Dragon Fruit Farming Guide
Dragon fruits are sweet fruit from cactus plants in the genus Hylocereus and Selenecereus.
Dragon fruits, which are harvested using a clipper, are consumed raw or can be used in value addition to better products like cream, juices and yoghurt. Once they mature, the plants produce beautiful pink flowers from which the juicy fruit emerges surrounded by thorns.
Since it grows in desert conditions, having thorns is a great survival strategy for this plant.
The texture of dragon fruit is similar to kiwi or watermelon, and the flavor is mildly sweet with subtle earthy notes. The cultivars with deeper pink flesh are said to have the most flavor (McEachran, 2015).
Dragon fruit are roughly the size of a baseball, but oval shaped.
The main two species grown for commercial production include:
- Hylocereus undatus, which has fruit with bright pink skin and white flesh,
- And Hylocereus sp., which has fruit with bright pink skin and varying hues of pink flesh.
Both have multiple varieties.
- Selenecereus megalanthus is another dragon fruit grown for commercial production, which has fruit with yellow skin and white flesh (Lobo et al, 2013).
All dragon fruits have black tiny edible seeds that are similar in appearance to kiwi seed.
Dragon fruit plants are considered a climbing cactus, and commercial orchards need to use some form of trellising to support the plant. Dragon fruit plants can produce fruits after one year of establishment and can stay in production for approximately 30 years
Dragon fruit grows on cactus plants which love warm, humid climates and needs very little water. They are subtropical plants which need at least six hours of sunlight per day. They will also grow well in a warm and sunny spot indoors.
One of the easiest ways to kill dragon fruit plants is by over-watering it. Make sure that the soil is never sopping wet and, if in doubt, hold off on watering for a day or two. If you water the plant too often, you could cause the roots to rot.
The plant’s natural habitat is full of nutrients, so it needs the extra boost from the fertiliser to thrive in your garden.
It will take around four weeks to ripen. You’ll know the fruit is ripe when the skin turns a vibrant shade of pink. Use a pair of sharp secateurs to cut the fruit off and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Dragon fruit doesn’t continue to ripen after harvest so make sure that it has fully ripened before picking.