). This year I have had 20 fruit. My favorite is American Beauty which does not need to be cross-pollinated and is extremely tasty.

    I have read many of your posts and all of them are very informative. Your site is extremely helpful, especially for the hobbyist.

    Again, thanks very much for all of the information and suggestions that you have given.


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Don

      Congrats on your Dragon Fruit growing success!
      That’s awesome.

      Very happy to hear this website has been helpful.
      Thank you for your thoughtful/kind feedback.


  56. Thank you so much for your resourceful content! We purchased a new home in San Diego and the original owner had been growing a dragon fruit cactus for decades. It’s like a 5ft by 5ft shrub and I even had to cut off 10 feet of vines that were growing up trees. I had/have little clue what to do with this amazing plant and your site it definitely help guide me.

    We have had a hot summer and recent the color on the vines have been turning yellow. With the exception of the color change it seems pretty happy and has dozens and dozens of flowers.

    Should I make a note to water it more to try and prevent yellowing or not worry since it seems happy otherwise?

    Thank you for your time and expertise!

  57. Hi, Doc

    I have quite some flowers but very few fruits. my successful rate is around 10~15%, even I hand pollinate them. I wonder if its because of red/pink dragon fruit I plant. I heard white flesh kind is easy to fruit. also my plants are around 2-3 years old. Im planning to plant white/red/pink all 3 kinds in a pot. hopefully ill get some more next year.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey CJ
      Thanks for the comment.
      In my experience, the different varieties I have all fruit at about the same success rate.
      Age definitely plays a factor… but so do a variety of other things (soil, water, sun, temp, etc).
      So, (like life), you do the best to optimize the factors you have control of and hope that will carry you through for the factors you cant control.

  58. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for a wonderful website. Lots of great information. It’s amazing how a plain looking plant can produce such a beautiful bloom.

    My dad has a thriving dragon fruit plant (white variety) in his garden. I’ve noticed that the last few fruits that I’ve tried hasn’t been sweet. It was ripe when it was removed from the vine. Is there anything to do to make the fruit sweeter?

    Also, I just purchased some seeds of the red variety for him. I was wondering how long it would take to bear fruit? You had mentioned that the red variety is self pollinating? We’re in San Diego, CA.

    Thanks again for a great and informative website.


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Linda
      Important questions.

      Time to fruit:
      I have traditionally grown dragon fruit from cuttings, and they can produce flowers/fruit in as little as 1 year.
      I have recently also started growing dragon fruit from seeds and they germinate really well.
      However, since my seedlings are rather small, I do not expect any fruit from them for a while.
      Unfortunately, I have read that it can take 7years to get a Dragon Fruit seedling to fruit… We will see about that.

      Your self pollinating question:

      First some background:
      Self pollinating varieties have (for the most part) gotten that way via human selection/domestication.
      …and wild type Dragon Fruit cacti are (for the most part) thought not to be self pollinating (self fruitful).

      Many of the intense and robust flesh colors of different dragon fruit are felt to have developed from human selection/domestication.

      So it is easy to want to conclude that the red types are from human selection and therefore also self-fruitful.

      However, since the color had to come from somewhere in the plants genetics, I suspect that there are red fleshed non-self-pollinating varieties living wild in the jungle. Therefore, I don’t think we can say with certainty that all red fleshed types of Dragon Fruit cacti are self-fruitful. In fact, I am pretty sure that there are red fleshed varieties that need cross pollination.

      Al that being said…
      Most all cuttings and seeds that you will get from a reputable seller will be self fruitful regardless of the color of the flesh.

      • Wow, 7 years! I was hoping for less than 2. We’ll see. Hopefully, it’ll be the right conditions for the seeds to thrive.

        My dad shines a light on the fruit in the evenings. I’m not quite sure why but I think it’s to trick the plant into thinking it’s sunlight? I’ve also seen this done in Viet Nam while driving by a dragon fruit farm at night. Quite a sight to see.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Yea, 7 years… seems like a bit much

          That is interesting about the lights at night.
          I have heard reports that the flower buds will not open if they are under a bright porch light (apparently it confuses the flower).

          However, if the lights go on after the flowers open… and/or if the lights are not too bright…. perhaps they are doing something else.
          Perhaps they are attracting something else.
          Such as pollinating moths that would be naturally be attracted to the nighttime lights.


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