Since being a part owner in a newly established dragon fruit farm we had to do a lot of research and hands-on learning to get up to speed in growing Dragon Fruit. There was preparing the land and making the supporting posts. We also had to acquire tyres for the tops of the posts. Then there was also the fertilizer to be dug into the prepared ground and of course deciding on whether to buy cuttings or grow from seeds. We decided on dragon fruit cuttings because the benefits outweighed growing from seeds, which we will discuss later.
To grow dragon fruit from cuttings you will need to have taken a cutting from an established dragon fruit vine. If it’s a fresh cutting you will need to allow around three days for the place where you snipped the cutting to dry and scab over to prevent rot from developing. Place 25% cacti potting mix along with 25% vegetable mix and 50% native soil into a large container. Place your cutting into the soil mix at least 4 inches deep. Water the area well and leave in a sunny warm spot outside. Ensuring that it is watered once or twice a week, but not overwatered. It can take as little as 6 to 12 months for the cutting to begin fruiting.
So now we will look with more depth into these steps outlined above one by one along with some tips and pointers to help you get your cutting fruiting as quickly as possible.
But first, let’s look at what the benefits of Growing Dragon Fruit from cuttings over growing dragon fruit from seeds.
What Are the Benefits of Growing Dragon Fruit From Cuttings?
Seeds can take a lot longer to grow and bear fruit than cuttings. Once dragon fruit stem has rooted than the growing stages are very fast.
Seeds can take up to two years or more to begin bearing fruit, whereas a cutting can begin fruiting in as little as six months to one year.
After researching this thoroughly this was really the only main benefit of growing from cuttings rather than seeds that I could find.
1. How To Take A Cutting From A Dragon Fruit Vine
Find a disease-free cactus and using sterilized pruning shears snip where the stem starts to protrude from the main branch.
With a stem cutting, you will need to snip off a cross-section a few inches up the stem to make it easier to root. You will then need to allow a few days to ensure the place where you made this cut to dry and scab over a little so that rot doesn’t set in when you plant it into the soil.
2. How To Prepare Dragon Fruit Cuttings For Planting?
You will need a large enough pot so that you are not having to transplant the dragon fruit as it grows.
Although the dragon fruit is a cactus it doesn’t do well with a straight cactus potting mix. It needs good nutrition as well as its what is called a tropical cactus, whereby it grows in rich soils.
We suggest using some cactus potting mix to ensure good water drainage.
However, a good percentage would be about 25% cactus potting mix along with 25% fertile potting mix that has pyrolite. The rest of the soil, 50% is fine with just some native topsoil if available. Mix these all together well and place into the container.
It’s advisable to have something in the centre of the container for the vine to grow up as it begins to get bigger. Dragon fruit prefers a more natural climbing pole, so something made from natural wood is fine, however, we would stay away from any wood that has been treated.
The pole is needed so you can tie the growing dragon fruit vine against it to support it as it grows upwards.
Plant the dragon fruit cutting, about 4 inches deep beside the pole, and water generously, but don’t overwater.
A lot of commercial growers will use a larger cement post or wooden post dug firmly into the ground to allow 4 cuttings to grow on either side upwards.
Tying them against the post as they grow bigger. At the top of the post is a tyre to allow the vines to then hangover as they reach an ideal size. This is the ideal way of harvesting fruits.
3. How To Take Care of The Cuttings As They Grow
Never overwater the dragon fruit cuttings. They should be watered only once or twice a week and allowed to grow in a shaded place, not getting too much direct sunlight, especially if you live in hotter climates.
After two weeks your cuttings should have begun rooting. You can tell if they have started rooting by lightly pulling on the exposed stem. If you feel some friction and the soil hanging onto the cutting, it’s probably begun to root.
Since you want the vine to get as much growing nutrition as possible, and these vines do need good nutrition as they can grow very rapidly, you should after about 4 months add some extra nutrition to the soil.
Since at 4 months the dragon fruit plant is still a way off budding and blooming we would recommend a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer. This is where nitrogen is greater than the other two elements, phosphorous and potassium such as is found in feather meal fertilizer. Feather meal is ideal as its an organic slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.
After a couple of more months, you should see a great deal more vine growth. At this stage, you could induce budding and potentially flowering and fruiting by doing a few tricks.
First, you will need to prune any parts of the vine that don’t look like they are healthy enough to bear fruit.
These would be those parts of the vine that may not be getting much sun due to their position and any that look sick or weak, along with any laterals.
This will allow more growing nutrition and energy to go into the other healthier vines.
4. How To Help Induce Budding and Flowering On Your Dragon Fruit
To help induce budding also sprinkle some feather meal fertilizer around the base of the vines then water in with some high potassium and phosphorous liquid organic fertilizer. Give the plants a nice deep drink.
