Clear Mountain Garden Treasures

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Dragon Fruit

A plant that grows on another,
but does not obtain nutrients from its host.
Dragon Fruit

Family Cactaceae
Name Hylocereus undatus
Common Names Dragon fruit, Pitaya

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Hylocereus means night blooming cactus, an apt description for this cactus, for its showy blooms only open a couple of hours before sunset and close a couple of hours after sunrise. The perfumed flowers are pollinated by nocturnal flying insects and bats. It is epiphytic and is related to Disocactus and Epiphyllum.

Pollinated flowers grow into large fruit that ripen to a dark pink colour. The red pulp is jelly-like and contains numerous shiny black seeds.


Grow Pitaya in a free draining mix / soil, that is suitable for growing cactus and succulents. This can either be bought ready mixed or you can make your own by mixing together one part sand with one part compost. The compost has to be well decomposed.

In the summer, water once a week. When you water the plant, make sure you give it plenty of water. The water should drain out the bottom of the pot. Do not sit the pot in a saucer of water.

Feed everytime you water with a weak liquid fertiliser that is low in nitrogen, with an NPK of 0 4 4 to 2 4 4. First, flush the pot with plenty of clean water. Then when all the water has drained out, apply the liquid feed, making sure the mix / soil is once again well wet, then drain.

In the winter, reduce watering to once a fortnight and stop the feeding, but otherwise give the same amount. For mature plants, for the month of July, do not water. Instead, allow the mix / soil to dry out completely for a month. This rest period causes the plant to initiate flower buds.

This cactus can be grown outdoors for most of the year. It is tender and prolong exposure to frost will damage it. So, if your property gets frost in the winter, bring it indoors.

The usual way to train the plant is as a standard. Tie the strongest leader into a 1m stake. The plant sometimes grows aerial roots that stick onto the stake, so pick a stake that will last several years. Remove all other laterals. Let the leader grow 10cm past the top of the stake and pinch put the tip. Allow it to grow a dozen or so laterals on the top 20cm only. These laterals will flower and fruit.

Alternatively, grow the plant in a large hanging basket. Allow the branches to hang down.

The plant has several flowering times throughout the spring and summer. The flowers open around a couple of hours before sunset and remains opened at night, until about a couple of hours after sunrise. For fruit to set, you will need to hand pollinate the flowers. Don't pollinate flowers that open in late summer as there will not be sufficient time to ripen the fruit.

The fruit is scaly and oval shapped. When ripe, it turns dark pink and will drop off the plant with a light tug and twisting motion. The skin is tough and inedible but the pulp is soft and jelly like.







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