The strikingly beautiful dragon fruit is a cactus that thrives in hot, humid, subtropical conditions. They won’t grow in very cold conditions. It has some of the biggest flowers in the world. And, what really sets them apart is that they only bloom for one night and their scent is absolutely incredible.
Dragon fruit can be added to fruit or vegetable salads, turned into sorbet, enjoyed fresh as a snack, or added to yoghurts and smoothies. They offer optimal amounts of magnesium, fibre, iron, protein and vitamins C and E. They help to fight against heart disease, improve immunity, fight chronic disease, aid digestion, and contribute to healthy blood.
There are many different varieties of dragon fruit; including:
- Sugar dragon – this fruit is the size of a small duck egg and has a vibrant purple flesh. It is particularly flavoursome.
- Purple haze – this is a sweet purple fruit that tastes similar to a kiwi. This larger variety’s fruit can weigh almost a kilogram.
- Dark star – these medium to large fruits have a red flesh and taste a little like grapes.
- Delight – the unique pink of this flesh is sweet and smooth and the fruit is medium to large in size.
- Physician graffiti – this variety has a pink-red skin and light-purple flesh. It is known for its exceptional flavour, making it a popular choice.
Position – Plant your climbing cactus in full sun. If your plant has to be in a partly shaded spot, ensure that the tips are always in the sun so that they can bloom. The cactus needs some support to grow on, unlike most other cactus species. So, plant it next to a fence or trellis, or add support. Plant them at least 2 metres apart from one another.
Size – Depending on the conditions, this cactus grows to a height of between 2 and 5 metres. The flower can grow up to 25 centimetres in diameter and 30 centimetres in length.
Soil Type – Dragon fruit plants grow in any well-draining soil because it doesn’t become waterlogged and it allows the roots to grow more easily. If possible, sandy soil with a pH of between 6 and 7 (slight acidic) is best.
Mulch – Mulch helps to add nutrients to the soil, keep weeds away, and retain moisture. Use 5 to 15 centimetres of organic mulch, but keep it 20 to 30 centimetres away from the actual plant to prevent it from rotting. Hay, wood chips, old leaves, or grass cuttings make great organic mulch.
Watering – Water your plant when the surface of the soil around it is dry to the touch. Water it until the soil is moist, not flooded or waterlogged. Twice a week should be sufficient if no rain.
Fertilising – During the growing season, the hotter months, give your dragon fruit some fertiliser every month. Alternatively, you can feed them once in spring and once after the plant has finished fruiting. Then, in winter, stop feeding the plant. A water-soluble fertiliser (like a 20-20-20) is perfect for dragon fruits.
Pruning – Ensure only one stem grows, you can remove any others using a clean, sharp knife to make slanted cuts. Dispose of the offcuts properly as they will quickly grow and become weeds. You can also use these cuttings to grow more dragon fruit.
Once established the best time to prune is straight after fruiting, early in the morning.
Harvesting – Dragon fruit plants produce fruit from February to May. Pick fruits that are evenly coloured about 30-40 days from the first sign of fruit.
The flesh should give slightly under gentle pressure. If they are soft or have a dry, shrivelled stem, they are overripe. They do continue to ripen after they have been plucked from the plant. So, if they are very firm when picked, leave them for a few days to ripen.
Depending on the climate it can take 2-3 years to fruit. Each season the fruit will be larger and more plentiful