Why Are My Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Turning Yellow?

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Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Turning Yellow
Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Turning Yellow

If you are growing dragon fruit then you may have a number of problems and obstacles you might be encountering and overcoming. I initially thought Dragon fruit was easy to grow when we first set up our dragon fruit farm, but soon realized that they are very sensitive to a lot of factors, and require a lot of knowledge to successfully get the fruit to set. One question we needed to get an answer for and required a fair bit of research was: ‘Why are my Dragon Fruit flower buds turning yellow?’

Dragon fruit flower buds will turn yellow for a few reasons. The first reason is that they may not be fertile. If this is the case you will need to cross-pollinate the flowers. The second reason might be poor climatic conditions such as too wet or too dry, in which case you will need to ensure you are not overwatering and keeping the plant out of direct sunlight if the temperatures are too hot. Finally, you may have a sterile plant which again will need to be cross-pollinated.

Lets now delve into all of this a little more deeply so you can fully understand what your problem may be and how you might fix it.
Of course, if your buds are turning yellow and dropping off then you will not get any fruit from the vine. So, lets look fully into each reason one by one. Here is what we will discuss in this article.

  • What your Dragon Fruit Flower Buds should look like
  • Your Buds Are Not Fertile But Sterile – What Can You Do? (Chart of Sterile & Fertile Varieties)
  • Poor Climatic Conditions – How Can You Fix This?
  • Sterile Plant – How To Cross Pollinate

What Do Dragon Fruit Buds Look Like?

The Dragon Fruit Flower Buds grow along the cactus vines in the crevices where the thorns come out and look like green pinecones that have been stretched. Within a week these buds can grow up to a length of 25cm before the flower emerges. The flower will bloom within a couple of days and only at night, when the sepals start to pull away, then wither and die within a day to make way for the emerging fruit to develop, if it has been successfully pollinated.

Here is an interesting chart of the stages of the flower bud’s development so you can compare your buds with what you should expect to see. We have included the various stages from bud to flower along with the days and changes in colour.

STAGENumber of Days Before the Dragon Fruit Bud Becomes a FlowerCharacteristics of the Dragon Fruit Flower Bud
117The size of the Dragon Fruit Bud is 1 cm, the petals are a green colour with red tinge on edges and end
213Size of the Dragon Fruit Bud is 5 cm, the petals are green colour with red on edges and middle end
39Size of the Dragon Fruit Bud is 11cm, the petals are green with red on edges and middle end
45Size of the Dragon Fruit Bud is 21 cm, the bus look stretch lengthwise
51Size of Dragon Fruit Bud is 30 cm, the bud has reached maximum size. They are lighter in colour red on edges of the petals
Data Courtesy of researchgate.net*

Below is another table of what you should expect your Dragon Fruit Buds to look like as they develop through the different stages to flowering.

Table of Developing Dragon Fruit Buds

STAGENumber of Days Before the Dragon Fruit Bud Becomes a FlowerDragon Fruit Flower Bud ChangesLength of Dragon Fruit Flower Bud (cm)
117Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Stage 1 1.37
213Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Stage 2 5.13
39Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Stage 3 10.50
45Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Stage 4 20.73
51Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Stage 5 30.00
Data Courtesy of researchgate.net* (A – Sepal, B – Petal)

Your Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Are Not Fertile But Sterile – What Can You Do?

Your Dragon Fruit plant should bud first, then the bud will eventually grow into a flower which will then wither and become a Dragon Fruit. Since I am new to all of this and have begun a Dragon Fruit farm i needed to do a lot of research and learn very fast.

One very important step in getting your Dragon Fruit plants to set (or produce fruit) is to know that there are two different types of Dragon Fruit when it comes to producing fruit from flowers.

  1. Fertile Dragon Fruit Plants – Once they have flowered and been correctly pollinated the flower will become a Dragon Fruit.
  2. Sterile Dragon Fruit Plants – These need cross-pollination to become fruit. This variety needs to be cross-pollinated with a fertile variety. If you pollinate a sterile Dragon Fruit Plant with another Sterile Dragon Fruit plant you will get no fruit. Your buds will possibly flower then wither or the bud will just turn yellow and drop off.

So how do you know if your Dragon Fruit Plant is Sterile?

If you have had a Dragon Fruit Plant for 2 or 3 years and all it does is produce flowers, and the Dragon Fruit Flower Buds turn yellow (or flowers turn yellow) and drop off and don’t bear fruit then you probably have a sterile kind of Dragon Fruit.

The fertile kind doesn’t need to be cross-pollinated; they will bear fruit by itself. The insects or pollinators will take the pollen from one bud to the next on the same Dragon Fruit plant. Some fertile Dragon Fruit plants may need hand pollination if natural pollinators are not available.

However, it important to remember you only have a small window of pollination regardless of the type as the flower will bloom at night for only one night then wither, die and fall off the next day.

We have included a table below of the known Sterile and Fertile varieties of Dragon Fruits.

If you planted a sterile dragon fruit plant in the first place, you can plant another Dragon Fruit plant that is known to be fertile and increase the chances of cross-pollination.

Grow first the fertile or self-pollinating variety. Self-pollinating varieties do not need to be hand-pollinated or pollinated with insects. The male part of the flower is very close to the female part so the pollen will brush up against and dust the female part without any help. (Plant together two varieties that are fertile to increase chances of bearing fruit)

Once the buds open up it is easy to cross-pollinate.

