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How To Get Your Dragon Fruit Cactus To Fruit

Dragon Fruit Cactus

Aka: Pitaya or Pitahaya

(Hylocereus undatus)


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.
  • The following text is in the standard outline-format that I have used for other posts.

Dragon Fruit Appearance:

  • The fruit just looks amazing.
  • From the outside, the fruit resembles a very large egg laid by some kind of mythical creature.  Hum, I wonder how the plant got its name.
  • Anyhow, on the inside, the flesh is usually white or red with black specks.  The red variety is really more of a psychedelic deep purple/red.  This deep color is rather unbelievable for a fruit.
  • An individual fruit weighs between ½ pound to over 3 pounds.
    Red Dragon Fruit

    Dragon Fruit 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.  At this point the fruit will detach from the vine with a twist.  Note, if you wait for the fruit to fall off the plant, it will be over ripe.

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 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.
  • 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 commercially so it can survive the transport time to the stores.
Cut up red Dragon Fruit

Tasty (Hylocereus undatus) Dragon Fruit

Video Taste:

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.


Dragon Fruit Season:

  • In Southern California, the main fruit season seems to be in the summer and fall.
  • However, my plants didn’t seem to get the memo and I currently have many fruit that are ready to pick now (July).
  • None the less, there are also lots of other flower buds all over the cactus at the moment, so I expect the fruiting season will be long.


Dragon Fruit Pollination:

  • Because the flowers only open at night they are normally pollinated by nocturnal critters.
  • However, the specific jungle night dwelling animals that pollinate them (nectar eating bats) are not found in Southern California (at least not that I know of).  That leaves us with moths, wind, confused native bats, and us to pollinate them.
  • With this information in mind, last year I tried multiple different ways of hand pollination.  However, none of it seemed to do anything.  Some flowers started to make fruit, and then the fruit fell off the cactus-vine prematurely.  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 so I then thought that I just needed to find the right technique.  However, I tried every pollination method that I have heard of with little success.
  • In protest, this year I didn’t try to pollinate the flowers at all and I now have lots of fruit growing.  So what’s the difference?  Read on.
Night time Dragon fruit flowers

Dragon Fruit Flowers

 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.  Check the label.
  • From what I understand, most of the purple/red fleshed fruiting ones are self fruitful.  This is the type I have and it is likely the reason why my hand pollination didn’t seem to make a 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.
    • 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 from flower to ripe fruit.




Pollination Update:




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

  • Today I noticed that my dragon fruit cactus are all 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 #2 (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 eat some delicious dragon fruit at the end of the video. Yum!


Dragon Fruit Cactus Cultivation:

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

Dragon Fruit:
one days harvest


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 undatus is a tropical cactus that lives in the jungle.  Yea, its a bit odd.  In its native central/South America, the dragon fruit cactus 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, 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.
  • 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 cactus 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 mildacidification.


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 cactus 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 this cactus in its native habitat.
  • 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.


Landscape Use:

Dragon Fruit Cactus Growing Support:

  • Since this cactus-vine is an epiphyte, it prefers to have something to grow on.
  • I have seen where 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.
    • Therefore, I used redwood because its 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.
  • Specifically, the structure 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.
  • 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 wire or string that will cut into the flesh of the cactus.  Eventually, fibrous arial roots from the Dragon Fruit Cactus 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.
    Top of support structure surrounded by fruit

    Image showing the top of the support structure with smaller pieces of wood secured to the top of the 4×4 post.

    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 20feet 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.

Dragon Fruit Flowers:


Update August 20, 2014:

Time lapse video of dragon fruit flowers opening: 

  • Here’s a video I just 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 tool 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.


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 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).



  • I planted mine in full sun.
  • Side note: Full sun may not be the best option if you are in more of an 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 we get in Southern California.
  • I have read academic publications stating that it will survive temps down to 28 F.
  • To be safe, you could plant the Dragon Fruit Cactus in a warm part of your yard such as near a south facing wall.  However, 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 Pests:

  • Overall there are not a lot of pests on the plant that I have noticed with the exception of the occasional snail which doesn’t seem to do much damage.
  • However, the fruit itself attracts aphids and their courier-accomplice the ant.  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.


Dragon Fruit Cactus Food use:

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



  • There are >25 species of Hylocereus identified with numerous different cultivars and hybrids.  The major species that are grown commercially are H. polyrhizus and  H. undatus.
    • There are reported to be more than 100 varieties in California alone.
  • There is ongoing academic research being done to figure out which varieties are the best and the details of their optimal growing characteristics.
  • 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.


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 :D

          • 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.


    • 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

  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.

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