Wait to let the water sink in a bit and then water again, just to make sure you are not pouring water through a soil medium but are letting it absorb.
The extra boost of potassium and phosphorous will give the dragon fruit plant the opportunity to bud and put out flowers.
Another reason that can cause a lack of budding and flowering is not having the right growing conditions. If temperatures drop below about 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) its really not going to produce a flower and so you will have to wait for the following year when temperatures are warmer to produce a flower.
Following these methods can sometimes induce budding in as little as five days.
Once you have a bud growing and they flower and pollinate you have 50 days from there until the fruit is fully mature.
It’s important to remove any buds that may appear to be diseased or yellowing and dying. Just twist them and they should come off the vine.
This will allow the stems growing nutrition and energy to focus more on the buds that are likely to flower and fruit. Ideally, 4 or so buds on a vine is a good number for healthy fruit.
You will see the buds growing very rapidly, they can double in size within five days. Any more that may appear to be dying, just twist and pull off.
You can literally see the dragon fruit flower open and bloom as it grows so rapidly. Within hours it can open, but only at night, and bloom.
5. How To Ensure Pollination of Dragon Fruit
Since the bloom is only out for one night and then dies you will only have a small window of opportunity to pollinate the flower.
As it opens you will see the pollen dust on the male part of the flower. The central stem of the flower is the female part. Using a small toothbrush lightly coat some of the pollen from the male part and rub onto the female part.
This will only work for self-pollinating varieties. For those varieties not self-pollinating you will need to cross-pollinate. Please check out the table in our article to find out which varieties are self-pollinating and which are not: Why Are My Dragon Fruit Flower Buds Turning Yellow?
If you have successfully pollinated your dragon fruit flower than fruit will gradually emerge and will be ready to pick after 50 days.
If it’s the red skin variety then you will need to wait until the skin is a nice red pigment and not too light in colour.
6. Prepare Your Plant For The Following Season By Treating Disease
During the hotter months, you may get some sunscald and yellowing occurring on the stems.
If it’s not too bad then you can treat with some neem oil. Otherwise, you may need to cut off the stem that shows infection or cut out the rot or yellowing with a sterilized knife.
You can then treat the wound with some cinnamon powder to give it a little bit of help while its healing and scabbing over. We cover a few dragon fruit diseases in our articles: Dragon Fruit Stem Rot – 3 Effective Treatments & What Are Orange Spots On My Dragon Fruit – 3 Ways To Treat Successfully
It’s important to sterilize your pruning equipment so that you are not passing on any infection to other parts of the cactus.
Add a little bit of topsoil to add as a top dress and then mix in some fertilizer to protect and prepare your plants for the next season.
Use some high nitrogen mix such as a scoop of feather meal and spread the topsoil with the feather meal around the base of the plant.
It’s an organic fertilizer which means it’s going to be slow-release, taking some time for it to breakdown. Mix it all in around the base of the plant.
The next step to protect the plant would be to ensure that it is not going to be in frost or snow. If you are able to move the container indoors then this should suffice, otherwise, a frost blanket wrapped around the plant should keep the plant warm enough during the colder weather spells.
To try and ward off any cactus rust, disease or pests near the end of the season, spray the plant with a nice light coating of neem oil on all of the stems.
A tip when eating dragon fruit. Place the fruit into the fridge for an hour or so to cool it down. Then slice it and eat it cold.
In conclusion, dragon fruit will grow from cuttings to bearing fruit within the space of 6 to 12 months.
Ensure that the growing conditions are warm enough and it has enough water. Make sure the soil is a mixture of cactus potting mix along with some vegetable garden potting mix and top native soil.
Use organic Nitrogen Potassium and Phosphorous to improve cactus growth and induce budding and flowering, and remember to self-pollinate or cross-pollinate depending on the variety when the flower emerges.
If you would like to combine the growing of seeds along with cuttings you can try your hand at grafting dragon fruit plants.
It can speed up the growth of seeds literally 100 times. That’s probably one of the main benefits of grafting a seedling onto a mature root stock so you can get fruits faster.
Seedlings can be grafted onto a rootstock when they are around 1 to 1.5 inches tall. Depending on growing conditions and growth rates this could be around 1 month or so.
Grafting will speed up the time it takes for you to get buds and fruits from your seedlings. Some varieties of Dragon Fruit such as the Ecuador Palora can take upto 7 years to bear fruit from seeds. However grafting seedlings onto a mature root stock can see your seedlings bud within only 18 months.
So it makes sense to graft your Dragon Fruit seedlings when you can.
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