Before, we move on you might want to first take a look at the article we wrote on Why Plants Make Fruit? A scientific view and practical reasons why a plant, including the Dragon Fruit, make fruit. It is some very interesting additional reading.

Table of Self Sterile Dragon Fruit Varieties

Asunta 3HylocereusStenopterus X GuatemalensisYes
BruniHylocereusStenopterus X UndatusYes
Connie MayerHylocereusStenopterus X UndatusYes
Cosmic CharlieHylocereusGuatemalensis X UndatusYes
Country RoadsHylocereusCostaricensisNo
Dark StarHylocereusGuatemalensis X UndatusYes
El GrulloHylocereusOcamponisNo
Halley’s CometHylocereusUndsatus X GuatemalensisYes
Costa RicanHylocereusCostaricensisNo
Hylocereus OcamponisHylocereusOcamponisNo
Hylocereus PolyrhizusHylocereusPolyrhizusNo
Kathie Van ArumHylocereusStenopterus X UndatusYes
Lake Atitlan RedHylocereusPolyrhizusNo
MakisupaHylocereusUndates X PolyrhizusYes
PaisleyHylocereusGuatemalensis X UndatusYes
Physical GraffitiHylocereusGuatemalensis X UndatusYes
Purple HazeHylocereusGuatemalensis X UndatusYes
Red ES 1HylocereusPolyrhizusNo
Red JianaHylocereusPolyrhizusNo
Selenicereus ValidusSelenicereusPteranthusNo
Thompson G2HylocereusGuatemalensisNo
Valdiva RojaHylocereusOcamponisNo
ZamoranoHylocereusPolyrhizus XYes

Table of Fertile Dragon Fruit Varieties

American BeautyHylocereusGuatemalensisNo
Bien Hoa RedHylocereusGuatemalensisNo
Capistrano ValleyHylocereus UndatusHylocereus GuatemalensisYes
David Bowie HylocereusUndatusNo
DelightHylocereus UndatusHylocereus GuatemalensisYes
Frankies Red Selenicereus MegalanthusHylocereus PolyrhizusYes
Georges WhiteHylocereus UndatusNo
HarpuaHylocereus UndatusNo
Houghton Hylocereus UnknownYes
Hylocereus Guatemalensis Hylocereus Guatemalensis No
Hylocereus Peruvianus Hylocereus Peruvianus No
K1Hylocereus UndatusNo
Maria RosaHylocereus Undatus Hylocereus 
Maui DragonHylocereus Undatus No
Mexicana Hylocereus Undatus No
Natural MysticHylocereus PolyrhizusHylocereus UndatusYes
Neon Hylocereus Setaceus UnknownYes
Nicaraguan RedHylocereus Guatemalensis No
Niezel Hylocereus UndatusNo
Ohana ExpressSelenicereus Megalanthus and other Unknown SpeciesYes
PaloraSelenicereus MegalanthusNo
Pink PantherHylocereus Setaceus UnknownYes
Seoul KitchenHylocereusUndatusNo
ShaynaHylocereus  Guatemalensis Hylocereus UndatusYes
Sugar DragonHylocereus  Guatemalensis UnknownYes
Thai DragonHylocereus  UndatusNo
ThomsonHylocereus  UndatusNo
Vietnamese WhiteHylocereus  UndatusNo
Voodoo ChildHylocereus 
White SapphireHylocereus  UndatusNo
Yellow DragonSelenicereusMegalanthusNo
Yellow ThaiSelenicereus MegalanthusUnknown Hylocereus Yes

Poor Climatic Conditions – How Can You Fix This?

Dragon fruit can be tolerant of certain weather conditions but you must remember although it a cactus, its not a true desert cactus. Its origins are from the Amazon Forest. Different varieties can be more heat or cold tolerant depending on the variety of Dragon Fruit you may have.

Too much water can cause the Dragon Fruit Flower Buds to fall off, so don’t overwater the plant. Depending on the variety, if the heat from the sun is too hot, maybe 40 degrees or more, this can also cause the flower buds to turn yellow and fall off.

If you have 10 flowers on one plant, you might expect 2 or 3 maybe to fall off, but if all of them fall off then you are probably overwatering the plants or the weather is too hot and they might need some shade.

If you are interested in planting Dragon Fruit and you have a fire hydrant on your property you might want to check out the article: How Close Can You Plant a Tree To a Fire Hydrant? where we discuss distances you can legally plant a tree or a plant from the hydrant.

Sterile Dragon Fruit Plant – How To Cross-Pollinate

Flowers have a male and a female part.

Dragon Fruit Male & Female Parts
Dragon Fruit Male & Female Parts

Take the pollen from one species or variety of Dragon Fruit that is known to be a fertile variety and touch it to the female part of a different species or variety of Dragon Fruit that’s known to be either sterile or fertile.

The male part is in the centre of the flower and produces the pollen dust. Swish a brush into this pollen and then brush the pollen over the female part, which looks like a single piece protruding out of the centre of the flower.

This process is cross-pollination is a must if you want your sterile Dragon Fruit plants to produce fruit.

Juan & Raquel

We are Juan & Raquel, the guys behind Fruit Information. We've been interested in fruit over the last few decades and have been busy with improving our knowledge of the different varieties. I, Juan, have been almost a fruitarian for over a decade and almost solely living on fruits as my main dietary intake. My wife Raquel has worked on a fruit farm and also worked in a nursery and seedlings shop. She is a very experienced and knowledgeable farmer. We have recently undertaken a new Dragon Fruit farm with friends.

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