Dragon Fruit or ‘Pitaya’ are a tropical fruit tree ( actually a vine) readily available for sale in Queensland and used both as a fruit producing plant and a flowering ornamental with fragrant flowers that fill the night air as they open with a lovely scent.
Originally from South America like so many great edible plants, these plants were introduced by the French into Vietnam where it is known as “thang loy”.
These are actually a ‘tropical’ cactus and grow well in the Northern Territory and parts of Queensland. Some varieties will grow well in cooler climates and can be found in many areas of Melbourne as well as Tasmania.
Dragon Fruit Varieties are numerous, as they are a plant that readily hybridises. The common name Dragon fruit comes from the scaly skin.
Main Dragon Fruit species.
- The white fleshed Pitaya Blanca red skinned and medium sized fruit
- The pink to red fleshed Pitaya Roja said to be high in antioxidants like many red flesh fruits, pink to red skin.
- The yellow skinned and white fleshed Pitaya Amarilla which is said to be the best tasting however smaller fruit, less cold tolerant than others and also spiky fruit. So not as common as others.
So in order
Selenicereus undatus, Selenicereus monacanthus and Selenicereus megalanthus, all warm to tropical plants all with other names related to the flowers that open at night such as ‘Queen of the Night’ and Night-blooming Cactus’.
How to Grow Dragon Fruit Trees
Dragon Fruit are a reasonably fast growing they are best planted in a well drained sunny position near a post for support. They can be grown from seed but easier from cuttings.
Pollination of some dragon fruit trees is by bats and moths and it may be necessary to hand pollinate to achieve fruit set. Look for the self pollinating varieties for a more reliable fruit set.
Propagation is easy from cuttings, similar to many other plants, let the cuttings dry or ‘heal’ for 1 – 2 days before planting in a free draining potting mix.
In cooler climates try growing dragon fruit in a warm sunny position protected from wind and frosts, a position against a fence or wall with lots of sun works well.
In warmer climates These are not a plant for growing in direct hot sun, they naturally grow in part shade, so provide similar conditions.
- A sunny to part shaded (a little afternoon shade) is best.
- Choose a humus rich well drained soil.
- These are a frost sensitive plant, so no frosts at all.
- You can plant the cuttings directly into the soil or grow in large pots.
- Plants will need a trellis for support.
- They are a heavy plant once established so need very strong supports.
- Plant cuttings with the bottom of the cutting around 6 cm below soil level.
- Water in with liquid seaweed fertiliser.
- Water regularly until well established
- For varieties that are not self pollinating, hand pollination is the most reliable method.
- Pollinate first thing in the morning when the flowers are still open.
- Use a brush or your finger to pollinate from one variety to another
The fruit has a sweet taste and can be eaten fresh with ice cream or other fruit. Fruit salads, blended into juice or as a smoothie are other uses.
When to Harvest Dragon Fruit
Fruit is quick to develop, and often ready to pick around 4 – 6 weeks after flowering.
You need to wait until the fruit is ripe before harvesting so look for good colour in the fruit, wait until the scales or wings begin to die back a little or gently press the fruit to see if it has a little give it.
The flesh of th the fruit is eaten fresh, mixed with ice cream, made into sorbets or even gelato, and also turned into drinks.
- Dragon fruit are grown for both the fruit and the ornamental flowers
- The fruit is attractive with a clean fresh taste
- Easy to grow the fruit is said to be high in antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C.
- Requires a climate with mild winters
- Fruits throughout the year with the main crop in summer.
- Fruit need to ripen on the plant
- They are a climbing plant and will need support
- Plants grow easily from cuttings
Cuttings are available for sale from the following growers
132 Silver Valley Rd. MS 415 Mt.Garnet QLD 4872
Australia's largest collection & specialist breeders of world class frangipani cultivars & rare species. Includes Dwarf cultivars. Mail order specialists Australia & worldwide. Australia's biggest range of the Worlds best frangipani.